November in Prague is relentlessly foggy. A heavy mass of thick white is always bearing down on the city, dangerously low and threatening to descend even lower and immerse the buildings and the streets in haze.
This can become wearying after weeks of the same.
This morning, I woke up early to go down to Staré Město (Old Town) and then across the Charles Bridge to Hradčany and Malá Strana (Lesser Town). I’ve realized after a couple of these morning sojourns that as a (short-term) resident of the city, the only way to fully appreciate all the historical sights as they deserve to be, is to visit them before the hoards of tourists have woken up. The grandeur, history, magnificence of the sights is totally undermined and timidly retreats into hiding when one has to deal with dodging groups of people who mindlessly take up the width of the whole Charles Bridge and then proceed to linger and block anyone trying to walk faster than them. The charm is all but dissolved as soon as the souvenir shops open for the day to blast Katy Perry music loudly and obnoxiously through the narrow alleys trying to entice anyone walking by to purchase any of their cheesy, plastic-y, inauthentic/irrelevant trinkets. As soon as the gaudy, flashy, neon signs buzz on for the day the embellished façades and ornate architecture shrink shyly into the distance behind them.
My morning excursions have become very special. They’re meditative and calm. Unaccompanied, I relish in taking my time to savor the sights and get my full money’s worth when I pay an entrance fee to a lookout tower or museum. They’re quiet in the way they can only be in the sleepy dawn. I walk for long distances down the streets, delighting in discovery and pleased to be filling in the blank spots on my mental map of Prague. I happily wander until I find a square to sit in and write or watch the people and pigeons pass by. I think and I watch and I smile.
And for this, the insistent fog isn’t so terrible after all.