2.23.2007

Fun Fact 004: Prague Special

When I was in 6th grade, I did a report on Czechoslovakia. Sometime in between 6th grade and today, one country became two. That's about all I knew when I got off the plane in Prague last Friday. Here's what I learned:

Franz Kafka: Who knew Kafka came from Prague?!? Not I. Sir Kafka was born and lived in Prague most of his life; though he tried to leave a couple times, he always returned. He grew up a Czech Jew, but did not live in the Jewish quarter. Many of his themes of abandonment and paranoia come directly from the winding streets of Praha. The Kafka museum in Prague isn't worth it, though it is housed in the building where Franz was born.


Alfons Mucha: The Mucha museum, on the other hand, is TOTALLY worth it. I was lukewarm and Susanne said "you know this artist, you just don't know that you do until you see him." And she was right. His art is so different than, well, everything. He spent the first half of his career creating posters, especially in Paris. Legend has it that Mucha was working in a printing shop on Christmas Eve and the famous French actress Sarah Bernhardt called, needing a poster for her theater opening ASAP. Mucha's boss threw him the assignment because he was the only one there, and he became a celebrity overnight. Bernhardt signed him for a 6-year contract and therefore every time she was playing in a show, there was a whole additional marketing element, as everyone wanted to see what Mucha would come up with next. The second half of career was dedicated to helping his country; he designed money, medals, posters, you name it. He's credited with starting the Art Nouveau movement. I bought a gorgeous poster to hang in the salon.


Wenceslas Square: This was the first place I saw in Prague; I popped out of the Metro and saw the enormous square (it's actually more like a rectangle) and immediately started humming the Christmas song. Admit it- you know the song, but not the lyrics. Me neither. Anyway, Wenceslas is the Patron Saint of the Czech Republic, and the square has seen no fewer than 5 revolutions.

The Charles Bridge: Probably the most popular place to ask someone's hand in marriage, it's that mood-setting. The bridge features a whole bunch of statues who look down on you as you walk across the Vtalva river. One of the statues marks the spot where King Wenceslas IV threw a priest off the bridge for refusing to divulge the Queen's confessions!



1968: After WWII, the Czech Republic region kind of became Europe's bitch. Everybody and their mom wandered into this country and occupied it- including Hitler and communism- and in 1968, Russian troops occupied the communist country (at the time Czechoslovakia). Susanne and I watched a hilarious and charming Czech film, Pelisky, which you should absolutely check out. It's like the Wonder Years meets Amelie meets communism.

The Velvet Revolution: So as the Berlin wall is falling in 1989, the Czech people have been having demonstration after demonstration, protesting the communist government. In a non-violent revolution (called the Velvet revolution because of its peacefulness), the Czech people succeeded in overthrowing the government. Communist governments were falling like dominoes and democratic elections were first held in 1990.

The Museum of Communism: I'm an American. So, communism is bad. In fact, until about 3 years ago, I didn't know anyone was allowed to go to Cuba.

French friend: Man, I'd love to go to Cuba for vacation.
Me: What! Cuba?? What could they have to offer? Missiles?
FF: Um, only gorgeous beaches and stunning views.

I felt like one of those horses with a blinder strapped to my head. Cuba- who knew?
Anyway, back to the subject. While Americans were learning that communists wore red and were going to TAKE OVER THE PLANET!, communists were learning that Americans were, well, attempting to do the same thing. Minus the red. Here is a poster from the museum that says "No American agent shall get through our village!" Hysterical.


If you're planning a trip to Prague, I'd love to recommend a cozy and charming Tea Room in the center of town... drop an email and I'll hook you up with directions.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I lived for 5 weeks off Wencelas square - "Dobre den" (spelling?) for bringing back the memories.