M’s family suggested we head out to the countryside today to visit Krivoklat Castle. We took the tour but ended up on a Czech one while we toured the inside. Hence, I have few details to relay. We learned a bit more later from Vladimir, M’s uncle, who worked here as a tour guide over 20 years ago. (He is now in tech, working in Eastern European operations of companies you may have heard about.)
Afterward, we retired to the country home’s gazebo for cake and tea. The cake was thoughtfully sent along with us to Krivoklat from Prague, by Vladimir’s sweet mother.
Country homes were a big deal during the communist era. People weren’t allowed to leave the confines of the borders, so every weekend they journeyed to the countryside. Those with more status had homes closer to Prague. (He added that treks began every Friday for all the workers at noon.)
Later in the evening, while M and her family held a gathering at their apartment for family members, J, Mr. T, and I went to check out a recommendation we received from my local contact for U Modre Kachnicky (The Blue Duckling). Dinner lived up to reputation, but the flaming dessert and the talented pianist will stick with my memory far longer.
We walked home past that ever-evolving John Lennon Wall.
We began our sightseeing today at the Strahov Monastery and Library, after a satisfying lunch at Pivovar Strahov, the onsite brewery.
From there, we walked back down into the main city through the Castle Grounds. En route we went past St. Vitus Cathedral.
We entered the cathedral at the perfect time of day. For all the churches I’ve seen in Europe, this is the first time, I’ve timed it so well to see all the colors reflected.
We walked downhill into old town.
Our plans for the night included Aida at the State Opera.
Opera-watching’s hard work. We rewarded ourselves at the EuroFood in Wenceslas Square, a la Bourdain.
A business meeting on the west side of the Vltava motivated me across town on a sleepy, partly cloudy morning. After attending to that, and lunch at the Cafe Savoy, Mr. T and I wandered the Mala Strana.
We soon found the Lennon wall, a constant work in progress.
Nearby, we found another remnant of Euro youth pop culture: the love locks.
Soon, we needed to wrap our wanderings up, for the evening book launch party being held in conjunction with the opening art exhibition. We took the opposite of a shortcut to the apartment to make sure we paid homage to the local Gehry installation.
We headed back to the Castle for the evening book launch party. The book’s publication was held in conjunction with the exhibition, and tonight featured speeches by descendants of the Futurists. Family stories were shared, and many family members from around the world met each other for the first time before and after the main presentations.
When the after-party finally ended, our gang of 6 made our way to Malostranska Beseda, for another typico Czech dinner. Mr. T ordered yet another pork leg, and the beer drinkers had their toast!
While others slept, I found myself wide awake this morning at 5:30. The sun was just rising as I packed up my gear and started walking through the Old Town.
It would be hours before anyone else in our gang was awake.
But, once everyone was up, we headed across the Charles Bridge for lunch at riverside Kampa Park.
Post-Kampa, we had several social engagements for the day.
The main motivation for our Prague trip was to join our close friends for an opening art exhibition, honoring my good friend’s great-grandmother. My friend’s g-grandmother was the artist Růžena Zátková, the only Czech in the Futurist school. Ruzena was truly living in the future, and her short life was a grand adventure. She was born in Southern Bohemia, married a Russian diplomat in Italy young, lived with him at the Spanish Steps in Rome in splendor, mingled with Stravinsky and Diagheliv, ran off to Mallorca to draw and paint with a Latin American artist colony, and designed costumes for the emerging Russian Ballet. She was bold and thoroughly modern. She died too young at 38, of consumption, while convalescing in the Swiss Alps.
Recently, the president of the country learned she was the sole Czech Futurist, and as a point of national pride, they are honoring her this year with an exhibition at the Prague Castle.
Before the crowds arrived for the evening opening gala, we joined our friends on their family tour.
We spent time wandering the exhibit, absorbing it all, while M documented everything. Eventually we had to speed back to our apartment to prepare for the Gala.
The opening gala was held in the Prague Castle. Presentations were given in English and Czech, to a packed ballroom where the people-watching provided hours of entertainment. At the time, I appreciated how beautiful our ballroom was and how stately the castle, but I did not yet know that public access to the castle is only allowed one day a year. Later in the week when we learned this, I felt even more lucky and honored we’d made it there.
It’s funny where life takes you, when you make it a point time and again, to show up.
We walked leisurely home from the Castle, past St. Vitus Cathedral on the grounds, stopping at Villa Richter at St. Wenceslas Vineyard for a late dinner.
Right after noon, we arrived in Prague to meet our friends M & J near the baggage claim. We sailed through customs to meet our driver, who took us to our apartment near Male Namesti Square (apartments at U Kapra highly recommended).
After a quick unpacking session, we wandered the city to find ATMs, meet M’s parents, buy groceries, and generally acquaint ourselves with the area.
The Astronomical Clock, at the Old Town Hall is currently under repairs. I was okay with this – I find the hourly displays overrated, though they make for interesting people-watching (and photo snapping).
I realized we’d found ourselves in Prague at a great time — the start of Easter celebrations. These painted eggs were everywhere.
Later, we’d learn about these Easter switches, called Pomlázka. They’re made of pussywillow branches, tied with ribbons, to use on women. Not kidding! According to Czech tradition, boys use these to “gently swat” girls on Easter Monday. Supposed to guarantee beauty and health for the upcoming year. Girls reward the boys for this “treat” by giving back brightly colored painted eggs.
When our first day errands were done, M, J, Mr. T, and I settled into our first pub dinner at U Provaznice, aka The Rope Maker’s Wife.
We thought other illustrations inside the menu were remarkably Angelina Jolie-like. There’s also a legend the place is haunted.
And interesting menu options:
Despite our curiosity about the Smelly Fingers of Ugly Joe, we did not order them. We did notice in the French menu that the name was a French tongue-twister, with no mention of a Joe.
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