Catching Up with Kafka in Prague

The Trail was my first exposure to Kafka’s works. And I was hooked. Last year when I had a chance to visit Prague, Kafka’s Prague was on top of my list.

Kafka was born in Prague in 1883. As a Czech born German speaking Jewish intellectual, he often had trouble fitting in. Kafka also suffered from poor health for most of his adult life. He battled physical illnesses as well as mental troubles right up to his death in 1924 (because of TB). These dark and desolate themes often played out in many of his stories.

The most prominent Kafka stop in Prague is the Franz Kafka Museum. It is informative and weird and dark and brilliant. Right from the installation of the two guys peeing in the museum courtyard, to the exhibits inside, this homage to Kafka and his talent is worth a visit. The museum displays first editions, personal diaries and journals, incomplete manuscripts, letters, sketches, photos and videos. The installations are arranged much like Kafka’s life played out – dark and magnetic. It’s like being in Kafka’s head; maybe a little less scary.

Kafka Museum

Ironically Kafka and his works were not well known in his home country. The communist regime considered them to be unsuitable. His popularity soared because of visiting tourists who wanted to know more about Kafka and his life at home. Now you see him everywhere – on tee shirts, bags, postcards and posters. The houses he grew up in, and there are many – from his ornate childhood home to house no. 22 on the Golden Lane where he spent some time – and his tomb, all are on the tourist trail.

The Minute House

If you are a Kafka fan, end the day at the Cafe Slavia, a regular haunt for Kafka and other well-known Prague intellectuals. I sat in this cafe’s art deco halls sipping on a Cappuccino Orange flavoured coffee, biting into a slice of medovnik (honey cake), and thinking about the power of Kafka’s words.

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