Travel Shots For Fun – Dancing House In Prague

The Dancing House is the nickname given to the Nationale-Nederlanden building in downtown Prague, Czech Republic. It was designed by Croatian-Czech architect Vlado Miluni in co-operation with Canadian architect Frank Gehry. The first shot is HDR handheld from 3 exposures and the second shot is one extended exposure of 9 seconds. Click either image to see a larger version.

Prague – Day 10

Well, it’s our last day in Prague. Vienna seems so long ago at this point. We’re totally sated in every way and ready to come home. If all goes well, we have a car picking us up at 5:30 am to go to the airport. We’re crossing our fingers in hopes that he shows up.

We took it relatively easy today. Just some walking around. Again, we found some things we had been kinda keeping an eye out for.

We headed to Wenceslas Square to see if we could locate the Lucerna Gallery to see the sculpture “Saint Wenceslas Riding an Upside-Down Horse” and succeeded

A quirky sculpture, to be sure.

From there we just wanted to walk around. We explored the area by the river right next to the Charles Bridge. While walking around we stumbled upon a REAL puppet shop. In case you didn’t know, Prague is famous for puppets. Especially Marionette style puppets. There are stores everywhere selling cheap and, frankly crappy puppets that look to be mass produced and are there for the tourists exclusively. But this shop was different. These puppets were hand made by a group of Czech artisans and had all the charm of something that hearkened to a bygone era. The shopkeeper allowed me some time to photograph in the shop, which I think was very kind and generous.

We couldn’t find a puppet we wanted enough to justify the cost and the effort of getting it home. But it was nice to see this place. Cynthia bought a little hand carved sheep as a souvenir and a token of our appreciation for the time the shopkeeper spent with us.

All we did the rest of the day was walk and walk which lead us to stumble upon another thing we were looking for.

This is the monument to the students that were injured by the police in the protests that precipitated the Velvet Revolution.

I’ve got a lot more photos to process when we get home and I’ll be trickling those out as time permits.

We’re back at the apartment just relaxing now. We’re packed and ready to come home. What a glorious adventure this has been. Thank to everyone who followed along here and on Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. I’ve got a lot of photos to process. I’ll be trickling those out as time permits.

Prague – The Tiger Lillies

Cynthia bought a copy of the Prague Post the other day because it is printed in English. I was looking at the entertainment section and there on the cover was the unmistakable visage of Martyn Jacques of The Tiger Lillies. I read the article and it turns out the band was playing 5 nights in Prague as part of a theater show at the Archa called “Here I Am Human

These guys never come to Houston and have rarely played in the United States, but they have quite a cult following and I figured I should seize this opportunity. As it turns out, the Archa is only an easy 15 minute walk from our apartment. We decided we’d check it out and purchased tickets.

The theme of the show is, as the name would suggest, about being human. It was not a concert, per se. It was an avant-guarde stage performance featuring a narrator explaining various aspects of what it is to be a human being.

He took the audience from biblical creation and being cast out of the garden of Eden through Darwinism and explained how we as humans separated ourselves from our more animal instincts. Of course all the narration was in Czech with minimal English subtitles so I am sure much was lost in the lack of translation. But the performance of the actors did a good job of keeping us on the story track.

All the while The Tiger Lillies were on the stage and performed songs they had written for the show. Sometimes as background music

Most of the time as musical interludes during the stage performance.

The songs themselves were in English so that was a plus. Some of the songs were really quite good while others catered to the more base aspects of the story line.

I should point out that the above photos are not mine. They were provided by the Archa Theater for me to use. But I did take my camera and was able to get a shot of me posing with the band after the show thanks to Cynthia.

Prague – Day 8

Today was another casual day. Cynthia wanted to visit the Old New Synagogue in The Jewish Quarter to see if we could catch a glimpse of the Golem that is said to be still hiding amongst the rafters. Fortunately, no run ins with this legendary animated anthropomorphic being. No photos allowed in the synagogue.

From there we walked around the area and we came to the Cechuv bridge. And there, towering over the city was a giant, functioning metronome looming over the city.

From what I understand, that is where the giant Stalin monument once stood.

We decided we would like to check it out, but decided it might be a bit hard to reach on foot and kind of blew it off. That is when I noticed the steps leading up to Prague Caslte in the distance. We had come down those steps when returned from our visit to the castle complex a few days earlier, but wanted to just go have a look at them and then the surrounding area.

Before we knew it we had climbed the steps and were in the castle compound. It was a rather arduous climb, but we didn’t wear ourselves out too bad. Once we were up there we decided to see if we could find our way to the giant metronome. A little research and we figured out it was in Letna Park. Problem was that we couldn’t immediately figure out how to get to Letna Park from our current location.

I knew we didn’t want to go down again and that it must be up where we were in terms of elevation. The maps were pretty useless, but I had the general direction in my head and we set off to find it.

We ended up in this park that ran along the old mote of the castle complex. It was very scenic and there were not very may people there. We came upon the castle vineyard and there was a nice view of the castle from there

We walked quite a bit trying to get a fix on the metronome which was fine. The weather was absolutely perfect and we were in no rush.

We explored the area and eventually came out to a main street that I recognized from the map and from there is was pretty easy to find our way to Letna Park, and presumably the the giant metronome. Which we did.

All in all we walked for a good 5 hours with frequent stops to take in the view and shoot some pictures.

As we were headed back to the apartment to recombobulate and maybe get some food we saw a bunch of swans in the river near the tour boat launches. Cynthia wanted to feed the swans which we did after regrouping.

I can really feel myself winding down. We’ve got two more full days and I am starting to think about home more and more as departure time draws near.

Tonight we go to see The Tiger Lillies perform at the Archa Theater. Should be very strange.

Prague – Day 7 – Day Trip To Kutna Hora

In planning the trip to Prague there was one place I just HAD to visit and that was Kutna Hora. Now Kutna Hora is famous for a lot of things. It’s home to St. Barbara Church and The Cathedral of Our Lady. It is a quaint little Czech town full of history and it played a very important role in Bohemia due to the now long depleted silver mines that were found around the 10th century. Anyway, you can read all about that in the linked Wikipedia article. I wanted to go there to see the Sedlec Ossuary.

In researching it looked a little tough to sort out the train ride so we opted for a guided tour. This was reasonably priced and seemed it would take the headache out of getting there and back as well as trying to find our way around. The tour was advertised to last about 5 hours, two of which would be the ride there and the ride back.

We got to the tour guide stand early and were on our way at 9:30 am. The first stop, Sedlec Ossuary. Yay, we thought. Then we were reminded why we don’t travel with tour groups. The total amount of time allocated for the Ossuary was 20 minutes. The was way too rushed for me to really relax and take the photos I wanted to take.

You see, the Sedlec Ossuary is a very unique thing, not only in The Czech Republic, but I would bet you would be hard pressed to find anything like it in the entire world. The ossuary is a small Roman Catholic chapel, located beneath the Cemetery Church of All Saints in Sedlec which is a suburb of Kutná Hora. And it is tastefully decorated….with the skeletal remains of an estimated 40,000 to 70,000 people.

The abbot of the Cistercian monastery in Sedlec, was sent to the Palestine Holy Land in 1278. When he returned, he brought with him a small amount of earth he had removed from Golgotha, the biblical location of the crucification of Jesus Christ. He took this and sprinkled it over the cemetery to consecrate the ground. This caused the property values of this small plot of land to go through the spiritual roof! Everybody wanted to be buried there so they flocked to Sedlec to die. Add to that the victims of The Black Death in the 14th century and those who were killed during the Hussite Wars in the early 15th century, you had many thousands of new residents is a rather small cemetery.

The graves had to be dug up and the remains removed to accommodate new arrivals. The ossuary itself dates back to 1511 and it was the task of a half blind monk to gather up the bones of the former residents and stash them in the crypt.

So what do you do with a crypt containing the skeletal remains of 40,000 to 70,000 people? Well, if you’re Duke Shwartzemberg in 1870 you find yourself a wood carving artistic type like Frantisek Rindt and you tell him to go nuts!

When viewing from you can click any of the images to see a larger version. For some of these, this is a must.

Here is the entrance to the ossuary

Descend the stairs and enter the ossuary.

The room is dominated by a skeletal chandelier

Here you see the signature of the artist, spelled out and dated using bones

And here is the Shwartzemberg coat of arms done in, you guessed it! Bones!

Bones are piled in 4 corners of the ossuary in a pyramid shape with ventilation holes going through the center

You can get up real close and personal, just don’t touch!

Bones decorate everything. Strings of skulls adorn the walls like those ornamental chains made of popcorn you used to decorate your Christmas tree with.

All in all, I’m very happy I had the chance to see this. I wish I would have had more time and it wasn’t so crowded. I could have done better. But I pulled this off in 15 minutes, 1 lens change and no flash or tripod.

Prague – Day 6

Man, the weather again today was fantastic! We didn’t really have anything specific on the agenda today. Cynthia calls it a “free day” where we just walk around and shoot pictures of whatever we want. With the sun being out I decided to try and capture some detail on the astronomical clock. I setup the tripod and captured these images:

I’ve got some more and some plans for processing to make them more “interesting” but I’ll need some time. I’m just wanting to find a different way to capture and present this magnificent clock.

We walked around the old town square shooting a few things and marveled at the clear blue sky.

We decided to cross Karlov Most (The Charles Bridge) back over to the far bank of the river. The crowds were already building up. There’s a fantastic jazz band that plays on the bridge every day and the music really sets the scene. Their name, cleverly enough, is The Bridge Band.

We strolled casually down the bridge, stopping frequently to snap pictures of the various statues that line Karlov Most

There’s this one statue on the bridge of St John Nepomuk

It is said that touching the plague beneath this statue brings good fortune and that you can make a wish. But you can only make one wish in your lifetime. Cynthia has made hers and I am mulling mine over currently.

We wandered and wandered quite a bit. I was shooting a lot with my Zeiss 70-300 which is unusual for me as I am primarily a wide angle kind of guy. But it was nice to capture some detail.

As we wandered down the river we came across a sculpture garden that was in the courtyard of the Kampa Museum of Contemporary Art. There were many interesting pieces, but this one stood out for me

It is what it looks like, a crochet car. It was created by a Jitka Havlí?ková in 2001 and is called Viktor – pomnik automobilu which roughly translates to Victor (or maybe Victoria) – Memorial Car.

We also took the opportunity to fulfill our travel tradition of dropping a Mr. Zippers feather at our travel destination. Mr. Zippers was Cynthia’s beloved Quaker parrot and w take a feather and drop it on every trip.

We dropped it in the river in sight of the Charles Bridge and Prague Castle.

From the river we turned into the city again and walked all the way to Wencislas Square. On the way I spotted this odd mirrored building that was reflecting the more traditional building directly across the street. I don’t know why this sort of thing fascinates me, but it does. Just like Haus Haus in Vienna did on that leg of our trip.

I don’t know what Nova Scena is, but that ball in the middle of the sign is made of yarn.

We walked and walked and walked. As Cynthia has been fond of saying: I’ve walked so much my dog are woofin’

We headed back to the apartment where I actually laid down and took a two hour nap. After which I got up and Cynthia and I walked down to Slovansky ostrov to go to, of all things, The Prague Wine Festival.

Cynthia and I do enjoy wine. Unfortunately we’re pretty vino ignorant. Still, we tried some Czech wines and enjoyed them. And we got to listen to some traditional Czech music. But before long the long day took it’s toll and we declared an early evening and headed back home. It was a lovely stroll back to the apartment after a very nice and relaxing day.