Whoa, time flies. I feel like I’ve barely arrived.
Robin’s iPhone alarm woke us, and we took our time getting going. The sun was blazingly bright. I could hear the rumble and roar of a crowd, plus loudspeakers, but not sure what this meant. There is such a carnival atmosphere here – it’s like the city is on perpetual spring break. Turned out they were hosting Sportisimo Prague Half Marathon. The streets and all five of the bridges were teeming with runners in bright sportswear the colors of jellybeans. http://www.runczech.com/en/events/sportisimo-prague-half-marathon-2016/index.shtml
Oblivious, I was downing my espresso and porridge, squinting at the glaringly bright blue sky, and switching over into my good weather plan. Robin left to meet her tour group at 10:30 and steamed off to Kutna Hora. I nabbed UBER into the city and went to the Kinsky Palace museum. It’s got an extensive oriental art collection and I found much to interest me. I loved the inscribed bronze mirror; now that I’ve worked with bronze and know what a beast it is to shape, I have great admiration for anyone who manages to subdue it.
The inscription reads:
“Look in the mirror and you will see a flower, look at the water and the full moon will appear. The emperor can see that she is wearing the dress he has given her, and she, looking in the mirror, has put makeup on her face “
The ambiguity gave me shivers. Does it imply her face is as lovely as the moon or that the face she shows her lover is beautiful but false?
Portraits of Buddhas and courtesans, scrolls of god and demons, samurai sword belt buckles, and netsukes, including this little guy.
Fascinating hardware galore. As I put together reliquary inspired boxes, I have a new interest in the design of hinges, clasps and locks.
The top floor had some classical works, some midcentury moderns, like Picasso and Miró, and an odd upside down snail shell sculpture that made a low bass humming noise.
A trio of skulls with the title Winners Podium cracked me up.
Winner of ‘most disappointing’ was a video playing behind a wall in a dim corner. The image was a cake with a single candle and the soundtrack was hoarse, guttural screaming. Whatever they are paying that guard, isn’t enough. She looked rattled.
Followed my Google map back towards the Malà Strana, passing through the main square and the famous clock.
Hiked back across the river, elbowing my way through the throngs on the Charles Bridge, and up the hill to the KGB museum. Child of the Cold War era and Ian Fleming spy novels, I was raised in fear of merciless and cruel Russian operatives, and Joe Stalin’s soviet counterintelligence agency, SMERSH. Naturally, I had to see this.
The museum is two small rooms packed with memorabilia that is a combination of quaint, cool, and creepy, including a pistol that pops out of a cigarette case, projectile poisons and their antidotes, knives that could be fired like guns, tiny cameras, coded microdots and the micro-lense to view them, uniforms for women snipers, sabers and knives stained with Nazi blood, radios that look like car batteries, perfume specially made for women KGB operatives, shoes woven out of birch bark by Gulag prisoners, military issue hatchets that slice, chop and pry up nails. Each item was lovingly described, especially the evolution of the gun from variations on the Kalashnikovs to AK47s. The guide, Andrei, did a very effective show and tell of how the disguised spy weaponry and the Red Army issue armament functioned. His spiel was a performance, complete vocal gymnastics and sound effects of death by knives and bullets. His explanation of how to decapitate someone using ‘Stalin’s necklace’, a garrote made out of lethal sharp, miniature barbed wire, was especially effective.
It was a rapid fire but lengthy version of the history of the Soviet spy era with an emphasis on the founders, an overview of the rise and fall of communism with great quantities of statistics, plus fun facts about the selection and training of female snipers, defeating Nazis, Gulag ‘volunteers’ who hand dug miles of canal, and cocaine (“Baltic Tea”) as a staple of the Red army. No wonder Colonel Rosa Klebb was so cranky (and so thin).