Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Taste of Freedom

Candles burn in Old Town Square as a crowd gathers to mourn
the deaths of three Czech hockey heroes.

Prague is a remarkable city of color and freedom!
by Charlie Leck

What a lovely time my wife and I had in Prague! What a bright and colorful place it is. It rings with happiness and the marvelous taste of freedom is in the air.

Think about it! Prague and the entire nation has been a free republic for less than 25 years. Their freedom isn’t taken for granted. They still savor it and celebrate it. We could feel it on the streets and in the beer halls and even in the fine restaurants.

The city’s Old Town Square is a grand place to be and it is always buzzing with enthusiasm and with the moment. Whatever is current and important is on the minds of the young and the free as they wander about and chat and sing in the Old Town Square.

We were in the square on the evening of the day that the news broke about the Russian airline crash that took the lives of an entire professional hockey team. A number of the players were Czech – Jan Marek, Karl Rachunek and Josef Vasicek were each and all key players in the Czech national team that won the 2005 and 2010 world championships. We’d just finished a fantastic, four-star dinner at one the city’s finest wine restaurants and we wandered the few blocks over to the big square to see what was going on. Preparations were underway for a big running event that would begin and end there on the next day. A large group had taken over one of the commercial pavilions, however, and large photographs of the Czech hockey players were on the stage. In a large, roped-off area in front of the stage there were dozens and dozens of candles burning in red containers. A very large, startlingly silent and saddened crowd gathered in front of the stage and the candles and mourned the lives of their fallen heroes. Bells quietly tolled from the tower of the magnificent Church of the Lady before Tyn that stood behind the stage. Earlier in the day, American hockey stars, Jaromir Jagr and Patrik Elias had been in the crowd.

We paused and watched the moment and clearly got caught up in the expression of honor and grief.

I took great pride in the Czech part of my heritage during this trip. I liked the people of Prague very much and I am happy for them – that they know the sense of glory that comes with being a free people. I want to go back sometime and be among them again.


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