My brother and I had planned to make it back to his apartment before dark but the strong downpour prevented us from taking the two hour trip back to the city. We were hoping the rain would stop but it continued throughout the evening. We decided it was best to stay overnight rather than take the risk of getting lost in the region. We had to drive along a winding road through the woods in complete darkness before reaching the main highway. We were visiting Eva, one of my brother's colleagues from work, who had a family cottage in Rynartice-- a small town in Northern Bohemia close to the German border.

Earlier that afternoon, we sat in her backyard surrounded by lush greenery. We drank white wine and ate local delicacies and desserts. We had Cocoska (similar to coconut macaroons), Korbacik ( Slovakian string cheese) and apple streudel. One of her close friends also brought a bottle of home made Slivovice-- a clear and potent spirit made out of plums from Moravia. She poured some in a shot glass and urged us to try it. I took a small sip and instantly felt a burning sensation as the alcohol made its way down my throat. I was about to gag but I shook my head, closed my eyes and swallowed hard.

The rain disrupted our meal so we quickly moved indoors. Later, a few more of her friends arrived and joined us at the table. As the evening wore on, beer and wine continued to flow and the group of friends spoke more Czech and less English. At that point, my brother and I were lost in translation. We politely excused ourselves, and went upstairs to the bedroom. We slept in the same clothes we wore during the day.

The next morning, I stayed in bed waiting for my brother to wake up. From the window, I could see that the rain had disappeared. The interior of the room was filled with antique furniture. Yesterday, while giving us a quick tour of the house, Eva told us that the Czechs were prohibited to travel outside of the country during the communist era so the cottage served as their weekend retreat. Summer and winter vacations were also spent there. Knowing this bit of personal history made it seemed as if time stood still in the room. Somehow, I felt grateful for the opportunity to be there. I suddenly had the urge to photograph and make a record of it.


Garden, Prague Castle

I sat there for a long time admiring the magnificent spires towering the city. A slight breeze cooled my face while I listened to the rustling leaves, the birds chirping nearby and the sound of visitors conversing as they walked along the garden path made of fine white gravel. I pulled my red notebook from my bag and began to write down my thoughts. I felt so grateful having this gift of time in my hands--no schedules to follow, just me and my camera wandering around an unfamiliar city. Then I felt a drop of water land on my head. I looked up and the faint sunlight disappeared behind the gray clouds. I let out a sigh. It was time to go. It was such a rare moment for me that I did not want it to end. I closed my notebook and stuffed it in my bag. I pulled out my camera and took this picture.

Found: Czech Army Photograph

Rough translation: the 7th platoon of the 6th Czechoslovakian Regimen in Russia. Picture taken in the forest close to a railroad station.

Once in awhile, I don't mind wandering and getting lost when I travel to a city. This is how I found this photograph in a small bookstore off the tourist path in Prague. I was quickly drawn to several boxes of old pictures and postcards that sat on the counter in front of the store keeper. It was satisfying to leaf through these vintage images as they revealed a different perspective of Czech history told through personal snapshots, class pictures, friends and family gatherings and random landscape sceneries of the country. This particular one stood out. I was glad to see a handwritten description at the back of the picture. Later on, I had a local translate the words in English.