Praha, Prague, Whatever You Call It, You Will Love it

Last weekend, we met Mrs. DiCaprio in Prague and had a great time. There are no friends like old friends and it is a wonderful city.  Aside from the great company, here are some of the things we liked about Prague:

While certain parts of Prague have definitely figured out the tourist schtick, it didn’t seem as overdeveloped and the local culture seemed a bit more accessible than some cities.
It wasn’t majorly bombed during WWII and so it is rather old and incredibly beautiful.
It’s got a ton of history, a river running through it, beautiful buildings and the light is amazing.  It gives the city a romantic, dreamy quality.
Czech culture is really interesting.  Completely over-generalizing, the Czech Republic is independent, peaceful, loves democracy and is skeptical of authority (which is understandable given their conquest and years of rule under foreign empires like the HapsburgsNazi Germany and The Soviet Union).
The Czech Republic has a rich tradition of art, music and literature that are distinctly Czech.  This tradition still percolates through daily life there.  Below is the Franz Kafka Memorial in the Jewish Quarter.  It was inspired by his story “Description of a Struggle“.
Vaclav Havel, playwright, poet, essayist, dissident and first post-communist leader of the Czech Republic died in December 2011.  His contributions cannot be overstated.

Czechs are proud of their history.  Statutes abound.  You see plaques all over the place with little paragraphs.   For example, Johannes Kepler, the mathematician, scientist and astronomer lived in Prague.  He has a plaque on a former residence.
Crosses in Prague’s main square commemorating the execution of 27 Protestants during the 30 Years War by the Catholic Hapsburgs in 1621.
There is a statute known as the Jan Hus Memorial in the center of Prague at at one end of Old Town Square.  It depicts depicts Hus, a young mother, victorious Hussite warriors and Protestants who were forced into exile.  He was burned at the stake for his beliefs that  Catholic mass should be given in the vernacular, the local language, and not in Latin.
Prague has lots of interesting public art.
 
After John Lennon’s death, people painted his portrait, lyrics and grievances on this wall.  The communist government painted them over every day.  Each night, they appeared anew.  It’s known as the Lennon Wall.
The Penguins below are by the Cracking Art Group.  They are on the edge of  Vltava River waiting for their boat to Antarctica.
We couldn’t help but get our picture taken by the Crawling Baby bronze sculpture by David Cerny.
If you get too cold walking the beautiful streets, excellent cafes and beer halls abound.  Perfect places to warm yourself up.
Prague has an abundance of things to see and do.  Three days were definitely not enough and we hope to be able to go back.
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Alberto Giacometti Slept Here

The other day, I was walking down a street in our neighborhood (Geneva‘s Eaux-Vives) and I saw this plaque.  Being an art fan, I knew immediately who this was.  Since he’s not a huge art fan, I had to explain why I was so excited to him.
 
It says “Here lived from 1943 to 1945 Alberto Giacometti 1901-1966 Swiss Sculptor and Painter”.  I knew that he was Swiss, but never imagined that I’d live in the same neighborhood that he did.   He had been living in Paris, but when the Nazis occupied France, he returned to neutral Switzerland.
Alberto Giacometti is perhaps the most important of the modern humanist artists.  His works are especially interesting because they are complex, show conflict and portray a depth of human emotion.  For example, the figure is simultaneously flat and rounded, strong and fragile, stark but filled with humanity, abstract fragments are put together make a whole…  The skin of his figures crumbles and crawls but the figure remains invincibly upright.
Many artists were impacted by the World Wars.  Some say Giacometti showed human beings holding their own in the midst of war’s devestation, humanity surviving the trauma.
At some point his eyes started to glaze over, so I knew I had to make it more interesting for him.  I’ll do it for you too.   At 16, he contracted the mumps which rendered him sterile.  Let’s just say that this damage to his left him with some lingering issues with women, the body, what it means to be a man, etc.
By the way, a version of this one “The Walking Man” sold for over $104,000,000, making it one of the most expensive works ever sold!