Archive for July, 2008

2:45 pm

Views from Most Legii

For no particular reason, I took some pictures as I was crossing Most Legií on my way home from Mass this evening.

This one is looking downstream towards Vyšehrad:

That "swan" in the lower left is actually a paddle boat:

You rent paddle boats at Slovanský Ostrov:

There are locks on the Vltava, I guess to help boats come up river?

Looking over to Prague Castle:

Looking over in the direction of Staroměstské náměstí:

And last, but not least, a lamppost, just because I liked it:

8:51 am

Czech Dogs

Dogs are tolerated just about everywhere in Prague, including on public transit and in shops and restaurants. A week or so ago, I watched a woman share her vepřový řízek (pork schnitzel) with her lap dog at a fairly upscale restaurant.

They’re amazingly well-behaved, too, I must say. They don’t bark much (and if you hear a barking dog, it’s almost always a puppy still being trained), and they seldom fight with other dogs. Czechs obviously put a good deal of effort into training their dogs. This afternoon, I watched as a woman walking her (leashless) dog set down her tote bag. I was too far away to be able to tell if the woman actually gave her dog an order or not, but the dog very promptly and daintily hopped into the bag and sat and watched its surroundings alertly as the woman picked up the bag and continued down the street. The woman crossed the street, set the bag down again, the dog hopped out, and they continued on their way. I have no idea what that whole bag thing was about, but I was impressed by the dog’s prompt reaction.

With all the dogs in Prague, you would expect dog droppings to be an issue, and indeed, when I first arrived, it was necessary to watch your step. In an attempt to lessen the problem, the City provides bags for the dog owners:

While I frequently see people picking up after their animals, though, I can’t say that I’ve ever seen anyone actually use these bags.

Prague recently implemented stricter litter laws, including a requirement to pick up after your pets, and I surprised to see that it really has made a difference.

2:36 pm

Socks with Sandals

Socks with sandals are a very common combination in Prague: indeed, a lot of Czech men appear to own only sandals as indoor footwear. One of the signs of summer here is when you start to see Czech men wearing their sandals without socks.

However, and this is going to sound seriously sexist of me, while I have become quite accustomed to men sporting this combination, I still think it’s a sign of something gone terribly, terribly wrong when women do the same thing.

2:02 pm

Dining Faux Pas

So, I went out to dinner this evening, to one of my preferred restaurants, U Básníka Pánve. I ordered one of my favorites, the boar goulash. In the mood for a green veggie to go with it, I also ordered a side of … wait for it … steamed broccoli!

What? You aren’t shocked? The waiter was. "But, the goulash comes with dumplings!" "Yes, I know." "So, you want the broccoli instead of dumplings?" "No, I just want a green vegetable." "But no soup or salad?" "No, that will be all." So away he went, shaking his head at the strange American.

Maybe if I had ordered a side of red cabbage, it would have gone over better. As it is, I’m left to wonder if goulash with broccoli on the side is really that disturbing to Czech sensibilities. I have ordered broccoli at this restaurant before, though I don’t remember whether or not I’ve ever done so with the goulash.

Both the goulash and the broccoli were fine, so at least the kitchen wasn’t too offended.

The menu, incidentally, contains some of really enchanting examples of quirky translation:

  • It took me a while to figure out that the "Lukul shrimps" are meant to be "Local shrimp" (although I’m still not certain where local shrimp could possibly be coming from).
  • The Moravian goose liver is "nifty".
  • Duck breast on torn lettuce with golden pear, walnuts and fig jam is "amazingly marinated".
  • The Maravian sour soup with home-made sausages and smoked knee (sic) is "smoothed with ripened cream", not topped with sour cream.
  • "Crunchy chick" is undoubtedly better than it sounds (it is described as a chicken breast marinated in Argentinean spices and stuffed with dry ham, cream cheese, coated with sweet corn flakes and almonds).
  • The home-made chocolate cake with forest fruits and whipped cream is "bombastic", while the strawberry and banana fondue with chocolate and Baileys is "amorous".
12:02 am

Visit to Cesky Krumlov

I finally visited Český Krumlov after putting it off several times. While it’s possible to visit as a day trip out of Prague, it takes about three hours to get there, and the prospect of spending a total of six hours in one day sitting on a bus was not appealing. So instead, I took the Student Agency bus down for an overnight trip.

The seal of Český Krumlov:

And the sight for which it is perhaps best known, the Little Castle and Tower:

Touring the Castle and Grounds

The castle complex is the second largest in the Czech Republic, Prague Castle being the largest. It has some 40 buildings spread out over a kilometer of a hillside overlooking the Vltava River. Just crossing from the Red Gate, the main entrance near the town, up to the gardens took about half an hour.

The former Mint is now the ticket office and main gift shop:

Across the second courtyard from the Mint is the New Burgrave:

Those aren’t really stones joined with mortar, nor are there niches with statuary. That trompe-l’œil effect is created with sgraffito. There’s a lot of sgraffito and frescos decorating the castle exteriors.

Looking back to the Little Castle and Tower from the path to the gardens:

The Gardens

The gardens alone cover 11 hectares (ca. 27 acres). There’s a fountain, of course:

And looking at the fountain from behind:

I think it very thoughtful of them to provide a little step ladder, the better to get a good view of the garden:

Although, even with the stepladder’s help, I couldn’t get a really good perspective of the garden:

The gardens are also home to a Revolving Theater. While the theater itself didn’t yield any interesting shots, I liked seeing these set bits lying on the grass:

The Castle Bears

According to the castle website, bears have been kept in the moat of the castle since the 16th century, during the era of the Rožmberk family. The family claimed descent from the Italian Orsini family, whose emblem was the bear, and so the Rožmberks kept bears to emphasize the relationship.

The moat is divided in two by the bridge, with Kateřina and Vok to the left and their daughter Marie Terezie to the right.

Marie Terezie takes her duties as guard bear seriously:

I can’t tell if this is Kateřina or Vok, but it appears that Marie Terezie’s parents are less serious about protecting the castle:

I like the way in which they politely discourage people from feeding the bears:

And keeping watch over the bears, we have St. Joseph (on Marie Terezie’s side):

While Our Lady keeps watch on Kateřina and Vok’s side:

The Tours

There are three guided tours of the castle, of which I managed to complete only two (leaving a tour of the theater for another visit, I guess). We heard the stories of the various families who owned the castle, starting with the Rožmbrks (1302-1602), followed by the Eggenbergs (1622-1719), until it was passed on to the Schwarzenbergs (1719-1947). It was nationalized in 1950 by the Communists. Following the Velvet Revolution, it was offered back to the Schwarzenbergs, but conditional upon their assuming responsibility for restoring it. They declined the offer.

As do so many castles, this one has a “White Lady”. Here, it’s Perchta of Rožmberk. Perchta was unhappily married to a much older, abusive husband, Jan of Lichtenstein. On his deathbed, Jan repented of his many cruelties and asked Perchta’s forgiveness. When Perchta refused, he cursed her instead. As a result, she now haunts the former Rožmbrk residences, especially this one. If she appears wearing white gloves, good news is in the offing. However, if she’s wearing black gloves, it’s a death omen. The tour guide claimed that one of her colleagues had recently reported a sighting of the White Lady. However, she went on to say, he was drunk that night, so no one believes.

There are lots of bearskins rugs in the castle: while I vaguely noticed this, I didn’t really pay it any mind until the tour guide brought it to our attention. “These are the bears from the moat”, she told us. For some reason, that really creeps me out.

Besides the Castle, There’s the Town…

In addition to visiting the castle, I took the audio guided self-tour of the town.

The Marian Plague Column in the Main Town Square is under renovation:

Krčín House is notable mainly for its sgrafitto and frescos:

And round the corner…

If I remember correctly, this was the house of Sheriff Slatinský:


And a last look on my way back to the bus stop:

I’ve put some additional photos into this slideshow.

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