Sunday, October 30, 2011

"O hushed October morning mild" - "October" by Robert Frost

So if you don't know this about me yet, I detest cold weather, but I do have to say there's something so serene about this view...even though I think it's way too early for frost!

Friday's House Insignia of the Day Revealed - U zlatého anděla (House at The Golden Angel)

The Golden Angel (U zlatého anděla)

Of ethereal purity and divine power, the angel in Judeo-Christian theology appears as a messenger or intermediary between the heavenly and earthly realms.  In the Koran, it is stated that people were created from earth but angels from fire, as its flames always leap upwards to the heavens.  As a symbol of protection, the image of an angel was greatly popular in medieval times as a house insignia, to protect the inhabitants from evils both earthly and diabolical.  An angel also adorned the personal coat-of-arms of Johann Kepler, the great German astronomer who resided for many years at the Prague court of Emperor Rudolf II - perhaps in the hopes that angelic forces could help an earth-bound mortal to uncover the secrets of the celestial bodies.

Where the present U zlatého anděla stands in Celetná Street was originally the location of four medieval houses.  These were demolished in the mid 18th century for the present building, originally of Baroque style, which contained a popular coaching inn with its own brewery.  During his first visit to Prague in 1787, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is known to have stayed here.  Towards the beginning of the 19th century, the inn became a hotel, retaining its original name but growing far more exclusive.  The "Golden Angel" Hotel was visited by many persons of fame, including the queen of Denmark, the kings of Saxony and Hanover with their families, the queen of Greece and even the Russian anarchist Mikkhail Bakunin.  The present Neoclassical façade of the building dates from 1860.  After the Communist seizure of power, the hotel was closed and the building, converted to a variety of uses, grew increasingly decrepit.  Recently, however, a thorough restoration of the "Golden Angel" returned it to its original use as a modern hotel fully aware of its earlier glorious tradition:  Visit  4-Star Superior Barceló Old Town Praha

Location:   Celetná ulice 29/588, Staré Město (Old Town)

Happy Name Day, Tadeáš! Všechno nejlepší k svátku!

Today we honor Tadeáš.  Happy name day, Tadeáš!
The name Tadeáš is the Czech & Slovak form of Thaddeus, which is of Aramaic origin and means "heart".  In the new Gospel of Matthew, Thaddeus is listed as one of the twelve apostles, though elsewhere in the New Testament his name is omitted and Jude's appears instead.  It is likely that the two names refer to the same person.

St. Thaddeus (also known as Jude)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Thursday's House Insignia of the Day Revealed - At the Red Eagle (U červeného orla)

 At the Red Eagle (U červeného orla) 

From the 15th century onward, the eagle served as the symbol of the Holy Roman Emperor; the heraldic depiction of the lord of the skies with two heads expressed the superiority of the emperor to all other rulers, and hence his right to absolute power.  In the Czech lands, the double-headed imperial eagle became the insignia of the ruling dynasty of the Habsburgs, and in many centuries of their rule came to adorn many a house façade, even in Prague.  The Habsburg eagle was used most frequently for governmental buildings, or houses belonging to persons affiliated in some way with the imperial court: doctors, suppliers of goods or services to the imperial house, craftsman and pharmacists.

Under the protective wing of one such majestic figurative raptor, positioned on the present house in Celetná Street, a prosperous inn dating back to medieval times flourished for many years.  Later a cafe of considerable repute, U Suchých, was by the 1830s one of the focal points of intellectual life for the Czech National Revival, frequented by nationally conscious Czech writers, artists and students, including the famed writer and dramatist Josef Kajetán Tyl, often in the company of actors, both professional and amateur.  

Josef Kajetán Tyl

Another of Tyl's companions was Karel Hynek Mácha, the poet now universally regarded as the greatest figure of Czech Romanticism.  

Karel Hynek Mácha

In this cafe, it so happened that Tyl ordered hot chocolate for his fiancée and her friend Eleanora (known as Lori) Šomková.  Then a mere girl of seventeen, Lori felt quite shy in such elevated company, until a young man arrived at the table and kindly encouraged her to take a sip of her chocolate.  Supposedly, this was the first meeting of Mácha with the woman who was to prove his great love.  Their relationship, however, ended in tragedy, since Mácha died on the day planned for their wedding in November of 1836.

Do you remember when I told you that Czechs have their own version of Valentine's Day on May 1st...A Day for Lovers.  On the first of May, lovers are supposed to kiss under a blossoming cherry tree to ensure a year of good health and good luck.  But, there's another tradition associated with A Day for Lovers, and that is to meet at the statue of Karel Hynek Mácha.  Why?  Well, he was a Czech romantic poet, and today he stands on Petřín Hill.  Couples who kiss in front of his statue believe that their love will be as strong as the stone his statue is made from. 

Karel Hynek Mácha is best known for his lyrical epic poem, Máj (which is about May 1st and speaks of the tragic love of two young people).  Máj is "regarded as the classic work of Czech Romanticism, and is considered one of the best Czech poems ever written."  It's quite beautiful and you can read the translated version of it here

The building was originally a Gothic house, but was rebuilt several times - the way it looks today was created during a High Baroque reconstruction around 1725 and also during a late Classicist adaptation in 1838.  In 1958, the house was very insensitively adapted and most of the Classicist architectural details were removed. The house has been owned by the Charles University since 1754.  Originally there were flats that housed  professors from the law and medical faculties.  

Location:  Celetná ulice 21/593, Staré Město (Old Town)

Happy Name Day, Silvie! Všechno nejlepší k svátku!

Today we honor Silvie.  Happy name day, Silvie!
The name Silvie is a variant of Silvia & Sylbia, which are of Latin origin.  The meaning of Silvie is "woods, forest". 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Friday's House Insignia of the Day...Where am I?

Wednesday's House Insignia of the Day Revealed...U Bílého páva (At the White Peacock)

U Bílého páva (At the White Peacock)

The peacock originally comes from the Near East, where for ancient cultures it symbolized the sun.  In Greek mythology, the male peacock's splendid tail was created by none other than the goddess Hera, using the hundred eyes of Argus Panopteus, the ever-wakeful hundred-eyed giant whom she sent, out of jealousy, to keep watch on Zeus's mortal lover Io and who was killed on orders from Zeus.


Zeus falling in love with Io by Jacopo Amiconi (1682-1752)

Medieval Europe, in turn, ascribed all of the desired qualities of the ideal knight to the peacock - even when the bird was prepared for the table.  "L'oiseau nobile" - the noblest of birds, in the language of chivalry - was served exclusively at feats of the highest-born dukes and barons.  The valuable roast was never brought to the festive table by mere servants, but invariably by the lady of the manor, or at least her daughter.  The unfortunate bird would be placed on the carving plate decorated with its own plumage, its wings spread wide and its beak and claws gilded.  As for the task of carving the meat, it was assigned only to the bravest of the knights, or the most silver-tongued of the troubadours, who before taking the knife in hand would publicly swear an oath that they assumed the labor as the greatest of honors.  Such was the fate of many a peacock in 13th century Europe.


The house at this location in Celetná Street has been known since the early 16th century as U Bílého páva (At the White Peacock); the present appearance of the stucco relief is from the mid-18th century.  By this date, however, the peacock was a thoroughly common sight in Prague, raised by many of the citizenry simply for the delight of their glittering plumage, in much the same manner as dogs are kept today.  

In fact, peacocks multiplied with such rapidity that the city council had to respond to many complaints arising from their piercing shrieks.  Finally, a special decree limiting the raising of peacocks in Prague had to be issued by Empress Maria Theresa.

Empress Maria Theresa

Originally a group of early Gothic houses, unified by later renovations; in 1945 the house was destroyed in a fire and then restored three years later.  A rococo façade with the original house sign was preserved.

Location:  Celetná ulice 10/557, Staré Město (Old Town)

Czech Independence Day!

Today marks the most important national holiday of the year... Independent Czechoslovak State Proclamation Day!  

On October 28, 1918, Czechoslovakia was granted independence from the Austro-Hungarian Empire after World War I.  With Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk as its first president, Czechoslovakia arose as one of the succession states of Austria-Hungary at the end of WWI.

Wenceslas Square, October 28, 1918

The time between WWI and WWII, which was also a golden age for the culture, is now called "the First Republic".  It's a time when Czechoslovakia had a parliamentary democracy, concentrated 70% of the industry of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, and had an economy that was the strongest in the world.  Prague was similar to Paris then, as exemplified by the great Czech-French art nouveau painter, Alphonse Mucha.

First Czechoslovak President Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk

Why must all good things come to an end??  
The First Republic era only lasted 20 years.  Czechoslovakia was betrayed by allies in 1938 in the Munich agreement, thus Nazi Germany legally occupied Sudetenland, the Czechoslovakian borders with Germany, and in 1939 the whole country was under protectorship of Hitler's Germany.

Map of Sudetenland (highlighted in black)

After the second World War, the Nazi troops were replaced by Soviet troops, and the Czechs had to wait for the restoration of democracy until the end of 1989.  

We celebrate October 28th mainly to remember this happy era known as the First Republic.  The president's speech is televised and is followed by awarding medals to Czechs who have done great deeds.  Every year on this day, a few thousand of the Czech Republic's leading citizens are invited to the Independence Day ceremony at Prague Castle, where the great halls are open and delicious food and drink are served.

Independence Day Ceremony at the Spanish Hall...Prague Castle

So honor this special day with us... raise your glass to mark this day in 1918 when Czechoslovakia emerged from the shadows of the Austro-Hungarian Empire!

Václav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Thursday's House Insignia of the Day...Where Am I?

Happy Name Day, Šarlota and Zoe! Všechno nejlepší k svátku!

Today we honor Šarlota and Zoe.  Happy name day, Šarlota and Zoe!

The name Zoe is of Greek origin and the meaning of Zoe is "life".

The name Šarlota is the Czech form of Charlotte, which is of French origin and means "little and womanly".  It's the feminine dimunitive of Charles, used in England since the 17th-century, and was made popular in the 19th-century by Queen Charlotte, George III's wife.

Queen Charlotte

Happy Belated Name Day, Erik! Všechno nejlepší k svátku!

Yesterday we honored Erik.  Happy belated name day, Erik!
The name Eric is of Old Norse origin and means "forever or alone, ruler".  The original form is Erik, which has been borne by nine Danish kings.  Scandinavian legend relates that the Viking sea rover Ericson (son of Eric the Red) landed on the shores of America 500 years before Christopher Columbus.

Leif Ericson...son of Eric the Red

A bit ahead of myself

I must apologize. I realized that I posted yesterday that it's Czech Independence day when that is TOMORROW! Yeah, am a bit ahead of myself for a day that's huge for us! Somehow I thought yesterday was the 28th (don't ask)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Tuesday's House Insignia of the Day Revealed - House at the Black Sun (U černého slunce)

The Black Sun (U černého slunce)

Originally an early Gothic house (cellars preserved), later on expanded and adapted; its current appearance is from a late Baroque reconstruction in the 2nd half of the 18th century.  Some rooms have Gothic, Renaissance or Baroque vaults.  

The singer Josefína Dušková, née Hambacherová (1754-1824) spent her youth here; her and her husband were friends and hosts of W.A. Mozart.

 Josefína Dušková

Location:  Celetná Street 8/556, Staré Město (Old Town)

Cinderella comes to life...on ice!

My favorite princess of all time comes to life in a magical show on ice!

We know her as Popelka

For more information and tickets, please visit CinderellaOnIce

Wednesday's House Insignia of the Day...Where Am I?

"According to which time in Prague was determined"

 Prague Meridian (14°25´17˝) - Old Town Square

 Can you spot the Meridian in Old Town Square?

The need to tell time accurately is much older than the widespread use of clocks; also it took a while before clocks could read time accurately.  In order to determine when midday was, the so-called Prague Meridian was used from 1652 and indicated the place where the former Marian column used to cast its shadow at noon (there was no concept of summer and winter time back then).  

Marian Column
Built in Old Town Square shortly after the Thirty Years' War in thanksgiving to the Virgin Mary Immaculate for helping in the fight with the Swedes.  Unfortunately, many Czechs later connected its placement and erection with the hegemony of the Habsburgs in their country, and after declaring the independence of Czechoslovakia in 1918 a crowd of people pulled this old monument down and destroyed it in an excess of revolutionary fervor.

Accurate Prague time (Tempus Pragense) was in reality determined in the Astronomical tower of Clementinum using a chink sundial.  From 1842, noontime  was announced by waving a flag.  Between 1891 and the 1920s, it was also accompanied by a shot from a cannon located in the castle bastion.  After 1928, the astronomical recordings were moved to a new observatory in Ondřejov but the time announcement service remained in the tower until the occupation.  From 1925, the Clementinum observatory provided a time signal for radio broadcasting.  The time difference between what was recorded at the Clementinum observatory and the Meridian marked out by the shadow of the Marian Column was a mere one second and hence completely negligible in daily life. 
Placed here in the 1900s, the plate reads, "MERIDIAN, ACCORDING TO WHICH TIME IN PRAGUE WAS DETERMINED"

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Tuesday's House Insignia of the Day...Where Am I?

Monday's House Insignia of the Day Revealed - The Golden Grape (Zlatý hrozen)

The Golden Grape (Zlatý hrozen)

One of the most beautiful of Prague's grape-bunches was raised on the home of a merchant named Ondřej Táborský in the first half of the 18th century.  In the Czech lands, the grape is one of the most prominent iconographic symbols, hardly surprising when we recall that St. Wenceslas, the patron saint of the Czech nation, is frequently depicted with his robes turned up, trampling out the vintage in the wine tub.  And indeed, Czech winemakers have always regarded St. Wenceslas as their special patron.  

Additionally, the martyred Prince Václav is linked to the earliest reference to the existence of a vineyard at the foot of Prague Castle, where he is said to have raised and harvested the grapes with his own hands.  
Nonetheless, the greatest expansion of wine growing in Prague, and the Czech lands in general, took place only with direct support for the diffusion of the vine from King Charles IV.  Through his edicts, the Prague vineyards, which then began directly outside the city gates, expanded far beyond the circle of the ramparts.  And yet today, there remain in the territory of the city of Prague a mere two vineyards:   Grébovka in the district of Vinohrady (literally the former "Royal Vineyards") and St. Clara Vineyard in Trója.

St. Clara Vineyard in Trója

Villa Gröbe (Grébovka) located in park Havlíčkovy sady, Vinohrady

Today the building is home to Restaurant Zlatý Hrozen, where you can enjoy limited quantities of wines imported to the Czech Republic from France, Italy and Chile by Víno Zlatý Hrozen

Location:  Železná 7, Praha 1, Staré město (Old Town)

Happy Name Day, Beáta! Všechno nejlepší k svátku!

Today we honor Beáta.  Happy name day, Beáta!
The name Beáta is of Latin origin and means "blessed".

Monday, October 24, 2011

Tiffany & Co. is opening its first store in Prague!

Tiffany & Co. is opening its first store in Eastern Europe...guess where?  That's right, in PRAGUE!  Here's the article from CZECHPOSITION

Tiffany & Co. to open Prague store, first in CEE
Tiffany & Co. plan to open a Prague store next summer — the US jeweler’s first location in Eastern Europe — on the Czech capital’s high street.  

US jewelers Tiffany & Co. have announced plans to open a store in Prague in the summer of 2012, marking the luxury retailer’s first location in Eastern Europe. It will be located on Pařížská Street, the Czech capital’s high street, directly opposite Gucci and Lacoste stores.

Pařížská Street

“The opening of our first store in Eastern Europe marks a significant strategic move for Tiffany, as we further develop and grow our business throughout Europe,” said Melvyn Kirtley, the group’s vice president for Europe, in a press release. 

The approximately 240 square meters of retail space is designed with elements of Tiffany’s famous flagship store in New York, including custom furnishings and showcases that incorporate the company’s delicate wheatleaf, floral and dragonfly patterns, as well as elegant fluting and the distinctive Tiffany Blue, it said.

Tiffany Blue
Among the Tiffany & Co.collections that will be offered in the new store are exquisite diamonds in platinum and 18 karat gold settings, engagement, fine and fashion jewelry, sterling silver jewelry, watches and gifts, as well as the celebrated designs of Elsa Peretti and Paloma Picasso.

I don't know about you but when I think of Tiffany's I think of Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly...
 "If I could find a real life place to make me feel like Tiffany's, then I'd buy some furniture and give the cat a name." --Holly.