The Pen Prevailed

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Our whirlwind train tour of Central Europe has brought us to Prague, the jeweled capital of the Czech Republic. I fell in love with Prague at first sight, back in 1991. Its labyrinth of winding cobblestone alleys and medieval spires cast a magical allure. We are staying in New Town, which is old by American standards, established back in 1348.

Beginning 1,000 years ago when Prague was the capital of the Holy Roman Empire, their history involves non-resistance, avoiding conflict by acquiescing to invading armies. Because of this, they have one of the best-preserved and most beautiful cities in Europe. Today, the invading army includes hordes of tourists, crowds which have changed the experience of Prague, and I daresay, lessened it.

Czechs choose to fight with words, not weapons. Described as analytical and critical thinkers, Czechs have produced countless dissidents and philosophers, such as Franz Kafka, who met to discuss their ideas and drink strong coffee in smoke-filled cafes. They’ve spawned martyrs such as Jan Hus (missionary killed in 1415) and Jan Palach (student activist who killed himself in 1969).

In recent history, that attitude of non-resistance brought Czechoslovakia to merge with Nazi Germany and Communist Russia, decisions which were later regretted. Today we visited the most excellent Museum of Communism where we learned more of the oppression the people suffered. After years of lies, fear, and intimidation, a peaceful exchange of power occurred during the Velvet Revolution of 1989. The Communist president resigned and later, playwright Vaclav Havel took his place. Words prevailed once more.

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