City Parks (The Vrchlický Park)

Hermann Grab

There were three parkways in the City Park – the upper one, the lower one, and the wide central one. The upper one stretched along the railway station, and one would visit occasionally and only for a while. It was mainly used by those who were just passing through with their luggage. Straw-coated suitcases carried by women and black wooden suitcases carried by soldiers seemed to bring the odour of train compartments, soot smell and scents of orange peel. On a bench, a man with a wooden leg would be sitting. The realm of his dark gloom and military hospital ghosts held him captive and only allowed him to come here, to the reeking upper parkway, and never to the bright tree-lined path below.

The lower pathway was usually abandoned. The kids would enjoy heading this direction straight away, inconspicuously leading the governesses down this path. It was a winding one, lined with bushes – with thick, tangled branches all through the winter – that allowed some surprising glimpses. When Renato succeeded in making Mariana laugh – an amazingly simple phrase would do, such as: “Look at the guy over there in the street, he is bearded like a goat!” – he could hope the whole walk would work out well.

They would also seek the lower path before going home. Sometimes they were ready to leave the park, but suddenly the governesses changed their mind as they said: “Let’s take the lower path once again.” At that point there would sometimes be lights on in the nearby Mariánská street and when a sole carriage went by, the silence grew even deeper after the clatter of horseshoes and rattle of wheels on shoddy paving intensified and then ceased. (…)

They would not take the lower parkway that often. The governesses preferred the central parkway. It was wide and straight, and it was easy to see and recognize other children and their governesses from far away. Sometimes it got rather crowded – with swarms of children and swarms of misses. They would usually only stay together for a moment though. Miss Florence and Miss Harrison did not often seek to join them as they seemed to prefer enjoying their time without interruptions. On the other hand, what if they did come here hoping they would be able to join the others. (…)

The book “City Parks and Other Stories” by Hermann Grab

The novel’s protagonist, a young student Renato, experiences his first love to a young girl Mariana whom he usually meets during the walks with her English governesses in Prague’s parks. The stories from these walks, his school and home are told on the background of the First World War. Hermann Grab wrote the book at the age of 28 in 1932. It was published in 1935 with the first Czech translation only published in 1995.

— The City Parks were located on the area in front of the Main Railway Station and towards the National Museum; only a part has been preserved to this day as the Vrchlický Park. The City Parks were presumably visited by Prague’s German speaking minority quite often as several German-language writers mention them.—

The map source: The altimetric plan of Prague and environs 1920-1924

Central parkway, 1925, Source: Archiv Hl. města Prahy (The Prague City Archives)

Southwestern part of the Vrchlický Park, 1926, Source: Archiv Hl. města Prahy ((The Prague City Archives)

Zdroj: Hermann Grab. Městské sady a jiné povídky. Praha: Primus, 2000, s. 16–17.

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