Archive for the ‘Prague’ Category

Saint Vitus Cathedral

May 11, 2016
figures on main doors

figures on main doors

one clock shows the hour another the minutes

one clock shows the hour another the minutes

Prague Castle, seen from across the river, dominates the skyline,  especially  Saint Vitus Cathedral  and Lobkowicz Palace.

Saint Vitus Cathedral is situated  within the Prague Castle complex.

To pay to walk around inside, but can enter the main doors and enjoy the stunning view looking down the nave.

Had I paid, I would have learnt contains the tombs of many Bohemian kings and Holy Roman Emperors.

Two key features are the figures on the main doors and above the doors, and the clocks.

The figures on the doors, cast in metal, are amazing.

I was puzzled by the clocks, why one above the other? Why two clocks?  The time was such, they both appeared to be showing the same time.

It was only after observing over a period of several minutes, I realised one was showing the hour, the other the minutes.

Prague Castle

May 10, 2016
Prague Castle

Prague Castle

Lobkowicz Palace

Lobkowicz Palace

stunning views over Prague

stunning views over Prague

steps leading down from Prague Castle

steps leading down from Prague Castle

No 22 tram took me up to Prague Castle.

Novel way of paying. Pay for time not distance.

Ticket has to be bought in advance from a machine.

I alighted at the right palace and wandered in.

Police and soldiers on guard with semi-automatic rifles.

Very cold.

Prague Castle is a castle complex, many streets and buildings including churches, Saint Vitus Cathedral, museums, monasteries and palaces, including Lobkowicz Palace.

Stunning views over Prague.

Starbucks at Prague Castle

Starbucks at Prague Castle

Prague Castle, the location with the most stunning view over Prague, occupied by Starbucks. A grass terrace, a spiral stone staircase. They were even queuing.

Steps lead down from Prague Castle.

Prague 22 tram

May 10, 2016
Prague tram 22 00

Prague tram 22

display showing where the tram is located

display showing where the tram is located

standing room only

standing room only

22 tram took me up to Prague Castle.

Novel way of paying. Pay for time not distance.

Ticket has to be bought in advance from a machine.

I only required 30 minutes, but not knowing if the machine gave change, I paid for 90 minutes.

I learnt later, my ticket covered trams, buses and the metro.

I alighted at he right place and wandered in to Prague Castle.

Where I boarded the tram, there was a  wonderful second hand bookshop the other side of the road.

The tram was busy, standing room only.

A video display showed where the tram was.  Also another display announcing next stop.

Unfortunate in Czech only, not Czech and English.

Trams are everywhere, modern trams, old trams and very old trams.

Trams were the first thing I noticed driving in a luxury limousine from the Prague Airport to Old Prague.

They operate in cobbled streets, which may be to keep the gap between the tracks for the wheels. Tarmac would creep.

Church of the Infant Jesus

April 14, 2016
font

font in the Church of the Infant Jesus

cloak worn by the Infant Jesus

cloak worn by the Infant Jesus

Strictly speaking  Carmelite Church of Our Lady Victorious in Malá Strana but commonly known as Church of the Infant Jesus for the little infant Jesus wearing a cloak.

The infant Jesus is 16th century. Legend has it that the statue once belonged to Saint Teresa of Avila.

Up a spiral stone staircase, a museum of various cloaks.

When I visited, I was struck by a girl in her twenties, her face was lit up with joy as she looked at the statue.

I caught up with her as she left. She told me she was a student in Prague.

When Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho was unknown, he had yet to write, he travelled Europe. He asked the Infant Jesus to help make his dream come true to become a writer. He noticed the Infant Jesus was wearing a shabby cloak. He promised, that if he became a writer, he would return with a cloak.

Paulo Coelho marks St Joseph’s day with his friends. This year it was at Lobkowicz Palace in Prague  Castle. During the morning he visited the church and presented the Infant Jesus with a  new cloak.

The Infant Jesus is credited with miracles. Hence the pilgrims.

I was appalled at the disrespect shown by the hordes of visitors to the church.  Two women having a very noisy conversation on the stairs leading up to the museum, the noise echoing up and down the staircase. Two women walking down the aisle having a loud conversation. Then bang, crash, a tourist group erupted through the doors, their tour guide, Italian, laughing and shouting. I wish I gone after her and took a picture of her as she left, as she was unfit to be a tour guide. Then it got worse and worse.

I walked out in disgust.

Why do they not bar tour groups?

A shop near the church entrance, but closed when I left.

Across the road, shops selling tourist tat, images, replicas of the Infant Jesus.

Old Clocks

April 13, 2016
Old Clocks

Old Clocks

Sunday, three weeks and three days ago, I walked a different way to Old Town Square.

The route I took, lacked the shops selling tourist tat and lacked the tourists.

An interesting shop, Old Clocks, and as the name implies, sold old clocks, plus watches, jewellery and musical instruments.

A helpful man, though not the owner.

Cafe-Cafe

April 12, 2016
Cafe-Cafe

Cafe-Cafe

If you wish to see pretentious fools and their money easily parted, then Cafe-Cafe is the place to be.

Stopped as you walk in, then escorted to a table.

Smoking or No Smoking?

Does smoke observe this distinction?  Of course not.

Disgusting that smoking is even permitted.

This is where you go to be seen. One of the most expensive coffee bars in Prague.

And the coffee?

Top quality coffee beans,  sourced from local coffee roasters who source direct from the coffee estates, top of the range espresso machine, skilled baristas?

No.

Coffee in capsules, a Nespresso machine.

They have got to be joking!

I walked out.

If you want a decent coffee, delicious cakes too, then cross the road to Mama’s Baking.

Of if you wish to take a walk, then head through the Old Town Square,  cross Charles Bridge, wend your way to the Kafka Museum, where you will happen upon Bakeshop little bakery.

Glass museum in Municipal House

April 12, 2016
vases

vases

objet d'art

objet d’art

vases

vases

jewellery

jewellery

cups

cups

To be honest I do not know the name of this museum in Municipal House or Obecní dům, the stunning Art Nouveau concert venue. It is more a design exhibition, but most of the exhibits are glass, and not all are exhibits, some are on sale, and not only glass, also books and music for sale.

The style is from a particular period of Bohemian glassware. The books were of this period.

The music on sale was of performances in Smetna Concert Hall.

Fête de Saint Joseph de Paulo Coelho du 19 mars 2016 à Prague ( @paulocoelho )

April 3, 2016

St Joseph’s Day Party in Lobkowicz Palace

April 2, 2016

PPrague Castle and Charles Bridge

Prague Castle and Charles Bridge

If you’re brave enough to say goodbye, life will reward you with a new hello. — Paulo Coelho

Two weeks ago, St Joseph’s Day, a chauffeur driven limousine to Prague Castle to a party in Lobkowicz Palace. A guest of my dear friend Paulo Coelho.

Paulo Coelho has a knack of hosting parties in wonderful iconic locations.

It is strange, how you have an entirely different perspective of the world, if driven around in a limousine. An argument maybe for forcing politicians and their wealthy masters to use public transport at least once a year.

A police checkpoint, car checked, though odd not the passenger, then dropped off outside the German Embassy.

I did not query this. I had instructed my driver to drop me off at which ever entrance to Prague Castle was best for him, and I would find my way on foot to Lobkowicz Palace.

Thus when he said he would drop me off at the Germany Embassy, I did not query it. I assumed it to be located somewhere inside or nearby the castle entrance.

I got out, asked my driver where I was to go.

Luckily I did.

Not where we should be.

He asked me to get back in, ten minutes he assured me.

Off we went, with him tapping into his Sat Nav.

We are lost he told me. I will have use Google Maps.

By now I am perplexed. How can anyone live in Prague and not know how to get to the castle? Am I lost within a Kafka novel? Did not K have problems getting to the castle?

A journey that should have been no more than 15 minutes, took 50 minutes.

He dropped me off at the entrance to Prague Castle.

More security checks. Police and army armed with semi-automatic weapons.

Prague from Prague Castle

Prague from Prague Castle

Prague from Prague Castle

Prague from Prague Castle

Stunning views over Prague.

I walked in, luckily it was not far for the palace.

More security.

Was I on the guest list?

Yes, said a voice who confirmed who I was.

waiters bearing drinks

waiters bearing drinks

jazz quartet in the corner

jazz quartet in the corner

frescos on the ceiling

frescos on the ceiling

Inside warmly greeted by Christina, guests who I know, waiters with drinks and little titbits to eat, a jazz band playing in a corner.

Trying to take it all in, paintings, frescos on the ceilings, not possible to put anything down anywhere, trying somehow to balance  wine, eats, books, camera, phone and take pictures.

Leave books at cloakroom, yes, a good idea.

Paulo chatting with guest

Paulo chatting with guest

I walked out onto a balcony overlooking the town. A warm greeting from Paulo who was chatting with friends.

Annie a prayer in Greek

Annie a prayer in Greek

Eventually we are called to order for prayers in multiple languages and faiths, people called forward.

To my surprise and shock, my lovely Greek friend Annie is there. I had not seen her and did not know she was there. I have not seen her since we met in Athens three years ago.

Paulo Coelho, whose party it was and whose guests we were, explains why Prague.

Many years ago, when he wanted to be a writer, he had toured Europe.

He had found himself in Prague, in the Church of the Infant Jesus, a church I was to visit a few days later.  He asked to become a writer. If he did, he would one day return and give the infant Jesus a new shawl, which he had done that morning.

Whilst in Prague he had walked along the Golden Lane, a street of the alchemists. There was no one there apart from a  young man painting, his hands covered with cut off gloves against the cold. Paulo buys a painting, gives the equivalent of a dollar, very little. The young man is overjoyed. He points at Christina. Thinking he wants more money, but no, he offers to paint Christina.  Offered money, he refuses to accept it.

Paulo was very moved by this experience, to him it was an epiphany. Here was a man, painting for his art, for love of what he did, not for money.

Thirty years on, Paulo was determined to track this man down. He called upon his friends in Prague, and a miracle, the man was found. But could he prove who he was, did he remember the two gifts Paulo gave him?

Christina and Paulo with street artist

Christina and Paulo with street artist

Paulo had pointed him out earlier. He now invited him to join him on the stage.

A very emotional scene, the man was in tears.

Paulo explained he was his guest of honour, would he please stay and eat with us.

Whether he did, I do not know, as I did not see him again.

Paulo told the story the day before at his press conference and has recounted  the story on his blog.

Paulo told us this was the 30th St Joseph’s Day Party, a celebration when friends get together and there was nothing more important to him than friendship and his friends. Those who were no longer with us, were with us in spirit.

There was though to be a change. From now on, the party would only be held every other year, not once a year.

Following prayers, we were asked to go in for dinner.

I hugged Annie, and walked into dinner together.

Sadly we could not find a table seated together.

Not to worry said Annie, we have all night after dinner to talk.

I found myself sat at a table with friends, including Paulo and Christina.

Part way through dinner I found myself chatting with William Lobkowicz. We discussed music. He was very interested in what I was suggesting as he wanted something different.

I recommended Pieles, a musical production which I had seen in Puerto de la Cruz at Teatro Timanfaya. He thought stage where we were dining. I said no, it would have to be a small theatre.

Others I thought off Socos DuoA Ritmo de TangoImágenes de la Compañía MuvenDanz.

Why not make a Canarian season, rope in Spanish Ambassador for support.

I also added Jewelia, Zoe Keating, Imogen Heap, or at least made a mental note to add.

The Sixteen added to my mental list. I did not now know at the time, that in Lobkowicz Collection, were held original manuscripts of Handel, Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven.

The Sixteen could play from the manuscripts, either where we dined or St Nicholas Church, a Baroque church in Prague Old Town, depending upon the music. The cathedral in Prague Castle would be too big, they would be lost.

The problem with Prague, as I learnt wandering around, everyone is putting on the same nigh identical tourist trap concerts.

He gave me his card to follow up our discussion, as he had to leave early.

It was only later, I discovered my dining companion was Prince William Lobkowicz, to give him his correct title.

string quartet played whilst we dined

string quartet played whilst we dined

Whilst we ate, a string quartet played.

Dinner over, wine having freely flowed, and more was yet to flow, Paulo called us to order.

He thanked the string quartet.

He then told of Paul McCartney being asked to summarise his music. He said he cannot, it has to be listened to.

Paulo gets asked the same question: Can you summarise your books? He says no, read the books.

At his side, I recognised a girl, though I could not recall why. Paulo introduced her  and a guitarist who had appeared, as who had played at his party in Athens.

He then broke into All You Need is Love, with everyone joining in.

He then told everyone to party, the band was playing.

Usually at the end of a party, Paulo and a few of us sit around chatting.

Not to be, Paulo and Christina left early.

Paulo Coelho books signed in Prague

Paulo Coelho books signed in Prague

I caught Paulo as he was leaving and he kindly signed my books, presents for friends.

Then the night was over.

We could not order our own transport, due to the tight security, transport had been arranged.

Annie and several of us left around 2-30am. Annie wanted to walk. I said no, we did not know the way and she would get lost. I also knew it would be very cold, and she only had a thin dress and a light jacket.

As we left the palace, army on guard outside armed with semi-automatic weapons.

We piled onto the coach and off we went, with one girl in high spirits demanding music and then inviting me out the next day.

Final drop off, everyone piled off, I said goodbye to Annie and friends, a couple of us stayed on the coach.

Where to next?

I did not mind not being dropped off at my hotel, Old Town Prague would do, and I would find my own way.

The coach was going nowhere. I too got off, to find Annie standing by the roadside all alone shivering.

But for the grace of God the coach  did not take me, as otherwise Annie would have been all on her own.

We were lost, we did not have a clue where we were were. We wandered around for an hour or more. We were lost. We were going round and round in circles getting nowhere, but slowly turning to ice. Then I said look. What said Annie? I pointed to a lit up telecoms tower, what I had seen during the day. Assuming it to be the same one, it was located on a hill behind the castle. If we turned with our backs to the tower, we could head to the river. I still had no idea where we were, but at least we could head in the right direction. The only problem was, every  road we headed down, was blocked off.

Look, I said again. Annie looked. Exhausted. Cold. The name I said, the name of the hotel, The Alchemist. It was a sign. We both laughed. We knew everything was ok. We know how to read signs

We then met two people. They sort of headed us in the right direction.

Then I realised where we were. It was where I had walked earlier in the day when I crossed Charles Bridge.

From there Annie found her hotel.

Will you be ok?

Yes, cross the bridge, find the Old Town Square, then I can find my way.

I probably sounded more confident than I was, I neglected to tell Annie that although I had walked this route during the day, I had got lost, and that was in daylight, now it was dark.

I promised to send her a message when I was safely home

Charles Bridge early hours of the morning

Charles Bridge early hours of the morning

I crossed the now deserted Charles Bridge with someone following me. Creepy.

I crossed the bridge and was lost. It is one thing being lost with a friend, quite another on your own in a strange city in the early hours of the morning wandering cold, dark and deserted streets.

I wandered around, absolutely no idea where I was.

Eventually a taxi driver stopped, asked was I ok. I said no I was lost.  He pointed me in the right direction. I immediately regretted I had not asked him to take me home. I passed another taxi , but he was either picking people up or dropping people off.

I found the Old Town Square. It was very different to daylight, or even night when lit up. It was in darkness. I found my way through the square, then down an alley then finally I knew where I was.

I finally reached my hotel at 4-15am in the early early hours of the morning, very cold and very tired.

Many thanks to Paulo and Christina for hosting the party and inviting me. And thanks for the friendship. And thanks Paulo for your patience and signing the books as you were leaving.

When Paulo announced the party was only going to be every two years, I felt very sad as in my heart I knew there was gong to be no more parties.  And so it proved to be.

A couple of days later, a sad e-mail from Paulo thanking his friends, saying there would be no more parties, after thirty this phase of his life was over. He has already decided before the party but at the party decided to compromise by holding every two years, but on reflection to keep to his original decision.

I am sure Paulo we will meet somewhere, but in the meantime my dear friend, take good care of yourself.

I usually write up the party on getting home, the first account published.

I am sorry I did not. I was tired and exhausted, and I had no computer.

I asked the hotel. They kindly went out and bought a computer and delivered it to my room. I returned and found a laptop sitting on my table. Only problem was, it was in Czech. I can handle a Spanish keyboard, but a Czech keyboard with four, sometimes five, characters on each key. Plus it was Windows 10 in Czech.

Now, two weeks later trying to keep everything in chronological order, my write up.

Apologies for lateness.

I have though found it very hard to write.

Concert in St Martin in the Wall

April 2, 2016
Old Prague Music Ensemble string quartet in St Martin in the Wall

Old Prague Music Ensemble string quartet in St Martin in the Wall

St Martin in the Wall is a church that is usually closed. The concert one of the rare occasions when open.