Archive for March, 2008

3:27 pm

Spring in Stromovka Park

So, spring is putting in some tentative appearances: the snow seems to have stopped, the cherry blossoms are in bloom, and people are venturing into the parks. I paid my first visit to Stromovka ("place of trees") Park this weekend.

The weeping willows are drooping picturesquely:
Willow in Stromovka
The afore-mentioned cherry blossoms are on display:
Cherry blossoms in Stromovka
And everything is beautifully green:
(And no, I’m not sure what these buildings are.)

There’s also a planetarium in Stromovka, and I was thinking about visiting, as I dearly love a planetarium show. But the commentary would all be in Czech, so I decided against it. For now, anyway.

While waiting for the tram home, I noticed these paintings on the walls of adjoining buildings:
Vlasta and Jiri z Podebra
I’d kind of heard of Jiří z Poděbrad, though I couldn’t off-hand tell you much more than that he was a King of Bohemia and that the next metro stop from Náměstí Míru is named for him. Vlasta, on the other hand, was completely new to me, and it took me a bit of Googling to find out who she was. Turns out that she is said to have been the favorite handmaid of the mythical Libuše, the prophetess who founded Prague. Libuše had been careful to protect the rights of women, and when she died, those rights were endangered. So Vlasta rallied the other women, and launched the Maidens’ War. There is, alas, no happy ending. Which is probably why it’s so hard to find out who she was.

3:24 pm

Liturgical Anthropology: Triduum

I was half expecting quadrilingual liturgy for Triduum, much as we had for Palm Sunday, but in fact, for Holy Thursday and Good Friday, we had strictly English language liturgies. The Spanish speaking community had their liturgies in St. Barbara’s Chapel, just off the cloister garden, and I have no idea where the Czech community ended up. And for Easter Sunday, we had our usual schedule of three Masses, one for each community. For Easter Vigil, though, we did indeed have a Czech-Spanish-English-Latin mix, similar to that of Palm Sunday.

Holy Thursday and Good Friday

The liturgies on Holy Thursday and Good Friday were largely unremarkable. I was glad to see, though, during the ceremony of the washing of feet that Sv. Tomáš does not follow the practice of having only men come forward. Instead there was a mix of men and women, and even one child. There were, however, only 6 washees; I’m not sure why we didn’t have the full complement of 12.

The only place where the Good Friday service departed from the norm was in the timing: it took place at 6:30 PM rather than mid-day. I think this was probably a concession to the fact that in this largely atheistic city, it would be difficult for working people to attend a mid-day service. I was disappointed, though, as I had wanted to attend a performance of Dvořák’s Stabat Mater that had been scheduled for that evening at Národní Divadlo.

Easter Vigil

As at Palm Sunday, the quadrilingual nature of the service made it difficult to follow along, and I’m seriously disappointed with the way in which Sv. Tomáš handles this. I’m thinking that, next year, I’m going to give serious consideration to making a Triduum retreat in an English-speaking country.

It was gratifying to see, though, the number of people being received for Baptism: there were eight Czech neophytes and two from the English-speaking community. And that’s the only thing that would hold me back from going on a retreat instead: a Vigil without Baptism would seem rather hollow.

At the conclusion of the Vigil service, we had a "Theophoric Procession", which was described to us as a Czech tradition. (I had to look "theophoric" up myself: it’s from the Greek meaning "bearing a deity".) The presiding priests and the altar servers went in procession to St. Dorothy’s Chapel, which had been used as the Reservation Chapel following Holy Thursday’s Transfer of the Sacrament. They knocked at the door of the Chapel, which opened to reveal a statue of the resurrected Jesus. The statue was then carried in procession, followed by the community, out of the church, around the cloister gardens, and back into the church, where the statue was left at the altar, by the ambo.

Easter Sunday

For the Easter Sunday Mass, we again had not only a Theophoric Procession, but an "Encuentro" (Spanish for "encounter"). This is a tradition borrowed, obviously enough, from the Spanish. In this particular version, while the men of the community were invited to process behind the statue of the resurrected Christ, the women were invited (though not obliged – Father William was very careful about that!) to follow a black-draped statue of Our Lady out through a different door of the church and around the cloister gardens, in the opposite direction traced by the Theophoric Procession. Our two groups met in front of St. Barbara’s Chapel, and the statue of Our Lady was unveiled, representing the first post-resurrection meeting between Jesus and His mother. We then completed our circuit of the gardens and returned to the church, where the statue of the resurrected Christ was returned to its place near the ambo while the statue of Our Lady went to the opposite side of the altar.

9:40 am

Night shooting

I haven’t yet mastered the art of taking photos at night. At the very least, I think I need a tripod, but it may just be that my trusty little Canon isn’t up to the task. I keep trying, though, and I’m actually quite enchanted with this shot of Týnský Chram (Tyn Cathedral):
Tynsky Chram
Très surreal, n’est-ce pas?

8:37 am

Easter Markets and Pomlázky

Easter Markets

I was curious to know if Easter Markets were substantially different from Advent Markets. There are really only trivial differences. They’re smaller, for one; in fact, Náměstí Míru didn’t even have one. Most of the stalls sell the same touristy junk that they sold before Christmas, and the food and drink are largely the same. In particular, the trdelník stalls are hugely popular:
It’s fun to watch trdelník being made. They start with sweet yeasted bread dough. The baker rolls a chunk of dough into a long snake, which is then wrapped around a stainless steel cylinder. After two or three snakes have been wrapped, the cylinder serves as a rolling pin to flatten the dough while it’s rolled in a mixture of coarse, spiced sugar and almonds. The dough-covered cylinder is then set in a rack that spins the cylinder over an open fire so that the dough bakes and the sugar caramelizes. When the trdelník is all nice and toasty brown, it comes off the fire and is rolled once more in the sugar and almond mixture. Needless to say, they’re best hot off the fire.

The main place where the Easter markets differ from the Advent markets is that the Christmas decorations are (mostly) replaced by decorated eggs:
Easter eggs

Easter eggs

Easter Market at Anděl

The Easter Market at Anděl is a small one: just a couple of dozen stalls. What I like about it, though, is that it has a pony ride:
Pony ride at Andel
It also has a couple of other rides for children. There’s a choo-choo train:
Children's train ride at Andel
And there’s a car ride:
Children's car ride at Andel

Easter Market at Staroměstské Náměstí

The big Easter market, at Staroměstské Náměstí (Old Town Square), on the other hand, has a much larger collection of stalls. In addition, there’s a sort of little petting zoo:
Petting Zoo
The Easter Rabbit?
Easter Rabbit?
There’s also a blacksmith at work:
Instead of a Christmas tree, there’s an Easter egg:
Easter egg
There’s also an Easter tree (there, behind the Jan Hus memorial):
Easter tree

Florists and Pomlázky

A few weeks ago, I started seeing these bundles of twigs trimmed with multi-colored ribbons at florists’ stands:
I asked one of my students about them, and he became a little flustered and claimed (rather disingenuously) that they’re just a traditional Spring decoration. It took me a while longer to find out that they are supposed to be used on Easter Monday, when the men whip the women to keep them beautiful and/or fertile. Not surprisingly, the men in my classes all disclaim any participation in this pagan ritual: "It’s practiced only in some of the smaller villages these days", they tell me. And according to this article from the Prague Post, they may be correct. However, several of my women students have admitted that their husbands or boyfriends have brought home their pomlázky, which will be used for the traditional purpose. (I’m staying out of this: they’re consenting adults and I’ve no reason to believe that any of these women is in an abusive relationship.)

And, it turns out that pussy willows aren’t just for Palm Sunday:
Pussy willows

3:30 pm

The camera returns…

So, I finally called Canon again and, this time, I was successful in reaching someone who spoke English. I explained the problem and was referred to an authorized Canon repair shop, which oh-so-conveniently is just a few blocks from my flat. I went in, handed over the camera with the speculation that it was a problem with the CCD. The technician looked at it, agreed, confirmed that this was a problem that Canon had agreed to fix for free, and told me that my camera would be ready within 14 days. He also told me how to check for status on their website. And so it is that, barely 10 days later, I have my camera back again: yippee!

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