It’s difficult for me not to see Prague as one of those enchanting Eastern European beauties. It’s magical flair is sooo generated by the scarcity effect. Scarcity of time, that is. Every little street you venture into, the detail of the building facades, the uncountable statues and the little pieces of history they talk about demand more of a visitor’s time.
Time which, alas, I never seem to possess. This was the second time Prague drew me to Bohemia for a visit, and it will most certainly not be the last. Each visit luckily does provide an opportunity to venture out just a wee bit further. This time, I finally made it up to the metronome.
While not a universally liked monument, it was designed by Vratislav Novak and erected in 1991, to replace a prior statue commemorating Stalin, which was housed in Letna Park on a hill overlooking the majestic old city.
It’s a site well suited for revolution, pop culture and the likes. In the early 90’s, a bomb shelter on the top of the ridge was used by Radio Stalin, a pirate radio station as the base for its transmissions. Somewhat later, the same location served as one of Prague’s first rock clubs, and in ’96 the location, visible from the pittoresque Prague rooftops, briefly housed a massive monument of Michael Jackson, to launch the European version of his “History” tour.
Politics has also found its place there, with a billboard of the Civic Democratic Party being erected there in 1998, just prior to the senatorial elections. Feelings that this location was too powerful to be held by a single man were confirmed once again in late ’98 when the famous billboard was ripped into pieces by a strong October storm.
There are really just three common ways to getting closer to understanding a city: looking at how an individual lives in it, by observing the collective habits of its denizens, and finally, by taking a step back and looking at its current state and how it got there.
The first is what you do when you have a local friend who can show you the ins and outs and introduce yourself to how he deals with daily problems using the city’s resources. The second happens when you just arrived and hopped off the bus or train without any guidance. You try to ascertain how people do things, and follow suit. Essentially, you make mistakes but get these pointed out to you, perhaps in a friendly manner but sometimes also with the necessary frowning. That’s why we shouldn’t be afraid to show we are visitors, after all.
The third way, is what the Metronome spot was made for. Looking carefully across the city, here and there you can spot varied architectural histories, moving from Art-Nouveau over Renaissance, Gothic and Neo-Classical. For ultra-modern architecture, just look up, where the ticker of the metronome is quietly hopping left to right in the skies.