September 16




nights:
Aug 27-03 Budapest
Sep 04-05 Sopron, Hungary
Sep 06-15 Vienna
Sep 16-25 Brno and Prague, Czech Republic
Sep 26-29 Wroclaw
Sep 30-06 Dresden, Leipzig, Stadthagen
Oct 07-16 Berlin
For the young folk, copied directly from Ms Wiki of course, just like you should not write your term papers:

"Czechoslovakia was a sovereign state in Central Europe which existed from October 1918, when it declared its independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire (at the end of World War I and as part of the Treaty of St. Germain), until 1992.

"From 1939 to 1945, the state did not de facto exist because of its forced division and partial incorporation into Nazi Germany, but the Czechoslovak government-in-exile operated independently during this period. In 1945, the eastern part of Carpathian Ruthenia was taken over by the Soviet Union.

"On 1 January 1993, Czechoslovakia peacefully split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia."

(Not to be confused with the former Yugoslavia! which is now Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia. We live in the US .. we don't teach geography much...)

Arriving from Vienna, in Brno, Czech Republic, in the late afternoon to find an extremely pedestrianized town. Trams run on rails and electrified overheads...
...and it looks like half the streets are torn up with road work and an apparent extensive overhaul of the underground systems.

And not that the streets were torn up and nothing doing. There were so many workers about I wondered if they could all live in Brno.

This picture is in the plaza of the Puerta de Menin. Menin actually has a smiley face over the first n and a / mark over the i, but I haven't found it correctly on the internet to copy/paste.
Oh look, the cathedral. I'll make a visit tomorrow.
After checking in to my place at Hostel Mitte I went out for a stroll to come upon a beer extravaganza. Those booths surround the whole large plaza.

Sooo much beer.
Some folks enjoying beer.
More, so...
...I drank a beer, got some dinner, got a map, and went to my room.
My room, among the smallest I've ever stayed in.

I'm on the 4th floor up the steepest stairs in the narrowest staircase. Hauling my bag up those stairs, on floor three I muttered a very quiet curse, and instantly a door opened and a guy said 'here let me help you with that'. I said 'oh, thank you very much!'. He said 'it happens everyday.'

No closet, no cupboard, no shelves, bathroom down the hall – but it’s clean, has a bed, a chair, and a view, and it’s cheap. Yay. And from the chair or the bed, this view out my window is so cool.
September 17

A good morning farmer's market.
I'm doing a walk-about today just around town. Since it's Monday most sites you want to get into are closed.

And I just realized late in the day that my only chance to visit the caves is tomorrow and it takes most of a day, but I'll want to get into the museums too, so I'm going to take a pass on the caves.

The Centre for Experimental Theatre. I wandered around inside...
...and it was fun, and definitely Experimental. This is a mural on one of the walls...
...and a view from the courtyard.
I didn't know what this was at first but...
...the next day I found this picture at the Spilberk Castle. Here's what the sign for this painting says:

"Obelisk Consecration Ceremony at Frantiskov. To commemorate the victorious ending of the Napoleonic Wars, a monument was built in Brno between 1816 and 1818, the largest in the entire monarchy."
Catedral de San Pedro y Pablo, (the Cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paul) inside and out.
The only tourist brochure that I've located so far lists 16 attractions of which half are churches. There are more churches than are listed.

On the left, Iglesia de Santiago, and on the right, I don't have its name yet.

Yikes these photos are distorted. And apparently I'm too lazy tonight to fix them.
Teatro de Mahen, the big playhouse here. Oh goodie I thought. Romeo and Juliet. Even in Czech, no problem, I know the story, and I hoped I could go. But no. It's not playing until the weekend and I'll be gone.
September 18

I had a big day of walking ahead and started off by getting turned around and walking many blocks in the wrong direction.

But no problem, I'd meant to see City Hall anyway. Check out the sculpture/rain spout at the far end where the two buildings meet, and the close-up is inset.
Capuchin Monastery and Vault (Klaster kapucinu) where they have a crypt with mummies, not the Egyptian kind but the kind that just dry out.

You'll see cafes often in these pictures. Along with the churches they are the most prominent feature of the historic center of Brno.

And don't get me wrong, there is plenty of smoking going on here but not at the frantic, passionate, insatiable rate of the Viennese smokers.
And then I walked all the way up there. Waaaay up there to the Spilberk Castle that has dominated the scene since the 1200s. That's a very long story.
For Cynthia's collection, at the ticket booth for Spilberk I've got the full set of Czech koruna coins. I've also got a full set of Hungarian forint coins. And Poland doesn't use euro either. I can NOT believe I didn't bring back coins from Africa last year.
There were a lot of interesting exhibits in the castle. They had all the text translated into English in notebooks that you could carry around. And I was, as far as I could tell at the time, the only tourist there.
The views from the castle. And I thought the cathedral was way up there.

After enjoying the displays and the views I walked down the hill...
...through the town, along and then across the river (Brno sits at the confluence of the Svitava and Svratka rivers), through residential neighborhoods, and up up again...
...into the neighborhood of Red Hill. Also known by some as Hippy Hill, and 'the place with the small houses'.
Artists live and work here, and it seems like it should be very cool but I'm seemingly too old for cool now.

The guy who lives behind this wall was in his garden working on a project by whacking away with a huge metal hammer on big pieces of thick metal making a deafening noise that rang through the neighborhood.

The person next door was playing, loudly, an ill-tuned radio. Yikes.

(It was interesting to see some residential areas but was it worth all the steps? Maybe not. Maybe I could have made it to the caves and still seen the castle. Or I could have taken the trams and saved both time and steps for something else in town.)
Then I walked back. I was walking for six straight hours.

There are so many churches in Brno - many many more than I have shown you here.
And then I walked through the town again to a side I hadn't previously visited to eat dinner in Avia, a restaurant I wanted to patronize because it is completely non-smoking.

The food was good, these guys were funny, and then...
...I walked back!

No problem, tomorrow is a travel day, it's set to rain, and I expect I'll have a nice rest from walking.
Two main things I'm sorry to have missed in Brno.

1) It takes most of a day to visit the Punkva Caves in the Moravian Karst area which I chose not to do. And 2) I couldn't get a reservation to see Tugendhat Villa, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

(internet pictures)
Right now it is the morning of September 19th here in the Czech Republic. I was learning a new word (I can say 'Thank you' quite well now (or so they tell me (and have forgotten all my Hungarian words already but not my few bits of German since I've known those words for awhile)). I am starting to work on 'goodbye', so back to the BBC language site.

There are formal words for hello and goodbye that I've been hearing people say but then I noticed that there is a casual expression that means both.

It is spelled Ahoj and pronounced Ah'Hoy. Which made me wonder if it was related to Ahoy Matey, which made me look it up on the internet, which led me to discover that WOW, Today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day! Arrrr!

This picture is from the entrance to the building next door to the hostel.
September 19 off to Prague

I walked the 10 minutes from my place in Brno to the train station in the rain for the ride to Prague. Look what they were selling at one of the sandwich shops in the train station!

You can get breads in all their forms, some with a bit of tasty fatty meat to make a sandwich, and pretty good pastry too, but this is the first time I've seen anything resembling a 'healthy choice'.
I haven't got this take your own picture with your phone thing down at all. This lovely young woman stopped to help me with my bag. Thank you! And we had a happy visit for the two and a half hour trip.

The rain had stopped so riding the subway and walking the couple of blocks to my new place was easy-peasy.
My new window!

I finished Stefan Zweig's The World of Yesterday set mostly in Vienna and now that I'm in Prague, I'm on to Madeleine Albright's Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948.

The Zweig book was so excellent that Prague Winter feels, from the first couple of chapters anyway, a little 'thin' in comparison, but still interesting and I'm going to forge on.
September 20

Standing on the front terrace of the National Museum looking down onto Wenceslas Square.

The whole boulevard is called Wenceslas Square actually and has been the venue for many historic demonstrations, the statue of Saint Wenceslas, patron saint of Bohemia, presiding.
Here he is again, from the front with the sun behind.

The building on the left is the National Museum where I was standing in the photo above, and according to a sign in the window: 'The National Museum Historical Building is being prepared for a 5-year reconstruction. Currently we are de-installing the exhibitions. The building is open only for occasional concerts.'
Along the boulevard.
You continue on to the end of Wenceslas, pass this market, snake your way through some narrow streets...
...and emerge into Old Town Square. All these buildings and the ones you can't see from this shot each make up long chapters in the history books.

It doesn't look that crowded but I was unprepared for the jostling and decided to come back early one morning. It is the next morning already and I haven't done it yet...but I will!
Above the happy bride and groom is a most grand tourist attraction, the astronomical clock first installed in 1410.

Here are a bride and groom who have been enjoying a long photo-op...
...and here are two more brides and two more grooms going inside to await their turn.
I'm considering it, really, I am. Now if I can just remember where it was.
September 21

I took the tram up to Prague Castle today, walked around for awhile, and walked down.

Here we see several of the bridges crossing the Vltava river connecting Old Town and New Town with Lesser Town and the Castle.
For my first treat of the day, a Czech specialty. You roll out the dough into a ribbon, wrap the ribbon around the metal tube, roll it in cinnamon and sugar, and bake it on a rotating spit over coals.

Crispy, chewy, and YUM.
Then I found myself a great location to get a coffee and watch the Prague Castle changing of the guard.

I borrowed a Prague Condensed guide book from the place where I'm staying. It had a decent sized font, bright white paper, and the light was just right over my shoulder .. I could read it! and it was Lonely Planet. Oh how I've been missing you Lonely Planet!

I can't read the regular editions anymore, the font's too small, and I've been using the internet for information and to copy/paste when I'm looking for a few concise sentences of history...
...which means I've been missing out on using the colorful expressions always so amusing to me from Lonely Planet. From here the " "s will be LP unless otherwise noted.

Changing of the guard. It was kind of long and slow and not so much, but a sweet old lady was standing next to me and she poked me in the arm every two minutes, pointing at the gates. She was so proud.
As you come out from the palace courtyard you are smacked up in the face by this, the front of St Vitus Cathedral. Begun in 1344 and not finally finished until 1929 I was AGOG.
From the side...
...and from the back.
A good one from LP: in the cathedral is "the tombstone of St John of Nepomuk, which is so stupefyingly overwrought that it's hard to believe anyone could be somber around it."

Check out those crowds. Yikes.
And the windows, yikes again. They are made of the teeniest bits of glass.
The Basilica of St George...
...and me, starting the trek...
...down the hill, SO glad I didn't walk up!
The area below the castle is called Lessor Town and one of the attractions - the Franz Kafka Museum.

And the pissing men. Their hip section pivots so they piss all over that pond. I hung around for 10 minutes or so just listening to all the giggles of passing tourists.
With my back to Charles Bridge.
And another view. I'll be back to Charles Bridge I'm sure for some better light.
This is my underground Metro stop. All the stops I've been to have this same design in the stations but in different colors.
From the Metro you emerge onto my square, Námìstí Míru-Peace Square, and the Cathedral of St. Ludmila, neo-gothic and consecrated in 1893.
The inside, interesting in that the pillars and walls are painted with this wallpaper look. Nice windows too.
With the church to the right, there was a political assembly gathering in support of a candidate running for senate from the Prague district.

There was a band playing and wow-eee. They reminded me of a ROCKIN' Bar Band playing excellent covers of all your favs. They did Proud Mary for heaven's sake, Beatles tunes, Little Richard, and way more. That little boy was kickin' it too.

I recognized almost all the songs and they sang maybe half of them in English and the others in Czech translation.

These are four...
...wild and crazy guys.
A bit of the campaigning...
...and the man himself!
September 23

I did rouse myself early enough to get into Old Town before this plaza was so packed you can't walk across it.

The Church of Our Lady Before Tyn begun in 1380 'initially a stronghold of Hussitism .. eventually succumbed to Catholicism and the lavish worship of baroque interior design.'
Hussitism, 'the church-reform movement championed by Jan Hus (also known as a heretic and a martyr) in the late 14th and early 15th centuries.'
The Jan Hus statue from a different angle, "completed in 1915 on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the execution of Jan Hus .. shows two groups of people, a young mother symbolizing national rebirth and the figure of Hus emphasizing the moral authority of the man who gave up life rather than his beliefs."
The Astronomical Clock. It's fun to see it do its modest thing every hour.
To the left of the clock and on the right of this photo is a building 'sgraffito-covered' and once home to Franz Kafka.

So I had to look up sgraffito, and indeed it is from the same root as graffiti, but it's a pottery glazing technique.
Also on the Old Town Square.
The fabulous Art Nouveau Municipal House, home to the symphony and other performance arts.
Just on a corner.
Franz Kafka was born in Prague and is a popular name for cafes, bookstores, etc.

Here is a statue installed in 2004 positioned to the side of Renaissance High Synagogue, in Josefov, the historic Jewish Quarter of Prague.
The 'most important Jewish Temple in Prague' and oldest in Europe, the Old-New Synagogue. Completed in 1270 it was one of the first gothic buildings in Prague.
The Old Jewish Cemetery, Europe's oldest, and tourists filing through.

Earlier I mentioned that I was reading Madeleine Albright's Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948 and I am very glad that I am. If you have an interest in Prague, have been to Prague, want to go to Prague, you will be well served to have read this book.
Coming onto the Charles Bridge.
And once again the wall to wall crowds. There are 30 grand baroque statues all along the way (most commissioned from 1706-1714) and Ms Wiki will gladly tell you all about each one.

There becomes a dam in the river of people as they stop for their turn to have someone take their picture...
...touching the plaque of St John of Nepomuk thereby insuring good luck and a return visit to Prague. You can tell easily enough by the sections that are shined with all the touching.
Back home at Peace Square, the main square of Vinohrady, Vinohrady being one of the political districts in Prague.

I like her, with her dove of peace.
We had another political rally in Peace Square with the guy in the cowboy hat running against the guy from Friday for the senate seat from Vinohrady.

But all the cameras and microphones were focusing on the man in the white shirt. I asked around about why everyone was so interested in white-shirt man instead of cowboy-hat man. Everyone seemed quite forthcoming with what they knew. White-shirt man is an important person in politics.

From a TripAdvisor correspondent: "I especially liked the view of the outsider on things that are common for Czechs, like "the man in the white shirt" on Namesti miru. His name is Andrej Babis and he owns the majority of the agricultural business in the country, including dairies, meat producers and bakeries. He's a bit of a nutcase, but exactly what Czech politics needs."

One woman told me white-shirt man was among the richest in the Czech Republic and well respected because he wanted to reform government and because he had clean hands. We talked about how it is not easy to be in politics and to keep your hands clean.
This group drew a much larger crowd than Friday's but I think that's what you'd expect from a nice Sunday instead of a Friday and also they had a pretty good band, but the big draw was cheap sausages and beer that you could buy...
...and they were giving away tons of swag, pastry, and beverages.
From last night there was a lively little festival just outside my front door. Another band, more sausages and beer, I think we are seeing a pattern here.
September 24

Vysehrad, an old fortified castle with a good walk along the walls.
Some of the wall left without restoration.
The Basilica of St Peter and St Paul has been here since the 11th century. It's highlights for me were the images on the walls .. this mosaic...
and tons of frescos.
On the ceiling of this venerated old church, so unexpected.
Nationale-Nederlanden, The Dancing House. Frank Gehry originally called it Fred and Ginger but decided to forgo the American cultural reference.

"It was designed by Croatian-Czech architect Vlado Miluniæ in co-operation with renowned Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry."
A nice view of Charles Bridge. I was going to stick around for sunset but then it started to drizzle which lead me to think of food.
And thinking of food, I stopped off at the office of my personal concierge (and my gorgeous personal reading room) located in the lobby of the handsome Four Seasons Hotel. It has a wonderfully central location and I stop by often.

They are so good at helping. So for my last dinner out I took their recommendation and enjoyed an excellent meal using up most of my remaining koruna.

(internet picture)
Other people's sunset pictures of the iconic Charles Bridge (when are there Ever so few people?!) for a fond farewell to Prague. Next stop: Wroclaw, Poland.

(internet pix)
HomeEurope • Czech Republic • '12 Sep: Prague, Czech Republic


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