Category: Prague

Prague Day 7: Gretchen’s last day

My last day in Prague.  Hubby still had meeting to go to, so he was staying on for several more days, but this was his last vacation day.  We had several things on the to see list, including more of David Cerny’s works and the Astronomical Clock in Old Town (Stare Mesto).  First up was the TV tower, which was on our way into the city center from our hotel.  Emerging from the Jiřího z Poděbrad metro station (which, by the way, sounds nothing like it is spelled; I could catch the ‘z’ only) we saw this church.  There are lots and lots of churches in Prague, of every shape, style, and color.  This definitely fit into the modern category.  We particularly liked the see-through clock face.

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The architectural style was unfriendly, IMO.  The brick surface detail almost looked like spikes or barbed wire.IMG_2690 Still, it was quite a nice change of architecture from what we had been seeing.IMG_2692 And onto the TV Tower, which the Communists built in 1985.  Uuuuuuugly is the word that comes to my mind.  It looks like some cheap, plastic ray gun or something.  Anyway, I guess I’m not alone in my thinking, from what I read.  After the fall of Communism, the tower was deemed to be fairly unattractive, so, of course, they commission David Cerny to make it more appealing.  From a distance (and most of the center city area) his additions  look like ants.  Which is kind of fun in it’s own way.  But no, those aren’t ants, those are babies.IMG_2695 Giant, butt-faced, crawling babies.  All over the tower.  IMG_2706 IMG_2716 It makes me think of giant babies crawling on an AT-AT.  Or something like that.  It’s just wonderfully bizarre.  The title of the work is ‘Mimika,’ Czech for the word ‘babies.’  For an interpretation… I leave that up to you.  Or Google, if you so wish.IMG_2725 It definitely turned the TV tower from an eye sore to a destination, though.  There were also a few other pieces on the TV tower grounds that were quite interesting.IMG_2723 This… I have no idea.  I’ve never been a modern art girl. IMG_2747 And headed back to the metro station, I spotted this post box.  Nice.IMG_2749These are just some details from the buildings in the TV tower neighborhood.  Again, not on the tourist beat.  This is just how things are.
IMG_2756 Our next stop was Municipal House, in the Old Town (Stare Mesto) where there was an exhibition of Alfons Mucha’s work.  The buildings below are in the Municipal House neighborhood.  Again, all of that gorgeous detail.IMG_2763 What we didn’t realize when we headed into the exhibition was that it was the world premiere, and it had only opened about 10 days prior.  How lucky that we happened to be in Prague at the right time!  And while the name Ivan Lendl sounded familiar, I couldn’t place it.  Yes, it turns out that is was the Ivan Lendl of 1980’s tennis fame.  He had begun collecting Mucha’s work in the early 80’s after being introduced to Mucha’s son.  And now owns one of the most complete collections of Mucha lithographs in the world.  Again, there was strictly no photography allowed, but to say the exhibition was amazing is an understatement.  It totally blew away the Mucha Museum.  We enjoyed it so much that we decided to purchase the exhibition book.  All 30 pounds of it.  (Ok, well maybe not that heavy, but pretty close.)IMG_2776

 

After that, we went and assumed a position in front of the Astronomical Clock, which is a “must see” in all of the guidebooks.  Here’s the crowd (of tourists) that gathers each hour to see the show.IMG_2806 While the clock itself is something to behold, the hourly show lasts a mere 45 seconds and it underwhelming, to say the least.  I thought I took a video of it, but I pressed the wrong button, so just a photograph instead.  The most amusing part, I thought, is that the figure of Death is the one ringing the bell.IMG_2807

After that, we grabbed some sausages for lunch in the square, and shared a trdelnik for dessert.  Then onward, there was more David Cerny to find.

But first, more architectural details along the way.  Here’s St George slaying the dragon.IMG_2808 And this horrible photo.  Which I took only to show the huge metronome that sits on the opposite bank of the river.  (It’s easier to see in the larger photo.)  The metronome now sits where the huge statue of Lenin used to sit.  Stalin blew that up in 1963 (or so).  So now there’s a metronome.  Ok.  Layers of history, everywhere.IMG_2809 And back in Mala Strana (Lower Town), just outside the Kafka museum, we found the other Cerny piece we were looking for: Proudy (that’s Czech for ‘piss’).  These two gentlemen stand in a pool the shape of the Czech Republic, their hips swiveling, while their, um, manhood pisses out lines from famous Czech literature.  It’s quite the crowd pleaser.  I had a difficult time getting shots (and video) without a crowd in the way.IMG_2817 I mean, really, what’s not to like?  (Yes, I became a David Cerny fan in Prague.)IMG_2818

After another long day of touristing, we caught a bite to eat in the Namesti Miru neighborhood.  And still I couldn’t stop taking pictures of their buildings.  IMG_2821 Afterwards, as it was a lovely evening, we grabbed some gelato from a stand in the park and walked around a bit.  We came across this monument, to Josef Capek and his brother Karel.  Josef was an artist and poet, but also invented the word ‘robot’ for use in one of his brother’s stories.  Karel perished shortly after Germany invaded Czechoslovakia in 1938, and Josef perished in a concentration camp in 1945.  Sad.IMG_2826

 

However, not to leave the last Prague post on a sad note.  There is so much history in Prague, a lot of it sad, but a lot of it glorious and beautiful.  I highly recommend Prague as a city to visit.  While I’ve just shown a fraction of the photos I took, hopefully I was able to convey some of the beauty and wonder that this city holds.

 

 

Prague Day 6: Laundry!

We thought we had laundry in the apartment that we rented, and while there was indeed a washer, it was “Out of order.”  I was almost tempted to try anyway, as there were other items in there, but I was a good girl and didn’t.  Which meant laundry adventures in Prague.  (The hotel would have kindly done it all for us, at incredible rates.  They were so high I don’t even remember what they were, besides crazy.)

It was difficult to find a coin laundry/laundry service in Prague.  (Or maybe I just didn’t have the correct combination of Czech vocabulary while doing my Google searches.)  In any case, we found a place that wasn’t too far from the hotel, and as a bonus, they opened at 9AM on Sunday.  Sweet!  That meant we’d still have most of a day to see things.  We headed over to the address, just a couple of metro stops away, and found… nothing.  We were where it said to be, but there was no sign of laundry.  Smartphone to the rescue, where a Google reader had commented on that location saying, “It’s closed.  Don’t make the mistake I did and go there.”  Lovely.  It wasn’t a total bust, though, as we found some yummy looking Thai restaurants in the neighborhood, one of which we went to the next night for dinner.

An ad in the metro.  I made hubby stop and take this photo.  IMG_2036 A cheese shop sign in the neighborhood with the nonexistent laundry.IMG_2635 A theatre in the same neighborhood.  Not on the tourist beat at all, just a neighborhood in Prague.IMG_2640 The walls at the Namesti Miru metro stop.  I loved the walls along the A Line.IMG_2642

We found another location on the map in the heart of downtown (right near the Museum of Communism, actually), but it didn’t open until 11AM.  So we headed down to Wenceslas Square to see that area and also see if we could find David Cerny’s statue of St Wenceslas.

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I remember watching news reports about the “unrest” in Czechoslovakia back in the late 80’s.  I never thought as a kid that I would get to visit Prague.  So standing in Wenceslas Square was pretty intense.  Here is where the Velvet Revolution happened in 1989.  IMG_2644 It’s in the New Town area of Prague, meaning that it has some amazing Art Nouveau and Art Deco buildings.  (You know, instead of all that Czech Renaissance stuff in some of the other neighborhoods.  😉  I particularly loved the detail on this building.  The little sphinxes and little faces.IMG_2651 IMG_2653

And all of the facial expressions slightly different from the other.IMG_2654 Some of the lovely old buildings on Wenceslas Square.IMG_2656

Looking for David Cerny’s work, we ducked into a little shopping arcade, Lucerna, on the west side of the square.  For some reason that name seemed familiar to me, so we gave it a try.  And met with success.  My first glimpse of Cerny’s St Wenceslas…

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The shopping arcade doesn’t seem much like a going concern right now. I think a lot of the more successful shops have access onto Wenceslas Square, where they can snag tourists.  So, except for one tour group that quickly passed through, it was utterly quiet in the arcade.  (Well, there was one security guy lurking about.)  It was quite peaceful compared to the hubbub of the square.  This is David Cerny’s statue of St Wenceslas.
IMG_2660 IMG_2664He even depicted the horse’s tongue hanging out.
IMG_2665 There was a handy little staircase and balcony up to a cafe/casino, which allowed for some different angles.IMG_2671 And, of course, there was some lovely stained glass there on the balcony.  Six days in and I shouldn’t have been surprised and delighted by every little detail, but I still was.  IMG_2674 We were still to early to catch the laundry opening, so we found a coffee shop in the arcade (NOT Starbuck’s, thankyouverymuch) and had some hot chocolate and shared a slice of cake while we waited to head over to the laundry.   (Actually, I think it opened before it said it did, as we were there at 11:03 and all of the machines were full.  It claimed to open at 11:00.  Ahem.  Yes.)  The cafe had some tables on the outside of the shop, which was inside the arcade.  Perfect for capturing some of the details of the arcade.IMG_2679

This was the glass tile roof of the arcade. IMG_2681

Another decorated building on Wenceslas Square.IMG_2683

 

After our adventures with laundry, we headed back to the hotel to drop it off, then headed back down to the Old Town for some lunch at the vegetarian Indian cafeteria we’d found.  After that it was off to the Decorative Arts Museum while it was open on Sunday afternoon. (Because, you know, most everything’s closed on Monday.)  We were expecting a nice museum with various decorative items to look at.  The bonus for us was a special exhibition of Matchbox cars that had been extended until that very day.  No photography in the museum, though, which is why there are no more photos from the day.  By the time we finished there, I was pooped, so we headed back to the hotel.  Another lovely day in Prague.

Prague Day 5: The Castle, Part Two

(Still trying to catch up from the trip.  Also fighting a sinus infection, which cuts down on my energy and motivation.)

Day 5 in Prague we headed straight to the castle to finish off the remains of the short tour ticket that we had purchased.  We figured it wouldn’t be as strenuous as St Vitus the day before.  Ha!  First mistake was that it was Saturday.  Second mistake was that it was Saturday morning.  The Rick Steves’ guidebook basically said to avoid the castle from 9:30-12:30, as that’s when the tour groups ran their people through.  We arrived at the castle right about 10AM and what a difference from the day before.  There was a huge line to get into St Vitus, so it was really good we had done that the day before.  The crowds in the castle complex were crazy.  (OK, nothing like Shinjuku Station at rush hour, but it was unpleasant.)  We headed straight to St George’s Cathedral, the oldest on the castle grounds.  It was consecrated in 920, suffered a massive fire in the 1100’s and was rebuild around the mid-1100’s.  So pure Romanesque in style.  And oh, so beautiful to my eyes: the grace of the curved arches and the warmth of the stone.  This is a million times more beautiful to me than Baroque.

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Remnants of some of the oldest frescoes in the cathedral; I don’t remember when they dated back to, but it was probably 10th or 11th Century.  Amazing to see with my own eyes.IMG_2382 And look at that ceiling!  IMG_2415 IMG_2420 A view into the crypt below the altar.IMG_2388 Where this little guys was hanging out.  Notice the detail in the fresco next to it.IMG_2389 And St George, of course.IMG_2396 This southern entrance was obviously (and poorly) fitted on sometime after the 12th Century construction.IMG_2441 While St George’s was busy, the other tourist were pretty much rushing through.  (Perhaps they had a three hour limit for the castle or just didn’t like Romanesque?)  After that relative calm we headed for the Golden Lane, a restored alley of dwellings on the castle grounds.  Some of the area was used for barracks for soldiers, some was for other castle employees, such as seamstresses.  In any case, it was cramped and super crowded, but very interesting to see.  I’m trying to remember, but I think that these dwellings were used up to WWII, if not after.

It was easy to tell that people have gotten taller since these buildings were originally erected.
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This room was set up as the alchemist’s room.  It was one of the more brightly lit rooms, too.  I can’t imagine winters in this….IMG_2460 Oh, yes, they had a torture room up by the barracks.  It was so crowded that I only managed to snap a few pictures before allowing the next in line a peep.  I don’t even want to know what all of these items are used for.

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In the long hallway on the second (European first?) floor, they had displays of armor from various periods.  This birdman jousting ensemble was my favorite by far.IMG_2470 And the most modern of the abodes in the Golden Lane that we were allowed into was this film buff/maker, who was there until after the war, I believe.IMG_2479 IMG_2482

Ah, yes, I’m glad I took this photo, as it reminded me of something we saw all over Prague: self-walking dogs.  Most of the time when we saw dogs, the dogs would be walking themselves, with the owners in front or behind them, carrying the leash.  And for all of that, we never saw an incidence of dog conflict when two self-walking dogs came into contact.IMG_2483 After a lunch break (in which we were reminded of the guidebooks caution to be wary of extra charges on the bill) we headed back to the castle to see the last building on our ticket.  On the way, we passed the Schwarzenberg Palace, a beautiful Czech Renaissance building, decorated by sgraffito.  Having only read about sgraffito in my art history texts, it was amazing to be so close to so many buildings in Prague that used this decorative technique. Let’s just say I’m a fan.  It had started to rain when we reached the palace and while hubby was hanging out under the eaves, I was snapping away.
IMG_2488 If you click through to the large image below and look at the top, you’ll see antlers.IMG_2493 And back to the castle we went.IMG_2490 Through the fancy front gates.  With the very pointy flag poles.IMG_2500 Our last destination was the Old Royal Palace.  This is still used for ceremonial events to this day.  IMG_2504I loved the tracery detail throughout.
IMG_2510 IMG_2516 Very old windows.  This was the room in which the Second Defenestration of Prague happened in 1618, one of the events which led to the 30 Years War.  IMG_2521

The nice warm, but ginormous, stove in the room.IMG_2526 View from those famous windows out onto a drizzly Prague.IMG_2544 Some of the detail back in the main hall.IMG_2558 Doors.  Beautiful wooden doors throughout.  Not quite my taste, but beautiful nonetheless.IMG_2562 I believe this was the Land Records hall or somesuch.  All of the painted medallions on the ceiling show the relationships of various important persons back in the day.IMG_2575 The library, where the Land Use records were kept.  Not only were the library shelves stunning, so were the books themselves.IMG_2581 IMG_2582I can’t remember which royal (King, Holy Roman Emperor) used this room, but it was lovely.  We could only peek at it from the steps of the gift shop.
IMG_2591 After finishing the buildings, we wandered through the back garden on the south side of the castle.  This allows you to peep into the back yards of very nice buildings, such as the British Consulate.IMG_2599 The colorful south side of the castle complex.IMG_2622 And just as we were about to go, I spotted this little guy embedded in a garden wall.  I wonder what his story is?  I called him derpy cat.IMG_2631

Prague Day 4: The Castle

(Been back in the US for a few days, but have been struggling with allergies and jet-lag, so just now catching up on the photos from the Prague visit.)

After several days in Prague we decided to start tackling the castle.  While you can freely roam the castle grounds without paying, there are a couple of ticket options to see some of the sights of the castle compound itself.  Thankfully all tickets are good for two days, so you can split up your sightseeing.  We decided to see St Vitus Cathedral first, on a Friday afternoon.  That turned out to be a wise decision.  In contrast to St Nicholas which we’d seen earlier in the week, St Vitus is primarily from the High Gothic period of architecture.  (Although the cathedral wasn’t really complete until the early 1920’s, I believe.) High Gothic is one of my favorite periods of cathedral architecture (along with Romanesque), so I was excited about this visit.

(A reminder that you can view a larger version of any photo by clicking on it.)

This is from Stare Mesto (Old Town) somewhere.  My eye was first caught by the architectural details on the building, then I noticed the pony in the window.  Lovely.  🙂IMG_2091

Anyway, moving on to the castle.  The single best piece of advice I read in the guides was to take the #22 tram up to the Hrad (Castle) stop and walk down to the castle from there.  Then after hours of castle viewing you can enjoy the stroll down from the castle grounds to Mala Strana.  Downhill = good.  We were doing plenty of walking, so I didn’t feel the need to exert myself to get up to the castle.

One of the entrances, with the Czech guards.  The castle is actually in use by government offices, so there’s a security presence.  (Nothing like the US, where you have to have your bags searched and go through metal detectors, though.)IMG_2098

Our first view of St Vitus Cathedral.  I have about three photos that I need to stitch into a vertical panorama.  This is only about half of the building.  The way the castle grounds are constructed, this is as far away as you can get and see the entire front facade.  Still, it’s breathtaking.
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This is Alfons Mucha’s stained glass window in the cathedral.  Clearly my favorite.  His use of light and color in the window is phenomenal.IMG_2132

Some of the interior details.  This little guy was hanging out on an interior staircase.IMG_2141 The Rose Window in the Western facade; the photo doesn’t do it justice.IMG_2166

Taking care of evil.
IMG_2190The ceiling in one of the side chapels.  Beautiful!  I think I’m just a sucker for lapiz lazuli and gold together.
IMG_2197IMG_2216 IMG_2228“Oops, I lost my head.”
IMG_2235IMG_2236Some of the silver in the cathedral.  This was about as excessive as it got.
IMG_2247 IMG_2253IMG_2267 The inside of the Saint Wencelas chapel on the south side.  IMG_2277 Standing at the western entrance looking up.  After seeing the dim, cramped little rooms that people lived in, cathedrals must have seemed like miraculous buildings: so tall and filled with light.  IMG_2298

Always some little detail on the cathedral to notice.IMG_2308 The eastern (apse) end of St Vitus Cathedral.  Gosh, I love flying buttresses.IMG_2314 Chimney detail on the old palace building.  You know, because.IMG_2320

My favorite gargoyle of the cathedral, the creepy monkey.IMG_2324 Some of the layers of detail on the exterior of St Vitus.  Stunning!IMG_2326 The southern facade of the cathedral.IMG_2337 The main entrance to the castle grounds.  Behave or you’ll get it.IMG_2346 We decided to take one of the routes down to Mala Strana, from which we’d catch the metro home.  This is why you start from the top and work your way down.  There were plenty of people going up.  Breathlessly.IMG_2350About half way down we were arrested by this wonderful smell of pastry and sugar.  As it was well past snack o’clock (and we were both thoroughly chilled by the wind) we stopped for hot chocolate and trdelnik.  It’s a dough that shaped onto a hollow metal tube and baked, then rolled in cinnamon sugar.  So tasty.  This is how much Cloyce liked it.
IMG_2355The baker could barely keep up with the demand; the shop was definitely in a good location.
IMG_2356 Further down we spotted this statue of Winston Churchill.  We thought it strange to put a statue in the middle of Mala Strana, but then realized that we were just down a lane from the British Embassy.  (All of the choice former palaces were snapped up as embassies.)IMG_2358 IMG_2360 And this lovely architectural detail, spotted on just another building in Mala Strana.  It was one floor up off a busy road, so I doubt many people actually stopped to notice it. Lovely.IMG_2365

We had gotten a late start that day and had spent several hours in the cathedral, so that was it for our sightseeing that day.  We joked that we could see a lot more if we didn’t spend so much time looking at things.  We’d see some people cruise through the cathedral in 15 minutes.  I guess that counts as having “seen” it, but….

Anyway, more castle grounds to come on Day 5.

Posh hotel fail

So on Saturday we moved from our nice apartment rental in Prague to the posh hotel where hubby’s conferences are taking place.  And discovered that their internet is so horrible that it is practically unusable.  I mean, I can barely download e-mail, let alone try to post blog updates.

Thank goodness for our iPhones.  We bought unlocked ones, so that we could get sim cards when we travel abroad. They’ve been our primary source of internet communication the last three days.

That said, there seems to be a moment of quick internet, so I uploaded a couple of photos from the last two days to share.  We’ve been wandering around Prague, seeing various museums and exhibitions.  It’s been lovely!  We’ve also been enjoying David Cerny’s public art around the city.

Below, Cerny’s statue of St Wenceslas, just off Wescelas Square in Prague.

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And his ‘Babies’ which were added to the (IMO) horribly ugly Communist TV tower that spoils the Prague skyline.

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In any case, I’m heading home tomorrow (Lufthansa strikes willing, that is), and will be able to upload photos and blog about the last several days when I get home.

In any case, it’s been a wonderful visit.  I would come back again, if only for the art.  There is so much to see and I feel I haven’t even scratched the surface.