Fotoeins Fotopress

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Posts tagged ‘Prague’

Fotoeins Friday: Peace in our time

Na hrad! To the (Prague) castle!

I love Prague’s little streets, and I’ve always photographed her streets at night. On an evening walk through Prague’s Little Quarter, I came across this street lamp and a sign directing people to the Prague Castle (Pražský hrad).

I saw my “50-50″ light-dark composition, and I brought my camera to bear on the scene. Another moment went by, and I thought of the call “na hrad!

Thunovska and Zamecka, Mala Strana, Praha, Czech Republic

“Na hrad!” (To the castle!)

Towards the final days of Communism in November 1989, protestors from around the country gathered at Wenceslas Square in Prague, shouting “Havel, na hrad!” (Havel, to the castle). The events of the “Velvet Revolution” led to peaceful dissolution of one-party rule, and writer Vaclav Havel became leader of a “new world”, a post-communist and democratic Czechoslovakia nation.

2014 marks the 25th anniversary of The Velvet Revolution. 2018 will mark the 25th anniversary of The Velvet Divorce, a peaceful and amicable separation of Czechoslovakia into the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic.

I made the photo shown above, at the corner of Thunovská and Zámecká in Prague’s Malá Strana on 30 July 2013. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com.


5 more Prague posts on Fotoeins Fotopress

•   “Praha, miluju tě | I love you, Prague”
•   5 of the Best Spots to View Prague at Night
•   “Love story number 1″
•   The colours of fall in Praha
•   Alfons Mucha’s “The Slav Epic” Returns to Prague

Praha, miluju tě | I love you, Prague

“Foreward”

With visits numbering well into double digits, my affection for the Czech capital city of Prague remains undiminished, even in the midst of surging summer or winter crowds. When I’ve been in danger of being swamped, I veer off to a side street or quiet park; I’ll also wait for the relative solitude of nightfall or dawn. The magic is knowing I haven’t strayed very far from the big sights.

How I ended up chasing dreams over cobblestone streets, past the thousand spires and ornate facades, and across centuries of European art and history, has exceeded the limits of my imagination.

Dawn halo, St. John of Nepomuk, Karluv Most, Charles Bridge, Praha

St. John of Nepomuk gets his halo: Karlův most | Charles Bridge (HL)

The senses

From the moment I stepped off the plane on my first visit years ago, it’s been a statement of love, reaching, pushing, pulling my senses. Now, like people who love and know a lot about each other, it’s about intent, full on into the realm of recognition and desire.

The distinctive aroma of grilled sausages wafting out from streetside vendors, the scent tempting me and passersby with the idea of “mystery meat in a bun” at all hours of the day. The cravings strike swiftly late at night after a solid effort at the pub.

The smooth slightly-sweet chocolatey flavour of the “černé pivo” (dark beer) called Velkopopovický Kozel. Slices of soft spongy bread “ knedlíky” (dumplings) soaking up the rich savory sauce accompanying the juicy “vepřová panenka” (pork tenderloin). Yes, “česká kuchyně” is on the heavy side, but it sits very comfortably in me belly.

The uneven cobblestones beneath my shoes, causing the expected ache after a long day walking back and forth across the river. To reach down to the old smooth stones in the streets, to touch the massive sandstone blocks on bridges, to run my fingers over the facades on original buildings, feeling like I’m reaching back through the centuries.

The solemn and muffled murmur as people come across for the very first time the sweeping scale of Old Town Square or the beautiful views from Charles Bridge. The familiar screech, grind, and roll as the classic red-and-white streetcars rumble down the tracks.

The magic at dawn of seeing a special kind of light, casting a golden halo on red roofs and yellow houses, the city alive on morning fire; and of seeing after sundown hundreds of street lamps throwing a warm sodium-yellow blanket of illumination over the city.

Golden light at dawn, Hradcany, Prazsky hrad, Prague castle, Mala Strana, Little Quarter, Karluv Most, Charles Bridge, Praha

Golden dawn on the castle, from Karlův most | Charles Bridge (HL)

Svandovo Divadlo tram stop, Smichov, Praha

Švandovo Divadlo tram stop, Smíchov (HL)

Pork tenderloin in pepper sauce, with bread dumplings (HL)

Becoming Lost with Familiarity

I realize I’m in danger of viewing the Czech Republic in the same way some might view Germany. Considering how I feel about Germany, I’m completely indignant when all anyone can think is “Oktoberfest”, as the country offers much more. Ironic, really, as I often only see Praha when I’m in the Czech Republic. As Czech friends are very quick to remind me, Prague is not the Czech Republic; the message is my own piece of humble pie.

Is a visitor necessarily concerned with the cultural, political, or social development of the city, the nation, her people; or with any of the important contributions influencing European civilization at large? How about the preservation of the city’s cultural heritage spread across centuries of urban architecture and design? After all, there are good reasons why the entire historical centre of the city was awarded the status “UNESCO World Heritage Site”.

For me, it’s simple. All it takes is coming out of the side streets at Na příkopě to see the boulevard open up at Wenceslas Square, sloping gently to the National Museum in the distance. Or the streets snaking through the Old Town, leading to the massive plaza, and seeing the familiar Old Town Hall on the one side and the two tall spires of the Church of Our Lady Before Týn on the other. Or it’s about getting lost in the maze of narrow avenues, finding something new where I haven’t been before, but becoming reacquainted with the historical and familiar.

Church of Our Lady Before Tyn, Jan Hus Monument, Staromestske namesti, Old Town Square, Praha

Staroměstské náměstí | Old Town Square (HL)

Grand Hotel Europa, Vaclavske namesti, Wenceslas Square, Praha

Václavské náměstí | Wenceslas Square (HL)

Mir (Peace), Jiri Krystufek, Namesti Miru, Praha

Náměstí Míru | Peace Square (HL)

Novy Svet, Hradcany, Praha

Nový Svět, Hradčany | Neuwelt Gasse, Schlossviertel | “The new world”, Castle District (HL)

U luzickeho seminare, Mala Strana, Praha

U lužického semináře, Malá Strana | At the Lusatian Seminary, Little Quarter (HL)

The coda

The city name Praha comes from the Czech word “práh”, meaning “threshold”. I couldn’t have known my first visit to Prague would set into motion the steps I’ve taken: the decision to leave professional astronomy, to go out into the world for at least 365 consecutive days, and to venture into something “scary”, something entirely different. Every decision has led me here, typing away on a laptop and reminiscing with a smile and few regrets. This city has been and will always be my “práh”.

Velkopopovicky Kozel, Jama, Nove Mesto, Praha

Na zdraví! Cheers with Velkopopovický Kozel, at Jáma, Nové Město (HL)

As a friend has pointed out, the proper grammar for the title should be “Praho, miluju tě”, but I’ll stick by my beautiful mistake. A slightly modified version of this story appears on Maptia; my thanks to the folks at Maptia for their generosity.

5 more Prague posts

•   5 of the Best Spots to View Prague at Night
•   Na hrad! To the (Prague) castle!
•   Alfons Mucha’s “The Slav Epic” Returns to Prague
•   The colours of fall in Praha
•   “Love story number 1″

I made all of the photos above between 2008 and 2013. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com.

Planning a daytrip with Czech Rail: Praha to Kutná Hora

Visitors to the Czech Republic will often travel from the capital city of Prague on a daytrip to Kutnä Hora. About 73 kilometres to the southeast from Prague, Kutnä Hora is best known for the two churches which have given the city UNESCO World Heritage Site status, as well as the famous kostnice or “Bone Church” (Ossuary).

In this post, I’ll illustrate some details of our return-trip by train from Prague to Kutnä Hora.

Four friends and I set out to Kutnä Hora on a Saturday morning and returned Saturday afternoon. A very quick visit the trip might have been, but various reasons dictated an early return.

Between train and bus, we chose the train to arrive in the “Sedlec” area of Kutnä Hora closest to the Bone Church. A day or two before departure, we searched the Czech Railways (České dráhy) website. Available in either Czech or English, the language choice is indicated at the top-right corner of their homepage.

CD homepage in Czech

Top portion of Czech Rail (České dráhy) homepage in Czech

CD homepage in English

Top portion of Czech Rail homepage in English

Selecting Trains

After searching for suitable trains, we decided to take the 959am fast regional R679 train service (one hour journey) to Kutná Hora, and the R678 train at 3pm for the one-hour service back to Prague. We also chose services which didn’t involve a stop or a change of trains.

For our desired train routes, the following graphics represent portions of the search results from the Czech Railways webpage; “příjezd” and “odjezd” are “arrival” and “departure”, respectively.

CD Praha-KH
CD Praha-KH R679

R679 train, Praha to Kutná Hora

CD KH-Praha
CD KH-Praha R678

R678 train, Kutná Hora to Praha

Ticket Fares

We arrived at Prague’s main train station Saturday morning about 45 minutes before departure, and walked up to the “Jízdenky” counters to purchase our fares. The adult full-fare for a one-way ticket was 104 CZK, but we received the “Group Discount” for our group of five.

The following graphics show a brief description in English of the group discount ticket available to passengers on Czech Rail. From the English version of the Czech Rail homepage, I selected “Domestic Travel” from the top menu, followed by “Ticket” and “Fares and Discounts” along the left sidebar. A drop-down menu appeared, and I selected “Group Ticket”.

(“Vlakem pro ČR”, “Jizdenka”, “Jizdné a slavy”, “Skupinová jízdenka”)

CD GroupDiscount

cd-group-ticket

Recommended offer from Czech Railways website

The fare structure for our group of five adults was

* 1st passenger at full-fare: 104 CZK (Czech crowns).
* 2nd passenger at 30% discount: 73 CZK.
* 3rd, 4th, and 5th passenger, at 50% discount: 52 CZK each.

The entire one-way fare was 333 CZK, or 666 CZK for a full-return. For this short domestic trip, we didn’t spend extra for reserved seating.

It’s worth noting we purchased a single group-ticket for five people, and not five individual tickets. Because we purchased the entire return fare as a group at the same time, we received an additional 5% discount for a total return-fare of 633 CZK, or about $32 USD.

That’s a total of $32 USD among 5 people on a return-trip lasting 2 hours over a total distance of 146 kilometres (91 miles). We traveled on 3 August 2013; our search, fares, and choice of trains remained valid after my back-checking in late-August.


Praha hlavní nádraží

Prague Main Train Station (Praha hlavní nádraží, abbreviated as “Praha hl. n.”) is located at Wilsonova 300/8 in Nové Město (New Town), and can be reached with:

* the red subway line or line C, at the dedicated metro stop “Hlavní nádraží”;
* the Airport Express (AE) bus, whose terminus points are the airport and the main train station;
* trams 5, 9, and 26, which stop just outside of the main train station.

Main Train Station, Prague, Czech Republic


Kutná Hora hlavní nádraží

Fast regional trains from Prague stop at the Kutná Hora main train station in the Sedlec neighbourhood, located outside of the town centre. However, Sedlec is also where the Ossuary and the Assumption church are located, within walking distance from the main train station. The map below shows the locations of the main train station (T), Ossuary (O), Assumption church (A), and St. Barbara’s cathedral (B).

Main Train Station, Kutna Hora, Czech Republic - 3 Aug 2013


I obtained screen captures after searching Czech Railway webpages; I also made on 3 August 2013 the two Instagram images shown above. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com.

No Connection, Unpaid, My Own Opinions Disclosure: No Connection, Unpaid, My Own Opinions. I have not received any compensation for writing this content and I have no material connection to the brands, topics and/or products that are mentioned herein (cmp.ly/0).

Alfons Mucha’s “The Slav Epic” Returns to Prague

One of the greatest and most important works of Czech art from the early 20th-century is on display in Prague’s Veletržní Palac (Trade Fair Palace) for a limited time until 31 December 2013.

All 20 paintings of “The Slav Epic” (Slovanská epopej) by Alfons Mucha can be viewed in the Czech capital city for the first time in over 80 years. For admirers of Mucha, Art Nouveau and history, the work is easier to reach than ever before and should not be missed.

Mucha’s The Slav Epic is a series of paintings on large canvas, which he completed in 1926. The paintings tell the story and mythology of the Slav peoples, with Mucha imagining the entire work as a commemorative piece to the Czech nation. Each painting spans several metres in both height and width, and stands tall even in a spacious exhibition hall. In every painting, grand scenes and landscapes are shown in a mixture of restrained colours, important figures, and careful details.


Alfons Mucha and his Legacy

Mucha was born in 1860 in the Moravian town of Ivancice, about 20 kilometres southwest of Brno. He worked as an artist in Vienna, Munich, and Paris. In Paris, he began to find success when he produced art posters commercially for advertising and for theatre productions. He is well-known for posters of French actress Sarah Bernhardt and of the “Four Seasons” series. For the 1900 World’s Fair in Paris, Mucha designed and painted the interior wall of the Bosnia-Herzogovina Pavilion. He traveled throughout the Balkans to examine the region’s history and culture, planting the seeds for his grand work.


An Epic Accompanies “The Slav Epic”

What does it mean to people and their history when they haven’t been allowed to express themselves freely? For the Czech people under external rule for centuries until the creation of an independent nation in 1918, attempts to establish the concepts of “národ” (nation) and “vlast” (home/country) and to navigate the differences in between often appeared in literature, music, and art. Among many examples is “Má vlast”, a collection of six symphonic “poems” created by Czech composer Bedřich Smetana.

Mucha developed a stronger sense of “Czech nationalism” while he was teaching and producing art in the United States in the early years of the 20th-century. He founded the Slavic Council where he met millionaire Charles R. Crane who provided financial support when work began on The Slav Epic. Mucha spent two decades completing his epic; in the intervening time, individual pieces of the work were shown in Prague, New York, and Paris.

With all the pieces gathered in a single location, The Slav Epic premiered in its entirety to the public in Prague in 1928 on the tenth anniversary of an independent Czech nation.

The Slav Epic, Veletrzni Palac, Praha
The Slav Epic, Veletrzni Palac, Praha

Top: 1. The Slavs in Their Original Homeland, 1912. Below: Adam and Eve, of the Slavs.

Mucha donated The Slav Epic to Prague on the condition that the city build an exhibition space solely to display the collection. But the Second World War put on hold further thoughts of building this space. Mucha died in 1939, and as the land was under Nazi occupation shortly afterwards, the work was under threat of being stolen or destroyed. The paintings were hidden, and by 1963, they found their way to a castle in Moravský Krumlov, near Mucha’s birthplace.

The people of Moravský Krumlov believe that The Slav Epic should remain in their town as they have kept the work safe and on display for decades. Because Mucha donated his work to their city, the people of Prague have always urged that The Slav Epic be moved back to the capital. Some have argued that as long as Prague does not have a dedicated space as stipulated by Mucha, the art should remain in Moravský Krumlov. Others have countered that the castle in Moravský Krumlov is insufficient, requiring a great deal of expensive renovation work, and that the town is difficult to reach for visitors.

Alfons Mucha, The Slav Epic, Veletrzni Palac, Praha
The Slav Epic, Veletrzni Palac, Praha

“10. “The Meeting at Křížky”, 1916

“The Slav Epic” Returns to Prague

The Slav Epic returned to Prague in 2012 to the same venue where the entire collection was debuted in 1928. The present exhibition in Veletržní Palace’s Grand Hall is based upon the layout intended by Mucha to present an overall view of the history and legends of the Slavic people.

Many of the figures in several of the paintings seem to stare directly (and ominously) at the viewer, suggesting Mucha is pleading with the viewer to take notice of not only the individual painting, but also of how the given story fits within the general narrative and timeline of the epic.

The Mucha masterpiece is presently on display until the end of 2013. As no permanent space has yet been assigned in Prague, what happens next in 2014 and beyond to The Slav Epic is unclear. But given its history, the future for The Slav Epic could amount to another “epic” in the making.

The Slav Epic, Veletrzni Palac, Praha
The Slav Epic, Veletrzni Palac, Praha

Top: 20. Apotheosis ‘Slavs for Humanity!’, 1926. Below: Towering Slav, wreathes of freedom and unity.

Basic Information: Where, When, How Much?

Alfons Mucha, The Slav Epic, Veletrzni Palac, Praha

“The Slav Epic” exhibition is on view at Veletržní Palac (Trade Fair Palace) until 31 December 2013. The building is open Tuesdays to Sundays from 10am to 6pm. The price of admission for the special exhibit is 180 CZK for adults. With public transport, the closest metro station is Vltavská (red line, line C), and trams 12, 17, 24 stop at “Veletržní palác” outside the building’s main entrance.


Other Places in Prague to See More Mucha

* Not far from Wenceslas Square, the Mucha Museum provides a quiet place to view a wide selection of Mucha’s artistic work.

* Mucha produced the stained-glass window called ‘Allegory of the Slav Nation” appearing in St. Vitus Cathedral on the grounds of the Prague Castle.

* Mucha painted the murals in the Lord Mayor’s Hall in the Municipal House (Obecní dům).

* Over 120 Mucha posters in Ivan Lendl’s collection is on display at The Municipal House until 10 September 2013.

* Mucha’s final resting place is in The Slavin in the Vyšehrad cemetery.

Princess Hyacinth, Alfons Mucha, Mucha Museum, Praha

“Princess Hyacinth” (c. 1911), outside Mucha Museum

I made the photos above on 30, 31 July; and 6 August 2013. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com.

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