It’s 4:23 a.m. in Prague, Saturday morning and I can’t sleep. I’ve been lying awake for hours going over in my mind our two month trip that ends tomorrow, Sunday, when we fly back home to California.

It’s been a remarkable trip for both Nettie and me, clarifying and deepening our understanding of the history of our family’s experiences here in Europe. At the same time, we realize we’ve seen just the first few pages of their history, that there is a huge volume for us left to explore. We intend to begin that exploration when we get back home.

Home…the theme of our lives. And the theme, too, at the center of the historical record we’ve seen in countless museums, castles, palaces, and cathedrals for both royalty and commoner alike.

Families struggling against the vicissitudes of nature and time; individual lives created and destroyed by political rivalries and personal calamities, by competition and alliances, by the mysteries of the heart and the clarity of desire and greed.

And the star actors in all this history are the partners of war and religion.

Throughout the centuries, these two players have always assumed the featured roles. I use these words in their broadest and narrowest sense, from squabbles around a Neanderthal fire pit to the insanity of the Final Solution designed to erase a people and a religion from the face of the Earth.

Here in Prague, the only English speaking TV stations available in our apartment are the news stations Aljazeera, CNN International, BBC, and Russia Today. It’s chilling to see that war and religion still have staring roles in the day’s events. Afghanistan. Syria. Iraq. Pakistan. And the frightening rebirth of Nazis in Turkey. The stage has shifted east it seems, but the performances are all too familiar.

War and Religion. Religion and War. The history of our planet.

The sun finally comes up. The room brightens around me. The cathedral spires outside my window shine in the sky. It’s the second day in a row that sun has replaced the rain and gloom. That means the Vltava river level has gone down by at least six feet, which is good news for everyone here in Prague.

Cathedral Spires

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We’re looking forward to coming home, to being with family and friends, embracing them again, being again in rhythm of their lives, which of course is the rhythm our life and gives it meaning.

Yesterday we decided to visit a toy museum near the Prague Castle, our last museum visit. It’s the largest collection of antique toys in all of Europe, and it featured a 50th year Barbie doll exposition. It sounded like the right thing to do on the last full day here, a little lightheartedness to round out all the seriousness we’ve come across.

Flamingo Barbie

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It was a tremendous collection, multiple floors of amazing toys from across the centuries, eleven full exhibition rooms, nearly too much to take in on a single visit. Wooden toys, toys made of bones and tin and delicate glass figurines, leather and cloth and even dried fruits turned into odd and curious toys. And there were hundreds of Barbie dolls, of course.

Choir Boys

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Soldiers

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And can you guess what the most popular toys have been throughout history?

Yep, weapons and religious pieces. No surprise, I guess. A kid’s got to learn somewhere.

To see selected photos of our last days in Prague, click the link: Good-Bye To Prague.

 

8 Responses to Child’s Play

  1. Virginia says:

    Wonderful photos. Loved the Barbies and other toys. You both look so happy in the photos. Glad you had a meaningful and memorable trip.

  2. Sunny Tneoh says:

    Frank so beautifully described and so accurate about war, religion, mysteries of the heart and clarity of lust and greed.
    We as people continue to be effected by War and Religion, for generation after generation. Thanks.
    I noticed there was hardly anybody on Charles bridge for a change thanks to the flood. Have a safe journey home. Cheers,
    Sunny

  3. Sunny Tneoh says:

    Frank so beautifully described and so accurately described “Families struggling against the vicissitudes of nature and time; individual lives created and destroyed by political rivalries and personal calamities, by competition and alliances, by the mysteries of the heart and the clarity of desire and greed.”
    We as people continue to be effected by War and Religion, for generation after generation. Thanks.
    I noticed there was hardly anybody on Charles bridge for a change thanks to the flood. Have a safe journey home. Cheers,
    Sunny

  4. Beverly Pine says:

    Hi Frank and Annette – We just returned from Peru and Ecuador. I enjoyed reading all of your postings when we got home. Machu Picchu is unbelievable. A must, must see if you haven’t been there. The Incas seemed to understand the majesty of life … then the Spaniards came and repainted The Last Supper with brown-faced diners eating guinea pig. [Is guinea pig kosher? What would Jesus think?] Anyway, we would love to get together when you are all sorted out at home. Our good friends just returned from Poland and Israel where they participated in the “March of the Living” – and it would be fun for all of us to exchange ideas. BTW, after surviving China and Peru, I was emboldened and decided to rinse my toothbrush in the sink in Ecuador. DON’T DO IT. (Maybe the Gods didn’t like ,y guinea pig comments. Anyway, welcome home and hope to see you soon. Beverly and Norm

  5. Great as always, Frank. I’ve enjoyed you thoughts on your travels. War and religion, indeed. I would add commerce to finish out the trinity. Like religion, it’s effects are mixed. Sometimes it’s an ameliorating force; at others, it fuels the fray. It seems to be the dominant mode in contemporary Europe. Makes it possible for me to be here, so I’d better not bad-mouth it too much.

    Safe travels home.

    • Frank Z says:

      Thanks, David. You’re right, of course, commerce is a double-edged force. Certainly it is needed. The greed I mentioned is the nasty side, and oh how easily need turns to greed with a thousand justifications.

  6. Elyce Wakerman says:

    I’ve enjoyed your commentary. Very well-written piece today. Safe travels home.

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