Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Ze tourists, they do nothing!

1) A statue of Jan Neruda, whose last name Pablo Neruda co-opted because his father did not want him to become a poet. And as Bart Simpson said, "I am familiar with the work of Pablo Neruda."

2) Prague's replica of the Eiffel Tower (not to scale). It stands atop Petrin Hill, and if you climb up, you get incredible views of the city. But the line is long, and atop Petrin Hill you already see the entire city.

3) The line to enter a labyrinth of mirrors. Maybe next time I'll go on a rainy weekday.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

City views

From Petrin Hill:

From Kampa Park:

A memorial to the victims of communism and totalitarianism:

Friday, July 06, 2007

Highlights of Orloj; a classroom with a view

On almost every Prague guidebook cover, you'll see a shot of Orloj, the astronomical clock that adorns the Old Town Hall in Prague. It doesn't tell the time; it traverses the seasons. Every hour on the hour from eight in the morning to eight in the evening, a small morality play marks the hour. The crowds are amazing, and the show is brief.

Two interesting facts:
  1. The leaders of Prague blinded the man who created the astronomical clock so he could not replicate his incredible art elsewhere. To retaliate, he committed suicide by leaping into the mechanism that controls the clock. It didn't work for almost a century.
  2. The morality play used to include a Jew figure, complete with horns. After World War II, the city removed the horns; now the figure is "Greed."

On an unrelated note. These photos are of the building in which I attend class and the view from that room. Yes, the view includes a castle.

Various Praha shots


1) A random cat in a restaurant where I had fantastic pizza. You know, pizza? That Czech food?

2) A bust of Franz Kafka. Click on the photo and zoom in. The image isn't exactly flattering. But at least it's not a cockroach head.

3) Graves at the Old Jewish Cemetery. This is probably the area in that cemetery where there are the fewest gravestones. Because the Jews in Prague had such little space, they often buried people twelve deep.

4) What much of the cemetery looks like. I couldn't get a broad enough shot to show the variation in elevation--they had to bring in dirt so they'd have more ground to bury Jews in. The cemetery was used from the first half of the 15th century until 1787. There are more than 12,000 headstones in an amazingly compact area.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Picture box

1) One of many tourist-trapping things on the Charles Bridge, an all-pedestrian bridge over the Charles River with beautiful views. I didn't take any photos of the couple dozen caricaturists, who seem to advertise most with their drawings of Angelina Jolie. It's like a long supermarket line, just no headlines.

2) One entrance to the Charles Bridge. Tons of incredible statuary all over Prague.

3) Lots of interesting trompe l'oeil work on the sides of old buildings, often several centuries old.

4) The final photo above is the view from my classroom. I try to face away from it so's I don't get distracted.

A man molested me on the Prague Metro. . .

and all I got was this lousy handprint on my ass.

After a faculty reading last night, I got on the Metro heading home with a group of friends. It was around ten, crowded. When we got on the car, we were closely packed. Right after the door closed, I felt someone squeeze my ass cheek. I turned, and a sleazy looking old man about a head shorter than me looked away. When he glanced back up at me, he looked frightened. I wasn't touched again.

I think he was trying to pick my pocket. I was wearing my jeans with a wallet-outline on the back pocket. Though Prague is much safer than any U.S. city in terms of violent crime, so-called stealth crime is rampant. Gangs of pick pockets work together to distract tourists (and some locals) so they can quickly pilfer a bag without being noticed.

For example: the other afternoon, four of us from the school were getting on the Metro. It was suddenly crowded; the man in front of me was walking backwards, holding onto the sleeve of the man next to him. His eyes seemed unfocused, as if he were blind. The doors closed, and a wad of cash fell onto the floor of the car. My friend Ilene pointed it out and said, "Is that yours?" The old man in the group, who was carrying a shopping bag and standing next to his wife, picked up the cash and examined it. He nodded--it was his. He seemed puzzled as to how his cash had ended up on the floor.

At the next stop, one man quickly got out, and two more waited until just before the doors closed to jump off. One of the ones to jump off was the "blind" man I'd seen. The old man, who was traveling with his wife, started going through his pockets. Ilene, who speaks Hebrew, noticed that the man's glasses had a strap with Hebrew text. She began speaking to them in Hebrew and learned they were Russian Jews on vacation. The man couldn't find his wallet, which had his Russian i.d. and a few rubles. He still had his Czech money.

Last night, on another train, one of the faculty had her handbag against her back. A man slashed the bottom of the bag with a knife. She didn't notice at first, but she felt something odd and turned. He ran, having gotten nothing out of her bag.

In Funkytown (my adopted hometown), there's been a recent spate of teenagers running up to people downtown, punching them in the face, and taking their wallets. For now, I think I prefer stealth theft.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Crazy in Prague

What does Crazy Little Thing look like after 36 hours awake (that's zero minutes of sleep, people), three layovers, a supposedly two-hour walking tour that became an incredibly long three hours, and two very tall Czech beers?

(Please note: double chin added and beard thinned in Photoshop.) I think the best description comes from a sticker on the Metro, advertising a beatbox competition. The entire sticker was in Czech, except for the following phrase: "Battle Shit in the Hell."