Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Prague Trip Report, Part 3

Wednesday, May 4;
one day before the “”Big 5th Day” –

Visited Bedřich Smetana Museum in former waterworks building right on the Vltava near the east end of the Charles Bridge (Karlovy most). Had fun trying my limited Czech on the attendant downstairs. Passed tickets to the attendant upstairs and borrowed English-language folders. Interesting life led by composer who was a leader of the national renaissance in Czech arts and culture during the last half of the 19th century. In his younger life, Smetana wrote and composed in German and left the country for Sweden for several years in the early 1860s. Something happened to the Austro-Hungarian empire around the mid-1860s that allowed Czechs to speak and write in Czech again; around 1867 the imperial crown was divided into the dual crowns of Austria and Hungary as separate national feelings seemed to be ascendant throughout the empire. We saw Smetana’s piano, which had swiveling lamp stands, and Gerald enjoyed using the laser “conductor’s baton” to activate music at podiums representing different types of compositions. Got souvenirs downstairs; CDs, postcards, poster.

Gerald had a 3 p.m. afternoon cello lesson; Carol Anne enjoyed view from the Vysehrad ramparts to city, river, Podoli and beyond. We enjoyed Vysehrad very much; it's off the beaten path for foreign tourists and is a special place to us as well as to the Czech people. There's also something special about a nation that highly honors its composers, musicians, and poets.

If I remember right, this may be the day that we made a run via tram 18 to Narodni trida to do some shopping at Tesco. This is a large store by downtown Prague standards, with several floors for shopping, in contrast to many Prague stores that are the size of an apartment. However, there is a particular peculiarity; it appears that a shopper has to pay for his or her purchases prior to proceeding to another floor. After selecting various supplies such as bath beads and such on the ground floor, we lined up at one of the many registers to pay. Our cashier said something in Czech when we gave him a large Czech bill, but he was getting ready to go off-shift and realized I was a foreigner (Čzinec), shrugged his shoulders, and gave us change. On the next floor up, we found women’s clothing, but Carol Anne was unsuccessful in her urgent quest to find cushioned non-cotton socks.

After a quick return to the hotel, it was time to prepare for dinner with families and friends of bride and groom in a New Town pub. We met Marianna's father (Křen) and stepmother and family including brother Miki and Miki's girlfriend/fiancé Lucy and Marianna's half-brother and sister, Jakob (James) and Tereza; plus maid of honor Misha; also attending were Marianna's step-mom, Ron & Corinne Christman, Ellen & Paul Tallerico, Jerry Seeger & Philee & Marianna of course!, Phil & Barbara Seeger, along with Carol Anne, Gerald, and me and a couple of others. Pub was Ztraty y nalezy; my original best attempt at translating the name in a dictionary (slovnick) came out as "worthless discovery" but it really means "lost and found". We later learned that it’s right across from a home lived in by Dvořak. (New Town is only 600 some years old, some 100 years newer than old town, so it’s regarded as the young upstart neighborhood.)

From the wedding web page: “Family dinner near New Town Hall, in Ztraty & nalezy II restaurant, 1, Zitna 15. We would like be there at 7pm, and we will do our best to be there on time. There are very tasty Classic Czech dishes and the most famous Czech beers as Gambrinus (10 degree) or Pilsner Urquell (12 degree). The place is located right between New Town Hall & Pivovarsky Dum. This rehearsal dinner will help you with your topography for the Big Fifth Day.”

Beer in the Czech republic is rated by its “degree”, which refers to the concentration of ingredients used, and isn’t really quite the same as proof or alcohol concentration. Beer is usually served in large (velke) ½ liter or small (malé) .3 liter mugs or glasses. Pitchers are not generally available. Also very popular is the liqueur “Becerovka”; it is quite adequately heartwarming. The Czechs believe and enjoy saying that it has beneficial medicinal properties; so all the Czechs in the room had a good laugh when I held up my glass and told them I had ordered from the “lekarna” (pharmacy or chemist’s).


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