Brides, Beggars and Becherovka


Brides roam the square in Praque with an entourage that includes a mother, a groom and a photographer. They pose in front of all the major attractions for the tourist paparazzi.

I began to suspect they might actually be audience builders for a designer label and in fact, some are models for wedding catalogs. Prague is a popular nuptial destination that draws young couples from all over the world.

Prague also draws roving groups of young men known as stag parties or football hooligans.  I witnessed a chilling interaction between a group of high spirited hooligans (you can take that two ways) and a beggar.

Beggars in Prague mimic the street performers who present themselves as living statues. Beggars take a supplicant stance that is humble and prayer-like, on their knees, forehead to the ground, hand posed near a hat or cup. A young girl so arranged herself outside a black light theater.

As we passed by we heard laughing and shouting.  It appeared that a group of young men were sporting with her, taking turns jumping over her supine form. Then came one of those moments where you don’t believe what you are seeing.

As the young men provided distraction, one of them unzipped his pants and peed in her cup. I will never forget the look of humiliation on her face after they left. She picked up the cup and stared into it with a look of disbelief and terrible sadness.

I was still processing what I had seen when it occurred to me that maybe I should have done something. What stopped me? Fear of a group of mean-hearted drunk men. What could I have done? Offered her comfort perhaps, but I didn’t.

Not to overdramatize, but I recalled this incident when I was in Auschwitz a few days later. All agreed that although the death camps are mute testimony meant to prevent holocaust from ever happening again, it can happen again. It starts one group of people puffs its chest at the expense of another group of people. In this case, what began as a joke disintegrated quickly into shocking mistreatment; the beggar got the message; the men went on their merry way; the rest of us passed by on the other side.

On a lighter note

Beckerovka recommends itself as spirit and digestion and arthritis. We’ve developed a liking for this tonic, so we ordered one at a cubist-style coffee house, Sharon wanted to be sure of what we ordered so the conversation went like this:

Sharon (pointing): What is this?

Waiter (looking pained): Eess terrible.

Me: It’s not good?

Waiter (looking uncomfortable): Eeesss horrible!

Me: Really? It’s that bad?

Waiter (giving it one more shot):  Eeettss HERBAL!

I gave the thumbs up and there were smiles all around.  Na zdravil!

One comment

  • Thank you for sharing this experience. People can be so evil. The group mentality can so easily take over, and people in the group begin to lose their sense of humanity. Thank you for reminding us how easily we can devolve into ugly beings. Karen

    June 25, 2012

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