Day 11 - July 21 - Prague
Jul 21, 2007
|Day 11 - July 20 (Saturday)
Did we meet a Czech relative of Laurie's today? The possibility is there. Let's start with the beginning of the story.
It was a beautiful day and we understood that the "Old Town" Section is a great place to spend a day. Because it's Saturday and yesterday was a long day, we decided to not rush out first thing in the morning. We left the apartment around noon time....just in time for lunch.
We walked up towards Old Town and walked along Narodni Street, a very busy boulevard with busy cafes and shops. We looked at the menu at the Café Metropol and decided to stay for lunch. Greg had tuna lasagna, Laurie had a scallop salad. Both good choices. Nothing much eventful happened other than that the waitress cleared the table after we ate our main courses, leaving the bread basket (you pay extra for that). Greg was munching away at some of the bread when all of a sudden another waiter took away the rest of the bread. Wait a minute...we paid extra for that!!! No matter, he probably did Greg a favor. He really didn't need the extra carbs. Laurie went away to check out the W.C. and Greg waited. The same waiter now came back with a spritzer bottle and cloth to start cleaning off the table. Wait a minute; can't he see that Greg is still there???? Whoosh whoosh went the spritzer bottle and down came the cloth to clean the table. Is it not customary to clean the table "after" the customer has left? Apparently not.
We were now on our way to Old Town. This is a truly great section of town. Very touristy, but for good reason. Narrow cobble-stoned streets with lots of small cafes and plenty of places to shop for Bohemian crystal or souvenirs....almost too many. When we were here in 1977 there were only a couple places where tourists could buy anything. What a difference 30 years makes and the absence of the Soviet dominance of a country.
Really good music was playing as we entered the Old Town Square at around 3pm. We could see from signs there was a week long free jazz festival going on. Perfect timing ! We had looked a little closer as to who was playing today and noticed that Karel Růžička (featuring Karel Růžička Junior) was playing at 5:40 pm. Růžička is Laurie's grandfather's last name. We got a place under an umbrella and sat nursing a beer while we listened to a couple groups come and go. Now it was time for the Růžička group to come on. We finished up our beer and got closer to the band stand. After a couple technical misfires, the act started. They were actually pretty good. During the performance Karel senior explained in both Czech and English the names of the songs they were playing before they played each one. When they were being introduced at the beginning by the master of ceremonies we found out the Junior has emigrated to New York City and is was on his last day of vacation in Prague playing with his father's band.
We couldn't just let this go without introducing ourselves and finding out if there is any kind of family connection, so we got out of our comfort zone and went on stage after their performance to chat with them. We introduced ourselves to Junior and said that we were from the states also, and that Laurie's grandfather emigrated to the U.S. from the town of Heřmanův Městec in the early 1900's and his last name was Růžička also. "Is Růžička a common Czech name?" Junior said that it was a common "gypsie" name. Greg asked if he could take a picture of Laurie with he and his father. Junior called over Karel Senior and we started talking to him to find out more of the family background. Both spoke English very well. Laurie found out from Senior that his grandfather came from the village of Chrudim. Laurie informed him that we had just passed through there yesterday, on our way to her grandfather's village of Heřmanův Městec and that they were neighboring villages. Senior was not aware of that. A possible connection was starting to become apparent. Could both their grandfathers be related?.....brothers, cousins, or could they even be the same person since they are neighboring villages ? There is probably no way of finding out for sure. Unfortunately they were being kicked off the stage for the next act to come on, so we had to cut our conversation short. We thanked them for talking to us and for allowing us to take pictures with them. They were totally open to talking to us and Senior even seemed open to the possibility of there being a family tie somehow. We didn't have a chance to exchange contact information, but we did see that Senior has his own website for his group, and Junior has a "My Space" slot. We shall contact Senior for sure and tell him more about what we know of Laurie's grandfather. You just never know.
It was getting late so we started back to the apartment and on the way noticed people were gathering around a clock tower and looking up. Out came our book on Prague. We found that at every hour on the hour, the Town Hall Clock goes off and several figures go around; similar to the Glockenspiel in Munich. We stuck around for 10 minutes and witnessed this with hundreds of other people.
We wanted "dinner in" tonight, so we stopped by the Super Store "Tesco", a five-story department store. The lower floor was really a super grocery market by anyone's standards, even the US. It was huge and it was packed with lots of people, mostly foreigners. We hadn't seen anything this large anytime we've been in Europe. They really had a huge selection of goods, and it was like shopping at home.
Another great day, and a time for reflection on what might be a possible family connection.