Showing posts with label castles. Show all posts
Showing posts with label castles. Show all posts

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Food and Views at the Prague Food Festival

On the tram
heading up to Prague Castle
from Malastranská

Last night was the start of the Prague Food Festival, taking place this weekend at Prague Castle. Elsie Pells, a Cape Wine Master from South Africa and Karen Parker, an Australian expat from Adelaide and I went out to enjoy the view and the food.

 Karen and Elsie entering the festival
set up in the Prague Castle Gardens

Karen and Elsie
are both very active members in the
International Women's Association of Prague

Just looking at the beautiful scene
we knew we were in for a wonderful evening.
Beautifully carved watermelons on display.

I was fascinated by these
suckling pigs on a spit

American food writers always say that Americans
are so far removed from the real source of their food.
I took a moment to take in the reality of this rotisserie pig
complete with his juicy eye sockets and seam up his belly.
I can see why meat gets sold in sterile packages.
It is a lot easier to face!

The castle gardens look over
all of Prague.

 I love this picture of Elsie.
She was our wine master
suggesting vintages for the evening.

Elsie is proud to represent a new
South African wine on the Czech scene
called Phant (short for Elephant).

Wouldn't a bottle of Phant
be a perfect hostess gift or
wine to serve during South Africa's
coming-out party - the World Cup?

This was my food selection:
salmon on wasabi potatoes.

The ladies had a beef burger
with fois gras tucked into the burger.
Our selections were from
the Kampa Group booth.

The light became golden as the sunset
slowly spread through the clouds
on part of Prague.
 The sun stopped short of the House of Tyn
But you can see the spires on the Old Town Church
with the Zizkov TV tower in the distance.

A rainbow appeared
over the incredible view of the city.
Pinch me.  I'm in Prague.
I'm at the Castle.
This is one of my last evenings in Prague.
I feel so privileged to get to see this.

We stayed until the festival closed.  It was sparsely attended the first night, probably due to the iffy weather.  We watched the full moon play with the clouds, finally it rose from behind it's cover and as large and as golden as a charger plate, it came out in full glory for our admiration.  What a setting! We slowly walked down the cobblestones stairs of Prague Castle, savoring every moment of aesthetic pleasure, and went home.

Related posts: Who Will Be the Czech "Jamie Oliver"?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Easter Weekend in Plsen

One of the most beautiful times I had in the Czech Republic last year was when I went to Plsen on Easter weekend to visit Hana, my longtime pen pal of twenty years.  We had started writing letters back and forth years ago, when an organization called World Contact Network was looking for Americans to correspond with newly-freed Czechs adjusting to the West.

I had fallen in love with the Czech Republic watching the Velvet Revolution on TV and was deeply fascinated by any nation so cultured as to elect a playwright for President.  I had to know more about Czechs!  Hana and I began writing and eventually Hana's daughter, Lenka, came to live with my family for a time in America.

I took over 250 pictures of my weekend trip to Plsen! I had looked forward to this day so much. Hana and I had raised kids at the same time. We both divorced about the same time.  We taught each other so much about each other's countries.

Unfortunately, on the train back to Prague, a train employee asked everyone in my compartment to switch to a new compartment. In that move I lost my camera. I don't know if I left it on the ledge, the seat, or someone took it out of my bag.  I was sooooooo disappointed because I had such a wonderful weekend there.

Hana and her family went to great lengths to show me a fabulous time in their city. It's taken me over a year just to accept that I wouldn't have those pictures to share with this blog post because I felt the loss so deeply.

Hana and her son picked me up at the train station.  I went first to meet Hana's parents and to see her son's village home which he was renovating.  Jiri took me out to the backyard to see the animals he raised for food.

Have you ever heard of the animal Nutrea?  I hadn't.  Hana's son, Jiri, said their meat was very tender to eat.  There were four or five pens with 2-3 animals in each. I thought "wow, I'm really in a European village now.  Hana's family is actually raising their own livestock in the backyard!"  Later, I laughed about how exotic and foreign I thought this was at the time, because it turns out that a very hip, very growing trend in Madison, Wisconsin where I would subsequently move, is to grow chickens in the backyard.  Madison has a whole web site for chicken farming aficionados called "Mad City Chickens."

On Saturday, we started with a tour of the Brewery Museum.  It was fun to see how beer has been created throughout the centuries.  After a tour of the museum, everyone gets a free beer.  We had ours on the back porch of the museum and put all of our new knowledge to work tasting a rich Czech beer.

Later, we went downtown to walk around lovely Plsen.  There was a wedding outside the fascinating, centuries-old Main Hall and I tried not to take pictures but it was hard!  Everything was sunny and blue, the bride was beautiful, and I was in the middle of a picturesque town square in the middle of Europe!  Eventually, they dragged me over to the beautiful church,  St. Bartholomew Cathedral, that's right in the Main Square.  We went inside to see the baroque interior and to climb the steps to the top of the tower.  I have no idea how roofs in the Czech Republic ever get done because the steep angle would terrify me if I was a roofer (thank you to those of you who are; I appreciate how dangerous it is and am grateful that someone else takes it on).  It was fun to see all of Plsen from every side and to look down and see the Plsner beer tent and all of the other kiosks set up to celebrate Easter.  We climbed down and had a Plsner beer in the Plsen beer tent in the middle of Plsen.  Gosh darn it, I want a picture of that!

That evening, Hana and her sweetie, took me to the Plsen Opera House for an evening of opera.  It's cozier than the Prague National Theatre (I haven't been to the Prague Opera) and it's just as beautiful. Again, it kills me that I can't show you the pictures because Europeans create the most breathtakingly beautiful performance spaces. Wait, have I been in other nation's performance spaces?  No.  Let me revise that to what I have personally witnessed.  Czechs make the most gorgeous performing spaces!  Everyone was dressed up too. We looked great! It was nice.

The next day we ventured out into the countyside to see Kozel Castle.  If I could have teleported my mother from Colorado to that chateau for their tour, I would have.  It was divine! My mother would have gone absolutely nuts seeing that place.  It was a hunting chateau in the middle of an idyllic lakefront setting.  The home was beautiful, yes, but it was the lightness of the decorating that I would have loved for my mother to see.

Every room in that hunting chateau suggested "play."  The ceramics and the dishes were exquisite! In each room, there were fresh flowers in manor-sized containers.  It was worth it to go on that tour just to see a gorgeous, resplendent arrangement of flowers in each room on that elegant scale over and over again. With most tours, the tour operators wouldn't go to the trouble of giving you the feeling of being in the room as it was meant to be at the time using fresh flowers.  But the people who run this castle did.  Fantastic! The final room was the best of all.  We walked into a magical family-sized theatre.  I could just imagine the people putting on a play for each other's amusement in the 1830's.  Oh, it was painful not to have my mother by my side for that tour! She would have just appreciated it so much. And I can't even show her the pictures!

After that fabulous experience, we went into town to a new brewery and restaurant that had started in Plsen.  I would share the name of it with you but where would I get that guessed pictures.

I went home on Sunday night.  If I had been more educated about Czech Easters, I would have known I would be expected to stay through Monday.  Monday is also part of the Czech Easter holiday.  I did not know that though until Prague friends asked me why I came home early.  Now I know.

I had a WONDERFUL time at Hana's.  It was so meaningful to connect in person after all those years of letters.  It's my pen pals who really continued and built on my initial fascination with all things Czech.  If you can't see a picture of Hana and her family, I hope what you can feel is their hearts: open.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Track Trip to Karlstejn

So after our cozy little group had our wonderful brunch at Jana and David's, it was time to catch a train for our afternoon field trip. Off to Karlstejn! Karlstejn is one of the easiest day trips from Prague; it's a vista so sacred to Czechs it's enshrined in a mural in the National Museum along with three of their other fabulous castles. My Czech friend Jana said when she was in America, the three views of the Czech Republic she had in her head when she thought of home were the Charles Bridge, Prague Castle, and Karlstejn. It's easy to see why.

Taking a train rather than a car
allowed us to pay attention
to children, our friends, and the view
rather than the road.
Food for thought.
The train hugged the Berounka River
all the way to the castle.
A gorgeous trip.
We're here!
One last look at the river
before we head up through the village
to the castle.
It's all uphill from here,
but you wouldn't know it
from how much fun we were having.
David said this wooden structure overhanging
the side of the castle
served as a handy WC.
The last push to the top!
A family portrait of our hosts:
David, their daughter, and Jana
Looking from the castle downwards:
this was part of the village road
we just climbed up
The well at the top of Karlstejn.
It was impressive not only for how deep
they chose to dig
but also how steep a roof they chose
to shingle.
The drop down for the roofer
to the mountain below
would probably cause death.
Karlstejn, in all it's glory.

Click on my title if you want to read about the gory and disgusting "biological warfare" that took place here. It's very easy to imagine a movie featuring this story - and even easier to imagine the Monty Python actors giving it their special treatment.

You might also enjoy:

My First Taste of Czech Village Life

A Day at the National Museum

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Springtime Saturday Stroll Around the Summer Palace

If we keep walking past Letna Park we could enjoy the grounds of the Summer Palace. It would be the first time this season I have found it open. Would you like to join us for more beauty?

A beautiful little path leads up to
an homage in stone to Czech poet Julius Zeyer

I love Czech tile roofs
and these at Prague Castle
in particular

My friend Sher
is braving the pollen
to enjoy a beautiful spring day

The water sounds like bells
as it drops to the pool below

The Summer Palace

A small sampling of the carving detail

Czechs bring imagination
even to rain gutters

The formal gardens of the Summer Palace

There are over 40 trees of note throughout the garden.
This is my favorite.

This building is called Ball Game Hall.
I think of it as the powdered sugar building
for obvious reasons.

Two beautiful closeups
of the building detail

I never learned what this building was
it's patina was exquisite

Formal flower beds in front

Have you ever had someone else's aesthetics
in your head
and known how much
they would appreciate something?

My mother would completely fall in love
with the Czech Republic and it's beauty.

Here's an intriguing path.
Let's see where it leads us
and what it wants us to see.

A spectacular side view of St. Vitus Cathedral
and Prague Castle.

A close-up of the flying buttresses
of St. Vitus Cathedral

A Czech soldier protects the castle grounds

White pansies with a purple tint

A closeup of what I believe is wisteria


A Prague beauty and her date

Having never seen an orangerie before,
I asked Sher "when was the last time you saw one of these?"

"Last week, actually, in France."
We burst out laughing.
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