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tober 11, 2009
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It's always a pleasure to guide someone around on their first Prague visit. Justin from Vancouver was visiting
by way of Vienna where he'd attended a fuel cell conference in his capacity as a government scientist. I picked
him up at his hotel at 11 am and we went straight to U Rudolfina for a traditional lunch of veproknedlozelo
(pork-dumplings-sauerkraut), pivny syr (beer cheese), and pivo (beer). We'd arranged to connect with my pal
Dan down at Vysehrad, which for some reason is conspicuously absent from most tourist maps. Dan's happy
about that as it keeps the swarms of tourists away, leaving Prague's first fortification the almost exclusive domain
of locals who promenade its high walls courting, walking their dogs, or just enjoying the panoramic vistas. I'd been
to the cemetery there dozens of times. It's like Pere Lachaise on a miniscule scale, the final resting place of Czech
cultural heroes--poets, composers, actors, and, um, soccer players. But I'd never been inside the big church there
because it's rarely open. We went in and were blown away by the art nouveau murals adorning the interior. They
were painted by a married couple named Urban but they look as if they could have been done by Alphonse Mucha.
It's nice to still find new surprises after 15 years of frequent visits. From there we walked by the cubist architecture
at the base of the hill and down along the river and crossed near Tancici Dum to Ujezd where we plopped down for
a beer session at Klub Ujezd. I stayed while Justin popped across the street to the Communist Victims' memorial.
I think sitting on one's ass for a few hours is necessary to get a fuller
appreciation of a city. Having a couple of shots of Becherovka at the
bartender's behest is the tourist equivalent of stopping to smell the
roses. You're never going to see it all so why kill yourself trying?
After a so-so dinner elsewhere we stopped by Kampa, where this
micturitional sculpture by Czech bad boy artist David Cerny has
become a huge attraction. During the day it is surrounded by
dozens of tourists who pose with its two heroes in sometimes
suggestive ways. And while it's easy to be wowed by the art and
views abounding in Praha I continue to be most impressed by the
sidewalks of the city. I can't help but feel good when I see the care
and skill which goes into their construction and maintenance. Not
only is this cobblestone approach more durable and practical (can
be dug up and replaced without waste) than concrete or asphalt,
the intricate patterns remind me with every step that this is a
culture which still celebrates aesthetics and practices craft.