Bill CarlsonComment

Czech Republic with a Heads Up in Prague

Bill CarlsonComment
Czech Republic with a Heads Up in Prague
View of Cesky Krumlov in the Spring from its Castle

View of Cesky Krumlov in the Spring from its Castle

The drive from Vienna to Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic takes us along sleepy country roads, as we climb out of the Austrian valley in which Vienna is located and into the hills. As we gaze at the grassy meadows and forest ahead, we see more gradations of green than we can count. Fortunately, there is little oncoming traffic since the road is barely wide enough to accommodate our rental car. When another car does approach, we must hit the brakes hard to slow down to a crawl in order to pass. 

 

We found a wonderful vegetarian restaurant along the river bank.

We found a wonderful vegetarian restaurant along the river bank.

As we approach the medieval town of Cesky Krumlov, we have a 360' view of long, rectangular fields of bright yellow rapeseed (used to make canola oil) in full bloom with green forest beyond the farms stretching to the horizon, all beneath a big sky of deep blue with black thunder clouds. Alas, we miss the photo op as we speed along in our little Opal. The smell of the rapeseed is pleasant enough at first, reminding us again that this is spring time. But when we pass by field after field of it on either side of us, the sweet floral smell morphs quickly into a sickeningly sweet cloying smell that Bill contends smells like feet. 

The scenic town is also picture-perfect. Before dusk, the town is filled with day trippers armed with selfie sticks, posing endlessly and ridiculously with self-conscious pouty faces, their fingers flashing the peace sign. What happened to "Be Here Now"? Looking at the final image captured by one such selfie, we see a tiny head at the bottom of the frame backed by nothing but white ceiling.

But after 6 PM, we have the place to ourselves, and that is magical. Restaurants serving hearty Czech cuisine, such as roast duck with caraway seed and red cabbage and rabbit in a bacon cream sauce with dumplings, are inexpensive and well prepared. We wander the narrow cobbled streets of this now quiet ancient town happy and sated.

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On to Prague which is so perfectly preserved that you often feel as if you are wandering around on a period movie shoot conceived by a brilliant set designer. Both the interiors and exteriors of buildings in this city are magnificent. It doesn't surprise us at all that Prague is a favorite location for film and television directors. Since it was one of Hitler's favorite cities, he made sure not to put any military installations in or near the city, thereby insuring that the Allies wouldn't target it. Thus, it was spared our bombs and, except for a few minor blasts by several pilots who momentarily mistook it for their intended target of Dresden, it was left unscathed by the war. With so many centuries of different architectural styles represented, filmmakers find locations here to fit almost any time period. 

Magnificent view of Prague from the balcony at Lobkowicz Palace. 

Magnificent view of Prague from the balcony at Lobkowicz Palace. 

A very popular destination, especially for Europeans, Prague's Old Town Square with its iconic astronomical clock, the Charles Bridge, etc., all attract huge crowds sometimes frustrating our appreciation of the city's charms. When worming ones way through town, it is easy to forget to look up. But this is important to remember because there is much to see above eye level and you will miss a lot of the character and whimsy of this glorious city if you forget to look up. Today, artists continue to create here, adding their own take on the urban experience. While bands of 20-somethings, all dressed similarly in shorts and sloppy t-shirts, are roaming the streets with open containers of beer and wine, the works of centuries of artists look down on them in a city that has seen everything.

 

When in Prague, Look Up! 

When in Prague, Look Up! 

Sometimes referred to as the "Fred and Ginger" building (Astaire & Rodgers), Frank Gehry was one of its architects. 

Sometimes referred to as the "Fred and Ginger" building (Astaire & Rodgers), Frank Gehry was one of its architects. 

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Look up! 

Look up! 

Hang in there. 

Hang in there. 

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The past need to promote telecommunications meets with the present need to serve Chinese food. 

The past need to promote telecommunications meets with the present need to serve Chinese food. 

A walk along the river takes us past countless art neuvo buildings. 

A walk along the river takes us past countless art neuvo buildings. 

The head of Kafka. It turns around, fragments, and reassembles itself. No need to look up for this one: it's already in your face. 

The head of Kafka. It turns around, fragments, and reassembles itself. No need to look up for this one: it's already in your face. 

Beautiful interiors too. 

Beautiful interiors too. 

Prague is of special interest to typographers.    

Prague is of special interest to typographers. 

 

Art neuvo bar.
Art neuvo bar.
Tile work in the basement of the Municipal House.

Tile work in the basement of the Municipal House.

Graveyard in Jewish Quarter. 

Graveyard in Jewish Quarter. 

Another tribute to Kafka. 

Another tribute to Kafka. 

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Astronomical clock. 

Astronomical clock. 

Old Town Square. There always seems to be lots of music and street performers here entertaining the crowds. 

Old Town Square. There always seems to be lots of music and street performers here entertaining the crowds. 

Old Town Square at night. 

Old Town Square at night.