Praha is beer, cabbage, ladies with red/purple hair, plums, plum brandy, plum wine, twisting cobblestone streets, cigarettes, dogs (everywhere in bars, in restaurants, on the metro…), people making-out (everywhere in bars, in restaurants, on the metro..), pork, 90s pop music, fur coats, fur hats, art nouveau, belgian chocolate, bridges, kafka, expresso, mozart, chekhov, and beautiful gothic churches that nobody cares about because most people who live here are atheists.
The opera was magical. I had a glass of champagne in the lobby during intermission. Everyone sang beautifully and I got goosebumps when Violetta died at the end.
Národní Divadlo, the National Theatre, is just gorgeous! And, I cannot get over how huge it is – the auditorium and the stage are just so vast. There are five balcony levels above the orchestra. So far, I’ve only been seated up on the fourth floor, but I’ve been able to see and enjoy everything quite well from there.
After the opera, we went to Prague’s version of Sardi’s called Kavarna Slavia. I ate an ice-cream sundae with some gross lemony-tasting booze poured all over it …the disadvantages of not being able to fully read the menu.
At any rate, I’m becoming very cultured.
Friday afternoon I went with my Czech Language Class to Národní Muzeum to check out an exhibit about the First Republic of Czechoslovakia. This interwar period is known as Praha’s Golden Age. Also, there was an exhibit on Czech hockey. Hockey is huge here. (Hopefully, I ‘ll get myself to a game soon…) This sweet old man said something to me in Czech while I was walking through the exhibit. I responded, “Nerozumim.” This means, “I don’t understand.” What I should have said was, “Nerozumim Český” which means “I don’t understand Czech,” because he proceeded to launch into a very passionate explination of the display we were looking at. After a few solid minutes of him monologuing in Czech, I was able to interrupt and say, “Jsem Američanka. Nerozumim Český.” He got all embarrassed and waddled away.
That night, I was back at Národní Divadlo to see the opening performance of Swan Lake. It was beautiful, and very exciting to been at the theatre for a sold-out performance! I had some fun wandering around. They have tons of pictures hanging throughout the theatre. I enjoyed trying to guess the show and the characters. I was able to recognize many scenes form Chekhov, Shakespeare, and other classics (…many of which we read last year!) I think Wayne, my Theatre History prof., would’ve been very proud.
I enjoyed a fun Valentine’s Day around the city with my roommates. We visited some touristy-attractions, but it was still a good time. Praha is celebrating Carnevale. We caught the end of a parade through the city. It was very crowded, but we still enjoyed the music and the people all dressed up and dancing on stilts.
Our first stop was Praha’s infamous Sex Machine Museum. It was pretty incredible how old some of the contraptions were. The museum included a pretty gruesome display of genital piercings, lots of sadomaschistic stuff, and pornographic films from 1925. Next, we toured a little chocolate museum right off of Old Town Square.
Saturday night, I went on my first pub-crawl in Praha. I had a great time and am looking forward to going back to some of the clubs we visited.
A word on Czech beer: It’s smooth and delicious and cheap. You can get a glass of Pilsner Urquell for 25 Kc. (22 Kc= $1)
Saturday night, I tried Becherovka for the first time. It’s a Czech liquor and it’s sort of comparable to Jäger. Except, in my opinion, it tastes better. Lots of people describe as tasting like Christmas, and I think that’s a decent description. It is very cinnamon-y and sort of pine-y.
Sunday was a nice lazy day. My roommate and I had a very yummy and very American breakfast at Bohemia Bagel. And then we did some wandering around Old Town until we were cold and ready for a nap.
Today, it snowed big wet snowflakes. After class, I walked around near the Charles Bridge. I successfully navigated myself to the DAMU building where the Divadelni Fakulta, Charles University’s College of Theatre, is housed. I’m taking a class there! The class is called Dialogické jednání. When translated to English it means Acting with the Inner Partner. I don’t know too much about it, but in the email I got from the professor he explained it as “multidisciplinary” and “psycho-physical.” Not quite sure what to expect, but I’m totally excited about.
I came to Praha feeling a little jaded and not too confidant about my decision to be an actor. But, I was just thrilled when I heard about the opportunity to roll-around on the floor of an acting class. My reaction was really reaffirming, and that’s a nice feeling.
Today, I was upset that I hadn’t brought my camera because the view across the bridge was incredible. All the rooftops were covered with snow and there were big fluffy snowflakes falling from the sky.
I’ve posted a few more photos to the album chronicling my Valentine’s Day adventures:
A full day today- Czech language class and then the opera tonight! I’m going to see La Traviata at the National Theatre with a group of students from the kolej. And, I was lucky enough to get tickets to the opening night of Swan Lake on Friday.
Some interesting notes about learning Czech:
The most difficult word for most Americans to pronounce is čtyři. It’s the Czech word for four. I’ll try to spell it phonetically. It sort of sounds something like schee- tier-zee but you have to make all those noise in your throat. In addition to not being able to say the word, it’s also difficult for Americans to count to four using their fingers in the same way that Czechs do. I’ll explain. When counting on our fingers, Americans use their pointer finger as one, middle finger as two, etc. Czechs use their thumb as one. So, when using your fingers to show the number four, you’ve got to keep just your pinky down. It’s really hard to do without making your hand into a stupid-looking claw. But, Czechs can do it quite easily. I guess I’ll just have to learn to avoid four for a few months.
Today was the beginning of my Czech language class. My teacher is a sweet lady with purple hair named Jana. That will be easy to remember since almost every women I’ve met here has the same name.
This morning we enjoyed a presentation by an incredible man named Jan Wiener. He and his wife are our “dorm parents.” They are a very kind and warm elderly couple. Jan has a really extraordinary history that he shared with us. We watched a documentary about him titled “Fighter.” It was very moving.
A few words about Jan:
In 1939, when Jan was a 19-year-old Jewish teenager he left Czechoslovakia, hoping to reach England and join the Royal Air Force. His mother was interred and executed at a concentration camp called Terezin for aiding philosophers/intellectuals who had escaped Germany and his father committed suicide before he could be arrested. In order to get out of the country he hid under a train and successfully rode it into Italy. There, Jan was arrested and imprisoned. He managed to escape his work camp twice. The second time he found his way to England where he enlisted in the air force. He flew bomber missions over occupied Europe and returned to Prague in 1945. When the Communists took over three years later, Jan was arrested and imprisoned again, this time as an “enemy of the state.” On his release, he fled to the U.S. (with the help of Eleanor Roosevelt!) to start a new life. He’s now a highly respected professor of history at Charles University.
I spent the past weekend in Moravia with other students from my program. The Czech Republic is made up of three historical areas Bohemia (where Prague is located), Moravia, and Silesia. We stayed in Brno. Our tour of Moravia included stops at several beautiful cathedrals, the cloister where Gregor Mendel grew his peas and did his early experiments with genetics, the Austerlitz battle field where the Battle of Three Emperors was fought, beautiful caves, and dinner at Templářských Rytířů (a wine cellar built by the Templar Knights). I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the tour of the Battlefield. The museum included some really cool multi-media exhibits that simulated the battle. Also, the monument constructed there is very beautiful. It’s a monument to peace and not to Napoleon. It is meant to remind us that the field is soaked with the blood of soldiers from both sides.
I’ve included photos of a day trip to the little village of Kutna Hora as well as some pictures taken around Prague.
Check out these links to photo albums I’ve posted on my Facebook:
Today was my first full day in Praha. Most of the day was spent orienting myself with the city, learning the public transit system (tram cars and a subway), and running errands for groceries and things. I am very happy to be getting settled and setting myself up in the Kolej. It’s more comfortable than I had anticipated. Our suite has a little roof-top patio and, for some wonderful reason, the room I share with my roommate is twice the size of every other room I’ve seen in the Kolej. The first two days of my trip were spent in London and then one day in Munich.
Check out the photos: