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06 January 2015 @ 10:17 pm
Prague!  
The adventure of the fall was a trip to Prague with my mother. She had, for some years, been saying that she "needed to see Prague before I die!" I finally told her that if she really did want to see Prague, she just needed to tell me that she wanted me to take her to Prague. She said, "fine, take me to Prague!" So I did. :)

It was a little crazy planning and going on an international adventure right before the wedding, but I thought it would be a good last pre-marriage momma-daughter adventure. She did offer to put it off until next autumn, but since whymc and I are going to try to have kids, that seemed to be a bad plan, since I didn't want to travel internationally either pregnant or with a really little one at home, so off to Prague we went!

We were supposed to fly out of Madison on September 5, but due to some issues at the Dane County airport, ended up catching the bus to O'Hare and departing on September 6 instead. Let's just say I'll never try to fly united out of Madison again. Apparently, they only have a 40% on time rate and REFUSED to refund me for the flights we never took. Happily, the trip from that point was uneventful, the transfer in Frankfurt went smoothly, and we arrived in Prague as scheduled, just one day late.

I had carefully researched the accommodations, looking for a place that was near the castle, historic, and interesting, and settled on the Bijou de Prague. The building is from the 14th century, the ceiling beams were painted during the Renaissance, and the furniture is largely antique. Note "The Sign of the Green Lobster" over the door, signifying its pre-modern address.  The hotel is located just down the hill from the Castle, which was a wonderful location, but made for some steep climbs over slick cobblestones at the end of the day.
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As soon as we were settled into the hotel, it was off to explore Prague! We hurried through Charles Bridge, which was packed with people and vendors because it was Sunday afternoon, and spent the afternoon in the old town square. We had just missed the Astronomical Clock striking the hour, so we went up into the tower of the Town Hall to get a view over the city. The walk up was pretty epic, but the perspective it offered was worth it, like the view of Tyn Cathedral.

Next we walked over to Obecni Dum (the Municipal House), a beautiful Art Nouveau arts center that opened in 1912. We toured the amazingly well-preserved building as well as several exhibits. We lucked out and not only was there an exhibit of Victorian fashion, but also one on Blanka Matragi, a modern gown designer. I had bought the flight tickets before realizing that Prague Fashion Week was the week we were to be there, so there were a lot of fashonista bonuses around town! We ended the evening with a well-earned drink in the Americky Bar - Becherovka (very good) and Slivovice (there's a reason Grandma warned us of it)! At that point it was late, we were beat (and maybe a little tipsy), and so we headed back to the hotel to crash.

Prague Castle was a must-see and so was the priority on our first full day in Prague! Sadly, we were not allowed photographs in the "Story of Prague Castle" exhibit, which was full of interesting textiles and shoes. I really wish there had been a good guidebook, or even postcards, but no dice. The grounds of the Castle were beautiful, though, and we spent the better part of the day wandering between museums and churches. The St. Wenceslas Chapel in St. Vitus Cathedral was particularly impressive. The walls are inset with precious stones and decorated with 14th century paintings depicting the Passion of Christ and the Life of St Wenceslas. St Vitus Cathedral also had a stunning stained glass window designed by Mucha that I really loved.

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Atop the hill overlooking the city are several Victorian attractions that are still open, including Petrin Tower and a Mirror Maze. The tower is 60 meters tall and was built in 1891 for the Jubilee Exhibition. You can walk up or pay a bit extra for the elevator... which apparently does NOT stop at the lower observation deck! My mom had not wanted to go all the way up, but found herself there anyway! I had (erroneously) assured her that we could stop at the lower observation deck, which it turns out is only accessible by stairs - once you get on the elevator, you're headed for the penthouse. :P After she got over her anxiety, though, it was worth the experience. The tower afforded great views of the city, but the wind made is sway ever so slightly in a disconcerting manner. The Mirror Maze, on the other hand, was firmly on the ground. The initial Maze portion made me feel like I was in The Labyrinth. The fun house mirrors at the end of the Mirror Maze were an amusing bonus, even if it was somewhat difficult to photograph their hilarious results!
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The next day, we returned to tour the Old Town Hall and see the Astronomical Clock and we were so glad that we did! They don't mention it in the tour description, but the tour starts with viewing the saints up close and then you get to watch the mechanism from the INSIDE as the clock strikes the hour! So very cool!
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The rest of the Old Town Hall was similarly fascinating. To combat chronic flooding, they raised the street level in the 13th century and there is a whole late medieval complex under the current ground floor! In the afternoon, we returned to the Municipal house to see a few more of the fashion exhibits.

The following day was all about Religion and Art. First, we visited the Jewish Museum, which is really more of a collection of historic buildings in the Jewish quarter than a single museum. Since most of the buildings are synagogues or museums of religious artifacts, we didn't take many pictures, but it was an interesting and educational morning. The history in the Maisel Synagogue (16th c) was amazing, but staring at all the names of Holocaust victims that cover the walls of the Pinkas Synagogue was sobering.

Next up was St Anne's Convent, a brilliant collection of medieval art. For me, the highlights were a Lucas Cranach the Elder "Portrait of a Lady with the fern" and the 14th c Trebon altarpiece triptych, particularly the panel depicting St Margaret and the dragon. They also apparently have something for pregnant Madonnas - there were a multitude of Virgin expectant sculptures, not a generally very common motif. The Museum of Decorative Arts rounded out the day but did not allow photographs at all and again failed to satisfy me with a decent catalogue either. Sadness.
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The following day started with a trip to the Musaion, a small but excellent folk museum, showcasing traditional clothing, crafts, and agricultural equipment (the tag on the pictured machine reads "Please do not move this one crank. It is gone beyond her years and would like to rest").
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In the afternoon, we hit one of my mom's priority items - the site of Lidice, a Czech town utterly destroyed by the Nazis in retaliation for the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich. Men were killed outright, women were sent to work camps, and children were sent to live with German families or gassed. The entire town was razed to the ground and even the cemetery was dug up so bodies could be destroyed. So completely horrible and creepy. I don't even know what to say about it, I can't fathom the sort of mindset that allows anyone, much less armies full of people, to think that sort of thing is even able to be considered. Not a cheerful afternoon, to say the least.

The last big destination of the trip was a ways outside of Prague. My mom loves train travel. Cesky Krumlov is three hours from Prague and is reportedly the prettiest town in Europe. It seemed a natural destination for a road trip! We had some delays due to track construction, but the effort was worth it. The town was just as pretty as promised and the Castle did not disappoint - in addition to the expected delights, there was an entire room full of cloisterwork reliquaries!
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Even just wandering around town in the rain was enjoyable - the architecture and painted facades were simply lovely.  We had meant to stay for two nights, but losing the day at the beginning of the trip and wanting to be back to Prague in time for an event meant our visit was short but sweet.
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We took the train back to Prague for our last night, and it was a busy one! I had scored us some tickets to the Fashion Week runway shows at Slovansky Dum! There were some rows of reserved seating along the runway, but the seats right at the END of the runway were first-come, first-served, so once my mom and I figured that out, we swooped down on them and had AMAZING seats for all three of the shows we attended.
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After the show it was back to our guest house for a very short nap and then an early morning departure back for the States!



The photos are bigger than intended (sorry) but if you want more, they are on my Flickr stream. :)
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jtdiii: Biojtdiii on January 7th, 2015 05:53 am (UTC)
Photos are lovely.

Looks like a fun trip!
Evil Imperial Barbariancarrot_khan on January 7th, 2015 10:22 pm (UTC)
For some reason my laptop does not want to open your Flicker link. Sad panda.
eithnieithni on January 12th, 2015 04:42 am (UTC)
Try https://www.flickr.com/photos/27133102@N04/

Or search for me as jshetzel.
grnjenny / Jennifer Carlsongrnjenny on January 12th, 2015 12:11 am (UTC)
Your mom sure is cute. Looks like you had a lovely time!
eithni: Yummy!eithni on January 12th, 2015 04:40 am (UTC)
Yeah, she looks ridiculously great for someone pushing 65. :)