Tag Archives: Collegium Hieronymi Pragensis

In the Details

I still cannot believe that my semester abroad is so close to the end. It really and truly feels like yesterday that I was fighting with my mother about how many pairs of socks I would realistically need while abroad and how many I could fit in my already completely overpacked suitcases. And yet, that was actually close to 4 months ago and today was my final art history class.

What started out as one of my least favorite classes has actually proven to be one of the best classes, potentially ever. While not necessarily academically rigorous, it is always interesting and informative. My other two walking classes tend to be more based in Prague 1 and I have been to a few sites more than once as a result, but with art history, the professor always takes us to really interesting places. A baroque garden, a star-shaped villa, monasteries with Christian religious items covered in thousands of crystals, and so many other really wonderful off the beaten path places.

For our last class today, our professor took us to the Municipal House. I was there last week for European Mentality, but we only walked around in the “open to the public” areas. Today, though, our professor told us he wanted to do something special because it was the last day. And boy was it special. Apologies in advance, I only had my iPhone today, but even with a real camera, there is no way that I could have captured the splendor and beauty with a camera. But after looking at my pictures, I decided that using google as a supplement would give you all some better pictures than those that I took. This is most definitely an in-person kind of place.

The Municipal House is right next to Old Town Square and was built around 1900 by two architects who hated one another and worked together solely by sending messages back and forth to one another. After its completion, it was used as a concert hall, place for balls and galas, and a place for social visits. Today, it is used mainly for concerts but is available for hire. Although you’d better have some pretty deep pockets, because just the group ticket was $150!

The interior of the Municipal House was decorated with no expense spared. There are inlaid wood details on the door jambs, magnificent tiling in the stairwells, and ornate marble stands to hold vases of flowers.

2012-12-13 16.03.19

The Municipal House

A model of the Municipal House

A model of the Municipal House

The concert hall. All materials are from within the Czech Republic

The concert hall. All materials are from within the Czech Republic

Ceiling painted by Mucha in the Mucha-designed room. This room is also the most important room in both the Men's and Women's Quarters

Ceiling painted by Mucha in the Mucha-designed room. This room is also the most important room in both the Men’s and Women’s Quarters

Stained glass window in the Mucha room

Stained glass window in the Mucha room

I loved these heads, also within the Mucha Room

I loved these heads, also within the Mucha Room

The Confectionary in the Women's Quarters. The Women's Quarters rooms were much smaller, more intimate, and considered less important.

The Confectionary in the Women’s Quarters. The Women’s Quarters rooms were much smaller, more intimate, and considered less important.

The Americky Bar, found in the basement level. The first and only bar that women could attend unattended for a long time.

The Americky Bar, found in the basement level. The first and only bar that women could attend unattended for a long time.

Ok, I couldn’t help myself. I know, these are horrible pictures, but I just needed to share some more of the incredible details of this place.

Part of the Men's Quarters

Part of the Men’s Quarters

The doorway to the Mayor's quarters

The doorway to the Mayor’s quarters

How fun?

How fun? Also, these are real crystals.

Light fixtures in the basement level. Exposed lightbulbs were considered "fashionable" at the time, and so there are exposed bulbs throughout the Municipal House

Light fixtures in the basement level. Exposed lightbulbs were considered “fashionable” at the time, and so there are exposed bulbs throughout the Municipal House

The floor outside of the Americky Bar

The floor outside of the Americky Bar

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The Bartered Bride

Last night, instead of going to the St. Mikuláš Day celebrations, CHP took us to the opera. We went to go and see The Bartered Bride, which is a comedic opera about a girl, Mařenka, who is in love with a man named Jeník.Unfortunately, Mařenka’s parents have deteremined that she will marry another man, Vašek, whom she has never met before. Jeník makes a deal with the matchmaker, Kecal, that Mařenka can only marry the son of Micha (who is Vašek’s father) and accepts 300 gold pieces as a payoff to leave. Meanwhile, Mařenka finds Vašek and convinces him not to marry Mařenka because she will only cheat on him and kill him. Terrified, he informs his parents that he no longer wishes to marry Mařenka. When it comes to light that Jeník has agreed to accept gold in the place of marrying Mařenka, she is devastated. But, the opera ends on a high note (literally, haha), when Jeník greets Vašek’s father as “father”. (It turns out that Jeník is in fact Vašek’s half-brother and he left home when his father remarried because he hated his step-mother.) But, as a son of Micha, he is eligible to marry the lovely Mařenka.Hope you followed that! If you didn’t or want a more flushed out synopsis, feel free to take a gander over to my good friend wikipedia for an excellent synopsis.

CHP had fabulous seats for us – the first balcony – which are some of the best seats at an opera that I have ever sat in. Plus, it totally beat sitting behind a column like I did at the ballet! The National Theater is beautiful – it is filled with golden moldings, luscious curtains, and because it is a pretty small theater, it has the added benefit of feeling intimate and cozy. That being said, I feel a little spoiled, as, with the exception of the Budapest Opera, all of my experience with the opera is with the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center. So the bar was set pretty high for this opera. And to be honest, I’m not convinced that it measured up. Sure, the music was beautiful and it was a fun and easy-to-follow story line, but I thought that the scenery was lacking – it was comprised mostly of 3 supposed-to-be dirt-covered planks of wood and another curved piece that Mařenka and Jeník had quite a few songs on together. When the scenery was changed, it creaked nosily and the stagehands were often visible. This is not to say that I didn’t have a great evening – the music really was beautiful and it was fun to get dressed up and go to the theater – I guess I just had high expectations.

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Surprises

3 walking classes means that I often end up in places that I never would have thought to go. European Mentality is the class that most often surprises me. My professor is incredible – he is a geologist, writer, philosopher, and in general is knowledgable on just about any topic you broach with him. He has taken us into cafes where he has been told to leave with us and take “those American students to a McCafe because they don’t know how to appreciate a good coffee,” through streets of neighborhoods that I didn’t know existed, and of course, he was the one who (cruelly) made us meet him at the Charles Bridge at 7am.

Last week, he took us to a street art exhibit that even with a map I don’t think I could have found on my own. It was in a completely unmarked building and then up about 6 flights of stairs. The exhibit had all of the works painted directly on the walls. There was also a class of about 8 year olds there which I found to be a poor judgement call on the teacher’s side, but not my place, I guess.

I think this section might have been my favorite

Yesterday, Vaclav took us on the metro to a stop that I am not quite sure where we were. Somewhere in Prague 7. He then took us a walk along the river. At one point, we were walking around the river on a path covered in rocks and leaves and it was pretty slippery and I swear I was suffering from PTSD because I was convinced that I was going to fall and dislocate the other ankle! But I didn’t, in case you were concerned. After hiking up a hill (by far the scariest part for me because the chances of slipping were considerably higher), we walked through this creepy area with discarded trash, tires, rugs, and I swear, some dead bodies. We walked past this little shack and a man came out and started screaming at us in Czech. Somehow I don’t think that he appreciated Vaclav’s sense of adventure as much as we do, especially since it involved walking through his “front lawn.” I believe that the point of the walk was to find real street art, as opposed to the street art painted on the walls of last week’s museum, but a lot of the buildings had been torn down. That being said, it was really neat to see such a different side of the city. A side that doesn’t look like Disney World or have Communist housing units. A side that, quite frankly, looked nothing like Prague. And yet, we were no more than 10 minutes from the center of the city.

It’s pretty hard to believe that this is the same Vltava River that the Charles Bridge stretches across or the same Vltava that my friends and I paddled down in Cesky Krumlov.

At one point, this building was covered in street art. Now, it serves as a home to some of the homeless individuals of Prague.

Post Script: I apologize for the quality of these photos. You would think that by now I would remember that class with Vaclav means going somewhere unique and adventurous and I would therefore remember to bring my camera. Oops, you figured wrong. Because I forget constantly, so my iPhone has to serve as the next best thing. Sorry!

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Dresden, Germany

Saturday was our fourth and final program-sponsored trip. Dresden, Germany. If it sounds a little weird to you that we took a day trip to Germany, it should, because it was a little weird. Prague is about 2 1/2 hours from Dresden, so we only had a few hours there. That being said, I am glad that I got a chance to spend a little time there. For those of you who don’t know much about Dresden (it’s ok, I didn’t either prior to reading Slaughterhouse-Five last week), it is a city which should be talked about more. At the end of World War II, Dresden was a place of refuge for about 1.2 million people. In February of 1945, the Americans, in what is still a controversial move, bombed Dresden, killing thousands and flattening the city.

Dresden, 1945

I wasn’t really sure what to expect of Dresden. It has been 67 years, so I guess that would be enough time to rebuild a city, right? The answer to that is yes, it was enough time for Dresden to be rebuilt. In fact, had no one ever told me that Dresden was bombed, I am actually not sure that I ever could have known just from looking at the city. I am not sure if that was just because we were mostly in the middle of the city, but it was actually pretty alarming. I mean, should a city in which thousands of people were bombed and in which hundreds of buildings fell down have some sort of recognition or reference to these events other than a piece of the original church? But on the other hand, does that leave a city too stuck in the past?

Whether the city is stuck or not stuck enough in the past, it is beautiful now. We walked around a little bit before going through the museum which has a surprisingly large collection of great works.

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The First Day of School

Today was my first day of school. I guess, technically, yesterday was, but I only had Czech which isn’t new, so it didn’t feel like the first day. So, as first started, today was my first day. I am taking a class called “Baroque-Classicism” Polarity in the Art of Central Europe. There are four of us in the class (which makes my and Rosie’s absence next week (we’re going to Budapest though, so can you really blame us?) all the more noticeable. Oops!), which is really nice. It also only meets once a week, which makes it even better! Basically, each week, we meet in the classroom and then go somewhere in Prague.

I am taking 3 walking classes, which I did on purpose because I wanted to get to see as much of the city as I possibly could. For the past 2 weeks though, I was a little nervous that it was going to be too much walking and I was a little worried because it would be more time spent in class than if I were not taking any walking classes. But, after having yesterday afternoon and this morning free and seeing that it was a little intimidating to find places to go and after going to the first class today, I am back to my original line of thinking, which is that 3 walking classes will be wonderful.

Today, we went to Letohrádek Hvězda, which is a star-shaped villa in Prague 6. To get there, we took two trams, the second of which we took all the way to the end. On the the trams here, there are a few seats, but most people end up standing. When an older person comes on, you stand up and give them the seat, which has led to some awkward moments when I offer the seat to someone who is then offended because you have essentially told them that they look old. Yikes. Letohrádek Hvězda, which, conveniently, means “star villa” used to be a villa owned by King Ferdinand. He eventually got bored with the place and it was used to store gun-powder. It now serves as the literature society museum, so there were some pretty neat book displays up today.

Star Villa

Letohrádek Hvězda or “Star Villa”

The interior of the villa stand in stark contrast with the plain exterior walls. The entire inside of the building is painted white, but the ceiling has incredibly elaborate moldings on it. Most of the moldings are of Roman gods. Although we had a tough time recognizing what each molding was, to the people of Ferdinand’s day, these were easily deciphered. It would be like decorating your ceiling with moldings of the Kardashians – unfortunately.

Ceiling Moldings

The center of the ceiling has a very beautiful depiction of burning Troy. All sorts of different myths are depicted and were meant to be used as instructions or a guide of how to live and behave. So maybe not like decorating your ceiling with the Kardashians…

Letohrádek Hvězda Diorama

During Ferdinand’s time at Letohrádek Hvězda, he wanted his villa to be seen by all, so it had a huge tower on top of the villa. The whole house was also painted white. The house sits on top of a hill called Bílá Hora (White Mountain) and when travelers coming from Europe were driving on the main road, they would have Ferdinand’s hunting grounds to the right and to the left, they would have this awesome, all-white, star-shaped building. But when the villa became a gun-powder storage place, being easily visible was actually a problem, so they removed the tower and the obelisk and painted the roof black. But this diorama gives you a little bit of a better idea of the shape of the villa, what is used to look like, and the floor plan.

Possibly the neatest thing to me (although this is a tough call because the moldings were just so spectacular) is how symmetrical the villa is. It is built in the Renaissance style, which calls for symmetry, but symmetry in a square building just isn’t as impressive as it is in a star-shaped villa. On the the second floor, there is no molding on the ceiling, it is just plain white cement, and when our Professor asked us where the exit was, we had to think for a minute to figure out where we had come from because each of the hallways coming off of the center looks the same!

I don’t actually have any pictures of the second floor, but it is where all of the bedrooms were. There is no kitchen in the house, because that wouldn’t work into the symmetry plan nor the aesthetic plan, obviously. But there are two staircases so that the servants could go up the stairs at the same time as the aristocrats with dinner and not be seen. There is also a cellar in the basement, which again, I have no pictures of, but there is a door going to the outside from the cellar which used to abut the road where the wine delivery-man used to drive so they would deliver wine right to the villa’s door. Talk about living like a king!

 

post script: Sorry that the picture quality is only so-so today, I only had my iPhone with me today because I didn’t think that we would be going anywhere today!

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I dare you…

To say this Czech tongue-twister 5 times fast!

Strč prst skrz krk

( If you need a little help with pronouncing this vowel-less toughy, click here. )

It means stick your finger through your throat, which I think is just as gibberish as the spelling of the words that comprise the tongue twister!

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Going Native

I am truly loving Prague. I love living here, I love learning my way around the city, and I love learning about the city. If I walk for 5 minutes, I can end up at our school building, or at the river, or at the base of a beautiful hill from which I can see the city. Or I can hop on a tram, bus, or metro and go anywhere. I’ll always be a girl who loves New York City and all that it has to offer, but there is something about living in a smaller, more open city that has so much history everywhere that somehow makes New York City look a little less glamorous.

A lot of the buildings here have these really beautiful paintings along the top of the sides, that look like black and white frescoes. I think they are characters from Prague’s history, and until I learn what they actually are, that is what I will pretend that they are. But they just add another level of life to the city.

Every day, we have both Czech and Czech culture class. Our first day of culture class, which is taught each day by a different one of our professors, we were taken to Prague Castle. It was also the first time that we were able to get a bird’s eye view of Prague, so we were finally able to see the real-life version of all of the Prague pictures that we’ve always seen.

We all have OpenCards, which are cards that you put money on and then you can ride the trams, metros, and buses unlimited. It’s a bizarre system though because you don’t scan the card. If you have a one-time paper ticket, then you put it into the ticket-reader on the bus, and it stamps it, but not the OpenCard. The only time that you need the card is when a ticket inspector comes around and asks to see your card. But, I have yet to see an inspector. I bet you’re all thinking, well then why put money on the card? Here’s why: I went with a few other kids right after class on the day that we got the cards to put money on them. We all spoke the woman behind the counter in our horrible broken Czech (we were told what to say in class), but I now have 90 days worth of transportation tickets! There were a few other kids on the tram who didn’t put money on the card and an inspector came around and scanned their empty cards. He then fined them 800 crowns each ($40!) and kicked them off the tram! The chances of this happening is so slim though. I think he must have gone up to them specifically because he heard them talking in English.

For our second culture class, we were supposed to go somewhere on the tram because we were supposed to all have filled our cards. But, since that wasn’t the case, the professor whipped this tour out of nowhere and took us to all of these different cathedrals to learn the difference between Baroque, Renaissance, and Gothic architecture. It was a really neat tour because he took us into all of these places that I would have just walked right past. There are all of these cathedrals which are set back from the street with a teeny tiny little door entrance from the street, but once you walk through the courtyard, you’re in front of these breathtaking buildings. He also knew about a baroque structure which is underneath a bar and now serves as a modern art gallery. There is no way that I would have ever known to look there!

My favorite trip thus far was yesterday. We went to Petřín, which is the biggest hill in Prague. I know that doesn’t sound that cool, but it’s a huge hill. We took a tram up to the top of it, and then we sat in a park and listened to some really fascinating facts about Prague. They would have been even more interesting if our professor wasn’t trying to cook us though…

Did you know?

– The ratio of dogs to children in the CR is 6:1 (Nuts, right?)

– The divorce rate is 67%

– 30% of couples with children are not married

– The average age is 41

– Women live to be 81, while men live to be about 77

– The CR’s population is on the decline because most people have dogs instead of kids

– Most Czechs will live in the same apartment their whole lives. The average change-over of apartments is 2 generations!

– Most Czechs will have only one employer in their lives

– The CR is one of the countries with the highest alcohol intake, but it is almost exclusively beer that is consumed

– The biggest minority population here is Vietnamese. But most Vietnamese speak almost no Czech

Also up on Petřín is a funhouse from the 1800s which had a mirror maze, funhouse mirrors, and an elevator which use to take 5-10 minutes to go up one story! I definitely plan on going back so I can try out the funhouse (although I think I can skip the elevator…) There is also a tower which is sort of a copy of the Eiffel Tower. The structure itself is smaller than the Eiffel Tower, but when you take into consideration that prague is higher than sea level, and this tower is on a hill, it is actually 3 meters taller than the Eiffel Tower! And yes, this was totally done on purpose. On my trip back, I will be climbing this tower as well (although I think I get to climb it with Reading Prague). Also throughout Petřín are little “churches” which are cement filled-in arches. I am having a hard time thinking of how to describe them, but think of 8 foot-tall filled-in arches that are about 1.5 feet thick. They have fresco scenes painted on the front of them and they are all over the hill. Within Prague, there is also a ton of graffiti. Interestingly enough, the frescos and the churches have been left entirely untouched, although sadly the same cannot be said for Prague Castle. I guess even graffiti artists find them sacred!

Last night, I discovered a great pub with a few friends. It’s the kind of place where you could go back and do some work with a beer once classes start. It also has a small outdoor space, so for the next week or so it would be great to sit outside in. The best part, the beer that I really like, Kozel, is 25 crowns (about $1.50)! Later, we went to the oldest pub in Prague. It was super overwhelming because as soon as we sat down, we were brought beer without ordering it. One of the guys with me kept asking to see a menu, but the waiter wouldn’t bring it to him because they only have one kind of beer! The beer that they make! It was 59 crowns (about $2.50) which is expensive for beer! (For those of you travelling to Prague, if the beer (not imported beer like Corona, but local stuff like Gambinos or Pilsner) is more than 35-40 crowns, you’re in a tourist trap and the food will be overpriced as well. But it was fun place to go to once and the atmosphere was fun.

We are off on another walk today, but as usual, I have no idea where we are going!

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