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Tourister

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Yesterday, Professor Dennis Darling took half of our Maymester class on an early morning bike ride around Prague. We grumpily started at eight (about 1 AM, central US time), were equipped with some pretty extreme mountain bikes, and then all set off to explore the city. Dennis claimed that we were heading out early in order to avoid the tourists that flood Prague and popular tourist attractions around midday, but ha ha Dennis, we are tourists.

We biked around Old Town and then crossed over into Lesser Town Prague. All along the way, Dennis acted as our personal guide and Czech historian. He told us the tale of the One-Armed Thief at the Church of St. James, pointed out examples of various architecture styles from cubism to baroque to art nouveau, took us around hidden corners to the Lennon Wall and the locks of love bridge, and even supplied us with a Starbucks fix. Yes...a venti chai tea latte here in Prague. It tasted just like American consumerism and simultaneously, Christmas in a cup. Delicious and just as spectacular as the surprises along the bike ride.

Arriving back at Old Town Square, sure enough, hundreds and thousands of tourists were afoot. Dennis warned us, "don't hit the tourists...you may need to get off and walk your bike." After spending several hours on the bike and seeing much of the city, after getting to know the transportation system and several Czech phrases, Dennis's warning made me scoff and think--it's so hard to be a local in this town. After a mere three days, I was feeling like Prague was home. Ridiculous though it may seem, I was ready to shed my even more ridiculous American-tourister skin and adapt to Czech ways of life.

So I began to stare. Like the Czechs supposedly do. Like photographers should do. I began to stare at the tourists. As they took balanced and clichéd photos, as they spoke loudly to one another, as they attempted to emulate postcard photos and absorb Czech culture by listening to a polka band, as they bent their head anxiously over metro maps, as they held out their point and shoot cameras. I began to look out for the tourists, just as Dennis warned, but only to capture them in seemingly normal, but relatively awkward moments. As tourists, not from these parts, attempted to blend and learn and see.

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