When Scott was in Czechoslovakia last year he met a man in Prague by the name of Jiri Komenda. Jiri is a lawyer and until recently represented the Czech Animated Film Co.
Jiri drove Scott all over the place, linking him to many interesting people and potential business opportunities. They have maintained close contact, and we have further considered the business possibilities, among other things, working with a firm in Salt Lake City that has designed a software program for teaching English that Jiri is now marketing.In May, Veloy and I will be taking our family to Berlin to visit Sally for two weeks. Besides going to Denmark for a few days, we have also considered going to Czechoslovakia. Prague is only a four-hour drive from Berlin. Many say it is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and Scott says the countryside is breathtaking. I looked at a map and was amazed at how little I knew about it.
There are several mountain ranges in Czechoslovakia that are the source of major rivers. The Elbe is one, and Vltava is another. More familiar to us as the Moldau, the Vltava flows through the heart of Prague.
In the World Book there is a photograph of a low river valley with rolling hills on either side. Towering over the river is a castle; there is a stone bridge across the river and a village right out of a fairy tale. A caption states: "Small towns dot the countryside throughout Czechoslovakia. Many of them were settled during the Middle Ages."
I read some more:
"The Czechs and the Slovaks are descendants of Slavic tribes that settled here in the A.D. 400s. . . . Czech culture was influenced by the Germans, many of whom lived in Bohemia and Moravia. The Slovaks were influenced by the Magyars (Hungarians) who ruled Slovakia after the 800s."
I remember in my stamp collection when I was a kid the stamps that said, "Magyar Post" were from Hungary. Besides Zsa Zsa Gabor, that's all I knew about Hungary. And what about Czechoslovakia?
At least I can spell it now.
I think Freud was born in Czechoslovakia while it was still part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Franz Kafka was from Prague, and Moishe Smith, who teaches printmaking at Utah State, did a wonderful etching of Prague.
Otherwise, the few impressions I have of Czechoslovakia are recent, from media exposure since the revolution and, especially, from a photo essay in Life Magazine coordinated by George Janecek, who lives in Salt Lake City and whose parents are Czech, and through whom we first came in contact with Jiri in Prague.
It amazes me to think of all the places in the world that get along just fine without my knowing anything about them. Prague is one of those places.
Yesterday, about noon, I picked up the phone and dialed 12 digits. On the other end I heard a bit of static, a couple of clicking noises, and then after a few more seconds, a buzz. Halfway around the world, I had just caused a bell to ring in someone's apartment.
It is still miraculous to me, no matter how often it occurs, that simply by pushing a few numbers on a dial, I can cause a telephone to ring in a specific apartment so far away in a city with millions of people.
Someone picked up the receiver in Prague.
"Hello," I said, "is this Jiri Komenda?"
In response, a puzzled, "Yah."
And we were off.
Suddenly, I was talking to a friend in Czechoslovakia whom I had never met. Some people don't get excited by this kind of stuff, but to me it is mind-boggling.
We were tentatively planning to arrive in Prague on a Sunday. Jiri suggested that we come on a Saturday. That way, he can take us into the mountains of Bohemia on Sunday, and we can see the city on Monday and Tuesday. He is arranging for our lodging in private homes.
After all Scott has told me about Jiri, I will finally meet him.
And a month from now, a part of the world that was only a name before will be a part of my life experience. The prospects make me as giddy as a high school kid waiting for the weekend of the prom.