One of the things you can never anticipate or predict is what a place you have never been to will smell like. Some places you visit for the first time are like a smell assault. You can’t imagine the smells before, and when you get there it’s all about them. When I was flying kilometers above Mumbai I could already smell the city. Now when I remember that time many years ago I remember the smells.
Prague remembered will also be a series of smells. There is the pre-snow smell and the snow smell. Snow has a smell. It is a great smell. There is the very different petrol smell. Absinth on tourists’ breath smell. Dog piss on snow under a streetlight smell. The cheap perfume on hot air leaving the souvenir shops. The greasy smell of outside heaters and the machines that clear the snow on the Old Town Square. The smells of winter; I cannot possibly imagine what Prague summer would smell like now.
Spiced hot wine is a smell. Dark beer is a smell. Garlic soup is a smell. Meat is a smell. Indoor smoke at restaurants is a smell. Fruit tea is a smell. Â Ghost breath is a smell and old is a smell. The little sweets with funny faces in a teeny bowl at the hotel’s reception is a smell. The churches are a smell. Wenceslas Square is a different, complex, more modern, more global, doner kebab, hot wine, cheap clothes, foreign tourist, fast food, Thai massage, cigarette, marijuana smell.
Wet shoes are a smell. No sweat is a smell. Meat and potato smells fill the air. Garlic soup.
The chairs in the lobby. The lift, a vaguely herby, buchu smell. Â The Italian old man who brushed my cheek in the lift smell. The bright blue soap in the dispenser smell. The ginger tea smell.
Tomorrow I will be leaving. But I will remember Prague by smell.