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

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

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

St. Agnes

With the National Gallery closed for reconstruction (for years we discovered), its collection has been distributed to various other venues in Prague. Although the Czechs might disagree, it really isn’t much of a loss, except for the very fine works of medieval art now on display at St. Agnes Convent, which are world class. Everything about the exhibit was perfect—the barren Gothic space, the arrangements of the pieces, lighting, and the quality of the paintings and sculptures themselves. It was one of the highpoints of our trip.

October 17, 2011   Comments Off on St. Agnes

Cafe de Paris

An acquaintance said we had to have lunch at the Cafe de Paris, her favorite restaurant in Prague, so we did, but even at 2:30 it were full, so we had our half liters of Stella in the bar until a table was available. The waiter said five minutes tops. When it was time for us to move, he closed his hand on my large goblet of beer to transfer it to the tray and literally crushed it. Beer poured from the table to my lap and I was immediately drenched in beer. Of course, he apologized profusely. Towels were provided. I dashed to the men’s room to clean up. When I returned, we ordered the cafe’s famous beef with its secret sauce and were treated to free appetizers, wine, and a dessert. The apologies continued, though his diabolical waiter friend leaned down, sniffed my crouch, and with typical Czech humor asked, “What’s that I smell?” Oddly, I didn’t mind in the least. It was one of my most memorable dining experiences. At the end of the meal, the French couple next to us stood up and said, “Parfait,” and without thinking I replied, “Exactement.”

October 16, 2011   Comments Off on Cafe de Paris