Monday, May 16, 2011

No defenestration with painted windows

 Overlooking the city with the castle complex to the left (St. Vitus is the darker cathedral)

Day 2: Saturday, March 26th Somewhat cloudy, but no rain!

We meet Lenka around 10 and take a streetcar up to the Prague Castle—a large complex of buildings including the St. Vitus cathedral and the seat of the president. After walking through the central courtyard and down a narrow cobbled street, we stop at the palace belonging to the former royal Lubkowitz family, which is now partially a museum. Surprisingly, the audio tour is voiced by William Lubkowitz (with an American accent). His father, Martin Lubkowitz, escaped Prague with his family as a young boy during the war, and hadn’t been able to return until the fall of communism. The narration often sounded arrogant (perhaps due to the script rather than the narrator), stating several times that family's property and treasures and been stolen from them twice--once by the Nazis and then by the Communists. And they had to work diligently to reclaim what was rightfully theirs afterward. I couldn’t help but think about the millions of people who were just as affected by Nazism and Communism, but did not have the resources to reclaim what had been lost to them. They didn’t have the power or the money that comes with royal status. Regardless, the collection included many incredible paintings, furniture, and other pieces. My favorite room contained instruments and music from the 1700s. They even had 11 and 12-key oboes! Most impressive was the original and annotated score of Beethoven’s "Eroica".

A short break for a late lunch—salad and lentil soup and Gnocchi before a trek uphill to a magnificent view of Prague. Then down Nerudova Street (named for writer Jan Neruda), which is the historic route linking the castle to Charles Bridge. It now contains many cafes and souvenir shops selling absinth and puppets. Lenka points out a house with two rows of windows that at first glance looks like any of the other ornately restored buildings in Prague. However, some of the windows were painted rather than real. She explained that at one time the city had a tax on windows, so homeowners who wanted to save a bit of money but still have an aesthetically pleasing exterior would paint artificial windows instead. 

 See the difference? It's pretty hard to tell at a distance!

We finally cross Charles Bridge and return to our hotel just before dark. Mom and I venture out again for a cup of tea and some dessert before bed.

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