Archive for the ‘Life in the Czech Republic’ Category

Monday
July
13th
2009
3:30 am

Tabor

I visited Tábor ("a historic town with a Hussite past", according to one of the brochures from the tourist office) last Friday (the 10th) for no real reason except that I hadn’t been there before.

This historic center, centered on Žižkova náměstí, isn’t very big. The tourist office offers a free audio-guided tour which takes about two hours. It starts at the Town Hall:

The Hussite Museum also serves as entrance to (part of) the system of medieval tunnels that runs under the historic center. Kind of dank and gloomy.

Houses facing the square have been well restored:

These frescoes are (understandably) a little faded:

Such a strong color is unusual:

A statue of Jan Žižkov stands in the square:

There’s also a Renaissance fountain crowned by knight:

Going down Pražská, you can find this Renaissance house (the street is too narrow to get a really good shot):

And then you arrive at the Oscar Nedbal theater:

Jordan Reservoir is the oldest such artificial lake in Central Europe. These days, it’s popular for boating and swimming.

The city fortifications included paired walls, one inside the other. Now the space in between is used for parkland:

Another house I just happened to like:

The tour loops on back to Žižkova náměstí and the Church of the Transfiguration:

After the Battle of Bílá Hora, Tábor needed to be re-evangelized and the barefoot Augustinians* were invited in. The monastery, with the Church of the Birth of the Virgin Mary:

St. Augustine is to the left of the church door:

His mother, St. Monica, is to the right:

*I’m not sure whether or not the "barefoot Augustinians" are distinct from the Augustinians we have at sv. Tomáš.

Kotnov Tower exists only in part now, but is home to an interesting exhibit on "Life and work in medieval society". Below the tower is a park, which was converted from a cemetery.

There’s a WWI memorial in the park, too:

According to the guide, there’s a Shoah memorial in the park, but I couldn’t find it.

I had lunch at U dvou koček (At the Two Cats’), just because I liked their shield:

Wandering away from the center, I visited the Baroque church and monastery in Klokoty – a renowned pilgrimage spot.

There’s an extensive cemetery attached:

Returning to the train station, I passed this fountain, which I happened to like:

And, I’m not sure what this building is, but again, I just happened to like it:

Tábor is home to a botanical garden, but I can’t say I was much impressed:

And

There’s a little park near the train station. I don’t know who this is: I tried asking some of the kids in the park, but they just shrugged.

Friday
July
3rd
2009
2:25 am

Second Visit to Prague Zoo

I visited the Prague Zoo last year, but it was too big to cover the entire thing in one visit, so yesterday I went back.

It really is a lovely zoo, and they give the animals plenty of space. The birds:

The hippos:

The bison:

The monkeys:

The penguins:

It’s not a very Anglo-phone friendly zoo, though (not that it has to be, of course), and so I don’t know what these animals are:

It is, on the other hand, dog-friendly:

It’ll cost you 20Kc to bring your dog in, though:

The zoo is decorated with statuary, mostly animals, but there was also this Aztec-y looking guy:

The zoo is big enough that they have a chair lift (which doesn’t operate in high winds) to help people get from one level to another.

It wasn’t in operation when I was there last year, so I rode it this time, alas remembering too late that I’m afraid of heights. Not fun.

Monday
June
22nd
2009
9:15 am

Prague Museum Night

Saturday was Prague Museum Night, an annual event when participating museums, galleries, etc. offer free admission from 7 PM to 1 AM; there is also free transportation provided. Besides their usual exhibits, many museums take advantage of the opportunity to open new shows or offer special accompanying events. Not surprisingly, a lot of people turn out with their families to enjoy the free offerings.

According to the program, 28 cultural institutions and 55 sites were taking part this year, and there were 9 bus lines starting from Náměstí Jana Palacha making great loops to different parts of the city to connect the locations. It made for an interesting variation to the "Traveling Salesman Problem"! I was able to make it to only four museums (mainly because of the crowds).

Sunday
June
14th
2009
11:06 am

sv Tomas and The Augustine

My parish here is sv Tomáš.

(The church is tucked into an alley, which makes it difficult to get a good shot.) It was established in the 13th century and there is an Augustinian monastery attached to it. The summer refectory and cloister gardens are used for such gatherings as hospitality after Mass and the annual parish festival:


Father William claims that the cloister garden figures in the carol "Good King Wenceslaus": this is where the poor man was gathering his winter fuel.

The monastery, though, was built for dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of monks, but is now home to only six. This is a common story in Prague: there are dozens of churches and monasteries for which there is little or no need in this era. Rather than demolish them, however, they tend to be repurposed. And so some, such as sv. Mikuláš (both the Jesuit-built one in Malá Strana and the Hussite one near Staroměstské náměstí), are used primarily for concerts, and others, such as Klášter sv. Anežky České (the Convent of St. Agnes of Bohemia) or Klášter sv. Jiŕí (St. George Convent) have become museums.

Part of the monastery at sv. Tomáš, though, has now become a hotel. The Augustine is Prague’s newest 5-star hotel. The hotel also bought the recipe to sv. Tomáš’s beer (the monks stopped brewing it in 1952, although some guidebooks still contain references to it), and they’re serving it in their bars and restaurants.

I visited on Saturday, after Mass (about 7 PM). This is not a good time to be opening a 5-star hotel, and the place was largely deserted. When I visited The Brewery, located appropriately enough in the former monastery brewery, there was only one occupied table, and they left shortly after I arrived. I enjoyed a pleasant chat with the bartender, who was understandably lonely, poor girl.

I had a glass of the sv. Tomáš beer, which was tasty: dark, but not bitter. At 55 Kc (approximately $3) for 0.3 liter, though, I don’t see it catching on.

I also wandered upstairs to check out Tom’s Bar which adjoins the restaurant. It’s a beautiful space, but again only one table was occupied. It looked as though there was only one occupied table in the restaurant as well. I don’t know if live music is a nightly feature or only on weekends:

I wonder what Václav II, who established the church and monastery, would think of this.

Friday
June
12th
2009
10:30 am

Lidice

Today, I visited Lidice, the village destroyed by the Nazis in retaliation for the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich.

The History in Brief

Reinhard Heydrich died on June 4, 1942 as the result of May 27 attack by Czechoslovak parachuters sent by the government in exile. Hitler ordered reprisals, commanding that, in any village involved in Heydrich’s death, the SS should:

  1. Execute all adult men;
  2. Transport all women to a concentration camp;
  3. Gather the children suitable for Germanization, then place them in SS families in the Reich and bring the rest of the children up in other ways; and
  4. Burn down the village and level it entirely

The choice of Lidice as the victim was somewhat arbitrary: reportedly there was a letter written that suggested some connection between Heydrich’s assassination and the Horák family in Lidice, who had a son serving in the Czechoslovak army in Britain. At any rate, on June 10, the SS descended upon Lidice and carried out the Führer’s orders. 173 Lidice men and boys over the age of 15 were shot in the garden of the Horák farm. The next day, another nineteen men who had been working in a mine, along with seven women, were sent to Prague, where they were also shot. The women were sent to Ravensbruck. The children, except for those selected for re-education in German families and babies under one year of age, were gassed at Chełmno in Poland; 82 died in Chełmno.

The village was burned to ground and the remains dynamited. Even the cemetery was dug up and the remains destroyed.

143 Lidice women (of 184) returned home after the war ended, and a new village was built nearby. By the end of a two-year search, 17 children (of 105) had been restored to their mothers.

The Memorial

If you can ignore the history, the memorial site is quite lovely. The main complex (gloriette, museum, education center, and in memoriam building) is a little bit south of the original village. The gloriette:

The museum has a multi-media exhibition that starts off with a brief film giving a history of Lidice and in particular the events of June 10, 1942. There are pictures and a few remaining artifacts of the village. Just before leaving the exhibition, there’s a film showing interviews with some of the survivors; this film is simply heart-breaking.

From the memorial site, looking north at the former site of the village:

The men’s grave:

The memorial specific to the men’s grave:

"The Woman with a Rose", at the site of the men’s grave:

The remains of the Horák farm, where the men were shot:

The Child Victims of War monument:

People have left stuffed animals and others toys at the monument:

The church was not spared; the museum exhibition has the door, but the rest was destroyed:

"The Grieving Woman" is next to the site of the church:

The school was just in back of the church and its site is marked by the "Mother and Child":

The former cemetery is at the northernmost edge of the former village:

Looking back towards the memorial from the cemetery:

There’s an extensive, quite lovely, and beautifully fragrant rose garden that runs from the memorial site to the site of the new village:

The collection at the Lidice Gallery is the result of efforts by an English doctor, Sir Barnett Stross, who appealed to artists around the world to donate exhibits. The Gallery is also home to the International Children’s Exhibition of Fine Art. The statue in front is described as "(recording) a male nude who is killing three vipers with a gunstock. It epitomizes (maybe German, Italian, Spanish or Japanese) fascism.

The new village is all perfectly ordinary.

I have to wonder, though, about the people who live here: it must be terribly creepy. I remember that, when I visited Terezín, the tour guide mentioned that property prices are very low there, since so few people wish to live in a town with such associations. Is that true here, too?

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