Monday, March 31, 2008

Final Day in Prague

This is the main entrance ti the Prague Castle

Note the huge statue on the left with a man about to put a sword into a man while his big buddy on the right bludgeons another man to death. What better tone to set for visiting dignitaries back in the day!

St. Vitus Cathedral as seen from the Jewish Quarter across the Vltava River

I love a Cathedral that has an impending pig BBQ permanently displayed on it's gates!

Near the entry to the Prague Castle with the Strahov Monastery in the distance

The Municipal House is considered the pearl of Czech Art Nouveau

It is Prague's largest concert hall.

The giant metronome at the top of the hill used to be the spot where a 100 foot tall statue of Stalin once stood.

One of my best friends, Koreen FitzGerald, loves sun faces

Nerudova is the street the Czech kings would use to walk from the Cathedral to the Old Town Square after being crowned.

That is the Czech Republic's Parliament House in yellow on the left at the bottom of the hill.

A fisherman hard at work near the Charles Bridge.

On the Charles Bridge is the statue of St. John of Nepomuk

St. John was a 14th Century priest to whom the queen confessed all of her sins. The king wanted to know her secrets but St. John honored the seal of the confessional by refusing to tell the king anything. St. John was tortured and evetually killed by being tossed off the Charles Bridge. Touching the base of St. John's statue the well worn shiny part, will make a wish come true.

I wonder if her plane will get her back here in time for the Bergamo game?

Obviously some of the Czech movers and shakers are Husky fans!

Bob's Czech Cousin

As you may recall from an earlier vlog, Bob from Syracuse, who works as a doorman in Catania is the Elephants very silent owner. I met his cousin, Emil, today. Also a doorman at a food establishment here in Prague and also very quiet!

St. George slaying the dragon

St. George slaying the dragon yet again!

I never get tired of the paintings or the statues of this story but the Italian version is still better.

Prague's entry into the Ad-of-the-Day Contest

Maybe using the Czech language accent symbols would change the meaning of all this?

Prague's Famous Atomic Clock

I hope this refers to the clock's accuracy and not to some left over nuclear device from Prague's Iron Curtain days stored inside this tower in the Old Town Square where you find the clock.

RANDOM THOUGHT: At the Milan game last Saturday, Pepe Strano, our TE and Elephant administrator, had to collect the foreign players’ and coach’s passports as well as the Italian player’s “documents”. He had to place all of these into the individual plastic sleeves of a three ring binder.

The binder had to then be given to the referees before the game to check versus our roster. We would get the binder back after the game was over.

The Italian’s “documents” are their form of local ID similar to how we use our plastic driver’s license in the U.S.A. Italians still need an additional passport to travel into other countries. The “documents” look like a thin and somewhat smaller passport.

They make me think of the World War II movies where the escaped POW or the local Resistance fighter gets pulled over on the street by the Gestapo and is asked “Your papers, please”. Now I’ve seen some of our player’s papers. Very cool!

FINAL THOUGHT ON PRAGUE: If I had it to do all over again, in 1965, I would rather have met and fallen in love with Laurie here in Prague than in La Crescenta, California. Either way, I guess we might make a go of it.

The Magical City of Prague

: Let me start out by saying this is going to be a long post with a lot of pictures, so you may want to go to the restroom first or get some popcorn. I can't help it, Prague is just a breathtaking city.

My friend David Lassen reminded me that Prague was NOT bombed during World War II thus helping it to preserve the city as it is today. Let's hear it for both the Allies and the Axis Powers on this small oversight!

Besides the city's physical beauty, there is very good shopping for chic clothing, crystal, ceramics and beer. Every great city has a river running through it and Prague has it's Vltava River to fit the bill. You got river boats, the European red trolley cars you see in the movies, extremely polite, pleasant people and, of course the architecture.

I repeat, if you come to Europe anytime soon, go to Prague first!

This is the Czech Republic's Parliament Building near my hotel.

Wenceslas Square

O.K., it's more of a boulevard than a square but this area pictured has tremendous significance to the freedom loving Czech people. The creation of the state of Czechslovak was celebrated here in 1918, the Soviets put down demonstrations here in 1968 and in 1989, 300,000 Czechs rallied here to claim their freedom and bring the Communist government to it's knees.

Good shopping and ice cream too!

Parts of Prague are very serene like this water mill near the Charles Bridge.

Inside the Spanish Synagogue

Prague has a very interesting Jewish Quarter neighborhood named Josefov after Emperor Joseph II who in the 1780's eased much of the discrimination against the Jews.

The Quarter now houses a six part Jewish Museum complex that includes the Old Jewish Cemetery, the Ceremonial Hall and four Synagogues...Pinkas, Klaus, Maisel and Spanish.

Much of the articles on display are related to the Nazi's and the Holocaust but exhibits also include Torahs and various articles of Jewish life in Prague over the centuries.
It was very impressive to say the least!

The Old Jewish Cemetery

The reason that all these 12,ooo+ headstones are all over the place is that it was the only place Jews could be buried in Prague between 1439 and 1787. Because Jews believe that the body should not be disturbed after burial, lack of space and sheer numbers, tombs were piled one on top of another. As the newly built plateau settled the tombstones got crooked.

"Wenceslas Riding an Upside-Down Horse"

You'll find this in the Lucerna Gallery, a Prague shopping center. It was created in 1999 by controversial Czech artist David Cerny. He stirred up a lot of trouble with his anti-Communist stance and just doesn't like authority in general to this day from what I've read.

Since I am traveling alone in one of a most romantic city what could be better than posing with a statue that honors Prague's own Franz Kafka.

How about a delicious lunch of chicken schnitzel, chips and apple strudl (correct Czech language spelling) topped off with a little Pilsner Urquell beer at the Cafe Franz Kafka Delicatesse

Would my solitary meal qualify as Kafkaesque?

This may be the ONLY beer they sell in Prague, it is so good you really don't need another brand

Did you know that Czech people drink more beer per capita than any other nation on earth? Every Czech man, woman and child averages 80 gallons of beer per year! I've got some serious catching up to do!

The Czech Language

First, I love that they use accent marks, little v's, circles and sometimes the two dot umlaut (not on this sign) to help you completely NOT understand how to pronounce a word.

Then there are the multiple consonant combinations screaming to buy a vowel.

I like the sound of the language. It is not as beautiful as Italian or as harsh as German but it has a cadence that appeals to me.

Co Ad-of-the Day

What could he be wanted for? He looks perfectly harmless to me.

Co Ad-of-the-Day

I do not know.

These red trolley cars, to me, mean Europe almost as much as the unique sound of European ambulance horns.

Charles Bridge statue with the Prague Castle in the background.

The Old Town Square

This building is part of the National Gallery housing temporary art exhibits.

The Jan Hus Memorial on the Old Town Square

Hus was a Czech reform leader who was martyred by fire in 1415 A.D. He is a big symbol of freedom for the Czech people.

The Tyn Church of the Hussite movement on the Old Town Square

This is the church that I tought looked like Snow White's Castle at night in yesteday's post.

The Powder Tower

The Old Town was once the hub of the walled city of Prague. The Powder Tower was one of the original gates leading into the old city.

The inside of St. Vitus Cathedral inside the walls of the Prague Castle

Where else but the St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague could you find a stained glass window with images of both St. Wenceslaus AND St. Wolfgang?

Who let St. Joanna in on this?

This room houses the tomb of St. Wenceslas at St. Vitus Cathedral

Why did I feel like dancing inside this church? The Czech kings were crowned in this room.

How much would it cost to build just this room in St. Vitus Cathedral today?

Another doorway into the Tomb of St. Wenceslas

Who doesn't love a great flying buttress?
The back side of the St. Vitus Cathedral

Pane Angelicus

This was at the Baroque music concert in Prague's St. Francis of Assisi church last night. The song is Cesar Franck's "Pane Angelicus", a personal favorite.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Vlog Time

I've had a little trouble uploading these vlogs in a timely fashion, sorry.

The Italian version of the post game "2-4-6-8" cheer.

The Heralds luring me to the Concert in Prague's St. Francis of Assisi Church.

Prague Evening

Prague is quickly becoming my favorite city after only 8 hours! It is as if Disney's Fantasyland meets a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. People are out and about and I find it a very romantic city when the sun goes down. I just took a short jaunt around the historical Old City Center to get my bearings and was stunned by the physical beauty of Prague.

The famous Charles Bridge in he background spanning the Vltava River

On the Charles Bridge

They say that one must go to a concert while in Prague so I opted for this one.

It was a 15 song set of classical church music combining the fabulous interior of St. Francis of Assisi Church, a soprano, a tenor and an ancient church organ. My two favorite pieces they played were Cesar Franck's "Pane Angelicus" and, of course, Franz Schubert's "Ave Maria"

After a concert what could be better than a sausage and a couple of Pilsner Urquell beers to relax.
No pictures inside please!

Don't forget, amongst all the beauty of the Old City, that this was an Iron Curtain country from 1948 to 1989.

As you drive in from the airport you see many grim reminders of the Communist era. Very stark, box like housing projects that are a sign of a 41 year period where being a creative architect would not have been a good idea.

Snow White's Castle?

Prague Castle at Night

Good to see that Blue's financially set off the field!

Milan Morning

Because of my need to be at the airport by 12:30 p.m. for my flight to Prague, I had very little time to see the sights of Milan Sunday morning. I limited myself to 7:00 a.m. Mass at Milan's Duomo and a stroll through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a shopping area next to the Duomo.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Very high end fashion houses have shops here.
I saw a GREAT Prada purse for Laurie in their window but unfortunately they were closed!

The famous Belle Epoque glass ceiling of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

The Milan Duomo is the fourth biggest church in Europe.
It can seat 10,000 worshippers!

The Duomo is rather ornate outside

The inside of the Duomo is also very humbling.
It was very serene to be here with only 30 other people for Mass.