Prague (June 17, 2013)


Kafka memorial statue near our flat.

Day 17: Probably the most pictures of any day this trip. St. Vitus’ cathedral, the municipal hall, and points in between.

Woke up earlyish, and all of us headed to the municipal hall to get tickets for the 5 pm tour. Unfortunately, the ticket office didn’t open until 10, and we didn’t feel like waiting, so we bundled into two taxis and headed up the hill towards the castle and the cathedral.


I possibly love the doors in poor repair even more than the ones in good repair.

The taxis turned out to be a terrible idea, making very slow headway through rush hour traffic, and costing more than our combined tram tickets would have. We went to the cathedral first…


Winged Jaguar on one of the palace buildings.


Imposing cathedral is imposing!

My main goal in visiting the cathedral was to spend as long as possible communing with Mucha’s stained glass window there. I remembered it from our last trip, but had failed to get any reasonable pictures of it.


This is a stitched panorama of 16 photos — click to embiggen.

I love so many things about this — his use of color and light to direct the eye, the illustrative style of the faces (they remind me strikingly of Trina Schart Hyman, probably my favorite illustrator of all time), the emotions displayed on the different characters, the types of faces, the details…


The background through the window, The sorrow on the pallbearer’s faces. The omega with the wheat sheaf. The texture and folds of the robes.


The head dresses. The parallel off the staff and the embroidered hem on her gown. The spirals and decorative motifs around the lettering. The lettering!!!


The eyes on the child. The ominous priest. The bowed back of the man being anointed.


The trees, the tower, those eyes.


and maaaaaaybe Jesus looks like Johnny Depp.


The braided border. The interaction between the priest (king?) and the kneeling man. The grief and flowers in the last panel.


The fire from the star, and the mysterious objects she’s holding.


The colors, the light, the parallels, the… everything.

Aatish, Carolyn and Kendra were gratifyingly impressed as well. The line snaking around the cathedral contained an enormous number of people but fortunately none of them have any taste so the Mucha window was relatively unobstructed. Apparently I can ignore the nationalism (if it’s not my country) and the christianity if it’s sufficiently beautiful.

The cathedral was also full of many other beautiful and goofy things.

 


Cheerfully killing demons!


Sad lion’s sword is broken.


Gargoyle nipples. Who knew?


Also: I think the first male full-frontal church nudity I’ve ever seen (certainly the first that wasn’t Adam.) Fascinating.

   
An odd set of astrological-sign-themed agricultural sculptures on an outside gate. I did like that Libra got harvesting the orchard.

The ceilings of the palace were amazing. Apparently they’re the largest expanse of unsupported vaulted ceiling in the world.

 
I loved the way the columns interwove and “grew” into the roof.


And I have no idea what’s up with the tiny peek into the brick underlying the plaster.


These floors were amazing (they were out on the terrace outside the throne room, which dated from the 1920s).


The really don’t do brickwork like this anymore.


A patchwork of windows from different centuries.


I know that so much of what I love about Prague is roughly 100 years old, but this shows that some of this aesthetic extends back far beyond that.


It was not adequately explained to me why this skeleton warrior was hanging out in the basement of St George’s basilica.


Mmmmm, reliquaries.

We decided to walk down the hill, since the tram was quite indirect and we’d see a different part of town.


I decided it was too hot to walk back and find out what they were charging for weatherballoon rides above the Kafka museum. But I was tempted!


Building art.


Still with the building art.

We stopped at the national library and were told you needed a readers card to be let in, and they had no idea what to do about people who just wanted to sight-see. We got a snack, and got tickets for all of us to take the municipal house tour at 5.

We went to the “Spanish” synagogue next to our apartment – Spanish in quotes because it turns out they’d demolished the original synagogue, and rebuilt it in sheer 19thC appropriation/orientalism, inspired by a unsubstantiated story about the Moorish origins of the Jewish population of Prague. So while it was very pretty (Kendra said they should sell reproductions of the wall paper as wrapping paper) it all felt somewhat hollow to me. Or maybe that was just the fact that it was 95 degrees and we’d been walking all day and had seen too much architecture. (Also, no photos allowed, so you’ll just have to google it.)
The exhibits were very informative about the history of the Jews in Prague, so that was useful. And they had an incredible collection of silver artifacts from Czech synagogues (cups, Torah adornments, yads, etc.)

We went back to the watch shop that we’d fallen in love with through the window on Sunday-they had repro art nouveau jewelery, musical instruments, a million clocks and watches. And the clocks sitting in the window boxes had speakers built into them which played constant clock ticking and chiming which was charming.
We also found fun explosion’s shop and I convinced Eric he needed to replace his golem shirt, at least until we saw the shirts with the band flying above Prague, so he bought that one instead.

Then we met back up with Aatish and Carolyn at the municipal hall. Long years ago, after Eric and I had visited Prague for the first time, but before had any theories about getting engaged, a joint thought experiment resulted in the theory that if money were no object, and if we were to get married, we’d want to do it in the municipal hall in Prague.


…Art nouveau vultures? Sure!


Electric bee bonnet.


Shockingly Klimt-esque ceiling.


I GOT ME SOME BONES!

The Mucha murals were just as awesome as I remembered. No one does crazy eyes like Mucha does crazy eyes. (…I feel like a need a non-perjorative term for that. But I really do mean “eyes that convey unbalanced and dangerous fanaticism and passion”, which feels like it can pretty fairly be summarized as “crazy”.)


This needs to be a science fiction novel cover.

 


Can I have this for a headboard?


Art nouveau triforce!

Then we sat around in the coolth and internet and investigated dinner options. Carolyn convinced us we wanted Czech hippie ayurvedic food. So we ate there and it was relatively tasty, and then we called it an early night.


Epic cherubic facepalm.