Thursday, October 23, 2014

Enchanting Prague

Although this magical city has long been on my list, it far surpassed any expectations I may have had. In Prague, you are not simply in another place, you're in another time, another world. What the iron curtain concealed from the world is now exposed and unbelievable crowds are flocking to see this jewel of the Czech Republic.

Old town Square with the Astronomical Clock and the Church of Our Lady Before Tyn - our apartment was just behind the church

Day or night the Church of Our Lady Before Tyn is like a fairy tale castle 

Beside the Charles Bridge, the Prague Castle glows high on the hill across the Vltava River

Naturally, as an artist, I was poised to seek out art and in particular the work of Alphonse Mucha. I knew I would be seeing his art nouveau poster girls. The collection at the compact Mucha Museum did not disappoint. The lithographs are larger than I expected, and oh what a gift it was to also see his drawings, paintings, photographs, desk, easel and the vastly informative video on his life (wishing this was available as a DVD in the gift shop). 

The Arts: Poetry, Dance, Painting and Music, each lithograph measures approximately 23.5" H x 15" W 

"The poster is going to get people talking about new modes of expression towards a public that is not only aristocratic anymore. It will be made to be seen by everyone." Alponse Mucha (1860-1939). As stunning as all his lithographs there are, these pieces simply made me swoon ...

Pencil, Indian ink (wash) and white on paper

An even greater gift was discovering The Slav Epic, (painted between 1912 and 1926) of which I had no knowledge prior to reading about it after arriving in Prague. Imagine my delight at learning how Mucha's twenty, monumental canvases are housed on the ground floor of Prague's Veletrzni Palace, the largest of several venues which make up The National Gallery's collections. An excellent video recounts the enormous task of moving the paintings (in 2011) from the chateau in the town of Moravsky Krumlov and their installation at the Veletrzni.

The scale alone is staggering but Mucha's sense of design, light and handling of paint makes them pure artistic genius

Being in the presence of such greatness, I was completely in awe

It's wise to arrive, anywhere in Prague, at opening time. Then you may beat the crowds - for the first hour. Arriving at 9AM, we had the interior of the St. Vitus Cathedral at the Prague Castle almost entirely to ourselves where I could admire Mucha's window, not stained, but rather painted glass ...

Installed in 1931, the window portrays the boy St. Wenceslas with his grandmother
in the centre, surrounded by episodes from the lives of Saints Cyril and Methodius
who spread Christianity among the Slavs

The magnificent interior of St. Vitus Cathedral of Prague Castle

The exterior of St. Vitus Cathedral at the Prague Castle

By afternoon the Prague Castle crowds are daunting

Of the nine nights we stayed in Prague we stepped out on five of them to performances in exquisite venues. We enjoyed ...

Great Organ Music at the Church of St. Salvator, with not only stunning organ music but the voice of a soprano soloist and a woman playing a viola ...

Inside the Church of St. Salvator

Vivaldi's Four Seasons at the Mirror Chapel, Baroque Hall in Klementinum ...

Mirror Chapel, Baroque Hall in the Klementinum

Mozart's Requiem at the Municipal House, Smetana Hall with a full orchestra and choir ...

The exterior of Municipal House

Swan Lake at Theatre Hybernia - by comparison this theatre was rather plain, but the ballet fascinating ...

Wonderful Dvorak, an intimate concert in a small chamber, seating about 50 people, at the Dvorak Museum with accomplished musicians and singers in period costume ...

Soprano at the Dvovak Museum

And then, there are the buskers, street performers offering up more delightful entertainment ...

Classical violinists played Ode to Joy (among other pieces) magnificently

Bohemian Bards in Old Town Square delivered an eclectic mix of sounds

It was all true sensory overload. I could go on and on about it! About the other stunning art we saw at the Veletrzni Palace. The Vital Art Nouveau 1900 exhibition at Municipal House.

Shopping was a gratifying. I loved the reasonable prices at the little Outlet Cobweb boutique with inexpensive and delightfully feminine Italian clothes. Bill sought out and scoured amazing book/print/map shops. The Gingerbread Museum is really a candy shop boasting fascinating cookies, houses, and cookie cutters. I lost my mind over the Mucha merchandise here ...

Bill, in his glory, in an Antikvariat 

There is the Loreta, the always in flux John Lennon Wall, the Jewish Cemetery and tons more finely decorated architecture. The sculptures on the Charles BridgeThe other palace, Vysehard, with its cemetery and the graves of Mucha and Dvorak ...

Little remains at the site of Prague's first (other) castle which was destroyed in the Hussite Wars (circa 1419 - 1434) 

Oh, and the restaurants, especially the Indian Jewel (below our apartment) Mlejnice, with traditional Czech fare and the Bake Shop Praha

Breakfast in the 13th century gothic cellar of the Vabene Restaurant, in Tyn Square

We're absolutely enchanted with Prague but we've barely scratched the surface of its treasures. There is nothing to be done, except to go back  - soon!