Despite the pandemic, my wife and I have “traveled” internationally every Wednesday since July. Our imaginary private jet flies at the speed of light, so we happily skip security checks and avoid jet lag. We start the day in our on-board bed by listening to our destination’s national anthem and googling what the locals have for breakfast. Later we join Rick Steves and Barby at Geography Now, both of whom are fountains of knowledge about our chosen country. Continuing on YouTube, we delve into the nation’s language quirks, sports, dog breeds, best and worst parts of visiting, cuisine, politics, national parks, and so on. Living in multi-cultured Los Angeles, we have only once missed being able to order a pick-up dinner of that country’s cuisine. (There don’t seem to be any Croatian restaurants near by!) We round out our trip by watching a locally made movie. We have seen some great ones. Just google “best films from __________.”

Why am I telling you about our virtual travels? First to recommend such trips—highly educational and diversionary. Secondly, everywhere I go I find some unique bones, and last week’s visit to the Czech Republic was no exception.

Courtesy James Grimmelmann, Wikipedia

A huge clock has graced the wall of Prague’s Old Town Hall since 1410, which makes it the world’s oldest working astronomical clock. If you want to know the local time and current date, the sidereal time (ask an astronomer to explain), the Old Bohemian time (ask an old Bohemian), Babylonian time, or the current position of the sun, moon, Zodiac constellations, and other planets, the clock will show you. It also indicates the time of today’s sunrise and sunset and which saint is having his feast day.

Courtesy Sebaso, Wikimedia

So far, jaded Rolex owners may not be impressed, but there’s more. Enough that crowds gather on the hour to watch the show. Two small doors above the dials open, and carved figures of the Apostles parade past. Above the Saints, a golden rooster flaps its wings. Carved figures also flank both discs. The lower set, to symbolize goodness, represents an archangel, philosopher, astronomer, and historian. The other set represents disdainful activities. A vain man shakes his head as he sees his reflection in a mirror, a miser rattles his purse, a skeleton rings a bell and turns an hourglass over (hint, hint), and a hedonist stands frozen in extravagance and pleasure.

Naturally, I have to critique the skeleton’s anatomical correctness. Both hips are dislocated, but otherwise it looks pretty good. The pigeon netting helps.

Courtesy Sebaso, Wikimedia

By itself, a clock, even one with some bones, is probably not worth a trip to Central Europe. Presently, however, when time seems to be standing still, appreciating a mechanical marvel over 600 years old, one that has witnessed numerous bouts of political and disease-induced turmoil, is a good reason to acknowledge the capacity to keep on ticking.  



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