The Matriarchs. Prague's Grandmother Army. Prague, Czech Republic
I typically write about "A" person or place I find inspirational and interesting. In this case, it's a group of ladies I noticed while doing street photography in the Czech Republic. As I wandered around the streets of Prague for miles each day, I began to notice something. I saw the same person on every street corner! How is this possible you ask? Well, thankfully I was wrong and it wasn't the same person showing up at random spots all day throughout the city. Rather, it was an inordinately large population of older ladies that acted and dressed very similar to one another. Their uniform: A one piece dress whose length fell just above the ankles paired with a sweater. Or, alternately, the pant/blouse combination of warm, yet functional clothing expressing the same fashion vibe as the previously mentioned apparel. These ladies almost always had some kind of cane used to aid in walking or, perhaps equally useful for knocking a wayward tourist like myself out of the way as needed to make the 1030 train back to their respective neighborhoods having completed the morning shopping routine.
These wonderful characters were typically older...quite a bit older actually...they walked a little hunched over and always seemed to be in a hurry to get from the train, to somewhere, back to the train for their short ride back home. I learned something else. While they would look up and give a quick smile, it was a poor choice to take that as a sign of slowing down. These ladies were on a mission, and wouldn't hesitate to run you over if you were in their way.
I soon realized what I was witnessing. These were the Matriarchs of the Czech Republic. Women who had been through Communism, revolutions, two world wars, and recently the massive shifts in culture do to the Wests capitalism descending upon and changing their sacred city. Prague is a beautiful place, and these are her proud, strong, and battle hardened Matriarchs. I discovered this group I now call the "Prague Grandmother Army".
I was fascinated watching these ladies negotiate the crowded sidewalks and bus stops. I was impressed to say the least. They were all on a mission! I suspect the plan goes something like this. Wake up. Get prepared to leave the flat. Go to the market and get food for the day and a roll to feed the birds in the park as if it were some sort of civic duty. Get back on the bus or train. Make it back to the flat by 1030 AM to avoid being on the road too long. And, call it a successful day. They wouldn't let anyone slow them down. Not even a tourist with a camera, AKA, me.
Don't get me wrong...they weren't mean...just seriously determined to complete their mission...their way!
I have to be honest...this was the first time I've ever been shoulder checked by a grandma! I was trying to make it across a crowded street and ended up being squeezed between one of these ladies and the crowd to my right trying who were also seemingly in a rush to cross a main street. I found myself in a precarious place with no room to move...after nearly getting bowled over, I turned to apologize for being in the way...and she just smirked, mumbled some incomprehensible Czech words, rolled her eyes, and kept on moving like a tank on a crowded street. Hilarious. This grandma just kicked MY butt for being in HER way...and she left the scene with me somehow feeling I had done something to deserve it. She's good...real good. I still feel some sort of odd guilt that I wasn't able to levitate out of her way and avoid the Grandma versus Scott collision. She was obviously on an very important mission!
The Prague Grandmother Army is a force to be recognized and respected. Just trust me on that one. What an interesting group of ladies. I can only imagine the stories they have to share. I wish I spoke Czech. :)