Saturday, June 1, 2013

Juxtaposition

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Yesterday, ominous clouds hung over the city of Prague as we hopped tram to tram and raced up the large hill to reach the Prague Castle in time for the King's Parade. Dennis, our professor, is pretty adamant about being on time and after missing our tram stop and having to double back, our group was in an unfavorable situation time-wise.

I understand the urgency of showing up on time. Especially when it means securing an advantageous spot in a large crowd, and becoming familiar with the surroundings before a popular event like a parade. Dennis even told us of prior years when parade participants could be seen riding the metro to the event, sporting full suits of knight's armor and long renaissance robes. But we were running behind, and we had a large hill to summit.

Fortunately, we arrived at the grand Prague Castle with ample time to ready ourselves for the upcoming mad dash. Thousands of tourists funneled through the castle gates and gathered before the entrance of the church. I posed behind several noble men and women as the ceremonies began. The King and Queen were introduced, the "crown jewels" presented, and then extravagant promenade began. For the next two hours, it was all about chasing the parade.

Mischievous boys dressed as knights on horses engaged the crowds and surprised unsuspecting spectators, while the joker and I became friends as I chased him around with my camera and asked him several times to jump into the air and perform a jig. Several other knights boasted and proclaimed the arrival of the king as he proceeded downhill on horseback, followed by four men bearing the crown jewels, and then a posse of noble men and women.

The Czechs create a wonderful reenactment of the historic King's Parade, which occurred during the reign of Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV (1316 – 1378) and involved carrying the royal Crown Jewels from St. Vitus Cathedral to the treasury in Karlštejn. But despite the ornamentation and the key to historic detail, it was peculiar to place renaissance costumes in a modern context--heavy velvet robes and men in tights juxtaposed with cellular phones and automobiles lining the parade's path. This theme resonates with the whole city of Prague as well--a place rich with the history of kings and war and communism, but also a modern, urban community marked by the works of David Cerny and chain coffeeshops and abundant Wi-Fi.

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