One of my best friends from my semester abroad sent me a poem last year titled “Memories of Prague” by a man named Petr Ginz. There was one line in specific that made us reminisce of you for hours: “Prague, your fairy tale in stone, how well I remember.”
Oh, and how well I do remember.
You see, when people choose to study abroad, they typically already have a location in mind. The popular choices are always Paris, London, Barcelona, and Rome. I’d been to Paris once and fell in love, and thought that perhaps I’d want to study there. Then, I saw you, buried pages deep in an AIFS catalog. You were only on paper then, but you were breathtaking. I imagined myself gazing up at your buildings that are older than I’ll ever be, and strolling your streets marred with the history of a war long over, but not forgotten. I knew then that you were the one for me.
The time to leave couldn’t have come any quicker. I kissed my family goodbye and sat on a plane with butterflies fluttering in my stomach. Excitement? Fear? Joy? Yes. All of them pooling together in my belly, impatient with the need to finally meet you––and the day I finally did was the day I learned what it truly felt like never to want to come home again. How could anyone ever pass you by, Prague?
It seems ages ago now, but the feelings are still fresh. Chilly air grazing my skin on a walk to Petřín Hill, sweet sugar on my tongue after taking a bite of a fresh Trdelník, a warm cup of coffee between my frozen hands on the commute to school. Do you remember, too? The pitter of my shoes running on your cobblestone streets, my laughter on a metro ride from Dejvická to Hradčanská, my fingertips grazing the top of the Vltava River on a paddleboat trip? I miss those moments, and I hope you miss them too.
I see you in my dreams still, live and in technicolor. Yellow, blue, and pink buildings lined up along the river. The Dancing House, strong and proud when I’d round the corner on a walk with no destination. Lucerna Music Bar blaring 80s hits on a Saturday night. Letná’s beer garden buzzing with people, conversations, and laughter. The flash of neon green in the hallway that signaled I was nearly at my room, 307, and the sound of my suitemates greeting me from a day away in class. The spires that hung above my head on a stroll in Old Town Square and beyond, aged from time and all-knowing from the things they’ve seen. I see you in my dreams still.
I know you may not be yearning for me as I do for you, beautiful city. Though I’d love to keep your shady nooks, sleepy alleys, and winding cobblestone streets to myself, I can’t bring myself to do so. Your beauty must be shared far and wide, so others can see the allure of your red roofs during sunset in September.
Coming home to Los Angeles has not been an easy transition, Prague, but one I have learned to adjust to again. Though my body is here, my heart is with you forever.