Thursday, August 16, 2018

Peace Vibes at the John Lennon Wall in Prague

Ashley Turner with John Lennon Wall wearing lace trimmed black shorts and a black camisole

"Imagine all the people, living life in peace..." 
- John Lennon

Of all the things I saw and did on my recent trip to Prague, the John Lennon Wall was by far my favourite. Formerly just a normal wall, this Prague landmark became a symbol of rebellion against communism in the 1980's inspired by John Lennon. Many of Prague's youth after his death were inspired by Lennon's songs about freedom for all at a time when Western music was banned by communists. Rebellious students painted Beatles lyrics and imagery on a wall across from the French embassy in the middle of the night to create a sort of memorial to Lennon, a pacifist hero whom they admired for his views at a time when being caught playing western music could land you in jail. Covered with various messages of hope and peace, people flock from all over the world to see this wall dedicated to John Lennon and his message of pacifism. 

Crowds and musician in front of graphiti wall

"A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality."
- John Lennon

In my humble opinion, it's impossible to see the John Lennon Wall without being moved. Rounding a corner and passing a restaurant, you immediately know when you've arrived as you start to hear the Beatles songs being sung by a guitar player and see the crowds of tourists who've made pilgrimages from all over the world gathering to absorb the colourful messages of love and peace.

wall art

"If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there'd be peace."
- John Lennon

Rather than being any sort of static monument, the John Lennon Wall in Prague almost seems alive as it is constantly changing. The original portrait of John Lennon painted by an unknown artist following his 1980 assassination is long gone, covered with layers of new paint and a few white washes that have happened over time. On any given visit to the wall you can most likely see it change right before your eyes as new messages and art are added by those who are visiting. It wasn't even the same when I left as it was when I'd arrived 30 minutes earlier.

Graphiti that says "Leave a mark wherever you go."

"You won't get anything unless you have the vision to imagine it."
- John Lennon

At one point the wall was repainted by authorities and by the next day it was once again adorned with poems and flowers. People from all over the world gather at the John Lennon Wall to share love and peace and messages that reflect the current state of global affairs. You might say, it's just a graphiti wall and you wouldn't necessarily be wrong, but for many it is a symbol of the global wish for peace and a call to activism similar to those said, sung and penned by John Lennon himself. 

guitar player in front of John Lennon Wall in Prague

"All we are saying is give peace a chance."
- John Lennon

As I approached the wall, the guitar player standing in front was singing Under the Boardwalk, a song I've always loved, but it hardly seemed the right choice for such a monument to John Lennon and the Beatles. There were crowds of people of all ages from all over the world, so many people posing for photographs, the odd selfie stick or two and of course, a few fashion bloggers perfecting their poses in front of the Instagram-worthy, colourful wall. And then all of a sudden, when I wasn't really expecting it, the experience got a little emotional. As I began to read some of the messages, one in particular that caught my attention said 'Leave a mark wherever you go' I began to hear some familiar lyrics that made the whole experience really beautiful. I'd be lying if I said it didn't make me tear up a little... It was too inspiring and moving to ignore really. 

Peace sign graphiti

"Sounds of laughter shades of earth are ringing through my open views inciting and inviting me. Limitless undying love which shines around me like a million suns, it calls me on and on across the universe."
- The Beatles

Ashley Turner sitting in front of John Lennon graphiti wall in Prague which says "Imagine" making a peace sign

"War is over... If you want it."
- John Lennon

Of course the wall is always changing, but on the day that I visited I found a rather large spot of the wall that simply says Imagine, paying tribute to what is perhaps John Lennon's most well-known and most loved song from his post-Beatles career. Of course it wasn't too long before the singer began to sing the famous song. People queued to take their photo in front of a painted word that has become synonymous with the rebellious Beatle who had the audacity to start demanding peace and it's impossible not to think of the tragedy of his shortened life, what he might have accomplished if he'd lived longer and whether or not he would've been influential enough to help his fans heal the broken world enough that people wouldn't need a wall to write their messages of hope on. Reading the messages on the wall shows that the world is bigger than we know, but it's smaller than we can truly imagine. There are problems everywhere and many of our cultures are so incredibly different in so many ways, but no matter where you go, there are always people who hope for a better future, disagree with their governments, protest unnecessary wars, defy the mistreatment of people by their governments and wish for a better tomorrow. 

John Lennon Graphiti

"Well we all shine on. Like the moon and the stars and the sun."
- John Lennon

The John Lennon Wall is a place for legalized graphiti as it is not discouraged by the owner of the wall. In some ways, that makes it lose it's flavour a bit... Graphiti is always a bit more powerful when it's an act of defiance and the wall certainly isn't the peaceful, yet illegal protest it once was before the Velvet Revolution, but it still has its significance. The John Lennon Wall now serves as a global call to action for activism, peace and reform. Messages are written on the wall in too many languages to count. There are slogans about war, Donald Trump and demands to make various places around the globe free. There are reminders of the perils of war and inspirational messages about positivity and believing in oneself. There's even a #metoo message that poses itself in the form of free legal advice from the writer saying "Love is all you need, but keep your hands to yourself."  

Ashley Turner with graphiti wall

"People asking questions lost in confusion... Well I tell them there's no problem, only solutions."
- John Lennon

The John Lennon Wall isn't too difficult to find and it's not far from Prague Castle or the Museum Kampa. Should those be things you're seeing on your trip, it's a good idea to see the John Lennon Wall on the same day to minimise your walking. There will undoubtedly be some crowds around the wall since it attracts tourists and students from all over the world, however I visited in the height of tourist season in August and I had no trouble at all getting close to the wall or taking the photos I wanted. 

Busker sign

"When you do something noble and beautiful and nobody noticed, don not be sad. For the sun every morning is a beautiful spectacle and yet most of the audience still sleeps."
- John Lennon

Though there is a seriousness and an emotional quality to the John Lennon Wall, it's not without a lighthearted sense of humour. The busker who serenaded our visit used humour to invite visitors to contribute spare change or buy his cd. To be fair, if you visit and he's there, throw him a few coins - he really does make the experience better!

John Lennon Pub and Restaurant in Prague

Following the wall I was left feeling inspired by all I'd seen, read and heard... We walked across a little canal and literally found by accident the John Lennon Pub. A cozy, quaint pub completely dedicated to the bespectacled Beatle and his former bandmates, this is a great spot to grab a Pilsner in the sun as the beer garden is fab.

Yellow Submarine wall mural and British red telephone box

Walk through a breezeway and make a choice to either enter the pub on the right or soldier on into the beer garden. If you don't like Beatles songs, this is the wrong joint for you - it's pretty much all they play. If you do love Beatles tunes, you're in for a treat and even if you sit outside, be sure to go inside for a trip to the loo through a British telephone box and a gander at all the great Beatles memorabilia.

John Lennon stained glass window

One of my favourite things inside the John Lennon Pub was this stained glass portrait of John Lennon. It's so cool and unlike any other Beatles memorabilia I've ever seen.

John Lennon round glasses sculpture hanging from an archway

"The more I see, the less I know for sure."
- John Lennon

I also really loved the John Lennon round glasses hanging from an archway. The pub itself is very much like a British pub so if you're visiting from the UK and feeling a little homesick, this is the place for you. For me, it was great to kind of carry on from the buzzy feeling I had at the John Lennon Wall, listening to Beatles music, talking about what I'd just seen and enjoying the lovely Prague sunshine while listening to She Love You, ya ya ya. I didn't try any food there, but I'm sure it's very British.

Prague John Lennon Wall

"The more real you get the more unreal the world gets."
- John Lennon

If you're visiting the John Lennon Wall and you've got something on your chest, don't forget like I did to bring a can of spray paint or a Sharpie marker. You can leave your mark and speak your peace. Who knows? It might inspire someone else and maybe it will still be there by the time you visit Prague again, but if it's not don't be offended. It's just a sign of change and that's not always a bad thing, especially when it creates a pocket of peace in this great big world. I think John Lennon might have really been proud of all the messages on the wall dedicated to his influence in Prague. It's incredible to think about how one guy from Liverpool was such an inspiration to so many people, and still is nearly 40 years after his death... 
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