THIS is the beginning . . . Because somewhere between not knowing . . . and knowing . . . there lies imagination . . . THIS, THAT and THE OTHER . . . Book 1 . . . OUT NOW . . . THIS is the beginning . . . Because somewhere between not knowing . . . and knowing . . . there lies imagination . . . THIS, THAT and THE OTHER . . . Book 1 . . . CLICK HERE . . .

CURRENT : RED SPARROW WRITERS : storytelling, workshops, book signings : RSPB Conwy : booking now for 29 October 2019
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Friday, 13 December 2013

A Friday in Prague...

Itinerary: Old Town Hall and City Gallery, Museum of Communism, Mucha Museum
See also A Tuesday in Prague + A Wednesday in Prague + A Thursday in Prague
The Pavements of Prague...
Just off the Old Town Square, a ‘fake’ wedding is being photographed by an array of very well equipped photographers. The bride and groom are intermittently primped and pampered and arranged in relation to a stretch limo decorated with white ribbons. The bridesmaid models are brought on and off for the shoot and the happy couple repeat their kisses… We suppose it is a publicity shoot for a car-hire company, or a wedding package company as the gallery we are here to visit shares its entrance with a visitor centre and the town hall - often used for grand weddings…

There is some irony here as the City Gallery is currently hosting the 2013 Press Photo Exhibition. Two floors of professional reportage photography from around the world, showing almost every aspect of human life (and a bit of death, too), natural and artificial disasters, extreme moments in sport, candid peeks into subcultures and cults… all very impressive and a few truly affecting. I appreciated the human visual stories, but enjoyed the land and wildlife sections more (see my personal favourite below). Any visitor who could look away from the wide variety of powerful, glossy pictures, would see some of the building’s original C14th and Renaissance features, including wooden beams, painted with twining vines.
A cute what? It is a new parrot hatchling at Zoo Praha
by Thomas Adamec (photograph, 2013, Prague)
Then an interlude for shopping and for me to help Sparky seek out his old friends, Abby and Cynthia. On our way to their last known address I manage to track down a bottle of the most potent absinthe on the market, a measurable 34 grams per kilo of 'active wormwood' (or so the label claims), and at seventy-two percent alcohol this could be classed as a fuel. Maybe there is a reason why it is in what looks like a big aftershave bottle.

The shop where Sparky’s friends used to reside has been replaced by one that exclusively sells glass souvenirs. It looks like our mission to reunite him with his little soft friends of old is destined to fail. Then we spot another shop further down the same street that specialises in traditional wooden marionettes and we decide to give it a try. Amongst the puppet cast of what must be every well-known fairy tale or nursery rhyme, who should we see, put aside on a table of reduced ‘surplus stock’? 
L - R: Abby, Sparky, Cynthia - the happy-ending hat-trick!
Abby and Cynthia! They had waited four long ears (sic) for Sparky’s return. Finally they were free and were looking forward to a special screening of Harvey on our return to the UK… Mission accomplished! (There’s a bigger back story here: on my last visit to Prague I had run out of money and failed to purchase Abby and Cynthia, settling for Sparky instead, who was an instant hit and family favourite back home… but what kind of cuddly could possibly follow the distinctive little dog? Perhaps his little magical friends from the city of magick could do the trick…)
'Tesla girls - electric chairs and dynamos...'
Prague's Museum of Communism is worth a visit regardless of your political stance. The three rooms are cluttered with a wealth of retro chic, Constructivist graphics, propaganda and works of Socialist Realism. On show you will also see chilling remnants of the cold war, chemical warfare environment suits, grainy black and white photos of research establishments that look like something from Quatermass or a Kate Bush video, gulags and prison cells. There is also a cinema showing informative and visually interesting films from, and about, the (not-so-long-gone) Czech communist era. The whole gallery strives to give 'both sides of the story' all be it from a post-communist Czech context. This museum of living history reminds visitors that a great many of the people you meet in Prague will remember this period all too well, some will have been part of the Communist Coup in 1948, and many would have played their part in the 1989 Velvet Revolution.

Fittingly, we round off the art tour with the Mucha Museum. Though a small museum, this is a must for any visitor interested in the cultural heritage of Prague, or in the life and work of this important artist. The collection here is small, but well-selected with a cross section of his print work and some fantastic glimpses of sketchbook pages. The life-studies are simply amazing, and his life is inspiring. It is worth sitting through the short film biography that loops in the little viewing area - informative and ultimately very moving. 

The film briefly explains his colour theories: he stated that, “Black is the colour of bondage. Blue is the past. Yellow, the joyous present. Orange, the glorious future.” With knowledge of this code, we can re-evaluate the stained glass window in St Vitus Cathedral and the wonderful Slav Epic. Mucha is far more than an illustrator of history; he is a mediator and master story-teller… an important influence on the development of the narrative image through to modern advertising, comic books and cinema.

Prague has proved to be a most pleasing city. This 'art tour' has been full of contrast and satisfying surprises and I will now look to the glorious future and enjoy an orange on the flight home.
Homeward bound - Sparky enjoys his crisps.
...Another successful arts tour! The visit went without a hitch, thanks to the help and support of Travelbound.

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