Chi Chi Tornado

21 Jun

Final Project for J370K

 

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Žižkov and the TV Tower

19 Jun

Angels in the Architecture

This was my last weekend in Prague and also my last blog post for this Maymester program. I am not done working though because I still need to finish my final project, but what else can I say : time flies ! It’s incredible, I have been here a month and my arrival with that jet-lag impression feels like yesterday.

Looking back on this trip, I earned experience. This study abroad program might have not been as exciting as it was for my peers because I have live my entire life in Europe and well, Czech Republic is part of Europe now and it is not that much different than Belgium. However, Prague is unique because of its architecture at first sight, its culture and its people.

On Sunday, I went to a part of the city I haven’t explored much yet, Žižkov. I bought a ticket to go up to the 207-feet-tall TV tower, built in 1989. The tower itself is an amazing piece of art. The shapes and the height of the piece make it a unique symbol for the city. Plus, the Czech artist, David Černý, decorated the tower with several giant black metallic babies with barcoded-faces (the same ones seen in a previous post about the Puma owner). It looks from another planet, almost like a UFO or something like that. But the view from the lookout cabins is amazing, something to see absolutely, a beautiful panoramic view on Prague.

The TV Tower, built in 1989, is an amazing spot to look over the entire city at 200-feet high.

Live Performance

18 Jun

Morning Glory

This morning I walked around Prague with my mother again and we ran into a drama performance by the river. The performance wasn’t free but I had the chance to see some very interesting modern work. One was a structure made out of sheets with someone completely covered under white shirts, sheets and other cloths, slowly moving inside the structure. It made me think to a sort of Japanese mysterious animated movie.

The other performance, shown below, was a still of a couple standing in a glass cube, eyes shut. I don’t know the story behind these art pieces, but I really appreciated seeing moving and living art in the middle of a square in the city. It is rare to see dramatic performances open in the streets. We are used to the usual touristic attractions like the “statue men” or musicians.

I really like the Czech modern art, painting, sculpture, photography, as well as live performance. I think the Czech culture has many faces and surprises to show to us. I especially believe the young alternative scene in Czech Republic is of great quality and starts to be more and more appreciated by the general public. Prague is growing better and better too. I remember when I was a kid, no one talked about the Central/Eastern countries, which at the time weren’t part of Europe yet or were freshly added. Czech Republic is a promising country in terms of modern art I believe.

Live dramatic performance in the streets of the Czech capital.

Discovering New Places

18 Jun

The Nocturnalist

After a long and tiring day, what else is better than seat down in a very relaxing and zen atmosphere in a small alley unpopulated by tourists ? My mother (who came this weekend) and I found a vegetarian restaurant at the first floor of a small house. The style was very appealing to me, very green, smelling like spices and nice waiters who proposed us a beautiful menu at a good price.

It is my last weekend in Prague and even though most of my folks are getting sad this experience will end, I think I need some time to slow things down and not worry anymore (especially on my final project). I like Prague, but I miss my good old Brussels. The good thing about not having many people who want to visit Brussels is that there are very few tourists in Belgium, which let to the city its authenticity.

I actually talked a lot about architecture with my mother and I agree on one point: Prague’s buildings are quiet amazing and unique, but their greatness make it a little oppressive. Everything is very tall with a lot of ornaments or sometimes the completely rectangular and simple. I really like the variety of this city though.

But I definitely need some rest and Prague is not my home yet, although it seems that many other students could see themselves living there, which is great ! I think I would love to stay in Prague longer by myself and having Czech friends. People who could show me places like the neighborhood I stumbled upon by myself. But for sure, next time I come I’ll stay with locals !

Starry ceiling at a vegetarian restaurant.

Strike Day

18 Jun

Around Here

This Thursday, Prague became a frozen city. The heat was well with us, but one of the most vital aspects of the city wasn’t much present that day. The Czech public transportation went on strike. Luckily for us, it wasn’t raining and we were able to go out and enjoy the last few days we have in this town.

I wanted to shoot the strike, but it was difficult to understand the organization of the demonstration without speaking any words of Czech. Paloma and I went all the way to the Castle (with a tram! One of the only working). Instead of seeing angry locals, we just saw a ton of old tourists… Yes, it was a failure.

However, the day was so beautiful that I decided to wander in the streets with no real destination. I went to places I never went to before and I am very glad I passed by those areas, although most locals who saw me probably believed I was lost. Long story short, I walked a lot. By a lot, I mean several hours… Oh I wanted to stop several times, but somehow wherever I was there was no public transportation.

I guess these long hours of walking were good to me, working on my muscles, but also it was simply nice to discover new parts of the city. I found one of my favorite spot actually. A mini island in the middle of the river. Nothing on there, except trees and grass and people resting. It was a peaceful moment, but not for my feet.

A couple enjoys a free afternoon on Thursday.

Villa Muller

16 Jun

Small Wonder

Prague amazes me all the time. In a small and quiet neighborhood, you can find little treasures of Czech tradition, culture and lifestyle. Wednesday morning, we had the chance to visit the Villa Muller designed by the Czech architect Adolf Loos in 1930.

Between residential buildings and parks, a very bizarre house raises over the street. It looks like a massive white cube with bright yellow windows. It doesn’t look at all like the many Renaissance and Baroque buildings in the Old Town. The Villa Muller is way more modern and completely transgress the usual architectural rules.

Inside, the house is even more intriguing. The floors are not clearly delimited, in fact the rooms are built around a central axis like a spiral and elevates ate the same time with many terraces. It is not a traditional house and Loos pulled all his talents together to create a unique architectural piece.

The material used are also unusual : marble, lemon wood, special oil to protect the walls, etc. Even if the style of the house is a little bit strange for our 21st century perspective, I really liked the plan and structure of the building.

Villa Muller designed by the Czech architect Adolf Loos in 1930.

The Jewish Quarter and Old Cemetery

14 Jun

Morning Glory

Prague has been a very important city for thousands of years, mostly because of its geographical location in the heart of Europe (I must say for your information that Brussels is the official capital of Europe, hehe!). Thousands of people have passed through the Czech lands on their way to France, Germany or Britain, well-established states at the time. Of course, the mix of so many cultures and people created this unique richness of the city.

One of the major groups of people that arrived in Prague, even before the Slavs, were the Jews. Therefore, the Jewish history in Prague is very prominent and old. However, the history of this people has been marked by persecution and exile. The Jews were expelled twice from Prague during the Hapsburg reign in the 16th century. When they came back to Czech Republic, they were confined in a Jewish quarter and Jewish ghettos. During World War II, thousands of Czech Jews lost their homes and died in concentration camps or executed by the Nazis.

This morning, we visited the Jewish Quarter, where the Jewish community still gathers in the synagogues and community centers, highly protected by security guards and police. Prague hosts the oldest synagogue in Europe dating back to the 13th century. A unique and very significant place for the Jewish community.

We also walked into the old Jewish cemetery, a tiny square of grass completely packed with tombstones. The cemetery was started in the early 15th century until the late 18th century. There are 12,000 graves visible, some in very deplorable states because they were neglected for many years. However, over 50,000 people were buried in this cemetery, and the graves were put on top of each others.

On the walls of the synagogue are written the names of all the Jews who died during WWII.