Weird Art Day

8 August 2014

Our first stop on our tour de weird art was to head down to Wallenstein Garden. In addition to being a great place to go for a peaceful stroll, Wallenstein Garden is home to the Czech Senate and to top it all off has an interesting wall/sculpture.

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The wall essentially looks like there were a bunch of statues that melted candle like to form a weird conglomeration of drips, disfigured faces, weird animals and other hidden things. Or at least that’s what it looked like on our last trip here, but it now appears that they’ve removed all the faces and animals and all that’s left is just the stalagmite imitating drips.

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It was a fairly short tram ride south of the Senate with a decent stair climb to arrive at The Futura gallery to start our mini tour of David Cerny pieces. We almost walked right passed the building and just happened to notice the gallery name on the buzzer. The banner above was small and really non-descript. There was someone going into the building at the same time and noticed or slightly puzzled look as we double checked the address, so he gave a kind ‘gallery’ with a hand gesture thru the door to confirm that we weren’t lost. After wandering through a few other installations at the museum we made our way to easily one of the best pieces of modern artwork ever created. Don’t believe me?

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Yep, doesn’t get much better than that. I’m not quite sure how to describe the scene once you stick your head where the sun doesn’t shine, but essentially you had Queen’s “We are the Champions” playing to a video of an old man spoon feeding another old man yogurt. Again, you can’t make these things up.

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Not sure if it was coincidence or not, but we now had an appetite, so we stopped for lunch not too far the Charles Bridge at Clear Head for a vegetarian meal. From there we wandered up the street to the Leica Gallery for the Felix Lupa Street Photography exhibition. His work is fantastic the composition and the images were amazing, I wanted to buy a few pieces but realized I could not afford them. The gallery was very nice, I would expect nothing less from Leica, and even included a coffee/wine bar but we had more art to see so we didn’t take advantage of the café.

From here we hoped on the metro and rode over to the Zizkov TV Tower, which is very ugly in this city’s lovely sky line (gotta love communist architechture). But the city is fully aware of how ugly the tower is so they decided to have some fun with it and installed a bunch of David Cerny’s crawling babies on the outside so we had to go check it out up close.

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There was a park below the tower with a mini-golf course, we were tempted to play, but I forgot my allerga this morning and wasn’t able to hang out in the park for very long.

For dinner we made our way to Budvarka for a ‘light’ dinner at this traditional style Czech beer hall. We stuck with three appetizers and with a few beers we were plenty full. We did have to laugh when we asked if the dishes were small and we were told yes, I guess it all relative, this is a beer hall so I guess small portions here are large everywhere else.

After somehow finishing our 3 appetizers we hopped back on the tram heading down the hill, and hopped off in front of the large staircase and climbed up to Letna Park for some night photos.  It was a good thing we hand plenty of energy not to mention very full bellies as the staircase up would put a Stairmaster to shame. The park does however provide a great view of the city and its many bridges which are lit up beautifully during the night.

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We continued wandering thru the park and along some side streets until we arrived at Castle Hill. With an almost full moon and St. Vitus beautifully lit up we were once again reminded why we love this city so much.

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Castle Hill at night is a much different experience then during the day. Instead of being surrounded by hundreds of tourists it feels as if you almost have the place to yourselves as there are only a handful of other people wandering the sight after dark. Throw in the stunning lighting of the cathedral and the other buildings and the overall experience is much more enjoyable then visiting during the day.

Today’s Travel: Around Prague: Wallenstein Garden, The Futura gallery, near the Charles Bridge, Zizkov TV Tower, Letna Park, and Castle Hill

Accommodations: Penzion Chaloupka

Tour Groups: We are those people now

5 August 2014

After gorging ourselves with a feast of meat last night we figured a vegetarian option for lunch would be a good idea so we made our way to Maitrea which was one of our more enjoyable meals during our last visit to Prague. Once nice and full from lunch we made our way to the Old Town Square to join in on a free walking tour of Prague.

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We’d heard good reviews from a few other travelers that we’d met so we embraced the tour group atmosphere and joined in. Within the first few minutes it became apparent that it wouldn’t be a standard tour of boring facts as the tour started off with the guide stating that the hourly performance of the Astronomical clock was basically complete shit (seriously though it is, a few things twirl for about 20 seconds at that’s all that happens). From that starting point, we wandered our way through the old town stopping at some of the sights so our guide could give us some background. Here are some of the more in fun facts that we remembered.

  • Astronomical clock – the clock not only tells the time and date, but also the zodiac sign, current position of the sun and moon, what stage the moon is in, as well as many other things. Legend has it that the clock maker was blinded and had his hands cut off by the city to prevent him from making another clock as impressive as what he made. Because of this he killed himself by jumping into the gears of the clock and because the clock was so far advanced for its time they were not able to repair it for over 150 years.
  • Church of Our Lady Before Tyn – the two towers were accidently made different widths and because at the time it was made the Catholic church was infallible they came up with the explination that it was designed to be an Adam and Eve tower with one bigger than the other.
  • Most Czechs are atheist and/or don’t care
  • Castle Hill Lights – After the fall of communism and the subsequent election of Vaclav Havel, the Stones performed at Castle Hill. Mick Jagger told the president that the castle complex should be lit up but since there was no money, Jagger donated the money and gave his lighting crew the task of setting up the lights
  • Old Jewish Quarter, Old New Synagogue & the Golem, the Spanish Synagogue – one of the most beautiful old Jewish quarters. But the history behind that is quite chilling. According to our guide, Hitler wanted to preserve this neighborhood as a sort of amusement park for future generations to learn about the race that “once existed.” Artifacts from other Synagogues throughout occupied Europe were stored here as well as part of his plan.

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  • The Rudolfinum – during WWII as the administrative offices of the occupying Nazis.

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  • Church of St. James – There is an arm hanging in the back of the church that is reputedly the arm of the aptly named One Armed Thief, a man who hid dressed as a priest and then waited inside the church and waited until the doors were locked. After he was safely locked in he proceeded to steal the jewels, gold and precious items in front of the church’s statue of the Virgin Mary until the statue grasped the thief’s hand. In the morning the man was found and to make an example of him, the priest cut off the man’s hand and hung it by the entrance to warn others not to steal from this church.

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  • Stavovské divadlo (Estates Theatre) – the only intact theatre where Mozart performed
  • The velvet divorce –in 1993 the Dissolution of Czechoslovakia into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, it earned this moniker since it was an amicable separation

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After walking around the old town for a few hours we figured we’d earned some coffee and cake so we made our way to another one of our favorite spots from our last trip to Prague, the Green Stove Café which is just underneath castle hill. The cakes here are insanely good, like seriously some of the best I’ve had and you get a coffee and cake for just over $3.

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Plus they have some amazing reading material

Plus they have some amazing reading material

Today’s Travel: Around Prague by tram and foot around: Astronomical Clock, Old Town Square, Church of Our Lady Before Tyn, a look towards the Charles’ Bridge, The Rudolfinum, Old Jewish Quarter, Old New Synagogue & the Golem, the Spanish Synagogue, Powder Tower, Church of St. James, Stavovské divadlo (Estates Theatre), Art Nouveau Municipal House, St. Nicolas Church (on our way to get coffee and cake)

Accommodations: Penzion Chaloupka

Wien or Vienna, you decide

3 August 2014

It really is such a weird feeling to be in a foreign city but feel so comfortable. Since it has been just over a year since our last trip to Wien and having a vague recollection of how to navigate a city and having a list of sights and food options to go back to made for an almost thoughtless experience while we were here.

We started our daily wandering by taking the tram to the center of town and walking through Volksgarten Park up through the Hofburg Palace.

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After snapping a bunch of photos and seeing the progress that was being made on the cleaning of some of the palace buildings we headed behind the Opera House to one of our favorite food stops from our last trip here. You can’t come to Wien without getting some wieners at one of the many stands that are throughout the city, but the smoked sausage at this stand is far and away one of the best you could get in Vienna. The sausage is served up with some spicy mustard and freshly grated horseradish along with a slice of dark bread and of course a beer (as long as you order properly). All these combine to make for a great lunch or dinner.

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One of the sights that we somehow never made it to during our last visit to Vienna was St. Stephan’s, so this this time we made plans for a real visit and ventured inside the church.

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At this point we had managed to walk around for about 5 hours so we made our way back to our hotel for a quick rest before heading out for some culture in the evening.

First up on our agenda was a stop at St. Peter’s for their free organ concert. I’m not quite sure what we were expecting, but it didn’t quite meet our expectations so after a few songs we made our way to the exit and onto our next bit of culture for the night.

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All throughout the summer in front of the parliament building at Rathaus park the city puts on a free film festival showing films of different operas or symphony performances to provide some culture to anyone who wants to attend. A semi-permanent structure of food and drink stalls and seats had been set up outside along with a large theater. This set up ends up attracting quite a large nightly crowd as the city kind of treats it as a place to meet up with friends, grab some food and drink and enjoy some conversation a little bit of a performance.

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As we walked thru the palace gardens not too far from the park we could see plenty of lighting out in the distance. Once again the not so trusty weather app predicated a 30% chance of thunderstorms, but no rain.

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And for once I thought it just might be kinda right. We grabbed some dinner at one of the food stalls and hoped for the best with the weather. But as the evening’s film began a few drops began to fall. We assumed it would be just a light storm and it would pass fairly quickly. Well we should have taken those few light drops as a sign to go. Instead we found a spot under an awning to continue watching the film but our attention quickly turned to the downpour, particularly when the wind picked up and we had to move into the middle of the now much crowed awning to get away from the wiping rain drops.

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After about a half hour downpour there was a break in the rain so we quickly made a dash from the awning to a local tram stop where we hopped back onto a tram towards our hotel.

Today’s Travel: Around central Vienna, from Volksgarten through the Hofburg Palace to Rathus Park

Accommodations: Pension Baroness