This shot was taken from the end of the Charles Bridge which crosses the Vltava River in Prague, Czech Republic. You can’t see the 30 statues that line the bridge beyond the tower at the left, but the Castle is visible in the distance. This is often believed to be The Castle of Franz Kafka’s novel, a work he never finished and in fact still ends mid-sentence. Having enjoyed his writings a lot, I visited his childhood home and grave while in the city. At night it was fun to imagine the medieval castle — former home to Bohemian kings and Holy Roman emperors — as the foreboding, unreachable place it was in the book.
I was traveling with my friend Marty, staying in a local apartment, and we passed through this square frequently in our exploration of the city and attended a concert in the church to the right, where — like everywhere in town — Mozart once played the organ. I just remember what a strong vibe I got from the bridge, the castle, the Kafka memories, the organ music creeping into the street, and the well preserved city. At one moment, waiting for my friend to emerge from a shop, I stood here in the middle of a gathering drizzle and just felt so steeped in the atmosphere of the place that I started to turn in a slow circle, my eyes panning Prague, imagining the city as it was, wondering what inspired Kafka to write such a dark story.
Just at that moment I felt someone coming toward me and I stopped. A large man had exited a shop and with purpose stomped directly for me. I made one of those sheepish glances over my shoulder to see if perhaps I was merely between him and someone he needed to tear the head off of. Straight up to me he came and stopped about arm’s length from me and fixed me with his stare. Black eyebrows sliced down into the crinkle at the bridge of his nose as he leaned in toward me. His dark eyes made me look away, try to pretend we weren’t confronting each other. I should have whistled a tune. He took a couple of steps around me and I was turning again, much more slowly than before, like I was cornered though I stood in the middle of the square. I summoned up an uncertain smile, and the creases in his forehead and at the corners of his eyes deepened. Finally, a disgusted rush of air from his nose and he turned on a heel and lumbered back to his shop, never saying a word. Suddenly too self-conscious to stand in the center of the square, I drifted to a postcard rack out of sight of the shop to continue waiting.
Going through it in my mind I have a vague recollection of someone rushing past the edge of my vision when I was taking in the buildings, river, bridge and castle. My only idea is that someone vaguely resembling me had stolen something or knocked something over in the shop and taken off running.