Monday, June 11, 2007

Beauty in the details


Froggie door-handle. I just love the way this one came out with the reflected cupola.



After a long sleep last night I felt a bit better equipped to face whatever today's weather might bring. Even Bondi was quite perky this morning, even more so when he found that our first port of call was the Globe cafe and bookstore, where I got a smashing breakfast with buckets of fine coffee and genuinely smiling service. The waterbowl was out for Bondi even before my bum had hit the seat and we both felt very spoilt. The bookstore was compact but had a terrific selection (all English language). It was hardly surprising that I chose to bookend the day downtown 6 hours later, with a return trip.

As I turned the corner away from the Globe, I passed Vltavin, a small fine art gallery. Some of the pictures that caught my eye, a pair showing a small boy with different large animals, looked rather familiar. I couldn't place them exactly, but they might have been from a Little Golden Book I'd had as a child. These pictures were by Jiri Trnka, better known for his award-winning puppetry and animated films. His work as an illustrator was fascinating varied. In one Prague antikvariat I found two editions of a book of fairy-stories, published one year apart (same author, stories and publisher) but with two very different artistic renderings of essentially the same material. I can't find any good online examples of Trnka, but another LGB illustrator, the Swede Gustaf Tenggren demonstrates the remarkable facility* many of these artists displayed.

*His rendering of The Canterbury Tales was a favourite library borrowing of mine when i was about 8. I found my own copy in a Tacoma bookstore 30yrs later.



Museum of Torture; Heat struck Czechs
Every other European city seems to have some Museum of Torture, a Museum of Erotic This-or-That-Thank-you-Bishop and a Museum of Dental Hygiene. I have not figured out where the latter lies on the torture-eros spectrum for these people, but I suspect that in Berlin the whole spectrum is pretty narrow anyway....



We finally crossed the Vltava and made our way up to the Castle precinct. I had a last look around for some Lukas recordings, having found an online supplier with some new disks of his viola repertoire. No luck there, and I settled for a CD of Vitezslav Novák's piano music.



I bet hardly anyone notices the creativity that when into these bollards, arranged like a row of generals. There's a variety of head designs if you look carefully.


Castle precinct views


Entrance to the Castle flanked with the famous statues of "Two Men Beating Another Two Men to a Pulp".

I felt very sorry for the castle guards today, standing for hours in the full force of the midday sun, with layers and layers of clothing on. All for decoration. Within the castle grounds we met a number of Aussies - one Melbourne couple shyly asked if we had been in Berlin last weekend!


And so it comes to this, reduced to photo opportunities with a castle guard dog; Close up of pulper and pulpee.



What is clipped in the above Museum of Communism poster is the text "Above McDonald's". They're also next door to the casino. The tide of history ebbs and flows, or today you can have it super-ebbing and super-flowing, with fries.


Back across the Charles Bridge. All unshaded 500m or so of it





After our second visit to the Globe, I decided to pay a call on Dvorak, Smetana et al, at the cemetery in the grounds of Vysehrad. It's not a huge area, so unlike Paris' Pere Lachaise, you can just wander around and find everybody of note. In fact, Dvorak's rather flashy marker was found within seconds of us entering through our chosen gate.



In all I found Dvorak, Smetana, Fibich (composers); Ancerl, Kubelik (conductors); Neruda, Capek, Heyduk (writers) . If you visit Prague the surrounding parks are well worth a visit, and the views over the steep walls are excellent.


Tomorrow we have a long drive to Luxembourg, which replaces Brussels as the next to last stop on this expedition. The Brussels B&B association says that dogs are not accepted by any of its members. So bye-bye Brussels.

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