Friday, November 7, 2008

Hurdy Gurdy Man

In July 2002, Mila and I traveled to Prague, with our guide the kindly Dr. Pheasant. The first night in the city we made our way through the winding Medieval streets to the famous bridge built in the 1300s by King Karel IV. It is a surprisingly wide bridge, flanked at intervals by towering statues of bishops and saints, and it was packed with people-- sight-seers mainly, but locals, too, and a few vendors and street performers- most memorably some fire jugglers who were, frankly, not very good. Dropped torches aside, the orange glow of their flames made the Medieval bridge and Medieval city, with its spectacular castle looming on the opposite bank, seem all the more... well... Medieval. But the piece de resistance of all this Medievalism was the eerie and haunting music that emanated from somewhere farther down the bridge. It sounded like an old woman singing through some sort of amplification. When we had finally snaked our way through the crowd to the source of the music, we were somewhat surprised to find that it was not a miked old woman but a middle-aged man singing just with his own voice-- no amplification.

Now, only six years later, Jiri Wehle looks quite a bit older, but as you listen to this recording, don't watch the video. Instead, imagine the scene I have described here-- the moving firelight, the ancient stone bridge, the illuminated castle on the hill and its reflected image, as if pixelated, scintillating on the surface of the Vltava River, the stone bishops, the cranking of the hurdy gurdy wheel.

Magical Prague.

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