Growing up as a bit of political junkie as well as one of those "artsy types" the name of Vaclav Havel was one I was familiar with. It wasn't really until I visited Prague a few years ago that I think I appreciated his significance. It was hard to imagine walking down Wenceslas Square, as sunny and peaceful as I remember it on that July afternoon and realize that it wasn't that long ago that it was full of tanks and police. How times have changed and Havel can take a sizable chunk of the credit for it.
One of the places I visited in Wenceslas Square was a former police headquarters where Havel was held on I'm sure more than a few occasions. It is now a museum. Coming from our Canadian democracy and seeing this was quite the eye opener. It made me realize the depth of the love and conviction this man held for his people that he would challenge authority and wind up in a cell like the one I saw that day. And this was just the mocked up version for tourists so I can only imagine what it would have been like in its original state. Things sure have changed in the meantime. Today, this former police station is flanked by a McDonald's and a small casino (or at least it was when I was there.) Difficult to imagine.
Sadly I didn't pick up any of his plays when I was there. (I did pick up a very interesting satire on the Austro-Hungarian Empire by the anarchist writer Jarolsav Hasek.) I now really wish I had but with luck I will be able to remedy this lapse.
Wouldn't it be nice if we had politicians in this country who didn't just run their mouths but backed up their words with action?
The National Gallery in Wenceslas Square with a statue of King Charles in front.
Wenceslas Square (summer 2007)