They appeared suddenly in my line of vision as I was staring up at the gothic spires on the buildings in Old Town Square. The simplest of things: bubbles drifting lazily over the heads of everyone gathered in the space, gleaming as they caught the sunset light.
Amidst the bustle and noise and distraction of the street performers clamouring for attention, they somehow managed to turn heads, their effect universal: a start of recognition, widening eyes following their trajectory, hands beginning to reach up. And the smiles, blooming and spreading across faces young and old.
Like everyone else, I followed the bubbles to its origin - two sticks tied by a rope, a simple contraption, wielded by a man in long dreadlocks, loose jeans and sandals, a soapy paint bucket at his feet.
He had no cap on the ground to receive coins, nor did he say anything to draw the crowd - just dipped the bubble maker into his bucket again and again, as the small children jumped and squealed and reached, and as the adults turned back into small children to do the same.
The cobblestone streets of Old Town Square, like any other tourist destination, is a fierce battleground. Performers face the challenge of keeping their fickle audience's attention, even as some other person juggles knives or riffs out a squealing guitar solo less than twenty metres away.
I had my favourites, namely Chicken Joe, who broke out glass bottles, fire, knives and a whip to win the crowd over with his showmanship (and bruised half his vocal chords).
But it was the bubble man's smile that encapsulates Prague at sunset for me.
I'm not really a 'fall in love at first sight' kind of person, but I got very close to it with Prague, probably because of the sense of peace that I felt from the place.
In that moment in Old Town Square, with the backdrop of Prague's candy-coloured buildings (more on that in another post), there were no obligations other than to walk, to look and be entertained, soak in the summer light, and catch some bubbles.
Is it any surprise the photos I captured in the afternoon of my first day remain some of my favourites ever, even now?