Monday, May 21, 2018

Elegant Elbe: Prague 2a (5/21/2018)

Monday, May 21, 2018
When we picked up our Prague Cards, we were told that the Jewish Museum would be closed until Tuesday because of a holiday. What holiday? The Prague Jews celebrate Shavuot, celebrating the season of the wheat harvest, and also the giving of the Torah to the Israelites. The holiday did not show up in a Google search before our trip, so we were surprised and had to revise the itinerary, changing the planned day for the Jewish Quarter.
So today we planned to meet Peter & Beth at Malostranská in order to tour Prague's Castle Hill.
First Kent and I wandered around part of Wenceslas Square/Václavské náměstí.
Right next to our Hotel Meran is the Grand Hotel Europa
(1903-1906 by Alois Dryák and Bedřich Bendelmayer);
its Art Nouveau façade is crowned with gilded nymphs;
the hotel is awaiting renovation
Barely visible through the treetops is the balcony of the Melantrich
building (1913-1914), from which speakers addressed the
demonstrators who gathered in November 1989, standing silent but
jangling their keys in support of the dissident Václav Havel,
who was later to announce the resignation of the Politburo
and the end of Communism in Czechoslovakia
Václav Havel with Alexander Dubček, leader of the 1968
reform movement, on the Melantrich balcony on 11/24/1989
(photo from expats.cz)
Wiehl House/Wiehlův Dům (1896, by architect
Antonin Wiehl in Neo-Renaissance style) with
colorful sgraffito on designs by Mikuláš Aleš 
Lucerna Palace/Palác Lucerna at Štěpánská #61
(1920, designed by the grandfather of
Václav Havel, Vácslav, in Art Nouveau style)
In the Lucerna Palace marble atrium is the
sculpture Kun (1999, by David Černý), an amusing
counterpart to the statue of Wenceslas on the square
David Černý is an innovative, yet controversial artist, whose prince on a dead horse may refer to Václav Klaus, president of the Czech Republic from 2003-2013. To briefly describe Klaus, he was a fellow of the Cato Institute and is a climate-change denier.
Novák Arcade/U Nováků (1927-1929, by
Osvald Polívka) at Vodičkova #30
with one of Prague's finest Art Nouveau façades
Světozor Mall/Pasáž Světozor
at Vodičkova #39 with the Art Deco stained glass
for defunct Czech radio manufacturer Tesla
Back to Wenceslas Square/Václavské náměstí.
Assicurazioni Generali Building (1896) where Franz Kafka
worked as an insurance clerk for 10 months in 1906-1907
Peter & Beth alerted us that they were ready to meet. Their luggage arrived this morning, and while they were savvy enough to pack a change of clothing in their carry-ons, it was surely a relief to see the suitcases!
Our Metro trip to Malostranská was quick.
Winged Lion Memorial/Památník Okřídleného lva
(2014 by British sculptor Colin Spofforth) commemorates the
"2,500 Czechoslovak airmen who served with the Royal Air
Force between 1940 and 1945 for the freedom of Europe"
Malostranská was an extremely busy transit hub, with trams
following each other in and out of the square
Finally we found Peter & Beth at the bottom of the Old Castle Stairs/Staré zámecké schody. Aack! It was too late to learn they do not like stairs! Fortunately the 121 steps dating back to the 17C were shallow and we took it slow in the heat.
Sculpture (2009, by Stanislav Hanzik) of
Karel Hašler, a Czech actor, musician and songwriter
View from the top of the Old Castle Stairs, with the Great Fürstenberk Garden/Fürstenberská zahrada
directly below and Lesser Town/Malá Strana to the right of the River Vltava
At the far right is a military guard, as we had to go through a
security checkpoint at the Black Tower/Černá věž (1135,
under scaffolding); the Castle District/Hradčany
is also home to the President of the Czech Republic
Next: Prague 2b.

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