August 08, 2004
Classical, Hip Hop and the Ghosts In Between
DAY 284: Music, as Madonna once put it, "makes the people come together." I'm sure this was still true in the caveman days, when a caveman started banging on a rock in a manner as simple as the percussion in a White Stripes' song. Music brought villagers together in South America, tribes together in Africa and Americans together in "we can do it" montages in American 80s teen flicks.
Prague has been one of the premier stages for bringing people together in Eastern Europe, particularly during the 17th and 18th centuries, the hey day of classical music. Classical music still brings people together in modern day Prague; there's quite a calling for it from tourists wanting to hear the classics in a classical setting, to classical instrumentalists looking for work.
I SPENT MOST OF THE DAY WRITING ALONE in my room and running errands in town, stopping for some Czech fast food down the block from sculptures in front of the National Museum. At five in the afternoon I headed over to the Church of St. Martin in the Wall with a flock of others to see one of the many classical concerts in town for a small fee. The Romanesque church had the perfect acoustics for such a performance. The string quartet Musica Praga (picture above) performed classics such as Mozart's "A Little Night Music," Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons (Spring)," and Schubert's "Ave Maria" to a packed house -- so much that some people had to sit on the floor.
Afterwards I went out to find an internet cafe but ended up inquiring about a ghost tour that I had seen a poster for. I figured I spend most of the day writing about a tour in Berlin (I was behind on The Blog), that I might as well see Prague from a quirky angle on my last night. A tour agency sold me a ticket and I went off to Blog.
"Feel like hitting that steak place?" he asked me. We had planned to check out the Crazy Cow steakhouse across the street and down the block. Word had it they had great baked potatoes.
"Can it wait 'til ten? I've booked this ghost tour."
"Ghost tour?" I showed him the brochure and he looked it over:
"In the Old Town we stumble through a web of surreptitious passages and infernal alleys extending on all sides infiltrating it completely: small rag doll lanes intersected by entrance halls: circular paths hard to penetrate: narrow underground passages still smelling of the Middle Ages..." [sic]
Kyle seemed a little skeptical until he read the bottom:
"Following our walk complimentary drinks will be served at an Old Town tavern."
"Is this the ghost tour?" I whispered to a guy in the group.
"Yeah." He was Greg, a 19-year-old American who had also been drawn to the tour by that poster on the street.
"Did we miss much?" I asked him.
"You just missed the first story, but it was kind of lame."
Despite the brochure's backside saying, "You will be entertained," the rest of the tour was pretty lame as well. I don't know if it was the fact that the sun was still out or the guide's delivery was off, but the entire tour was, as we quickly discovered, sort of lame and not funny. The female guide led us around random places in the side streets of Prague, telling us a story in each one. She spun tales about crazy and psychotic priests, doctors and barbers, telling us he killed a woman here, a man there, but it just didn't come off as a frightening ghost tour at all. Maybe it was fact that she spoke through a mic attached to a hip speaker. The only redeemingly entertaining part of the tour was when she said that one of the ghosts manifested in Prague in present day as a dark-skinned happy fellow in Mexican garb -- and when we turned the corner, an African guy was there in a big Mexican sombrero passing out flyers for a local Mexican restaurant.
"Now I will take you to the bar for your free drinks," was our guide's conclusion of the hour-long tour.
"Yes! I knew this was worth something!" Greg exclaimed for joy.
Kyle, Greg and I sat in an old-fashioned wooden bar over a couple more rounds than everyone else that had left after the freebie. We were joined by two British chaps who equally thought the best part of the otherwise lame tour was the beer at the end. The five of us toasted and eventually had dinner at the Crazy Cow steakhouse before splitting up.
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