Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Bone Church

The Bone Church was actually a lot less creepy than it should have been.
It was creepy and all, but I felt that I should've been a little more freaked out while I was in there, but it just didn't feel like they were gonna come alive. It might be because I'm growing older, and it might be because there wasn't a single assembled skeleton in the whole place. The bones were from Prague Plague victims of 1713-1714. 30,000 died in one year. One hundred a day. I don't think that I would want my bones made into a chandelier in a church with 30,000 other people's bones.
Sorry! the video didn't Upload right! It took about two hours uploading then said there was a problem.

A Librariy full of dodo birds

So today it was just misrable weather. Y'no rainy cold ... misrable. Every chance we got we were under cover. So that means alot of chirch's. After we went to the museum with a wafer holder that had 6,000 diomonds on it, yes 6,000 diomonds for holding a 'waffle cracker', We went for lunch. Lunch was AMAZING! Me and Rhys had pizza, he had like a meat mixy pizza, it was alright and it was spicy, then I had the most amazing pizza in the world! It had pesto, mozza', and tomato sauce. It was to die for!
It only went uphill from there.
I said to mom "Oh! I havn't had a kinder suprise in like forever! I love that chocolate they make it so well!"
My mom said " No." (That 'no' was abreveated)Then she left. The the guy GAVE it to me for ...wait for it.... FREE! I was pleased :}

After we went to a library. Aparently some guy thought it would be a good idea to go around the world colecting animals (prefeably dead) to exparament on, and do "Science". So he colected a whole bunch of dead animals and now there up on display at this library. So one of the animals was a dodo bird. Fact: Did you know tat dodo bird's only went extinct in the 18th century? There was also an armadilo there and a UnIcOrN horn :) My guess is that is that it's a Narwal tusk. There were other animals but they wern't that gripping.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Curious Little Quarter

Today we explored the other side of the river at the base of the castle district. This is known as “The Little Quarter”. I don’t know why. We went inside a stunning example of Baroque architecture; the St Nicholas Church. The trompe d’oeil paintings on the ceiling were fabulous. I don’t know if you can tell by the picture where the real columns stop and the painting begins. This was a common style of painting during the Baroque period. We loved it.

We wandered through more adorable streets, peeking in stores and settling down for lunch at a cute little tavern. There were only five tables in a very small room but it was very cozy and medieval feeling. After lunch we visited the St Mary church because they had the most worshipped object in all of Prague there. It is the “infanta” who was brought to Prague by a Spanish noblewoman on the occasion of her marriage to a Prague nobleman. People from all over South America make a pilgrimage to see this…for lack of a better word, doll. It is enshrined in a glass case and was wearing a lovely green outfit the day we visited. Important people from around the world send the doll clothes. I kid you not. There was a museum filled with the clothes the doll has received with large pictures of it dressed in its finery. One outfit was from our old friend, Maria Theresa, ruler of the Hapsburg dynasty and prolific baby producer. At another display, Tom was shocked to discover that his father had been right all along: Christ’s middle name really is “H”. See the picture.

It was difficult not to giggle throughout this exhibit, thereby revealing my complete lack of understanding for so holy an object. By the time we got to the gift shop, I had to hold Tom back from buying a replica doll. You can have your very own infanta to take home.

We wandered over to a park where they have a statue to the victims of communism who survived. The piece represents how you survive but slowly bit by bit you become less and less. Notice the statues losing limbs as they fade into the distance.

In the evening we bought tickets to see the Marionette theatre production of “Don Giovanni”. We sat next to three older ladies from New York who were a riot. They had met each other on their tour and it was a tenuous friendship. One of them had been an opera singer and music teacher so she filled us in on the details of the story. The whole performance was in Italian so we couldn’t understand a word but the puppets were very funny and the performance was filled with silliness and special effects to keep us all entertained. It wasn’t as good as “Barber of Seville” but that was just a feast for the eyes and heart.

A Beautiful Day in Prague

I woke up early. The sun was shining. I cooked up a pancake breakfast and got myself ready to go. The kids moved slowly. Tom moved not at all. We opted for the divide and conquer move.

I sprinted from the apartment in 16 degree weather, my shades on, feeling fine. I spent the next few hours cruising the synagogues and cemeteries of the Jewish Quarter. Ask me anything. I started with the Pinkas Synagogue. On the walls are handwritten the names of Czech Jews who perished in the Second World War. It looks like wallpaper covering the entire synagogue. When the Russians came in to introduce the communist way of life, they whitewashed over it all and only in the early 90’s were the names rewritten. As you walk through, a voice reads the names aloud. Upstairs is a gallery of art drawn by children interred at Terezin. Terezin was a holding house for Jews on their way to the death camps. The adults set up “school” for the kids to try to keep some sort of normalcy in their lives. Technically, the Nazi’s wouldn’t allow the kids to be educated but they did allow art and drawing. That was how the classes started and then the Jews moved into the illegal language/history lessons later. It was interesting to think that school became a way for adults and children to find a way cope with the terror they were living. The art was only a portion of the pictures produced by the kids and many of the artists died at the death camps.

After the Pinkas Synagogue, I moved to the cemetery. It was really cool. The first bodies were laid to rest there in the 15th century! The Jews believe that the dead cannot be moved because once the body is laid to rest it is waiting for the resurrection. The city would only allow small extensions of the cemetery property so over the past seven hundred years they have covered the whole cemetery over with a layer of dirt and started again…several times. They haul the gravestones up to the new level, however, so there are gravestones on top of gravestones. It gives the place a really creepy feel. It is a wonderful old cemetery.

I wandered through the ceremonial hall looking at images and relics used in the burial process before heading over to the Old New Synagogue. This building was erected in the 13th century. It is the oldest extant synagogue in Europe. It was built by Christians because Jews weren’t allowed to build at that time. It has various legends attached to it but the best one is that there is a “golem”, a small clay figure that sits in the attic and guards the synagogue. It was created by one of the famous Rabbi’s and he must have done a darn good job because the synagogue is still standing today. All the synagogues are connected in one ticket and each houses part of an historical collection of Jewish life. This was compiled by Jewish leaders in Prague for Hitler. He wanted to create a museum of an “extinct race”.

I met up with my family in the Old Town Square at noon and we proceeded directly to the blackened, shriveled hand of the would-be thief at St. James church. The bad news is that the church was not open. The good news is that we persevered and returned during the two hours of the day it was open to bring you this scintillating shot of the actual severed hand of the unnamed thief.

We then went for a stroll up Wenceslas Street and yes, it is named after the good king of Christmas carol fame. I tried singing the carol to the family but couldn’t remember it in its entirety. No one seemed particularly daunted by that, however. Yet another piece of evidence that the decibel level of my voice has been stricken from their hearing. The architecture along the street was simply fabulous. It varied all the way along from Baroque to Neo-everything to Functionalist to Art Nouveau. I actually think I may be able to tell the difference by the end of this trip. The building on the right is communist chic, I believe.

The statue of Wenceslas was fun to see but better was the more recent statue crafted by a Czech artist out to make a name for himself by creating art everyone can talk about. He is responsible for crawling babies up the side of the TV Tower in Prague and this alternative shot of the good king on his horse.

Behind the original statue of Wenceslas is the National Museum. Rick says it isn't worth the visit but I did like the columns out front. Apparently they were damaged during the Czech uprising against the communist regime. After the rebels had been quelled the Czechs were ordered to fix the columns. In a stroke of passive resistant brilliance, the masons did their best but just couldn't seem to find the right match for the columns. You see the result.

We went to the Mucha Museum, a small museum devoted entirely to the work of Alphonse Mucha which turned out to be excellent. He was Prague’s It-Guy at the beginning of the 20th century. He did a lot of graphic art in that familiar “Moulin Rouge” kind of style. Old Coca-cola ads had that style as well. The details were marvelous. My favourite was one of the four times of day, “night”. He also did painting and his most famous work is called, “Slavic Epic” and is a series of eleven HUGE canvases. Most of his work was done in a series or set. The epic is housed in another Czech city so we didn’t get to see it but we did see a video on it and it looked quite awe-inspiring. One thing I found interesting about him is that he used photography as a way of helping him produce his art. He used real models and dressed them up, then staged them and took a picture. He would produce his graphic art or paintings based on these images. His photography was actually highly acclaimed at the time as well. Before this trip, I didn’t realize the great artists didn’t just paint a glorious work. They all produced numerous “practice” sheets first or fiddled with the image in their head in some way. I’m pretty sure if I did that each one of my “practice” images would be so completely different you wouldn’t be able to see a relationship.

After the museum we went to the Municipal Hall, the finest piece of Art Nouveau architecture in Prague. It may be the finest piece I’ve ever seen. The whole building was a delight to the eyes. It was completely different from the other styles we have been looking at over the past few weeks yet fit seamlessly into the square. In fact, all the buildings on the square were completely different. One was functionalist (very plain and severe looking), one was a Gothic tower (very dark and imposing) and then the Art Nouveau building. We went inside to explore but decided to return for a tour on another day. We wandered through the Old Town back across the bridge and up the hill through the park to our apartment. Because the sun sets earlier now, it shortens our days considerably but that may be a blessing for our feet which have not seemed to embrace the whole walk, walk, walk thing.

Prague, Czech Republic

We had a wonderful first day sightseeing in Prague. Our apartment is within walking distance of the Old Town. We walk through a lovely park and then down across a bridge and into the Jewish Quarter. We thought we’d explore that quarter today but as it is Saturday, all the Jewish sites were closed. We headed to the Old Town Square instead.

Wow! It was fantastic! It is exactly how you might picture a town square. There was a huge church called Tyn (pronounced teen) that looked almost evil. Tonight as we walked home in the dark, the church was all lit in blue which only added to the creepiness. I mean, this place looked like some Disney set for vampire Buffy. The inside did not live up to the exciting exterior; a real disappointment. It was typically ornate and church-like with plenty of Christian knickknacks hanging around.

We took an elevator to the top of the town hall (only elevator in Europe, I’m sure) and had a striking view of the town. Tom and I both took tons of pictures. Then the kids and I raced down to watch the clock chime the hour. Obviously, someone with a sense of humour was watching this activity because as the clock chimed the hour and the windows opened to reveal the apostles each taking a turn to wave to the crowds, my camera battery died ensuring I would have no pictures to share. Immediately after I raced over to the nearest store to replace them and paid almost $7 for two batteries. I’m pretty sure I had that big “L” on my forehead. I took a picture of the atomical clock anyhow, just for spite.

We then wandered into a cute little courtyard behind the Tyn church. It had the most adorable little puppet shops and I swear to you all that the child catcher scene in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang could have been filmed right there. I felt like stalking about singing, “I smell children. Where are you children?” in my wickedest voice but as it still gives Julia the creeps at night sometimes, (the childcatcher from the movie not my voice) I decided against it.

From there we wandered over to another great church but there was an English bookstore right in front so we paused to drool over the books. They had children’s books as well and I had to use my considerable persuasive talents to lure my children out. I told them the church had the black and shriveled hand of a thief hanging over the door on the inside. The thief tried to steal the pieta, the most holy of relics and his hand froze when he touched it. The monks had to cut off his hand in order to remove it from the pieta. It has been hanging over the door ever since as a sort of “don’t mess with the pieta” warning. Sadly, the church was closed so we couldn’t get in to see it but you know we will go back. The children are a bit suspicious of my story and I have a reputation to uphold. Besides, who would miss a great find like THAT??

We wandered about marveling at the stunning architecture. Everywhere you look the buildings are gorgeous and many are so completely different from the rest yet they all fit together. It is apparently a gift of Czech architects to be able to do this. We went into the Cubist museum. The cubist movement was big time in Prague but the museum was a bit shy on “stuff”. I enjoyed the interior of the building and the furniture on display.

We had lunch at a great pizza place and then found a big department store and bought Rhys a new pair of jeans. Yes, jeans. His second pair. He will be retiring his zippy pants soon. The era of transformers has come to an end. He also got a new t-shirt that says, “Get Sparky” and has sparkplugs on it.

As we made our way home we had a beautiful pink sunset and lovely views of the city lighting up in its evening dress. Another lovely day abroad.