The Danish have a word that doesn’t translate well to any other language – Hygge. A strict translation of the word would have it mean coziness, yet that doesn’t quite capture the intent. www.visitdenmark.com gives a very visual definition of the word…
In essence, hygge means creating a nice, warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people around you. The warm glow of candlelight is hygge. Friends and family – that’s hygge too. And let’s not forget the eating and drinking – preferably sitting around the table for hours on end discussing the big and small things in life.
I’ve always found a certain time in Autumn in Central Europe to have that unique feeling of Hygge. As we left Ljubljana and arrived late in the day in Vienna to catch our train to Prague, the glimmer of light left in the day outside Wien Meidling station gave a certain warmth to the scene and reminded me of this feeling for the first time on this trip. Our first several days in Prague too, the autumn sky was illuminated in such a way that it cast the perfect glow over the golden city.
I returned to Prague this time with some concern over what I might find in the city. Having lived here for several months back in 1999, with every successive visit I have seen higher prices in the center of the city, and less of an authentic Czech feel, as the streets are more and more filled with stag parties & tourists from the world over. This time, however, perhaps due in part to the location of the apartment we rented out in Vršovice, the city felt like a dynamic, livable & gorgeous living city, one that embraces it’s beauty & touristic benefit in the center, but that retains it’s heart & soul to those who are willing to look for the real Prague….. A simple hospoda filled with locals from the nearby block drinking Gambrinus from the tank…… A mother walking her child through a simple neighborhood park with the backdrop of 3 different types of 18th & 19th centure architecture painting a unique picture….. A cozy neighborhood restaurant filled with locals & ex-pats serving a Czech interpretation of Tapas set just below street level.
This return visit was a good one. In ways I feel I saw more of the real Prague this time than I have in the past, even when living in the city outside of it’s tourist center. As Prague has matured from a city that shrugged off the yoke of Russian communism it has not only polished it’s physical beauty, but it has again found it’s soul. As Kafka said….. “Prague never let’s you go… this dear little mother has sharp claws.”