Above is a Jan Saudek photograph; more on this below.
We woke up to a clear light blue sky and wandered around a little until we settled on Bohemia Bagel. Though we wanted to be Czechy, we also thought that a day starting with a good basic breakfast would keep us going longer than coffee and pastries. This place, we found out, is a local chain. The one we were in had big windows you could sit beside and watch other people on their way to work or school. Choice of types of bagels with various fillings from eggs to bacon to cheese, coffees and more. And the music was a cut above what we had become used to. An English speaking man in shorts with a laptop, over 60, came in with two large dogs which he settled on the floor. He went over and ordered his breakfast, then went back to his table, opened his laptop and started typing. The waitress brought over his coffee and bagel and then came back again with a bowl of water for the dogs. You could tell this was an every morning routine. We didn’t want to leave. But, of course, we did.
Right across from the BB were steps that started up Petrin Hill. The sun was still coming up as we went up and instead of the meander we scrambled straight up over the tree roots. Over to our right ran a funicular, not in operation this early though. At the top, the trees obscured our view of the town and the usual spots to drop in at, restaurant, a monastery, an actual observatory, an observation tower (quasi-Eiffel Tower in miniature replica), were not yet open. A few people were walking dogs; lots of dogs in this town, and mostly larger breeds. It was that perfect cool temperature for walking, and the few people were spaced far apart enough in space and time that for the most part it felt like it was just us on that hill.
We started down and puttered through the warrens just below the castle grounds. This area was almost all old buildings stacked so closely on one another that it was not uncommon to come upon a church in the middle of a block, a large church much higher than the surrounding buildings and yet you wouldn’t see it unless you were almost right next to it.
In all the time we were in Prague we never became inured to the beauty of the domestic architecture and the cobblestone streets. And not only that but the crush of population and space (and surfeit of artistic imagination, craftsmanship, and the simple fact that the old coexists with the older rather than the teardown and build modern philosophy) led to the most remarkable juxtaposition of styles.
Making our way toward the river we went across the famous Charles Bridge for the first of many times, and it still being early, it was the only time it wasn’t crowded. It was quite cool in contrast to the other times where it was more like your average Banff main street sidewalk at high tourist season with an even more garish display of local “artist’s” work (you know like cartoon drawings of yourself or Brad and Angelina) mixed with passable dixie land jass musicians and a blind but nonetheless annoying opera singer.
Across the bridge and down Karlova with intentions fo reaching the old town square (Starometske Namesti) we became happily lost, again for the first of many times. The often narrow and winding streets were now filled with tourists but it didn’t seem to matter all that much. They tended to confine themselves to the main thoroughfares (which in actuallity were narrow winding streets as well) so a block off and you could be relatively alone. When we finally came onto the edge of the old square we happened upon the Jan Saudek gallery.
We were both fans and this was an unexpected discovery. I had forgotten that he was Czech and to see his works large and precise with representation from all his career from the open window theme:
to the big ass theme:
to the many nudes both erotic and disturbing or grotesque or humourous:
was a joy to walk through. And for the first time, and I should have seen this before, I saw how much another photographer I like, Joel Peter Witkin, must have been influenced by him.