The Writer's Life: Film & Book Reviews, Observations, and Stories
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Through a glass darkly 2 …

November 6, 2011   Comments Off on Through a glass darkly 2 …

The Opposite of Baroque

There are many over-the-top Baroque churches in Europe, each more gilded and cherubic than the next. None worse than those in Vienna my wife told me when she refused to enter yet another in Prague—though before this impasse, we did find an example of one that was perfect, she said. It was the Church of St. Nicholas in the Little Quarter with its statues of church fathers, ornate pulpit, Baroque organ, high altar, and dome fresco. It was church not as some far off, mysterious place, but church as heaven, as a rich, gleaming place one could imagine going to after death. Because the exhibition of paintings by K. Škréta were in upper gallery, we were able to scan the church from above, though what we noticed was not the ornate sculptures and gilded figures, but the balustrade that had been carved and scratched by thousands of visitors, and then burnished with human oils and sweat until it became a perfect record of something that was the opposite of Baroque.

October 20, 2011   Comments Off on The Opposite of Baroque

Through a glass darkly…

October 20, 2011   Comments Off on Through a glass darkly…

Czech Modern Art

One can find modern Czech art in Prague at the Kampa in the Little Quarter (one of the most charming parts of the city) and at the Trade Fair Palace (Veletrzni Palac) across the river north of Florec. In both cases, I found the buildings more interesting than the art. The Kampa was designed specifically as a museum and the Trade Fair Palace is as tall as St. Vitus with wide, spacious gallaries on five floors. A few pieces stood out—like the Schieles, some prints and posters, and (dare I say it?) the National Gallery’s collection of French art. Here’s one of the lovely posters on display at Veletrzni.

October 18, 2011   Comments Off on Czech Modern Art

Hutna Kura

Busloads of tourists, many of them Czech, visit the Sedlec Ossuary (better known as the Bone Church) in this small city in Bohemia about 45 miles east of Prague. The church is a small dugout space filled with piles of skulls, a coat of arms made of bones, and even a bone chandelier. It was dank and dark down there, and when filled with milling tourists, it reminded me of the Keller in the Schloss in Germany where I studied German and where we drank and danced the night away to the Rolling Stones. Nearby is the Cathedral of Our Lady and on the hill above the town is St. Barbara’s Church. It was fun getting there by train, since we made it with a minute to spare, and fun getting back, since we happened upon the trunk line and hopped aboard (without tickets)–also with a minute to spare–and then took the real train back to Prague in the company of a couple from Leeds. At first, I couldn’t figure out what language their were speaking, but when I did, I broke the ice with, “So you speak English when you want others to understand you.” Turned out she had been dying to see the Bone Church since she was a girl and was a bit of a dominatrix for at one point she gave her husband a meaningful stare and said, “Things work out when he does what he’s told.” He didn’t bat an eyelash.

October 18, 2011   Comments Off on Hutna Kura

Crushed Flower

Crushed flower on Prague sidewalk. Where did it come from? How many times was it stepped on? Did it bleed red? Does a flower have a heart? Did anyone notice?

October 17, 2011   Comments Off on Crushed Flower

Cesky Krumlov

Getting bus tickets to Cesky Krumlov proved a daunting task. I couldn’t get beyond the error messages on the Student Agency website. Most of the buses seemed fully booked. So we went to the large bus terminal opposite the Vlatava and found there was no office there—which required a trip back across town to Florenc. We finally did manage to get tickets for 7:00 a.m. the next morning. Thing was the bus broke down about fifty kilometers from our destination, leaving the Chinese tourists on our bus in a panic. We were saved half an hour later by another bus, though smaller than the original, so the hostess had to stand. Natually, when we got to our destination—a perfectly preserved medievel town—it began to drizzle, so we had cake and coffee at the hotel, soaked in the gigantic tub in our suite, and read Hrabal in translation. Before sunset we walked through the castle complex to the gardens in back, which were even more outstanding than those in the Wallenstein in Prague. For dinner we went to the Barbakan, a strictly meat and potatoes kind of place, whose chef-owner plied me with the strongest after-dinner drink I’ve ever had in my life. It made the preceding slivovice seem tame by comparison. I got the impression he already had more than one himself.

October 17, 2011   1 Comment

Mucha

Mucha’s famous window at St.Vitus Cathedral. Lovely, isn’t it? The Mucha Museum was less so. They only have a few pieces in a cramped space. We had a fun argument with the person at the cash desk about our ages. The nearby Kogo has wonderful food, but you pay for it in the dining room. Our meal was more than we paid for our suite of rooms in Cesky Krumlov, which had a view of the castle from our bed. I could have had fifty halves of Pilner for that amount. Glad I didn’t.

October 17, 2011   Comments Off on Mucha

Palava

Yes, even Prague has chains. The one I like best is Pizzeria Grosseto. They even have a restaurant in a large barge-like ship on the Vlatava. Our local in Vinohrady featured authentic wood-fired pizzas, creative salads, and plentiful amounts of relatively inexpensive Chardonnay. I recommend the carpaccio pizza. It may seem like a contradiction in terms, since the carpaccio is hardly rare after being fired in an oven, but the thin pieces of meat are wonderfully garlic-infused, making the pizza delectable. In my mind, it was the best pizza ever, better than New York, Chicago, or Napoli. Which reminds me. The Czech white wines are superb. We had Chardonnays, a Veltliener, and something very special, Palavas from Moravia. The best Palava I tasted was the one produced by Chateau Valtice. It reminded me of an Oregon Pinot gris but with a slightly resinous mineral quality that extended into the soft Prague nights.

October 17, 2011   Comments Off on Palava

Pavers

One of the nicest aspects of Prague are the sidewalks with their unique designs made of pavers, small pieces of black and white granite rectangles that measure about 1 x 1-1/2 inches. Crews of foreign workers assemble them into a sand base. Larger pavers are used for the streets themselves. The result is often a mozaic of beauty.

October 17, 2011   Comments Off on Pavers