Monday, May 9, 2016

Prague Pictures

The title of this post is stolen from John Banville. Prague pictures; portraits of a city; one a series published by Bloomsbury in which serious writers riff on cities they know well. Peter Carey writes about Sydney, and Edmund White does Paris.

Anyway I was only in Prague for a few days and what I did was take pictures. On my last day I walked down the Vltava River to the Vysehrad fortress. It was raining on and off and freezing cold and there were hardly any tourists and I had the best day.

The walk took me past the famous Dancing Building and I took the lift to the fifth floor to see the views. The building was a collaboration between a local architect and Frank Gehry. The restaurant at the top is called Fred and Ginger. I had a surprisingly good coffee in the cafe on the floor below.

There's a small terrace, but the room inside is very elegant, all glass, with mirrored floor. I can't imagine what it would be like on a hot sunny day but this morning it was perfect. The glass art works must have been chosen or commissioned as each one perfectly suits the view beyond.

Some famous people are buried in the cemetery at Vysehrad - Kafka, Dvorak, and others. If I was to be buried, and I really prefer not to be, then I'd be buried right here. This is the most beautiful cemetery I have ever seen. (Maybe the Chatham Island lilies had some influence.)

I'd gotten one thing out of the way early - trying Prague's signature dish, dumplings (knedliky). My dumplings came with several bits of stringy tough meat in a salty glue-like, slightly lumpy dark brown gravy. The dumplings themselves? John Banville says their most striking characteristic is extreme viscosity. 'It [the dumpling] sits there on the plate, pale, tumorous and hot, daring you to take your knife to it, and when you do, clinging to the steel with a kind of gummy amorousness, the wound making a sucking, smacking sound and closing on itself as soon as the blade has passed through.' Enough said.

On this day I sat near the wood-fired oven in a local pub where two men were playing backgammon, and ate a perfectly done Al Capone pizza - eggs and ham - with a large bowl of salad.

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