A city in some detail
12.02.2008 - 10.03.2008 -17 °C
Travel is a wonderful thing. It opens one's eyes to other lives, other cultures, other histories, other sights, sounds and smells. But one thing I find going to a new location is that it can be quite awesome, awe-inspiring and if you’re there only for a short time, overpowering. You’re caught up in the race to see as much of the established and noted ‘sights’ as you can, stare in wonderment, record what you see then move on to the next on the list. If you’re on a group tour, this can be educational if you have a good guide, but even then you’re processed to a formula, a timetable that allows very little, if any, freedom to see beyond.
My recent trip to Prague had me gallivanting around just as described above, but I was also there for another reason, to seek out the quirky Czech personality, their sense of humour, their telltale remnants of the past and their artistic foibles.
So, in the hope that I may broaden your curiosity, open your eyes a little wider to see beyond and to learn to look down and not just up, I share with you some of my quirky finds and maybe expose a little of the latent humour that lies just a fraction below the surface of a long-tormented country.
One sight I came across I feel reveals all this and more, clever, witty and quite a political approach to the recovery of a city that over decades was left to decay.
As if left imbedded into the pavement in front of the Museum as soviet tanks rolled over to forcefully continue their occupation, this cross points to the Memorial to Victims of Communism.
A shop window gathering more than dust, vodka and bullets are left as a reminder perhaps? As does the soviet designed buildings that stand embarrassingly and obtrusively out of place beside grand buildings such as the Museum.
Though, some may say that other, more recent designs are also out of place such as the Dancing Building, but then again, curves have been in for some time.
And while we’re on buildings, this may seem out of place in this story, but hidden inside this building that houses a casino, and is next door to a McDonald’s, is the Museum of Communism!
Whether the location for the Museum of Communism is a coincidence or was a conscious tongue-in-cheek choice, the work of sculpture, David Černý is definitely deliberately provocative.
Other artists abound in this city once called the cultural centre of Europe, some not so well know, or indeed not known at all.
Then there is the monument to an artist, Lennon’s Wall, and the invitation to leave your own creative tribute.
Even add your “I woz here” to the Elf Hostel beer garden as he himself looks on.
But of course wall art (sgraffito) has been around for centuries in a rather more classical style.
Even earlier remnants of old archways are preserved as wall art and patting the dog not only keeps it well polished, but may also bestow some luck.
And not to be outdone, Mother Nature contributes her own unique creativity to this remarkable canvas.
Yes, art is everywhere in Prague, in the hundreds of galleries and the fairytale narrow laneways that appear from above to be sucking their towering buildings into a meandering void.
But not all pieces of art are easily interpreted, such as the Astronomical clock on the Old Town Hall, but then there is always the one around the corner to help you keep your dinner date.
So night falls and the underworld beckons you to follow the stare down the stairs to life in the dungeons.
Here, beer is consumed, rich and filling pork and dumplings are left unfinished and the sound of jazz resonates in the perfect acoustic environment, and if too much beer is consumed, relief is not far away.
And finally, night has its own palette as you stroll through the quiet cobblestone alleys to your abode, refreshed by the detail observed, enriched with unique images that will remind you forever of the personality of the city.