Friday, July 22, 2016

Day 12: Prague

Day 12:  Prague
Vaclav Havel

Weather:  In the 80s, stay thirsty my friends (and rehydrate), with light rain in the evening


Well, it must be a holiday, there's nobody around
She studies me closely as I sit down
She got a pretty face, with long white shiny legs
I said, "Tell me what I want," she say, "You probably want hard boiled eggs."

Breakfast at hotel: berries, toasted baguette, decaf cappuccino (included).
The various sites within 2 blocks

The walls are totally full of names of those killed in the Holocaust

Lists are very powerful

We’re a few blocks from a concentration of Jewish sites and arrive just as they are opening at 9am, $12 for the two of us with access to 6 sites. It’s a combination of well-told meanings behind the symbols, excellent exhibitions of the symbols, the sadness viewing the memorial to those Czechs lost in the Holocaust (walls and walls of names), and one jumbled set of gravestones in a jammed up cemetery.

Inside the Spanish Synagogue

Back to the hotel where we’ve arranged a driver to take us out to the Villa Muller (cost put on our bill, we’ll find out Saturday what the arranged drivers cost), which is 15 minutes back towards the airport.  

Villa Muller (pronounced Miller) is an architectural tour of a house designed by Adolf Loos and built in the late 1920s, very reminiscent of visiting any number of Frank Wright’s houses.
Our ride to Villa Muller

The side of the house covered in ivy; the front is the non-ivied side

The top deck in back with views of the city

THB's great waterproof shoes encased in plastic slip-ons

The house went through some tough times: built at the beginning of the depression (so some shortcuts we’re taken), the takeover by the Communists in 1948, Mr. Muller dying in 1951 from a gas leak in the basement when he got locked in, the wife living in a small upstairs room with no access, and finally after the fall of the wall the building being sold by the daughter to the City of Prague Museum in the mid-1990s. The house was restored in late 1990s and re-opened as a museum in 2000.

Admission is $36 for the two of us. Of course, no photos are allowed inside, just from the exterior. It’s a white cube, with some very odd touches in decoration: mis-matched chairs, swirling marble, twin aquariums (they used to be salt and fresh water, now both are fresh), a large master bathroom and few other small bathrooms, back stairs from the boudoir to the living room, relatively low ceilings (not as bad as FLW).

A fitting, not a wedding

Wine  tasting for owner (this guy is the wine distributor)

A cab takes us from the Muller to Art&Food restaurant, $12. We’re meeting our art consultant for lunch and touring; the consultant is hired through Art&Food, so dining at their own restaurant makes some sense (to them, at least). Since we’re early and hungry, we go ahead and order: cucumber soup and mushroom risotto for DB, chicken with wheat berries and sweet corn for DB, two excellent small beers.
An amuse bouche at lunch: duck with apple smoothie

Cucumber soup (those are skinned cherry tomatoes)

Cristina, our art guide shows up 10 minutes early for our appointment at 1pm, and we offer to include her in our lunch, which we’ve almost finished. She orders risotto followed by a coffee, so we get somewhat of a slow start. Total for the three of us is $50 (no discount for Cristina, dining on us at her employer's restaurant).

Cristina is young. Cristina is cheerful. Cristina doesn’t seem to know a lot about art. Cristina is not really prepared. Cristina has dreadlocks. Cristina doesn’t speak great English (however, she’s fluent in French, which doesn’t do us much good as we are the opposite of fluent in French). Cristina is an art student. Cristina's brother is an artist (we see his work on an I-pad).

Cristina does know some things, and we try to take advantage of that.
They are trying to ban/constrain the many segways

Last seen by THB at the 21C Hotel in Bentonville

By Stanislav Libensky and Jaroslava Brychtova

Another Zoubek piece similar to the one above

We walk to the nearby Kampa Museum to see the Czech glass show (which DB had researched already, Cristina didn’t know about it). Entrance to the museum for the three of us for just the Czech show is $12, and we get to see the main exhibit as well (which THB thought was just okay).

DB with a Baby and not-her-baby

The Lennon wall; had meaning during the pre-Communist melt-down as a place where controversial ideas were posted and then painted over quickly

Same-same today except what gets put up is not controversial, just painted over with new wall art

Items left in front of French embassy after massacre in Nice

Along the way we take in some public art: the memorial to the harshness of the Communist regime is very well done by Olbram Zoubek; the row of yellow penguins on a small concrete jetty in the river were done by the Cracking Art Group, the brother penguins are at the 21C Hotel in Bentonville, in green; and Babies by David Czerny are very impressive. Cristina did know about two other Czerny pieces, one of which we saw on the way to dinner, the other we may try to get to tomorrow.
Tram/trolley map

The three of us tram ($1 for two tix) what seems quite a ways to visit the Dox Galerie (really a museum), $18 for three (DB had researched this one as well). Several shows, nothing significant to report except that there are two more Czerny pieces, one inside and one outside the museum: running legs stuck into walls. This is honoring the famous long-ago distance runner Emil Zapotek. There’s also a piece outside that is made entirely of shoes, mostly singles, making THB reminisce about his beach cleanup days hoarding shoes (and cigarette lighters).

The legs are constantly churning

Indoor piece, in white shorts this time

Did Monterey Bay shoes wash up in Czech Republic?

About a 10 minute walk to look at a permanent flea market and a not-ready performance space (it did have one good graffiti piece). We cab back to the hotel, somehow from the fringes of an industrial/residential district it takes us only a few minutes to get back to the hotel: the cost is $4 (with tip). THB also tips Cristina, the total for the tour plus tip was $180, cheap by the standards of the other tours we’ve done and expensive per piece of art we like to find.
David Czerny

Frank Gehry

Rest up and on the way to dining at the top of the Dancing House (Gehry) building, the Ginger and Fred restaurant, we stop and see a Czerny sculpture in the middle of a huge building that has entrances on at least three of the four adjacent streets.
First and fourth seating

Third seating


DB taking photo for foursome from near Boston

We’re hoping to see the Castle lit up at night. Instead, while our drinks are being served, it starts to lightly rain. We move inside. We move again inside so we can see the Castle. Our drinks keep following us. Amuse bouche, two nice salads full of cheese, a pork tenderloin, a veal chop, two drinks, three glasses of wine, another move outside with the end of the wine to see the Castle. It’s after nine, no lights. Dinner comes to $110.

Walk back in very light rain parallel (but not right next to) the river and get to our right turn to the Josef, take a break and see sort of an alpenglow come over the Castle. 

Book Review: Lab Girl, Hope Jahrens, a memoir by a geobiologist. The struggles of being a woman in a male dominated field, struggling with bipolar, finding two life partners while disassociating from her family. The science descriptions are fascinating as well while not dwelling on the eco-catastrophe of the last 70 years of global warming. This is a terrific book, goes well with several other Highly Recommended THB books of 2016 (you’ll have to wait until January 2017 for the complete list).

Other pics from around town:
Loud, very loud

Hey, they named a street after our dear departed Wheaton terrier

They're everywhere

Sort of steam punk look

Fixed or broken?

Powder Tower? Massive, and one entryway to the area where tourists congregate in the thousands

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