Archive for the ‘Czech Republic’ Category

Zizkov

6 July 2012

It gets light so early that it’s hard to stay asleep past 6am. We began the day with a test of both bikes and legs by riding up Petrin Hill, a steep climb through an orchard of cherry and pear trees to the top where there is a monastery and a scaled down replica of the Eiffel Tower that you can climb for a view of the city. But we were too early. Back on the bank of the Vltava in a park we found three David Czerny babies. Czerny is a renowned Czech sculptor and the babies are large crawling figures without facial features. Below on the river is a row of yellow plastic penguins better seen at night when they are illuminated.

Our program included well-known Prague locations: Frank Gehry building – pretty curvy; Wenceslas Square – lots of political stuff there mixed in with tour groups; Charles Square where we admired the interior of St Ignatius church including a gilded figure playing a 3 string banjolele. Well that’s what I say it is.

Then another ascent to the Zizkov Tower, a telecommunications tower that dominates the Prague skyline and has David Czerny babies climbing all over it. At the bottom is a Jewish cemetery. We saw a woman on a Vitamin D quest. She was absorbing sunlight in a public place with a minimum of clothing.

We went to the National Technical Museum located high above the river and admired historical machinery therein. Then a rest with pivo (beer) in the shaded gardens and a stop at the Metronome, an installation overlooking the river and city. It really is a giant metronome!

Today was hot again so siesta was needed. We took an evening ride on the funicular to Petrin Hill and dined outdoors with beautiful view of Prague below. Another thunder storm with rain has arrived.

On two wheels again

5 July 2012

After a hot day it is now thundering and raining.

We went to the bike shop this morning, laden with our own seats, pedals, bike locks and front pannier racks, ready to collect our hired bikes. We adjourned to Staromestske Nameste – Old Town Square – while Davide was setting them up and watched a 5 piece jazz band and throngs of tourists. On returning to the bikes it transpired that, despite our specific request, provision of all relevant information and assurance that there would be no problem with fitting the racks, they actually don’t fit. This reduces our luggage carrying capacity to 2 rear panniers only. This is not a disaster, but we will need to rationalise our stuff and leave a bag behind at the hotel. The bikes appear to be OK apart from that.

We tested them out with a ride downstream beside the Vltava, then back for a siesta and escape from the heat. I only got yelled at once by a Czech motorist.

Our evening activity was an aperitif in Josefov, the Jewish quarter (chilli┬áparecky – sausages with horseradish and mustard – delicious) followed by a concert in the Spanish Synagogue. The interior of the synagogue is lavishly decorated in the Moorish style. It was the perfect setting for a memorable performance entitled Jewish Mystical Melodies by violinist Alexander Shonert, accompanied by pianist Natalia Shonert.

Alexander played a variety of Jewish and Klezmer pieces with some Vivaldi and Gershwin as well. He seemed to enter into an ecstatic state as he played, head back, smiling, open mouthed, eyes closed, playing with absolute intensity. His playing was extremely virtuosic as were his flourishes at the end of each piece. As the concert progressed so did the thunder storm outside and he just came short of spontaneous combustion as the program ended. We came out to find rain falling steadily and had a damp ride back across the river and up the hill.

Observations in Prague

5 July 2012

Here are a few things we have seen or learnt:

  • Smetana means cream – seems strange to think that The Moldau was composed by Mr Cream.
  • Absinthe is all the rage here. There are shops specializing in all things absinthian including Absinthe icecream. They have marijuana vodka as well.
  • The police detail on the US embassy is still there, so it wasn’t just for 4 July. They do a pretty cursory inspection in my opinion.
  • Prague has few cyclists and lots of trams, most of them charmingly retro in style. Because its a national public holiday today, the trams are decked out with Czech flags.
  • Boiled broccoli was a menu item at a cafe we passed. We are so behind the times in Adelaide regarding the inclusion of boiled vegetables in our cafe offerings.
  • Unusual museums: two Museums of Torture, one medieval, the other presumably regular as type not specified; Museum of Communism as well as the previously mentioned KGB Museum; Beer Museum – actually more a bar pretending to be a museum.
  • Hells Angels have a Bohemia chapter – saw a member but was not game to photograph him in case he was sensitive to that kind of thing.

Getting to Prague

5 July 2012

We left Driebergen early, accompanied by Arne, Wieteke and Kees’ older son, who is doing many interesting things including setting up a coffee roasting enterprise in Ethiopia. At Schiphol it became clear that I could only check in one piece of luggage – but I had two panniers – yikes! What to do? One pannier then became cabin luggage but alas, that was the one that contained my Swiss Army pocket knife. The excellent luggage scanning picked it up straight away and now my knife is in the bin.

We arrived in Prague with an erroneous understanding of the exchange rate and believed our taxi ride from the airport to have cost $100. But when lunch cost the same amount we did further research and everything suddenly got a lot cheaper.

We are staying in a hotel where Margaret & Graham stayed when they were here some years ago. It is just below the Prague Castle and is reached along a narrow cobbled street. Nearby is the American Embassy and there appears to be a permanent police presence there that checks every car that passes – mirror on stick etc. Just down the street is also the KGB Museum – we’ll probably have to go in.

Our tourism activities of the day involved a walk around the castle, watching the changing of the guard at the gates, St Vitus Cathedral, and a climb up the tower (267 steps) from which a magnificent view of the city is available. We are blending in well with the crowds as we have camera and guide book in hand. There are tour groups everywhere so it is pretty easy to listen in on a commentary if you want to.

At 6pm we attended an organ recital in the St Nicholas Church, an amazing baroque building with marble and gilt everywhere. Cherubim are flying and gazing on all sides and there is a lot of smiting and slaying as well by saintly types who are entitled to do such things to persons who deserve no better. The concert program included Bach, Vivaldi, Dvorak and several other Czech composers. The audience were uncertain whether to applaud so we got things started when the organist looked down on us from on high in expectation of acknowledgement. We then received an encore!

Walking down to the Charles Bridge Ian had to fend off an insistent man who wanted to change money. We admired the portraits, caricatures and souvenirs but were able to resist all of these.