Prague Ethnography

Vrtba Gardens was harder than Chinese math to find because is was so well hidden. But I am so glad I did find it because it is a true gem in the middle of Malostranska. The garden is very simple with a few flowers we consider weeds in America, and a tiered landscape that leads up to a lookout tower with an incredible view of Prague. The statues and reliefs were of most interest to me as they were very graceful and Romanesque, and the reliefs of mermaids that were laced with sea shells hinted at mythology. The veranda that opened up to the garden was widely domed and skillfully painted with murals that led down the walls into the welcoming statues. This place is enclosed by tall walls and blocks out the bustling city outside; it is a true place of relaxation. As I said before in my posts, I think the goal of gardens here are not to be aesthetically pleasing with flowers and plants, but a place of meditation and relaxation, which is much needed when living in a city. 

Kampa museum in Kampa Island houses modern art paintings and sculptures in and around the museum. I am not a big fan of modern art, it is very confusing and i’m not good at figuring things out, so I was more interested in the graffiti on the walls outside of the museum of which was very impressive. It seems as though I am not the only who is confused by modern art as there was only a two other visitors there when I went. Also, I threw the statue of the baby in here as well because I don’t know what it means so it has to be modern art as well. 

Wallenstein Palace and gardens had art hidden everywhere. The most amazing thing there was the opening veranda area to the garden. This area was extremely large and covered in elaborated frescoes of mythological creatures, which is a divergent from the pattern of catholic art in all my other field sites. The garden area was very simple, boring (at least to me) and flowerless just like all the other gardens here, but the statues that lined the main walkway were very lovely in their depictions of mythological characters and scenes as well. This palace was a nice change from the repetitive art found just about everywhere else in Prague.

The Strahov Monastery dates back to 1149 and is made up of a combination of architectural styles due to the many wars and reconstructions its gone through over the years. This monastery is HUGE and I had to climb a mountain to get to it, but it was well worth it (a mini replica of the monastery is pictured above). The maze of hallways within this place are very simple and Romanesque, but in the separate rooms there are very large and incredibly detailed frescoes of biblical scenes lining the vaulted ceilings. The walls are lined as well with huge paintings of people I don’t know. The gallery was insane; there were so many pictures with hidden symbols and scenes, like a woman with a mans cut off head and a woman smiling with an arrow through her neck. I was really surprised at how so many women were depicted in positions usually reserved for men in that time, for example many paintings showed women in armor and killing other men. Some of the symbols scattered throughout the artworks included handheld castles, orbs, lambs and keys. Czech art is overflowing with so much meaning that I just might drown if I try to figure them out.

Charles Bridge was beautiful, long, hot and sweaty. There weren’t as many vendors or tourists as I expected, it was fairly open and easy to get around. The large statues that lined the sides of the bridge were extremely detailed and very impressive. Some were of the virgin Mary of Jesus, but many were of saints related to Bohemia and they were all depicted doing moral things like giving to the poor and such. I also noticed that a lot of art the vendors were selling were mostly in the realist style that is very common in all my other sites, and some were selling pictures of graffiti in Prague. There were also a lot of products aimed at tourists, like drawings of caricatures and face painting that are common at fairs in america. The towers at the end of the bridge was very simple but decorated with elegant statues and crests. The inside vaulted ceiling was also decorated with paintings of crests and other religious imagery. 

St. George’s Basilica is a beautiful romanesque building with two soaring towers jetting out on the latter end of the building. This church was founded in 920 and was many times reconstructed due to fires and other ravaging phenomena common throughout history like wars and tsunamis. Like our tour guy Fabbio said, the two towers represent man and women, Adam and Eve and one is always slightly larger than the other, as seen in the photo above. The inside is very simple with Gothic vaulted ceilings and steps in random places so you can easily break your legs. There wasn’t as much art as I was expecting; no wall murals or anything (most were worn completely off), but a separate small room with an alter dedicated to St. George was much more elaborate. I am really sad that we weren’t allowed into the chapel part of the building though, that was the area with all the extravagant art and paintings. What was really cool was how the alter in the small room contained remains of one of the people connected with the founding of the church. 

St. Nicholas Church in old town square is a very eloquent baroque church built in 1735 and whose ownership changed hands many times (just like every other building in the Czech Republic) before settling with the Czech Hussite movement. This church is very grande in size, beauty and extravagance. This church is also completely overwhelming like many other churches I’ve been too, with massive marble pillars, large domed ceilings lined with frescoes and gold covered everything. The interior of the building, frescoes and statues were very brightly pastel colored while all the paintings that hung from the walls remained very dark and depressing. What I found very interesting is that that majority of the statues and paintings were of the popes and priests rather than of Jesus, and their size was very impressive to say the least. Even on the main alter in the church the pope is bigger, grander and higher up than the stick cross of Jesus down below. This is what happens when you have power and control, or if you are the artist commissioned to decorate the church while harboring a secret crush on the pope. 

Here are some examples of drinks served in Czech cafés. Notice the emphasis on a clean, tasteful presentation, encouraging customers to value their drink and take their time to enjoy it.

This is the Golem statue of Prague stationed at the entrance of the Jewish Quarter. It’s quite different than what I was expecting. As you can see, this doesn’t look much like a man crudely constructed of clay at all, but rather a knight in armor from the legend of King Arthur. This could be just another example of how the legend has been adapted over the years.

Many of the original tales describe the Golem as a clay creation that only vaguely had a humanoid shape. However, later tales describe him as a man who could pass for normal, just wasn’t able to speak. These legends often show the Golem as a creature of benefit who only wanted to help. However, when he wasn’t given proper direction he would be unable to ask for help and get frustrated, leading to him becoming destructive.

Still later tellings portray the Golem as a perfectly normal man who fell in love with a Prague peasant and became violent after she rejected his affections. It is perhaps this later version that the statue is copied from.

Since 1902, Café Louvre has served elite artists and authors, and today, it still represents typical Prague café society. Serving Czech cuisine and light meals, the café maintains its original Art Nouveau interior and classic café decoration. The mirrors and natural light from the large windows provide a place for conversation and views of Prague’s busiest street. Even the notepad and pencil on each table promote the café’s early interest in the arts, and the café still offers traditional coffeehouse games, like chess and billiard. The quintessential Czech kavarna, Café Louvre allows tourists to return to the times of Kafka and Einstein and engage in Prague’s intellectual history.