Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Sunday Walk Through Petrin Park in Prague

Though we've lived in Prague off and on over the past fifteen years, I found an interesting Petrin Park walk in the Eyewitness Guide to Prague which included some sights we've never seen. Greg and I decided to take that walk on Sunday. The guidebook suggests starting at namesti Kinskych in Smichov, so we took the tram one stop south and started to climb. In the garden near the Kinsky Summer Palace (which now houses the Ethnographical Museum) there was a statue of actress Hana Kvapilova (1913). Sunday was an atmospheric day with a light rain, and I liked the way the white stone statue stood out against a backdrop of evergreen trees:

After a short climb above the palace we came to a small lake with a waterfall. In the lake there was a slightly ominous statue:
There were also some Mallard ducks. They almost looked too healthy and beautiful to be real. Here's a picture of one of the males:
And here's a female, scratching her head. She seemed disappointed that I didn't have any bread for her:

Another short climb took us to the Church of St. Michael. It's an 18th century wooden folk church that was moved here from Ukraine. I took some pictures of the roof, which has three turrets and is covered with textured scaly shingles:

According to the information posted near the church door, its full name is The Carpathian Church of St. Archangel Michael and it's currently used by a Romanian Orthodox Parrish. The church was built entirely of wood, including all ornamentation and even the nails, in a style called Bojkov and including elements of rustic baroque. It was offered by the Ruthenians in 1929 to the city of Prague and was transported in four train cars. It's now a part of the ethnographic department of Prague's National Museum. As we continued to climb the hill, Greg took this picture of the church:

As we continued to ascend, the hill grew steeper and steeper. This part of the park is carefully manicured and tended, and even the flowing water has its proper channels:
After a while we reached a second small lake with a 1950s vintage seal statue at its center.
From the well-named Observation Path we saw some exceptional views of Prague. Greg took a lot more pictures, including this one, which includes the rocket-like TV tower in Vinohrady:
Then we passed through the Hunger Wall and found ourselves in a more familiar part of Petrin, the path where I take my daily walks.

An Organic Garden at the White House

There have been so many stories about Michelle Obama's preference for fresh organic foods that we just have to comment (meanwhile, Prague readies itself for a visit from President Obama next weekend). It was nice to read that Ms. Obama helped serve wholesome food in a soup kitchen and that she helped to plant an organic garden at the White House. But right wing commentators have criticized her elitism, showing themselves to be hopelessly muddled hypocrites. [Click on the image for a larger version of this cartoon. The text reads: 'I'm looking for a job again, so when I ran into Madison, who has a lot of contacts, I offered to buy her a cup of coffee, and as soon as we sat down, she said, "That outfit is so Michelle; you seem to be quite a follower of the First Lady," and I didn't want to argue so I said, "It's just something I got from that new thrift shop, Trash and Treasure," and she said, "Speaking of trash, did you hear what Tammy Bruce said when she was guest hosting Laura Ingraham's show," and I said, "I believe she called the Obamas trash, which I think was very vulgar," and she said, "Michelle is a poser," and I said, "If she's posing as First Lady, she's doing a good job of it; she's a fashion icon like Jackie Kennedy, and she just started a White House garden like Eleanor Roosevelt did, but the Obamas' garden will be organic," and she said, "Only an elitist loves expensive clothes and trendy foods," and I said, "Just a few weeks ago she helped a soup kitchen that serves organic food to needy people. So how’s that elitist?" and she said, "I remember that she served broccoli," and she said broccoli as though it was something obscene, "but poor people can't afford to eat organic food," and I said, "My tortoise and I eat only organic produce, and this year we're going to grow our own organic garden, so how cheap is that?" and she said, "George Herbert Walker Bush hated broccoli, and so do I," and I said, "Here's a little factoid for you: W's wife Laura insisted on serving fresh, organic produce at the White House, but she didn't let anybody know," and she said, "That's real class for you. Laura knew it would be elitist to let other people know," and I said, "Maybe I shouldn't tell you that you're drinking organic fair trade coffee," and she quickly got up to leave, saying, "I can't be seen doing something so elitist. Also, I don’t want to be seen in a neighborhood full of unemployed losers that have defaulted on their mortgages."']

Monday, March 23, 2009

More About Petrin Hill

Besides walking up the hill for exercise, Greg and I have been visiting some of the quirky attractions Petrin has to offer. Yesterday we went to the Mirror Maze, which was built for the Jubilee Exhibition of 1891. The maze was moved to the top of Petrin after the Exhibition. We took some fun pictures, and the old columns and multiple mirrors are oddly beautiful:
Last week we visited the gallery of a fantasy painter. It's about halfway up the hill and is located in a small building that's been converted into a faux cavern. The outside of the building is decorated with the painter's ceramic creations:
Another thing you see when you climb Petrin is an amazing variety of views of the city of Prague. Thousands of tourists climb the hill just to take pictures. You can see the Vltava river and the red roofs of the city:
You can also easily see why Prague is called the city of a thousand spires:

Lentil Soup on a Snowy Day

Thursday morning when we woke up, it was snowing. That's not an unusual event in Central Europe, but Greg and I are acclimated to Tucson weather, so it seemed a little bleak. There was snow on Petrin Hill, and the sky was winter white. Greg took some pictures from our window:
The last time we saw snow was early in 2007. Here's a picture of our Tucson backyard from that time -- the picture's still on my computer because it was so unusual to see snow on palm trees:
By the time I was ready to walk up Petrin later that morning, most of the snow was gone, but the day was cold and damp. I decided to make some lentil soup for supper. In Tucson I always use organic produce and other foods, which I buy mostly from the Food Coop and occasionally from Whole Foods. Here I have to rely on the Country Life store (I also buy some items from the supermarket), and I sometimes have to choose between imported organic products and conventionally grown food from the Czech Republic. I decided that locally grown lentils trumped organics from China, so I bought the Czech lentils. I was able to buy organic Czech carrots, onions, and potatoes, and I bought some extra virgin Italian olive oil at the supermarket. Czech whole grain bread was a good accompaniment to the lentil soup, and we enjoyed our simple supper:

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Practical Prague Fitness Program

I'm in Prague now, and though I don't have the same kind of backyard I do in Arizona (and I miss Abbie's presence every day and all my beautiful birds), I have a sort of substitute backyard in the form of Petrin Hill, which is near our apartment and rises 960 feet above the city streets. I have climbed to the top almost every day since we arrived (on March 6), and I plan to continue to do so.

Petrin is mostly parkland, but there are lots of other interesting things to see and photograph, so each day I climb to the top and then take pictures on the way down (when I'm not so winded -- this hill is steep!). At the top there are some tourist attractions which can also be reached by a little funicular railway. Among these is an imitation Eiffel Tower, which I plan to climb when I'm in a little better shape:

There are also some lovely buildings:

Running along part of the park near the top of the hill is the Hunger Wall, supposedly commissioned in the 14th century by Charles IV to give employment to the poor during a period of famine:

And further down there are interesting statues, like this one of the Czech romantic poet Karel Hynek Macha:

And this one of Czech writer Jan Neruda:

There's also a fountain I really like that includes two babies and a number of frogs:

But for me the best thing about Petrin is that it still has a surprising amount of natural beauty. There are some very large old trees:

There are also birds that are unlike any I know in Arizona like this titmouse (Parus major; Czech name Sykora konadra):

And other birds that are only slightly different from common birds in my Arizona backyard -- like this Wood Pigeon with the characteristic white patch on his neck (Columba palumbus; Czech name Holub hrivnac):

Petrin Hill also hosts a gallery in a cave run by a Czech painter of fantastic scenes; a mirror maze; and an orchard that will bloom when spring comes, so I'll post more photos and descriptions of my Petrin backyard soon.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Fashion Sense Comments on the Czech President, a Global Warming Skeptic

Fashion Sense has been in Prague for a week, and Czech President Vaclav Klaus has been in New York for a conference of global warming skeptics. I'll be in Prague for a few more months, commenting on whatever catches my attention, including whatever else Klaus gets up to. [Click on the image for a larger version of this cartoon. The text reads: 'My not-so-favorite cousin Amber just got back from her week in Prague, and I asked her how she liked it, and she said, "I didn't. The dollar is weak, so it was too expensive to rent a car, and we had to use the subway, and there aren't very many Burger Kings, which you know is my favorite, and waiters and shop clerks don't smile at you much," and I didn't think that sounded too bad, so I said, "Did you like anything about it?" and she said, "Well, I love their President, Vaclav Klaus, but he was in New York while I was in Prague because he was speaking at a conference for people who believe global warming is a hoax, which is what I believe, and he says it's just an excuse to steal our freedom," and I said, "But what about rising sea levels?" and she said, "He says the problem is very overstated," and I said, "The Czech Republic is landlocked, so it might not matter to him, but what about the rest of the world?" and she said, "He says we don’t need to worry, and I believe him. I really think he’s a hero, the kind of man who stands alone and refuses to give in, just like that Czech preacher Jan Hus," and then she looked completely enraptured at the idea of Klaus as a martyr to his ideals, and she said, "Hus was burned at the stake, you know, rather than give in to the Church," and I was starting to get annoyed so I said, "I believe that the stakes are high, and we’re going to be burned by global warming if we don’t change our way of life," and she got annoyed too and said, “It would be very inconvenient if that was the truth, but luckily it’s not,” and then to be conciliatory I said, “Some people think wordplay is the lowest form of humor, but I like it,” and she said, “Then you’ll be glad to hear I didn’t get you that amber necklace you wanted, but bought this Czech Me Out t-shirt instead,” and the fish have been laughing their bubbly fishy laugh at it ever since.']

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Fashion Sense Comments Belatedly on the Oscars

Fashion Sense adds a belated comment on the Academy Awards because we especially liked Sean Penn's acceptance speech and his concern about the civil and human rights of gay people. [Click on the image for a larger version of this cartoon. The text reads: 'I was working on my abs again, and my cat wanted to talk about the Academy Awards, and I wasn't really paying much attention, but I thought I heard him say something about milk, and I said, "You know I'm trying to be vegan, but I'll get you some milk if you want it," and the cat was, like, I'm talking about Sean Penn getting best actor for Milk. I thought it was great when he called the Academy "commie, homo-loving sons of guns," and I said, "And it was great that he spoke out in support of gay marriage," and my cat was, like, So what's all the fuss about gay marriage? From what I hear marriage can be very dull and depressing, so I'd think people would be grateful when marriage is gay, and I said, “Since Proposition 8 passed, there are 18,000 gay couples who don’t know whether they’re married or not. I think it’s wrong to punish somebody for wanting to make a commitment,” and my cat was, like, I’m sure that’s what Guy Richie will be saying to the next guy Madonna wants to marry.']

A Fifth and Final Ekphrastic Essay About Our 2022 Road Trip: the Prairie and the Dust Bowl

  Erosion No. 2, Mother Earth Laid Bare by Alexandre Hogue When Greg and I were planning our 2022 road trip, our goal was to visit friends a...