I’ve been thinking, recently, of adding some non-bead-related information to this blog, just to fill out the interests.  One of the main joys of my job is traveling, which is a love I caught early on from my family.  But I realized recently that I haven’t much said anything about the travel/vacation/sightseeing part of what I do.

I love traveling.  Absolutely adore seeing new things.  And what is more fun than sharing it with friends?  So, I’m going to try to catch up with some of my travel stories here.  I probably won’t do it in order.  I might not really even be the best tour guide.  But I expect it’ll be an awful lot of fun.

In 2005 I was in “gradual school,” finishing an MFA in theatre design at The Ohio State University.  I took a course on Czech Theatre Design and ended up heading out the door to Prague – not for a bead shipping trip as many of my beady friends have done, but on a tour of some of the arts/theatre and cultural aspects of the city.  I had no idea what I was in for.  Part of the requirements of the trip were to keep a journal – so over the next few days I’ll post most of it in its entirety.

The italics are notes that I’ve since added…

2005 – Thursday, December 8th
Shopping for the trip has been fun, getting everything in order for school and packing has gone smoothly.  If I pack clothes, jump up and down on suitcase, then toss ugly clothes before I leave Europe, will I have room in luggage for beads?
2005 – Friday, December 9th, morning
Watched a Wallace & Gromit movie on the flight from Detroit to Amsterdam, had dinner, two vodkas and SLEPT.  No problems thus far in the airport.  Dare I believe it?
2005 – Friday, December 9th, evening
Ugh.  Tired in spite of the long airlines sleep.  Just off the plane we meet Dacha, our tour guide.  It’s immediately apparent that she’s lovely, smart, well read.  I wish, though, by the time we get to the Castle District that she had just a tad bit less energy.          
*   Prague Castle
We got to the castle in time to watch the changing of the guard, which was somewhat quieter than that of the guard changing in Kyoto or at Buckingham Palace.   
The uniforms are apparently designed by the same costume designer as movie “Amadeus,” and the music was written by one the current political party members.
*      St. Vitus Cathedral
Can I tell you how much I love Gothic architecture?  Can I tell you how much I adore architecture in general?  I want to go back to Kyoto just to see the architecture there again.  This beautiful Cathedral has uneven spires, like Notre Dame in Paris. Its located within the outer walls of the castle.  It has a painted window inside it by Mucha (photo, left).  
Added December 19, 2012.  I learn that there is a Mucha Museum somewhere in Prague, but won’t get a chance to see it until the following trip (which I might tell you about another time in this blog, but not part of this particular post).  Meanwhile, Alphonse Mucha has become one of my favorite art nouveau artists.  And since I can’t go five minutes without thinking about beads, I’ve actually turned an Alphonse Mucha piece into one of my beaded peyote band designs.  You can see it here.
Meanwhile, though, the nave of this Gothic Roman Catholic cathedral is huge, and its packed full of tourists.  I wonder if its because it is December – and a good time to visit near the holidays.  The whole story on how an Art Nouveau window ends up in a Roman Catholic Gothic Cathedral is fascinating.  Remember, these buildings took hundreds of years to complete!         
*      Golden Lane
I’m not overly impressed with the shops – my guidebook pretty much describes the atmosphere, so I’ve transcribed it below.  But, I like the small houses and the little lanes, so I bought a postcard.  Total purchases=$3.00
Originally housing 24 of Rudolf II’s marksmen, this hotchpotch of tiny, colourful houses runs the length of the northern wall of Prague Castle directly in between the New White Tower (Bílá věž) and Daliborka Tower. 
Once lined by scores of woodsheds and outhouses, the lane fell into squalor during the 18th and 19th centuries before becoming the lodging of choice for artists such as writer Franz Kafka (who lived temporarily at No. 22 from 1916-1917). Since being tarted up in the late 50s, the lane has grown into somewhat of a tourist-trap…
*    Loretto Church and Treasury
Once again, my guidebook describes it as well as I could.  The monstrances are an excessive show of wealth – I’m impressed with the workmanship, but find them overall pretty tacky.
An extraordinarily ornate church, the façade of the Loreto is best described as a “Baroque fantasy”, being lavished with all manner of cherubs, ecclesiastical statues and fine plasterwork.
The interior courtyard, which dates back to 1661, has long been an important religious centre for Christians, not only in Bohemia, but around the world. Its cloisters were built to consolidate the Catholic faith in Bohemia during the turmoil of the Reformation and Counter Reformation in the 16th and 17th centuries. The small Santa Casa chapel, a replica of the sacred house of Loreto (which, according to legend was transported by angels from Nazareth to Italy), stands at the centre of the courtyard, with the Church of the Nativity just behind it.  Eventually, as the religious situation in Europe stabilized, the Loreto became an ever more important shrine, not only as a place of pilgrimage and penance, but as the scene of miraculous cures for a wide-range of medieval ills – including inoculation from the plague.
Aside from the architecture, the most impressive aspect of a visit here is the Loreto Treasury’s many chalices and liturgical artifacts, the pinnacle of which is the diamond monstrance (below). Added December 19 2012.  This piece is also referred to as the Prague Sun.  Its not really my style.  I keep thinking “monstrocacity” not monstrance.
*      Strahov Monastery
I was cold and exhausted by this point and don’t think I really took in as much as I could have.  Why is it that I get jetlag worse going in this direction than I do when I go west?  Added December 19, 2012.  I admit it, I’ve been watching Anthony Bourdain on the cooking channel and I can’t believe how grouchy he gets when you goes somewhere fabulous and eats wonderful food.  But looking back at this entry, I recall being pretty grouchy here, too.
The library rooms are fabulous; the first one is a double-tiered concoction, the second considerably smaller, but no less lovely.  The hallway is lined in books with very light bindings.  I noticed that loads of the ink was faded as well…
I heard that there was a mummified baby dodo bird somewhere in the library, so looked for it; finally found it weirdly displayed with a bunch of dried fish and seashells.
*     Check in at the Hotel William
Our hotel is in the Mala Strana area of town. 
Here’s what my guidebook says:
“The hangout of criminals & counter revolutionaries for nearly a century, the cobblestoned streets of Mala Strana have evolved into the most prized real estate.”
We walked down to it from the castle district, a stunningly beautiful set of streets and alleys with little shops lining along each side.  Some large scale beaded pieces on each side – I wonder if they sell and if so how much they are – had I made one like them in the USA, I’d have to ask over $1000 and it would sit in my inventory… (Yup, there I go again, talking about beads)

After a shower, I feel much better.  The hotel looks like a prom dress – its cute and quaint and hysterically funny all at the same time.  The breakfast area has at least twelve different styles in it, all clamoring for attention.  My room is a long corridor, just wide enough for me, with windows on two sides and a bed alcove.  The bathroom is perfectly me-sized.  I’m already in love with the fluffy duvet and pillow.  Its already completely dark here by 4:45.

So… things I forgot:
-Film above 200-speed
-My student ID
-Adaptor for digital camera battery recharger