Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Floral Skirt

Shopping in Prague

"I can't believe you had to go all the way to Prague to finally find a floral print.  Congratulations.  Mission accomplished."

"Thanks.  It's really pretty, isn't it?"

"Yeah.  So what else did you buy?"

"Umm.  Nothing."


"Give me a break, Mimi.  It took me six months and nearly a hundred stores to find a print you would like.  And you're complaining?"


(To tell you the truth, this was a serendipitous purchase.  The store, Jackpot, just happened to be next to the Czech Cubist Museum.  I saw the skirt in the window, went in to try it on, bought it, and walked out.  It took all of ten minutes.  But don't tell Mimi!)

It's not to say I didn't enjoy the window shopping though!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Armchair Travel

After blogging about St. Vitus Cathedral, I remembered a series of prints I had from my mother's college days.  I thought they had long disappeared, but I found them under a pile of old books.  My mother studied art and architecture at Oberlin College in the 1940's.  She had wanted to become an architect but that dream was dashed with the onset of World War II.  I've often thought of following in her footsteps and getting a second degree in art history, but I can't afford both airplane tickets and tuition.  However, travel is a form of education, is it not?

St. Vitus and these prints inspired me to dig out my own History of Art book and reread the chapters on Gothic Art, Architecture and Sculpture.  And so I spent the Sunday afternoon after Thanksgiving curled up on the sofa and revisiting Medieval Europe.  I roamed the cities and countrysides of England, France and Germany, and then ended up in the 19th century, once again marveling at Monet's dreamy rendition of  the Rouen Cathedral.  I had quite a ride!

Monday, November 28, 2011

St. Vitus Cathedral

 St. Vitus Cathedral rises above Prague watching over the city with its regal presence.  Like all Gothic cathedrals, it is both spooky and magnificent.  That these structures were ever conceived with their soaring above-the-heavens spires and interior naves, rose windows and flying buttresses, is a testimonial to the genius of man.
St. Vitus is much beloved by the local population, Catholic or not.  Besides being a prestigious landmark, its history is richer than any cathedral of its kind.  For one thing, it took 600 years to finish.  Now that's a building with a history!  The cornerstone was placed in 1344, but wars, plagues, political bickering and near bankruptcy prevented its completion until 1929.  Oh, the stories these walls could tell!  And, oh, the treasures they hold!
Three Hapsburg kings are buried here, as well as St. Vitus and St. Wenceslas.  The stained glass window by Art Nouveau artist Alfons Mucha is a national treasure.  I was most intrigued, however, by the pastel blocks of glass from the 1950's in the Wencelas Chapel.  These beautiful modern windows shared space with frescoes from the 1500's.
Wenceslas Chapel

Mucha Window
While we were gawking at the altar, security guards came through the aisles.  A man was protesting loudly in front of the silver tomb of St. John of Nepomuk (We couldn't understand what about.)  The guards handcuffed him and literally dragged him away.  Ah, Vitus, you are not a peaceful place.  Never have been, and I suspect never will be.
Obelisk commemorating the independence of Czechoslovakia

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Madonna House

During our stay in Prague we enjoyed several of the city's art museums and galleries.  By far my favorite was the Black Madonna House with its three floors of Czech cubist art.  I took a lot of art history classes in college but when it came to Cubism only Picasso and Braque came to mind.  I don't remember ever reading about one of these influential and passionate artists.  My traveling buddy and I spent an entire afternoon here,  dumbstruck by the beautiful bronzes of Otto Gutfreund and the oil paintings by Emil Filla and Kubista.
Prague was the only place in the world where architecture and the decorative arts were influenced by cubism before World War I.  The movement flourished here between 1910 and 1914, a far too brief period of time.   The cubists wanted to break up vertical and horizontal lines.  Planes were angled, creating a geometric austerity that is very pleasing to the eye.  It's hard to believe it was considered avant garde at the time.  Today the architecture of the Madonna House blends in so well with the surrounding neighborhood that without really studying the angles, lines and placement of the windows, it's difficult to even see the cubist influence.  We live in such an eclectic world that such buildings are now commonplace.  We need the Frank Gehry's of the world to shock us with massive slides of undulating steel.

The Black Madonna House was designed by the cubist architect Josef Gocar.  It was originally a department store with a cafe on the first floor that is still a favorite hang-out for locals and tourists alike.  We had our first hot red wine here, served in cubist style on a square plate.  For the next week, hot red wine was our daily "cocktail" of choice!
Powder Tower around the corner

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Sunflowers and Squash

These pictures were taken at Avila Beach, a small coastal town north of Santa Barbara, last weekend.  Sunflowers are gracing my dining room table this Thanksgiving.  (And, of course, pumpkin pie!)
Mimi is wearing a navy blue shirt dress from Free People.  I'm popping into their store on State Street more and more.  Although I adore their retro-hippie clothes, I have a hard time pulling them off without looking--well, like a psychedelic relic.  I like the classic simplicity of this dress and the back is pretty darn cute.  It has just a tiny bit of that bohemian vibe. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Beautiful Prague

I made the right decision back at the Berlin Train Station when I purchased my ticket to Prague.  The minute I walked up the flight of steps and onto the Charles Bridge and took in the cityscape with its church spires, gothic towers, old historic buildings and bridges, I fell in love--hopelessly and shamelessly in love.  What can I say that hasn't been said a thousand times?  Prague is a beautiful city.

Although Prague was bombed in World War II, the destruction wasn't as massive as in other European cities.  Therefore, its historic district is old, authentic and utterly charming.  Its history is so rich, it is impossible to take it all in.  Do I focus on the Holy Roman Empire, Good King Wenceslas or the Habsburg years?  Not to mention the Reformation or the recent occupation by the Soviets.  All is evidenced in the Old Town Square.  The architecture is as diverse as its history.  Art Nouveau, Gothic, Rococo and Baroque styles abound, as well as art, both old and modern.
The mood was very joyous.  We witnessed a wedding party have red wine on the Charles Bridge.  The hotel breakfast room was filled with Czech families visiting Prague for the weekend.   The art galleries, restaurants and shops were busy.  Our three days here were packed and over much too soon.