October 11th will go down in Czech history. Žofín Palace has never seen such an onslaught of visitors, mourners. The star of the Czech music scene, Karel Gott, is smiling at the attendees at the front stairs already. Tens of thousands of people came to pay their last regards. Some have been waiting by the Slavonic Island since nighttime. Not everyone will get the chance to view the casket...
People have already started gathering at the island gates on late Friday afternoon. They came from far away. From Ostrava, Olomouc, some even from Germany. They weren't bothered by the cold either.
"I've loved him all my life, for me he never died. He'll be in my heart forever. I want to pay my respects, say goodbye. That's the least I can do for mister Gott,"
said a teary fan from Ostrava, who'd brought a sleeping bag and a thermos bottle with tea for the cold night, and a flower with a ribbon which carried a heartfelt message for the singer.
Karel Gott's casket was brought to Žofín at six in the morning, the gates of the Slavonic Island opened to the public at eight. They close at 10 pm. Not everyone will make it...
By 7 am when the media began to arrive at Žofín, the line of people had stretched all the way to Smíchov. A seemingly endless queue at first glance. People stood calmly and waited patiently. Young, older, elderly, even children. Many people even took a day off for this occasion.
"We came from Brno, we've been standing here since 6 am, we don't mind it though. We want to pay tribute to the greatest figure among the Czech singing stars,"
says a group of middle-aged people, who boast about being lifelong fans. One of them allegedly even owns bed sheets with the Golden Nightingale's image.
Many celebrities also made an appearance among the common folk. There is a giant heart made out of roses from the devastated widow Ivana Gottová, underlining the emotional atmosphere. People are bowing to the casket, many of them are in tears. People bring Gott flowers, beautiful messages and keepsakes.
Olga Špátová showed up at Žofín too, filming a documentary about Karel Gott. Lyricist Eduard Krečmar also came to say goodbye. He wrote the lyrics to dozens of Gott's songs, including the hit Forever Young. Janek Ledecký, Dominika Myslivcová, Yvetta Simonová, Linda Finková or the musician Karel Vágner also came to pay respects to Gott's memory.
All emergency services were on high alert. Except they didn't have anything much to do, because there were no troublemakers in the line, nobody was collapsing, nobody was complaining.
"We're actually surprised how nice the citizens are being to each other. Nothing that would require out interference is happening,"
The paramedics only had to step in twice, once for the case of a police officer having an allergic reaction, once for a 30-year-old woman who had suffered a knee injury. People walked through corridors up the stairs to the main hall, to the casket, back through a small hall and out to books of condolence. Everything had been thought out perfectly.
Cutting in line doesn't pay off. The Minister of Transport, Vladimír Kremlík, arrived right in front of Žofín through the service entrance, got out of the car, put down flowers and drove off. Even though he is invited to the requiem mass on Saturday, he wanted to show his face here too. The media and many attendees could not forgive him for this. Even though he did not find any fault with his actions, he eventually apologized on his Twitter because of the high amount of criticism.
"I really wanted to pay tribute to mister Karel Gott. I have listened to his songs since childhood and I really love them. I do admit, however, that cutting in the line of waiting people because of my tight schedule was inappropriate, and I apologize for it."
Unfortunately, many people who may want to pay their respects on one hand take inappropriate selfies by the casket on the other, even though there is a sign at the entrance stating that taking such pictures is prohibited. The organizers estimate that before 2 pm, approximately 14 thousand people had come to say goodbye. They leave behind heaps of flowers, which the organizers periodically carry away to make space for more.
There will be another opportunity to say goodbye to Karel Gott, on Saturday from 11 am at the Prague Castle in the Cathedral of Saints Vitus, Wenceslaus and Adalbert. This event is, however, invite-only. No one has a chance to get through without an invitation. The organizers estimate many people to show up anyway.