As an overview, I decided to add some of my travel to this blog.  It’ll be out of order for a while, but bear with me – I thought it might be fun to add something besides just beads.  

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.  This is the third part of that trip.

Italics are items I added when I uploaded this to the blog.  
Small text is stuff I just ripped off of my guide books.

 ————–
2005 – SUNDAY, DECEMBER 11TH, EVENING 

I forgot to mention dinner after the show last night, because I got home really late. We found that many of the restaurants were closed after the performance, so finally ate with Joe at a place called “Joe’s.” Food, again, was wonderful, but not traditional. I had a tuna and pasta dish and tried SLIVOVICE, a plum brandy which is extremely strong. The pasta and alcohol made me sleepy; I left a little earlier than some of the others and walked home.

This morning, Jenny, Vawnya, Ann and I walk back up the hill towards the castle district to do some shopping. Unsurprisingly, I’m looking for beads. I don’t find anything to buy. I enjoy myself anyhow, and make a mental note to buy garnets in South Bohemia if I don’t find Czech Pressed Glass Beads beforehand…
What I’m looking for:

What I found:

Lunch is at an “Italian” bistro near out hotel (which Dacha pronounces “hōtchel”). I have carpaccio, after checking to make certain that it won’t gross anyone out. Its wonderful. Ann’s been wanting a smoothie, so gets a wonderful smelling banana concoction.

* Brain Scrambling: A Walk to the Estaes Theatre

To get to the Estaes Theatre, you need to walk through Mala Strana, over the Charles Bridge, and through a set of winding streets. Generally I have a pretty good sense of direction, but I’m completely confounded by the time we get there. Much of the following is just dumped into this journal from the guidebook, to help me remember my trip later, and keep everything together. Look for my notes in larger font regarding a few of them, and some of the photos I took along the way.  The painting of the Chalres Bridge is by Czech painter Stanislav Feikl.  It is dated sometime between 1901-1933.

As the most picturesque and well-known of Prague’s Vlatava crossings, the Charles Bridge is also the oldest by around four hundred years. Built to replace the wooden Judith Bridge (most of which had been swept away by a major flood in 1342), the Karlův most makes use of its predecessor’s original bridgeheads. Commissioned by King Charles IV (hence the name) and designed by the royal architect of the age, Peter Parlěř, the bridge was a masterpiece of engineering for the time. Taking more than 60 years to build, the bridge’s foundation stone was laid in 1357, with the final structure being completed in 1420. Boasting an overall length of 520 meters (1700 feet), the Karlův’s 16 arches span the Vltava river between Staré Mesto and Malá Strana. Needless to say, as a “must see” on most tour itineraries, the bridge becomes unbearably crowded during peak season (especially as countless souvenir stalls and street-artists contribute to the throng). The 30 statues that adorn the bridge on each pier were added from the 17th-century onwards, each one commemorates an important saint, the oldest of which is a gilded bronze crucifix by J Hilger dating back to 1657.

One such statue gives you good luck – it is bright metal in comparison to the dark bronze of the other statues. I touch it for luck – can’t hurt! Countless souvenir stalls, but I heard there would also be street-artists – too cold?

We walk on through the shopping district which I find almost too touristy to the Old Town Square, which has a packed Christmas Market. I make a mental note to get some roasted chestnuts by the end of the trip.  Pictured, you can see Jackie’s blond hair, and Dasha’s bright red hat.

Once the main marketplace of Prague, the Old Town Square is a large, immaculately preserved space surrounded by a number of architectural treasures including Staroměstská Radnice , Kinský Palace and St. Nicholas Church. The Square, which dates back to the 11th century, has featured prominently in the city’s history. The white crosses embedded into the cobbles (there are 27 in total) commemorate the execution of Protestants in 1621 following defeat at the battle of the White Mountain (paving the way for Habsburg rule to descend over Bohemia). Fittingly, the square was also the scene for Vaclav Havel to declare the end of Soviet domination over Czech affairs after the ‘Velvet Revolution’. The Old Town Hall which is situated on the southwest corner of the Square, is actually a fusion of buildings, each with a slightly different architectural style. The earliest dates from the 14th century when blind King John of Luxembourg agreed to a modest dwelling for the town clerk. As Prague developed into a wealthy trading city the Town Hall gradually expanded, incorporating Gothic and Renaissance elements over later centuries. Probably the most interesting feature of the building (and the one most mentioned by tourist books on Prague) is the astronomical clock, which was incorporated into the structure in 1490. The clock must have been a fantastic technological achievement for the age. So much so that – as legend has it, the timepiece’s maker, Master Hanus, was deliberately blinded by the local council in an attempt to stop him from building a similar clock elsewhere in Europe. By way of revenge, Hanus is said to have returned to the clock tower, whereupon he duly tossed a spanner in the works, damaging it so severely that it didn’t work for over one hundred years. 

Just as a later comment, I made a mental note at this point to come back to see the clock work. The only time I ever was there when it should have struck was at 10pm on the way home from ACT. The clock never did strike that night, and I didn’t get a chance to see it work otherwise.  Added December 22, 2012 – In the next two years, I took two other trips to Prague and actually got a chance to see the clock work.  Below, from YouTube.

* The Magic Flute at the Estaes Theatre

This is a treat for me because Magic Flute was my first introduction to opera.

In 1975, my mom took me to see the Bergman film version. We were, by the way, not in the US at the time when I saw the film… I think we were in Geneva, Switzerland.  This is the third live version I’ve seen. I’m amused that I’ve only twice seen the piece in the original German. The film is in Swedish, this has been translated into Czech, and once I saw it in English. There are supertitles on this version, which would be helpful for anyone not completely familiar with the piece. Here, too, we find objectification of women, although not as much in the staging as the original libretto by Mozart. Ah well, I like it anyway.

Alrighty now – I haven’t talked about beads in the past three seconds, so I want to add here that I just used the Magic Flute as a inspiration for one of my newest beaded collars.  You can read about it here.   http://www.etsy.com/listing/112630278/papagenas-necklace-beadweaving-feathers

Jenny and I are in the second box, and we like being able to see the orchestra and some of the silliness going on in the pit. We lose some of the side action, but enjoy ourselves anyway and are very close to the stage; I think it’s a better “European” theatrical experience than last night’s. Until the phone in the first box starts ringing, getting louder and louder until the lady finally grabs it from her purse, goes into the hallway and starts stomping up and down, talking loudly on it. When she comes back in, she apparently finds the need to tell her friend all about the call. When its clear that I’m getting annoyed, Jenny drags my chair away from the partition and closer to her own, which nearly knocks me onto the floor. I can’t stop laughing, and am trying to stifle it.

Joe (the instructor of the Czech theatre design course I took) is in the King’s box, which cracks us up.

The set design is interesting; of course I enjoy the use of the cloth for both projection screen and also environment, and adore the color shifts in the cloth. I think Dan took this photo.  I like the staging, I enjoy the singing. The costume design is awful, though. The three boys’ costumes were taken from an earlier Czech show that is pictured in the programme. Pieces of the Ladies’ costumes were taken from the Lyric Opera version I saw a few years ago, but then bastardized to the point where they can barely move around the stage, and the Queen’s costume is a disaster after her initial appearance.

 * Lost in Old Town Square

A few of us decide that we’re going to see the ACT black light theatre that evening, so after the opera is finished, we buy a ticket up the street and then head to the town square to poke around the Christmas Market. Jenny takes one look at the crowds and wisely decides we should have a meeting place in case we get split up. It takes me precisely 10 seconds to get divided from the group, and then I decide that its just too packed in there – and my bead radar isn’t going off – so I head over to Moser on the edge of the square. It isn’t until later that I find out that Moser is considered one of the foremost Bohemian Crystal Producers, but its pretty and shiny and much too expensive for my budget.
http://www.moser-glass.com

We head to a bookstore Nikki knows about, but Dan and I leave soon after to head outside and people watch instead. We both have noticed that the English language section is made of stuff we can get on Amazon.
Total purchases = $0.00.
Total cigarettes smoked = ½

* Dan’s Trout has Eyeballs 

I can’t recall the name of the underground restaurant we have dinner in. Its across the street from the ACT (All Colors Theatre). I have traditional duck and its yummy but still a bit greasy.  Moravian Red Wine to drink = very nice.

Dan orders a trout, which, like Nikki’s, comes whole. But his is set up in a curve on the plate to it appears to be swimming and has peas stuffed into the eye sockets which freaks us out. Apparently it was quite good.

*Chicken Sex – All Colors Theatre: Faust

The Black Light Theatre… I don’t even know where to start with this. The black light theatre was developed in the 1980s.  This version follows, sort of, the storyline of Faust. Live performance, voice-overs, some puppetry… dancing penguins? I like the Faustian line that has followed through from Temptation, but otherwise we’re appalled, and know we’re in trouble when two of the chicken puppets start sexing each other up on stage. Meanwhile, though, the women become less and less clothed as the performance goes on, and there’s some sort of Cats spoof (left ) before intermission, which probably is a vision of hell, but otherwise makes no sense. I didn’t buy a programme. Please don’t misunderstand; I’m glad I had this experience because otherwise I would have wondered….

I go back to the hotel room and reread Aristophanes’ Birds until I konk out (I had to read on to find out why – we talked about it on Dec 12 at DAMU – see next entry.  But I imagine it probably took me about 5 seconds to fall asleep in the middle of it).

2005 – MONDAY, DECEMBER 12TH, EVENING 

*Estaes Theatre Tour 

Outside of the Estaes Theatre is a modern statue commemorating the premiere of Don Giovanni (at top of page). It’s a life size piece, of the Commodore that drags Don Giovanni to hell at the end of the opera. I think it was originally done in plaster cloth and then bronzed. I like it, and think it goes well in my photo essay.  Back at the Theatre, we are met by an older gentleman, a conductor, who’s name I didn’t note down and now am feeling sorry. He has a set tour routine that he takes us through, and is funny and charming, and tells us that he can’t see small items like cameras. I especially like the areas under the stage, and his little concert at the end, in the green room. Pictured is the Mozart Room (right). I take a photo of the bar, just off the green room, to show my SO (below).

* Petr Matasek: DAMU visit
We meet with Petr in one of the “smart classrooms” at DAMU (Academy of Performing Arts in Prague), which makes our own look a little shabby. He speaks more on PQ07 than on himself, which doesn’t much surprise me after the week we worked with him the previous year– he’s very understated in his genius.

He talks about building a display section in the center of the Prague Quadrennial, which he calls the Tower of Babel. From some online source or another: The biblical ziggurat, called the Tower of Babel, symbolized humanity in rebellion against God in their attempt to ascend to heaven. The Tower of Babel story has come to symbolize human sin I don’t get it, or the use of Aristophanes’ Birds, which he’s suggesting that OSU, DAMU and the “down under” school base their work off of.

This, in itself, might be the difference between what I’ll call performance art and concept design. The one is based off meaning in an actual script, the other loosely finds meaning WITHIN ITSELF. The problem I see overall with this is that now I’m really excited about PQ07 and am uncertain as to whether I’ll be in a position to be able to come to it. (I do, but that’s a future blog entry and its as good as I think it will be) I won’t be a student anymore, so won’t be involved with the section that Petr is discussing. It makes me a little sad; I feel like I’m running out of time. We have lunch somewhere near the Jewish Quarter, and pass a firetruck on the way there. I take a photo. I’m sitting next to Jason at lunch, and share with him because its way more than I’ll ever be able to eat. Its superb.
Menu:
• Espresso
• Vegetable Salad: Cucumbers & Tomatoes
• Lamb Ribs

* Josefov – The Jewish Quarter 

Again, my guide book… In 1850 the former Jewish quarter in Prague was incorporated into the city and was named Josefstadt (Joseph’s city). Joseph II issued the Toleration Edict in 1781. This edict rescinded the old law that required the Jews to wear distinctive caps or the yellow Star of David on their clothing, a law which had been in effect since the 11th century. The gates in the ghetto wall were removed.

* The Pinkas Synagogue 

The interior stone walls of the synagogue is inscribed with the names of the 77,297 Jews from Bohemia and Moravia who died in the Holocaust. Most of them were sent first to the ghetto set up by the Nazis at the old military garrison in Theresienstadt, now called Terezin, and were then transported to the death camp at Auschwitz in Poland where they were murdered in the gas chambers. Upstairs there is a heart wrenching exhibit of drawings and paintings done by the children in Theresienstadt while they were awaiting transportation to the gas chamber. Inexplicably, the Nazis carefully preserved their artwork, which is now in a permanent exhibit entitled “Children’s Drawings from Terezin 1942 – 1944.”

The interior is very still. No photos allowed, so this one is taken from the internet. Family names are in red, the given names in black, and they have been recently restored due to a flood. I find a number of Rosners, which is harder on me than I thought it would be, and Joe finds a Brandesky. This becomes intensely personal all of a sudden and no longer intellectual. I’ve decided to buy, for my parents’ Chanukah gift, a CD of Brundibar and a copy of the Sendek/Kushner book.  I find it on Amazon.com

* The Jewish Cemetary & New Old Synagogue 

I’m a little more detached by the time I get to these. It might be because I’m feeling a little overwhelmed by the last visit. Whatever the case, I take a whole number of pictures with my little “department” camera.  Here’s a whole bunch of information about the cemetery – its pretty fascinating.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Jewish_Cemetery,_Prague

A bit of info from Wikipedia: The numbers of grave stones and numbers of people buried there are uncertain, because there are layers of tombs. However, it has been estimated that there are approximately 12,000 tombstones presently visible, and there may be as many as 100,000 burials in all.

 The interior of the Old-New Synagogue looks a lot like buildings in Jerusalem. We can’t take pictures inside, but here’s a photo of the outside and I found a photo online… 

* Buying Garnets… And going to LUSH

I have a shopping experience that evening, first in the Garnet shop, where I buy a tie bar with garnets for my SO. I’m not sure if he’ll like it, but he has mentioned beforehand that he needs one. It comes with a certificate of authenticity… I also buy some moldavite jewelry for friends, and a pretty garnet pendant for my mom, which hopefully will match her garnet engagement ring perfectly. It wasn’t until they’d been married 25 years that dad bought her a diamond, a 1925 antique in a platinum setting, but I think that she prefers her original ring best. Total purchases=$53.00

Jackie, Mary and I break off from the group to go to LUSH, a high end, super expensive UK bath and beauty shop that makes me itchy – too many smells and colors. Their web site looks like their store feels: http://www.lush.com Choose the USA option…
I buy 2 fizzy bath bombs: one for my SO’s sister and one for me. Total purchases=$8.00.

Jackie, Mary and I are nearly late, but its not until later that I realize that we could have gone straight instead of heading back through the Old Town Square, and cut 10 minutes off our walk – I think I’m still confused as to directions in the city. It makes it more magical somehow. Jenny, who got lost on the way to the National Theatre 12/13/2005, would probably disagree…

* Svandovo Theatre – Elton John’s Glasses 

This award-winning play by David Farr is a frank and funny look at love, rivalry and the dominance of a football club in a small town, was first seen at Watford Palace Theatre in June 1997, where it opened to critical acclaim.  The play explores one man’s obsession with football and, in particular, his team, the Watford Hornets. Conley plays Bill who hasn’t recovered from Watford’s 1984 defeat to Everton in the FA Cup Final. It’s now 1996, the fateful day of the last match of the season and relegation looms. Bill is reliving the agony of defeat when his younger brother with wayward rock band, his lover and her daughter show up to add farce to failure.

Speaking of David Farr, he apparently wrote the UN Inspector, which we nearly did at OSU this year. He did NOT, as I had thought, have anything to do with Shawn of the Dead, which was nearly as weird as this. I was set to not enjoy this production… but I did; it made me laugh. Looking back, I assume that the play was done in English, otherwise how would i have understood it?  And… if we had come in one day sooner, we could have seen Havel’s version of Beggar’s Opera at the same location. Afterwards, we hit Joe’s again. Shannon is angry at us because she wanted to go out dancing, but she shows up just in time to teach Jason, Russ and I to drink absinthe. Here’s how it works.  You get a big old lump of sugar in this specialty spoon with holes in it.  You pour the absinthe over it and ito the glass below, light it to carmelization then dumped into the glass & shoot it. Awful stuff.

I decide to bring a tiny bottle back for my SO because I know he’ll want to try it. As a side note, I get Hills brand, made at 70% in the Czech Republic, while at the Prague airport. He thinks its awful too, although I don’t realize until later that this particular brand doesn’t have anise in it and thereby doesn’t taste like licorice – the only redeeming quality I found in the stuff we tried in Prague… Later on, I find that you can actually get “real” absinthe at the same place I found Beckerovka.  I never did buy another bottle, though.  Itw as bad enough the first time around.  At Joe’s, I snipe some of the guacamole Jason has ordered, and walk back home, early again in comparison to the group, with Jenny, Nikki & Vawnya.

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