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Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Prague Blog (Part II)

Let's see, what else about Prague. Oh! Did you know it's where Don Giovanni was debuted, conducted by Mozart himself? Well, perhaps if you were playing close attention during the movie Amadeus, you did, but I confess, I wasn't, so I was surprised. Everything in Prague is Mozart this and Don Giovanni that. There are no fewer than three opera houses in Prague. This is a picture of the one that hosted the famous debut. Meg and I saw Turandot at the State Opera (somewhat clunky staging, but very competent sopranos; the tenor gave us some tense moments, but our box seats were lovely and unbelievably cheap for two girls used to the Met), but the National Theater is unquestionably the most impressive. It's right by the river, and has enormous statues of mythical figures crowded around the roof. I wish I had a picture, but I don't.

Prague specializes in wrapping gorgeous, intricate trappings around the goriest history imaginable. My personal favorite example is found in St. James Basilica, a small church with a huge, ornate pipe organ, a lovely frescoed ceiling, and a 400-year-old decomposing human forearm hanging from the wall. Yes. The story goes that a thief tried to steal the jewels from the statue of the Madonna, and the statue came to life and grabbed the thief by the arm, refusing to relinquish him. They had to cut his arm off to free him, and now that arm is on display, for the quiet contemplation of the worshippers at St. James. It looks exactly as you'd imagine something like that would look. Another good story revolves around the abortive attempt to make Jan Somebody Or Other the patron saint of Prague. This Jan was basically a nobody, but the Church tried to sell him as a saint on the basis of having found his body, dead, but with the tongue still alive and licking. I swear I'm not making this up. In spite of the fact that the Pope eventually admitted that Jan was a false martyr, he's still got a statue on the Charles Bridge, and his coffin is in St. Vitus's Cathedral, supported by six sterling silver winged cherubs. And guess what's on display with the coffin! That's right! The TONGUE! I hope this picture isn't so dark that you can't make it out. It's the pink bit in the center of the shield. Although modern sources say the pink bit is, most likely, a sliver of brain, not a tongue. Like that's any less grotesque.

Some less colorful (well, slightly) but still vital history took place in Prague. And I bet you know what I'm talking about! That's right. Defenestration! (Conscience dictates that I interject here that every time I hear that word, my brain does a sharp left turn and conjures up images of trees being felled. Defenestration, Louisa, not deforestation.) Prague was the site of more than one deliberate tossing of an important personage from an upper story window, and pictured here is the window in Old Prague Castle that started the Thirty Years War.
It's on the second floor, and apparently, the two Protestants who were pitched out didn't actually fall to their deaths. They landed in some ivy, and were basically okay, but righteously pissed off. Enough to start a war, in fact! Oh, those wacky Protestants.

I felt safe in Prague, in spite of warnings about pickpockets. We were never accosted or bothered, even by the roving packs of British lads in Prague Drinking Team t-shirts. The city is very walkable, and has an easy-to-use public transportation system. There is a ton to see and do, and all of it was different enough from anything I'd seen before in North America and western Europe to feel like a big adventure.

Plus, you know, grody decomposing body parts everywhere...

66 Comments:

At 1:43 AM, Blogger MarlyMathews said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 1:44 AM, Blogger MarlyMathews said...

Well, thank you, Louisa! That was a great post...though I must say I now have mental images in my brain that I wish weren't there.

The one story just goes to show...you really shouldn't desecrate a holy site...Whoah.

~Marly

 
At 2:07 PM, Blogger Mel Francis said...

I'm have daydream-mares of tongues and decomposing arms.

ewwww.

 
At 6:45 AM, Blogger MariaGeraci said...

Ooh, those are great stories, Louisa! Love the pictures, too!

 
At 3:12 PM, Blogger Ellen said...

Fantastic stories and pictures! LOL. You've gotta love that rich history. :)

 
At 3:14 PM, Blogger Debra Parmley said...

I can't wait to hear the rest of your adventures and to see more pictures!

Prague is as safe as any major city even if it was where they filmed Mission Impossible and the setting lends itself to that whole dark espionage look.

(Remind me some time to tell you of my night time adventures in Prague - men with machine guns. It's a good one to tell in the bar at the next nationals or RT if you go next year.)

 
At 5:38 AM, Blogger Louisa Edwards said...

Oooh, Debra! I saw lots of (very good looking) young men with machine guns, especially around the opera house and in Old Town Square. Apparently there'd been some kind of terrorist threat a couple of weeks before we arrived. Which Meg and I couldn't figure out, actually--the terrorists want to strike at Prague, that bastion of capitalism...oh, wait...

 
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