Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Prague Pictures V

We haven't done a set of these in a while. There really aren't all that many more to get through.

1. View Out the Window of the First Apartment I Stayed At There. The place we were supposed to be staying was not ready when we arrived so we were put up for two weeks in the flat of the Hobby Centrum's activities director while this lady was on vacation in Mongolia or somewhere like that. As I was not yet oriented to the town and could not understand any of the language at this time, and as we never returned to this particular neighborhood after those first two weeks, I do not have a very good sense of where exactly it was. We also had to take the tram there--no subway line ran very close by--which further seems to confirm that it was a little out of the way. As you can see it was fairly attractive for a residential Prague neighborhood--the buildings are fairly low rising and many of them, including the one we stayed in, either predated the Communist period, or were from the early part of it before the miles of panelaky, or high rise housing projects, in a couple of which we eventually ended up living, were built.

It was in this apartment that I underwent my initiation into the Czech diet, especially knedliky (dumplings), pivo (Plzen-style beer), smazeny syr (fried cheese), gulas (goulash), rohliky (rolls) parek v rohliku (hot dogs), and the whole gamut of pork products which I have unfortunately forgotten the names for, Czech grocery shopping, and tram riding, as well as acclimated myself to using Czech toilet paper, which was at that time at least was still the rough equivalent of 60 grit sandpaper (the good news is, you get used to it very quickly). 

Film being a considerable expense at the time, we only have two pictures of our brief but very intensely experienced and memorable time at this location.

2. Approach to Karlstejn Castle From Train Station. This was our first real outing outside of the city, about fifteen miles away. The castle, originally built in 1348 by the great Czech-born Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, was essentially rebuilt on the old foundation in the 19th century and is not in itself that great of a sight, but the setting is beautiful and evocative of fairytales and the medieval world generally (highly sanitized of course), the area at the time was almost completely undeveloped as far as roads and modern commercial interests, and the taverns around the village filled with day pilgrims from Prague even gave it a mild Canterbury Tales feel. Our train tickets reveal that this outing took place October 13, 1996, so it was enough out of high tourist season and there was enough of a chill in the air that it was not especially crowded.

3. Castle Turret Against Backdrop of Bohemian Hills. In my memory because we had so few pictures from that time I imagined that we had comparatively a ton from this day. We have about ten.

4. Clock Tower, Fortress Wall, Other walls, etc. All reconstructed.

Karlstejn is the setting for a highly popular but I think inscrutable to foreigners 1973 musical film called Noc Na Karlstejne (often translated by Czechs with imperfect English as "A Night on the Karlstejn"). This movie seems to be akin to the The Sound of Music or something like that. People's eyes tear up when they watch it. I have never been able to find a version with English subtitles so I am very lost as to what is the cause of this affection. Here is a taste:

5. Inside the Walls. A peaceful scene in modern times; one imagines the beautiful princess taking a stroll across the grounds; in reality of course the spot would have been thronged with peasants, animals, and various forms of slop, all of it foul-smelling--or at least that is the image the current generation of historians and intellectuals seems to want us to have.

6. One Last Picture of the Castle, Because I Don't Have Anything Else to Fill Out the Set.

7-8. A Pond Somewhere in North Bohemia. With Gloves and Postcards.

I'm glad we managed to get these. Memories of the days when she used to like me. How fleeting it always is in the end, whether you are Charles the Fourth, Waldemar Matuska, Bourgeois Surrender, or anybody else. The question of what I was not doing at the time to be, or even at that relatively late age to prepare myself to be a productive and contributing member of society, and what I imagined myself to actually be doing (which I was not in fact doing), are good questions that I think will need to be addressed down the road in this series. But this rather dreamy and hopeful set is not the right atmosphere for undertaking that.

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