Friday, 24 April 2009

2006 The Long NOT Winding Road - Art House, House Of Art

It was Ian's fault! You know the feeling you get when having done something time consuming like cleaning your motorcycle and the weather changes? Well Ian, having had his beard trim, looked out the window and it's raining.
The good news was that by the time we had breakfasted the rain had stopped. Map in hand and paw we headed across Vienna to

The Kunsthaus is a museum that was designed by the Viennese artist Friedensreich Regentag Dunkelbunt Hundertwasser. Although Hundertwasser started out as a painter, he became widely known for his architecture, ranging from an incinerator works in Vienna , public buildings, the Rogner at Bad Blumau and some public toilets in his adopted home of Kawakawa, New Zealand, until his death in 2000.
Guzzisue had seen some of Hundertwasser's paintings in one of her many books and Ian had watched Billy Connolly's New Zealand Tour television programme in which there was a short film clip of the toilets in Kawakawa.
Below are some shots taken outside of the Kunsthaus.
On entering the building the floor is uneven and a notice explains why in Hundertwasser's words.

'The flat floor is an invention of the architects. It fits engines - not human beings.

We do not only have eyes to see and ears to hear and noses to smell. We also have a sense for the touch of our hands and our feet.

If man is forced to walk on flat floors as they were planned thoughtlessly in designers' offices, estranged from man's age old relationship and contact to earth - a decisive part of man withers and dies. This has catastrophic consequences for the soul, for the equilibrium, the well being and the health of man. Man's ability to experience ceases and he becomes disabled, mentally and organically.

An uneven and animated floor means to recover dignity of man which has been violated in our unnatural and hostile urban grid system.

The uneven floor becomes a symphony, a melody for the feet and brings back natural vibrations to man.

Architecture should elevate and not subdue man. It is good to walk on uneven floors and regain our human balance.'

And here is what the floor looks like.

It is quite difficult to see the unevenness in the foreground but by looking at the base of the right hand side pillar the uneven floor is more visible.
Also on the ground floor there is a fountain in the reception area

and the design of the toilets is similar to their New Zealand cousins.

Make sure you have a strong stance when visiting the urinals as the uneven floor theme carries on here!We were not permitted to take photos in any other area within the museum due to the content, a large collection of Hundertwasser's works. Guzzisue enjoyed the visit more than Ian and myself. This could have been due to where we were going to go after here, however the design of the building did grab our attention.

During our stay in Vienna, we were once again kept entertained by the many street entertainers. None more so than this Rock and Roll Hound. There was a good crowd watching this particular act. The end of this small film is amusing. All I can ask is why did the girl come back?

Thursday, 16 April 2009

2006 The Long NOT Winding Road - Goodbye Czech

It's time to start the Guzzi's engine again and to head south. We have enjoyed out time in Kutna Hora and would like to come back sometime to see how the rebuilding of the old town and cathedral is coming on. In Prague we just wandered around with little idea where we were going, so would need to return having done some research, but not at the weekend as it is very popular with stag and hen parties, nothing against these but we like to be away from Brits on our travels most of the time. There are other places in the Czech Republic that we would love to see one day.
Most of the countryside that we have seen in Czech has been quite bland but we did not stray off the main roads at all. There has been fields of sunflowers and maize, small market garden areas each with a small stall selling their produce.
The roads have been interesting, varying from cobbled streets to tarmaced finish. The road we took away from Kutna down to Austria was interesting as there is one carriageway for each direction and being a major trunk road the surface had been pushed to the edge so it looked like waves breaking on a beach.
Leaving Czech behind us we enter No Man's Land between there and Austria. On our right hand side there is an aeroplane that has been converted into what appears to be a cafe. There is also a couple of casinos. I assume this is where Czech gamblers come after work. We had to show our passports at the border before we were permitted into Austria.
Arriving in Vienna Guzzisue did a very good job of navigating us towards our hotel. If only Ian had listened and turned right as directed and not left! He soon rectified his mistake and the hotel was soon reached. The Guzzi is squeaking much more now and Ian fears the rear shocks are slowly dying.
Guzzisue booked the hotel over the Internet, called Suite Hotel 900M Zur Oper. Little did we realize at the time but the hotel is just as it says - 900 metres from the Opera House.
The Guzzi is parked up in the secure hotel garage for an extra 18 euros per day, expensive but the limited street parking is patrolled by traffic wardens who are only too happy to oblige with a ticket. We had paid 246 euros for three nights, 4 star accommodation, which was a good price for just outside the city centre, so were not expecting anything too flash. On opening our room's door we entered. The room had a kitchenette, minibar, large TV and a couple of chairs. No sign of a bed until Guzzisue opened another door, there it was, a large bedroom with another TV! There was a sign indicating the cost of this room - 230 euros per night! Back down to the reception to query things. Yes the amount on the email is correct, we have been upgraded!
Unpacked and on the road to the centre we stop for a drink while trying to get our bearings. Two of the places we want to visit are within an hours walk through the centre itself.
Today has been so hot that Ian is getting irritable so we have to find a barber to shave his beard off. We eventually find one and he is pampered by a young girl who was most unsure as to how much to take off. She kept looking for guidance from her partner who was not much help. Eventually she realised that Ian was not going to complain about too much being left on and he left the barbers with some designer stubble. 14 euros well spent to stop Ian whinging.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

2006 The Long NOT Winding Road - Not A Hen Party In Sight

Yet another of our famous lazy starts followed by a slow amble to the train station. Having seen that the 10:02 arrived in Prague just 15 minutes before the 11:02 we decided to get the latter, only for it to be delayed by 15 minutes itself! A railway announcement was relayed in several languages including English. Top marks to the Czech railways. The extra time was spent wandering along the platform and taking several photos around the station and of some railway workers. Everywhere we walked we were followed by a magpie and one of the workers told us that the magpie had been fed as a young bird and so was not afraid of people (and Biker Ted's I assume). I think that the Kutna Hora station itself looks like something from a 1950's model layout.

The biggest problem of the day occurred at Prague railway station - finding our way out! Eventually the exit was located and we headed off towards the centre of town. On the way we decided to walk through a park that could be described as best avoided as it was full of drunks and the occasional needle on the ground. This was of course three years ago and things may have changed since our visit. Guzzisue got questioned about where to catch the bus for Budapest. Funny how we always seem to blend in so that we don't appear to be tourists.
Finding ourselves on the tourist trail we came across some sculptures down one of the major roads.

This particular sculpture was created by Ales Vesely and is called Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead. It was part of the Grande Sculpture 06 season in Prague with works by several artists.
As we continued walking, Ian and Guzzisue were on the lookout for a small sticker of the Czech flag to put on the Guzzi's flyscreen. Entering one of the souvenir shops they got into conversation with a young Bulgarian assistant. It transpired that she rode a Simpson and was waiting for Bulgaria to join the EU so that she could be with her boyfriend who was studying in the UK. She was pleased to meet someone who would actually talk with her as most of the time people would just ignore her.
Moving on towards the centre, stopping for the occasional photograph, including this elaborate gateway.

It was round this time that we got caught up in some excitement. Several tourist guides, umbrellas held high, parties running like schoolchildren behind them were all heading in the same direction. Naturally we followed in hot pursuit and arrived in the town centre just in time to watch the Astronomical Clock on the Old Town Hall chime the hour.

The clock has a long history with many fictitious legends surrounding it. On the hourly chime, figures of the Twelve Apostles pass by two windows at the top of the clock face. These were only added in the mid 1800's, while the clock itself dates back to 1410.
As the clock chimed Ian had been talking to a Canadian couple and we all ventured into the Town Hall and went to the top of the tower for some good views of the Prague horizon and square.

With no particular idea where we were going we eventually ended up on the riverbank and Guzzisue taking this photo of the castle, one of the largest in the world according to the Guinness Book of Records.

Unfortunately we did not have enough time to make our way up there to explore, so having taken a photo and some film of a cruise boat, none of us wanting to go on it for some reason,

we headed off towards the Charles Bridge to enjoy some of the artists and buskers. The buskers ranged from a jazz band to a solo violinist, to this duo that were keeping a small crowd entertained with their slide guitar blues and The New Vaudeville Band's Winchester Cathedral type vocals.

Outside one of the hotels near the Charles Bridge a large crowd had gathered. Railings had been placed around the area, a small police presence was there and a small group of cars waiting by the entrance. Being inquisitive people we decided to hang around for a few minutes to see what was happening. After 10 minutes nothing was, interest lost, we walked away. Later on that evening we saw on the news that Madonna was playing in Prague. Well if she cannot leave her hotel on time, we cannot be bothered to wait! Her loss not ours.
Another area of Prague that needs investigating is the Jewish Area. Unfortunately we ran out of time for this, so maybe another time.

To finish with, here is a small film I have edited on of our trip to Prague. "Bear" with it as there is a snippet of the two musicians in the photo. Sometimes one thing can seem just right to make the day complete and they were it. Thank you gentlemen.

Monday, 6 April 2009

2006 The Long NOT Winding Road - 1 Day, 1 Church, 1 Cathedreal (Part 2)

After walking back to the hotel room for a rest and so that Guzzisue could wash some clothes we headed across to the other side of town and to St Barbara's Cathedral. This is a large Gothic style building that is slowly being renovated.
The path to the cathedral has many sculptures that unfortunately we could not see as they were covered up, a part of the renovation plan. The outside of the building had plenty of scaffolding surrounding it.

Whilst looking around the outside things seemed a little surreal as we could here a Suzi Quatro song on a worker's radio. Things are certainly moving on as the communist bloc weakens!
The cathedral was built between the 14th and 16th centuries. It came to be built as an expression of the importance and power of the upper town by the mining communities when Kutna Hora was the economic centre of the Czech state and where the Prague groschen coin was minted.
Inside the cathedral there were polite signs asking for photos not to be taken, however many people ignored these, Guzzisue included! Her excuse was that some of the items that she was interested in were not in the guide book, nor were there any postcards to buy. There are several frescoes inside dating back to the 15th century. The one below depicts part of the minting process of the groschen.

And here are another two frescoes.

The first designer of the cathedral was John Parler, son of Peter Parlor, who built St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague. Originally the cathedral was to have been built with three naves and greater in length, however this was soon modified to be a five nave building and its length shortened to two thirds of the original intended length.
More information on the history of the cathedral can be found here.
There is plenty of light inside the building and when the sun shines it really shows off the colours in the stained glass windows, some of which are as recent as 1913.

The next few show how light it was inside on the day we visited.

I don't think you could buy intricate door hinges like these from your local hardware store.

Later that evening we had a gentle stroll round a deserted town before heading back to the hotel's restaurant as any enthusiasm we had for finding somewhere else had evaporated in the afternoon heat.