Similar to Austin, in the Czech Republic, being weird is completely normal. However, after visiting the museum of Egon Schiele Art Centrum in Český Krumlov, weird is an understatement. The exhibits inside this museum of modern art are bizarre and sometimes extremely disturbing. The first display included fascinating black and grey portraits made out of cremation ashes. The craziest exhibit was art pieces made out of pubic hairs. Other pieces of art were videos, but as I could guess, they were also nowhere near normal. The first video was about two mice that ate away at their mini house made out of food, while often attacking each other. Another video included puppets that unwrapped decapitated animal heads. Nevertheless, I think we all enjoyed the exhibits because art is supposed to create a reaction, even if it isn’t a pleasant one. My favorite part of the museum was a room that unleashed your inner childhood, coloring all over the blank white walls.
After the art museum, we walked next door to experience two mazes made out of mirrors. I didn’t have high expectations for the mazes, and was surprised at how fun it could be. At times we all panicked a little while wondering if we were ever going to find the end. It was unexpectedly difficult to figure out what was an illusion and what was reality. Over here, our freaky Friday might have appeared to be abnormal for us, yet for others this is just a ordinary day. It’s crazy to think about the artists that devote themselves to this expressive lifestyle and to think about both the maze and museum workers that also experience this everyday.
In the Czech Republic, people take their beer (pivo) seriously. Supposedly, the Czech Republic consumes more beer per capita than any other country in the world. It’s easy to understand why when beer is cheaper than water here. I always heard this saying, but never believed it to be true until I came to Prague. Over here, they actually charge customers for water while beer has a whopping 30 Crown price tag (equivalent to $1.50 in the US). Another interesting thing about the Czech Republic is that there are no open container laws. It’s not uncommon to see couples walking through the park sipping on their pivo.
I guess the Czech’s serious devotion to beer is what makes the Pilsner Urquell Brewery so interesting. Their history of beer making dates back hundreds of years and they have perfected it along the way. Personally, Pilsner Urquell on draft is my favorite beer. However, the bottled pilsners in the US don’t even stand a chance.
Our class was lucky enough to take a stop in Plzeň, in order to experience the Pilsner Urquell Brewery tour. We learned what it takes to make the perfect batch of beer… yeast, hops, barley, and soft voda (water). After learning about the beer making process, and walking through the chilly 5 degree Celsius fermenting cellars, we got to taste our own unfiltered and unpasteurized beer straight from their oak barrels. I can’t say that it was the tastiest, but we made sure to stop for some normal filtered pilsner’s before we left town. I’m glad we traveled to Plzeň, the heart of the Czech Republic’s favorite beer, because here beer is not only a beverage, but also a culture in itself.
Today was a joyous day here in Prague. The rain finally stopped and the sun even peeked through the clouds for a couple hours. As you may know, the city has been flooding due to continuous down pours of dreary rain. Day after day, the rivers have been rising and the people of Prague are on high alert for danger. Various buildings have flooded, the trams have re-routed, multiple metro stops have closed and nothing seems to be operating normally. As a student, I have even noticed the anxiety in the air. Sounds of sirens and numerous warning emails have bombarded us for the past couple of days. However, today was different. Activities within the city seemed to be returning back to “normal.” In Prague, everyday has something different and unique to offer. “Normal” is having bands stomping, Indian dances forming, wedding bells ringing, and fire breathers spewing. Prague is always busy with activities catered to entertain any photo-snapping tourist that makes its way into the city. Possibly Prague’s host-like atmosphere and entertainment is a reflection of it’s past filled with Kings and Queens and other Royal delights.
As I walked through Old Town Square today, I saw Prague return to it’s ordinary self. I immediately noticed a bride and groom taking wedding photos with tourists suffocating the whole scene. I saw a jazz band playing their hearts out for some extra change along with numerous statue-like men painted in all gold or white. As I left the area, I even spotted people actually laughing on the once depressing tram. Yes, smiles were not uncommon today, because Prague was it’s old unique self again.
Over here, the Czech couples love to express how they feel about each other even in the freezing cold rain. Yesterday we were supposed to see the Gypsy parade, however, it was cancelled due to the weather. Instead of leaving, we stayed on the streets to people watch and photograph those around us. Despite such a gray day, everything appeared to be bright and joyful due to many colorful umbrellas. I was surprised to find how entertaining it was to watch both the colorful tourists along with the locals. I decided to stay next to a flower stand in an area in which I found many couples speaking fast Czech sweet nothings to each other. I felt like such a spy while I was watching them from behind bushels of flowers. I guess this was more considerate than the quick up-close snap shots I was taking earlier as I was walking past tourists. As I was crouching behind the flowers, I couldn’t help but notice the unique couples in the area. Couples in the Czech Republic are not afraid to be show their love in public unlike many people in the US. I guess this could be because Prague is such a romantic city with its cobblestone streets, beautiful castles, and even it’s own Eiffel Tower. I suppose these couples still found the romance of Prague, despite it being such a cold dreary day.