Applause and whooping breaks out on the Charles Bridge. It’s crowded with people, so it takes a few seconds to locate the source of the excitement: a proposal. A couple in the middle of their middle age stand to one side (he’s just risen from bended knee). Passersby, temporarily distracted from the statues that line the bridge, train their eyes on the pair as they kiss.
A layer of sweat glistens on the proposer’s forehead — probably a combination of nerves, embarrassment and the early afternoon sun (he’s bald, without a hat). A pregnant woman behind us with an Australian accent teases her would-be fiancé. “Imagine if you’d been about to propose to me on the bridge!”
Early evening on a moored boat, waiting to set off on a river cruise of the city. White tablecloths, a buffet still concealed under cling wrap.
Adjacent to Mum and I there’s a long, unfilled table. Not long before the boat’s due to depart, half a dozen women with loud London voices bustle down the deck and take their seats. Complimentary aperitifs thrown back, the group chides one of its members into a speech. She feigns reluctance, but not for long.
“I’m loving all the prosecco we’ve been drinking!” she starts. “I loved my tofu gnocchi, and I loved the castle this morning! I love that you’re all here to celebrate with me!”
Before the speech has passed into its reflective second act, it’s cut short by louder voices. The boat has just left its mooring, but a late couple now arrive at the riverside, tickets in hand. The guests on board jeer, and the boat returns to pick up the late arrivers.
Later, after a second speech, the English women conspicuously withdraw from their table, leaving only the speechmaker. They walk to the other end of the boat, where a guitarist and vocalist have been busy covering Norah Jones’ first album in its entirety.
A few seconds later, the guitarist strikes up ‘Happy Birthday’. The boat’s guests all sing along, and the birthday girl joins her friends for photos and a complimentary round of champagne. Cockney cackles become louder.
The early morning is the best time to see the Charles Bridge. The lighting is great, the beggars and stallholders are yet to arrive, and the tourists are comparatively few. This means that it’s also the best time to stage a wedding photoshoot.
A couple ahead of us, kitted out in full wedding garb, stride slowly down the bridge. They stop periodically to consult their photographer and her assistant. From behind, the bride’s diamond hairclips glitter in the light.
It’s a slick operation. The photographer jumps onto the side of the bridge, leaning into a stone saint to find the perfect angle. As Mum and I pass the couple, the bride is spinning with simulated abandon (and, hopefully, actual joy) at her husband’s side while the photographer clicks away. The bottom of her dress tinged ever-so-slightly with grey, but apart from that everything is perfect.