Goodbye Prague: My final thoughts and images

May 17, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

     Part three of my Prague post will be my final and probably most random post. There were just some images that didn't fit in with my previous post that I really enjoy and wanted to share with you all. They are also the images that have a topic I want to talk about. Some of them are just tourist photographs. It is what it is, I can't always be extremely organized, even if I want to be. 

     My first post is general information about Prague and my first impressions. The second is all about the Art, Architecture and Religion

 

Windows

     If you haven't already gathered, windows are my biggest weakness in life. Especially stained glass windows. I just love the shadows, reflections and other wonderful things that happen through the glass. European windows are particularly wonderful. They tend to be much larger than American standards. Also, I really love how they can open in so many different ways. Maybe for a future post I will feature the windows in my Grandma's house and why I love them. For now we will focus on the windows of historic Prague. 

     It's really hard for me to fully explain my obsession with windows. I convinced my roommates to sign the lease for our current apartment because it was the one with the most windows in the building. They are also super tall windows and if our building would ever clean them, they would let in the most wonderful light. I refuse to apply any window coverings ( curtains, drapes etc) because it will take away from the effect of light coming through the window. I am weird, I know.

     These first three images come from the stained glass windows in the Powder Tower.  The Powder Tower doesn't have a very impressive history at all. Construction began and halted about 5 times. It was a storage facility for gunpowder (hence the name) for a little while. In general, the tower was never very successful or used for its original purpose. But the stained glass windows of the tower let in the most beautiful light. There were little sitting area alcoves for almost every window. I wish I could have cut one out and shipped it back to the states, attach it to the side of the apartment and then use it as a breakfast nook or lounge area. 

     These two windows above are from various buildings within the Prague Castle (as is the one below but it's extra special). Now I usually am not a fan of anything breaking up the window but these little hexagons cast wonderful shadows on the brickwork throughout the compound. Plus, many of the windows were incredibly tall which made up for the light being broken up by the wiring. 

     Now this window was also in Prague Castle but it is a very special window. This window was were the Thirty Years War began. Well indirectly of course, the window itself didn't start the war. The window sits in the council room of Hradcany. It was here that William Slavata and Jaroslav Martinic were found guilty for violating the Letter of Majesty (guarantees of religious freedom). The two men, and their secretary, were then thrown out these very windows. They managed to survive the fall with only minor injuries which was later attributed as a miracle. The act is known as defenestration of Prague and was a signal for the beginning of the Bohemian revolt against the Habsburg emperor Ferdinand II. All of this leads up to the start of the Thirty Years War and Defenestration is known as the spark. 
 
 
Charles Bridge
     The most famous bridge in all of Prague is the Charles Bridge. Adorned with baroque statues, many of which are now just replicas (the originals are in the Prague Museum), the bridge connects Old Town with Lesser Town which leads up to the Prague Castle. 
     

     This is a man begging for money on the Charles Bridge. What I found really interesting in Prague was how the poor and homeless beg for change. For the most part they all rest on their knees like the man above and never make any obscene noises. What I hate most about Pittsburgh are the beggars. They are the rudest people I have met in the world. One time one of them yelled at me cause he asked for change and I said no. I then walked into Dunkin Donuts and got a coffee (it was a free coffee from rewards). I had to pass him again and he actually yelled at me for having the money to buy a coffee and not give him change. I was so stunned by this because I am generally nice to homeless and try to give when I can. After that incident I am very selective with whom I bestow my loose pocket change. 
      The beggars of Prague were hardly rude at all. Many of them picked a location they thought might be lucrative with passing tourist and sat on their knees for a much longer time than I ever could. I was impressed. It seems more respectable to me. They aren't being loud or rude, they are just trying to get by. My first thoughts were not in regards to an addiction but rather what life circumstances led them to this point. And I know that is a terrible prejudice to have, especially for someone who looks for peoples stories, but that one bad experience really effected me.  To beg literally on your hands and knees is also a bit poetic. 
     Now I did however see some addicted beggars at their best. I honestly was impressed once again. Grandma and I sat in a park by Old Town Square for an extended period of time one morning. Long enough for me to see a pattern. There was a group of five down and out looking people. One of them left and returned shortly with a bottle of booze. They all shared a few sips and then a second one left. By the time the second man left the bottle was empty. No fear, the second man had returned with the same bottle. He sat down and they all shared a few swigs and some words, then a third man left. Now I am presuming that while four of the men drank the fifth was always begging for change to get them their next bottle. It was a rather sophisticated system in my opinion. Overall, I am completely impressed with the drunks and beggars of Prague. This was not a negative experience of a large city as it usually is.  
 
The Tourist Stuff
     Now I am going to take the time to show off my trip in typical tourist photos. Prepare yourself for the expected. 

     Food in Prague was delicious but the most amazing thing I ate was this amazing pastry above. Known as Trade Logs or Trade Links depending on if you go to a shop or street stand, these pastries are  heavenly. The pastry is roasted over a coal fire, coated in sugar, cinnamon and walnuts, and served warm and toasty. If anyone could tell me where to find these in Pittsburgh I would be much obliged. I would happily get fat eating these everyday for the rest of my life. Below, a man rolls some fresh dough for the amazing pastry.

     Grandma and I with the Prague Castle in the background. I found a fellow tourist who actually knew how to use a dslr. It was wonderful. 

     Grandma in a botanical garden in New Town. 

    Skulls from the National Museum. The exhibit currently on display is about humans fascination with death, how we approach it, handle the dead, and pay respects. It was super interesting and went along well with the book I am currently reading, The Invention of Murder; How Victorians revelled in the death and detection and created modern crime by Judith Flanders. A little dark and grim for a summer reading, I know, but another little fun fact about me is I am fascinated by crime and death. How humans approach these things, how cultures handle them, crime novels and shows, all of it I adore. It's supper weird I know, but along with random history factoids, I have been known to randomly spout out random death and murder facts. In the book, Flanders is pulling old cases from the Victorian era and using the ensuing responses from the general public to prove her thesis that it was originally the Victorians who created this fascination we all have with murder. The exhibit discussed death in general. It compared anthropology to detective work, stating that an anthropologist has to work backwards from the crime scene. The crime scene in this context is a burial site. The "detective" first identifies the victim, the culture they came from, how long they have been dead, and the cause of death; was it natural, murder, a catastrophic event, war? The exhibit also discussed the significance of burring the dead, what this meant for cultures and how its changed over the years. It was all quite fascinating, perhaps a little too grim for my Grandma. They also had the bones of Lucy. For those of you who never paid attention in history or biology, Lucy was one of the first Australopithecus afarensis skeletons ever found. She was a significant find for the science community. Only about 40% of her bones were recovered and they are very heavily protected and preserved. It was wonderful to see but impossible to photograph without a tripod. 
 
     

     Okay, on to less grim stories. I was convinced these ducks were fake until the one reached down to take a sip of water. I originally pulled out my camera to zoom in on them and see the detailing in some "fake" duck statues. I have no idea why there would have ever been fake ducks in a botanical garden....  This garden was at Prague Castle

     Botanical Gardens are seriously a big deal in Prague. This is from the botanical garden on Petrin Hill. 


     The horses for romantic carriage rides look intimidating when you are sitting in their pathway. 

     "Here, I show you Jupiter now. I have to find it first. For being the largest planet it is rather hard to find."

 

Prague Castle

    I had a little bit about Prague Castle in my last post, but it only focused on St. Vitus Cathedral. Arguably, the cathedral is the most important structure of the castle compound but there were many other wonderful things I wanted to share. 

 

    Bohemian crystal and glass is highly valued throughout the world. Above, an artisan engraves designs into a set of glasses. Each glass has to look the same for them to sell successfully as a set, therefore, he is careful to repeat the same engraving on each glass. 

     Golden Lane; Small houses are built into the outer castle walls. Originally for the guards, the homes were built only about 9 feet wide and 12 feet long. As the guards moved out, servants began to move in. To keep up with modern times, the houses were expanded and modern appliances installed. Still, these homes are incredibly small and were more recentlly rented out to artist who wanted to get in touch with history for their work. 

 

     In one of the larger of the Golden Lane houses was this collection of films. All for show now, the films represent hundreds of bohemian film that was saved by the previous occupant (his name was Johannes something, I forgot to write it down) from the Nazis. During the occupation of Prague by the Nazis in WWII, thousands of ancient Bohemian artifacts were destroyed. The man who lived in this house managed to hide hundreds of Bohemian films and documentaries and saved them from being destroyed and it is thanks to him that the art was not lost forever. It is interesting to note that his neighbor was a self-proclaimed psychic who was murdered for predicting an early demise of the Third Reich.  

     Tourist storm the castle. 

 

 

     Above is one of the many gigantic ovens in the old castle that acted as heaters. The tiled stove ovens were massive and must have kept the rooms very warm and toasty. Below is a bookcase from the Roll Room. The "Rolls" were the original ledger or rules and laws of Prague. They contained disputes over land and other minor domestic arguments. They were destroyed in a fire. I just really liked the bookcase. This would be another wonderful addition to my apartment. 

 

Possible Photo Projects?

    Throughout this entire trip, I am not only shooting for fun and touristic purposes, but I am also trying to get myself inspired to create work I really like again. The next few images are things that I have begun to start considering for future projects. Most likely nothing will ever come out of them, but it is a step in the right direction. 

     Slumped: It amazes me how some people can just fall asleep anywhere. I am plagued by being a light sleeper. My parents used to say I have ears of an owl, meaning, I guess, that I could hear even the smallest of noises. I liked this because yes, I have great hearing and if I ever can't hear you there are probably too many conversations happening around us and I am trying to listen to them all.  But I also like it cause I like owls. Even before Harry Potter was published. I love owls and bats and other things that go bump in the night. Either way, it takes me forever to fall asleep and its even harder for me to stay asleep. Except for car rides in which I will passout instantly.  The idea of falling asleep in such a public place is interesting. I see these people and wonder what they are dreaming of? What did they do last night that they are so tired today? How can they sleep with all the hustle and bustle around them? 
 

     Grandma's House: At Grandma's house it is always time for coffee and cake. 3 pm, desert, dinner, cause you are sad, cause you feel sick; coffee, cake and chocolate fix it all.  I obviously am photographing my Grandma a lot on this trip and I am interested to see if I can make anything with the work. I have a few loose ideas floating around but nothing solid yet. 

 

    So thats all I have for Prague. You are all probably glad I am done talking about this city. To be honest, I am only done for now. I am sure the city will surface again in future blog post. I hope to visit again soon. Prague was beautiful and while I was able to see mostly all the tourist sights, I really want to get into the heart of the culture. Possibly even journeying further into the Czech Republic. But first I will have to figure out some Czech so I can at the very least navigate a map.

     Up next is Berlin. We are flying there tomorrow morning, which I greatly appreciate. I have enough of long car rides for awhile. I leave you all with my final image of Prague; St. Vitus Cathedral standing out along the skyline and a sunset that looks like it was painted onto the sky. 


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