An Imaginary Life

A sharp metal trill awakes me, like church bells hidden inside the closet. It continues in short intervals as the street trolley bends around the corner with a high-pitched squeak and stops across the lawn from my bedroom window. Hordes of people get on and off, scurrying to work, as I pull the white lace curtain back and open the double pained antique windows. It’s the beginning of August, so the day is warm and the heat already intense. Out of the corner of my eye I notice a large group of tourists trekking across a cobblestone street, heading to the narrow lane, which leads to Prague Castle. The enormous complex, with its varied architecture, sits high on the hilltop in front of me, above the trolleys, in perfect view—the perfect view, from my new apartment, at least for the next month.

Trolley & Prague Castle

I came upon this prime piece a real estate or rather it came by me, thanks to One day last winter a young Czech couple contacted me and inquired about an exchange. They would come to my house in San Miguel and I would go to their 3-bedroom, fourth floor walk-up apartment in downtown Prague, Mala Strana, to be exact—the “little quarter”. They would experience Mexican culture and food, while I roamed the narrow, medieval streets of Prague, sampling all forms of Central European dumplings (cousins to my beloved Asian pot stickers), and every variation of apple strudel known to man.

When I built my house a few years ago it wasn’t to have a place to call home, it wasn’t for an investment, nor for my love of decorating, it was for the sole purpose of becoming a proud member of I had heard for years about the benefits of home exchanges and I knew I had to be part of this savvy, élite group. So on this beautiful morning, my first in this glorious city, surrounded by red-tiled roofs and noisy trolleys, I knew I had made the right decision.

Still perched in my windowsill I notice a small park directly below me, full of apple and pear trees, heavily laden with fruit. A small walkway full of people on foot, some with their dogs, cuts through the greenery and leads to one of Prague’s famous bridges and eventually to Stari Mesto–old town. I am on the water, close to Charles Bridge, known for its Baroque statues perched upon its 14th century railings.

Charles Bridge

I go to the bedroom across the hall to open the windows, since cross ventilation is the only form of air-conditioning, and look onto the expansive, manicured lawn of the Prime Minister. He’s my new next-door neighbor; however, I highly doubt he’ll have me over for tea. With my excellent view, though, I’ll be able to see the comings and goings of heads of state–something to keep me occupied when I don’t feel like leaving the house. Since the television is too technically advanced for the non-technical me, I decide the PM will provide much more satisfying entertainment.

City View from Prague Castle

As soon as I get dressed, the cleaning lady, Martina comes by to check on me. She stays for about an hour, explaining appliances and keys. She speaks only 20 words of English, I speak about 30 words of Czech, which really isn’t even Czech, just a sad mixture of Russian and Slovene, picked up on various trips; however, we manage to talk and laugh the entire time. When she leaves I know it’s because she has to take her son to the dentist. I accompany her downstairs to the fresh fruit market outside my door (which means the apple and pear trees) and fill my arms with breakfast. As I climb back up the 109 grey stone stairs I realize my month of adventure has begun with new friends and fine food.

New Home in Prague

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