Jane was a young, attractive drama teacher from Australia whose smooth accent matched the vivacity of her nature. At twenty-six, she was traveling the world for a year. Typical of Aussie backpackers, since they live so far from the rest of the world that when they embark on an adventure, they are abroad for at least six months to a year. If only Americans were that bold...
We became fast friends. The blighting cold ushered us towards the Church of St. Nicholas, gleaming more like a chateau in the midst of Old Town Square. The interior was airy and everything glistened; light was used as an architectural construct and it was organic and transparent, almost like a highway to heaven. I remember the rose-colored marble of the columns, golden cherubs kissing the altar, and the Versailles-esque gilding upon an impeccably white facade. A jewel of Baroque architecture, the services were sadly poorly attended unlike the masses at Paris' Notre Dame or Basilique of Sacred Coeur. Then I recalled that these lands were formerly under Communist rule and how those doctrines tended to discourage (i.e. punish) allegiances to anything beyond the state. God included.
Then on to the Museum of Communism, which initially did not sit well with me. However, Jane with her agnostic tendencies, had appeased me by going to a church so looking at Marxist paraphernalia seemed like a fair exchange. In a dingy corner of a dubious shop, the proud Museum of Communism slinked along without any spectators besides Jane, myself, and a bespectacled young student who was probably writing a thesis on the issue. I can't say that the museum was particularly memorable, since all I can recall was the red, comic-like drawings that passed for propaganda, and the very poor attempts at preservation. It seemed that nobody cared about Communism here, the molting of a reptile's skin, a poor and painful part of history that has finally been shed.
Freezing from our ears to our toes, Jane and I resorted to the mulled wine sold in the streets. Vendors would pour us a steaming, reddish liquor from large metal cannister
they wheeled around. Warm and intoxicating, one drink became two, two became four, and both of us became slightly inebriated from the multiplicative property of alcohol. We laughed, we sang, we stumbled through the streets arm-in-arm sharing stories. Jane had left her boyfriend at home, and I told her I left the world at home including sour romances. I couldn't tell if it was the wine that warmed me up or the friend who was at my side. Even the most transient friends can have a potent impact on us, changing our perspective ever so profoundly.
Being interested in drama, Jane was excited about Prague's famous "shadow" or black light theatre. I had no idea what it was, but I promptly changed money (inevitably losing a few Euro in the process because I was "free-spirited" in the extreme) and bought tickets to Aspects of Alice.
More mulled wine, and we were sitting in a small theatre, with tons of small children and some straggling parents. Circe du Soleil-like performers entered, fluorescent colors against a black background, the movements of black-clad acrobatics unfurling a fantasy of glowing lights and frenetic, kinetic sounds. In the center was Alice, her dress an electric blue, her hair a soft blonde as she found her way through Wonderland. What became clear were the metaphoric stages of maturity, as Alice was growing up.
Then two glowing nude women walked out, as Alice was apparently embracing sensuality and ego. Every detail was explicitly and exquisitely highlighted. Jane and I exchanged identical looks of horror, confusion, and amusement. There were young children sitting open-mouthed in the audience! No had told us this was an X-rated show. Or perhaps nudity among Europeans is commonplace while we Americans and Australians still behave with a Puritannical sense of priority.
Nonetheless, our eyebrows were permanently raised for the remainder of the show. After the finale, we had more mulled wine, said our goodbyes, and set on our way. She was headed to Salzburg and I was on my way to Poland the following day. It was well after midnight and the crowds were thinning.
Upon departing, I realized I had no idea how to get back.