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Post details: Light Encounters of the Third Kind

Light Encounters of the Third Kind

Sometimes you get more than you bargain for.

When a friend of mine invited me to Prague to watch the New Year's fireworks I did expect to see some of the magic only light can conjure up. Little did I know that nocturnal Prague offers more than one way to encounter it.

Light Encounters of the First Kind: the Flashes.

As the fireworks took place over the Vltava river, we parked ourselves on the bank directly opposite a long ridge called Letenska Plan. Many photographers sought better vantage point there and positioned themselves alongside its many walking paths. Just before the show started, we could see their flashes go off in a mesmerizing display of ethereal coruscation. In a completely uncoordinated manner, hundreds of cameras strewn all over the slope flicked forth their electric winks and for a few moments the whole ridge resembled a field of polished diamonds glittering mystically against a faint reflected light of the historical Old Town. The Princess of the Night came to watch the fireworks herself and all we could see was the sparkling tiara in her raven dark hair.

Light Encounters of the Second Kind: the Fireworks.

I think the reason fireworks are so popular among virtually all cultures is that they combine two primordial fascinations of the human race - stars and explosions. Located at the opposite extremes of the variational scale, things that go boom are the ultimate agent of instantaneous and irrevocable change, while stars have always been viewed as an embodiment of eternal constancy. Merging the two opposite streams of temporal perception into one blooming garden of cosmic flowers is a spectacle that never disappoints. It is like watching the Big Bang itself, a two second recapitulation of a wildly evolving Universe. All rendered in bright colors and crackling sound effects.

Light Encounters of the Third Kind: the Decorations.

Under most circumstances I consider Christmas lights a bit of a cultural kitsch. Especially when they are overdone. But as we were walking back to the Wenceslaus Square, I noticed that juxtaposed to Prague's quaint and eclectic architecture they lost some of their saccharine aftertaste. The distant and ageless forms of masonry in the background compensated for the instant gratification aspect of the seasonal commerce around us. Together they formed puzzling symbiosis of transient and permanent elements. On the one hand, the decorations bound to disappear in just a few days and on the other, the churches and Baroque houses that will hopefully still stand in their places in one hundred years. It was like meeting of two civilizations - one coming from our world: vibrant, flawed and heartwarming; and another coming from a completely different world: towering, perfect and cool. From a world many light centuries away. Coming back for the smell of overpriced hot chocolate.

prg

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