Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Cesky Krumlov: Tales of the Past

I feel like every entry has started with an "oops, should have talked about this sooner" statement. And this one does too. Oh well, soon I will learn to update more frequently. This entry will only detail my night in Cesky Krumlov, January 29-30, as nothing too extraordinary happened during the week. Tomorrow morning I plan to update you all on my weekend in Paris (a girl can only hope).

Cesky Krumlov is a popular tourist destination in the Czech Republic because it is very old (and allegedly haunted!). The town itself is very small, and after one night I had felt like I had enough of the cutesy sights. Here is a picture of the main square to give you an idea of what I mean:

I guess the gloominess of the day makes it seem less cute, but trust me. It was colorful.

Upon arrival, we had some free time to walk around and eat lunch before getting a private tour of the Cesky Krumlov Castle. I ate lunch with some friends at a place called Cafe Club. It was in no way a club, so maybe the name referred to club sandwiches. Though, they didn't have club sandwiches, either. Just regular sandwiches really. Maybe it turns into a club and I am unaware. Regardless, that was a nice place with a good atmosphere.

Then, onto the castle. Normally, these castle tours do not occur in January (probably because the temperature is frigid), but NYU set it up so we would have our own VIP tour guide show us around.

The insides were HUGE, of course, because it's a castle, but it is also very old, which made it much cooler. I cannot say exactly how old because different parts have been restored and added at different times, but it was all done between the 14th and 19th centuries.

A view from one part of the castle

From the wall of the Masquerade Hall

The ceiling, where a chandelier hangs

Masquerade Hall was an especially cool room. Every part of the wall and ceiling was painted with characters and designs similar to those above, and as you can see, the artwork was painted in 1748. Featured on these walls is a painting of a black phantom/ghost, representing the ghost that haunts the castle.

The adjacent room was the Hall of Mirrors. It was a little too dark for some good shots, but here is what I could get. I don't quite remember when these walls were painted, though I am pretty sure I recall the guide saying it was during the Renaissance period, when symmetry was very important to the art. This room featured lighter, more springy colors.

A little too dark, but you can see the enclaves by the windows.

This is a better view of the colors and details.

Next, we headed into the theatre, which dates to the 1700s I believe. The guide said to be careful not to all step in the same place so that we don't fall through the floor, so I didn't stand near the edge of the balcony for very long.

A view of the stage, with someone else's camera flash :(

This was actually a really cool place to see. These are original sets used in the theatre. There were also other sets preserved. We also got to see below the stage, which was especially awesome. The people who built this stage had an entire system figured out with ropes and columns that allowed for quick set changes, and even a trap door! A lot of manual labor was required to lift the weights and pull the sets, though. Here is a picture of the system underneath the stage:

I was really surprised at the ingenuity and enormous capabilities of a system with such simple materials! Though, since I don't know much (or anything) about theatre, perhaps I shouldn't have been so surprised? I'm not sure.

Then, we got to see some costumes that had been preserved.

I actually LOVE the flowered dress on the left, and noticed many similarities between today's fashion and the style of the costumes.

After this, we enjoyed a few different views from the castle. And here is an awkward picture of me with a BEAUTIFUL, fake-looking view of Cesky Krumlov behind me (but it's not fake--I swear!)

And that ended the castle tour.

After that, we had a small tour of the town (too cold to take pictures), then a break before dinner (during which I took a much-needed nap). Dinner was good. NYU paid which is always a plus, and the food was delicious. I ordered chicken with broccoli and cheese with french fries, and then our table split desserts, including crepes, cheesecake (not exactly what you are probably thinking when I say cheesecake, but close) and honey cake. The honey cake was apparently a huge treat and was so good. Oh yum, I wish I had more of that now.

After dinner we all went to some local bars. The first was called Gypsy Bar and was so fun! There were these men playing gypsy music and a little boy was "playing" his guitar! Here is a video:

After the Gypsy Bar, we went to the Horror Bar (haunted, see? Our tour guide swore she had a ghostly experience when she stayed at the attached hostel), then quickly to the Gorilla Bar. None were quite as cool as the Gypsy Bar. In fact, they were pretty much standard bars, I guess. Though Horror Bar did look as though it was decorated for Halloween. Whatevs.

The next day, we woke up for a hotel breakfast (okay...) and a tour at the Eggenberg brewery. The brewery was cool because it brews two types of beer. One is modern, machine-made beer (what our guide called "chemical beer") and the other is traditional, man-made yeast beer. The yeast beer has been made with the same process since 1560 and seemed like a lot of work. Here are a few pictures of the different tanks and things used:

And then we got to taste the yeast beer! It was very nice.

And here is a shot of the modern machinery used to brew the "chemical beer."

That's pretty much it for Cesky Krumlov. After the tour, we had free time, during which I walked around and looked in tourist shops, but did not purchase anything. Then we headed back on the 3-hour bus to Prague.

Goodbye, Cesky Krumlov!

Monday, February 1, 2010

The post you've all been waiting for...

I hope you are as excited as I am about this post. I'll try to keep it brief, Dad, and include the highlights of the past week and a half (oops).

So, January 21st was my last real post...

Some pictures that make me happy from orientation week, which continued very similarly to how it began:

Obama marionette! What a figure(ine).

Czechs pronounce 'w' like 'v' and 'e' like 'i', hence, "VALL-I"

Mold, my favorite subject :)

Beans in tomato sauce! AHHH I haven't seen these since South Africa. Yummo.

One cool thing from orientation week worth mentioning was the opera, Cosi Fan Tutte, in the Estates Theatre. This is the theatre Mozart had the world premiere of Don Giovanni. Here is a view:

And here are some close-up photos of details hard to see in the video:

The ceiling..

The balcony..

And again.

My opinion of the opera.. it was fine. I liked the ballet better and I had a hard time staying awake through parts of the opera. Also, I didn't really like that the storyline was based on the premise "you would be a fool to trust woman."

Other than all that, I started classes last week and I like all of mine. They are all humanities classes, I guess, which is kind of a change. But I think I will enjoy them regardless.

Also, I went back to the hostel with a few people for dinner and noticed something wonderful in the corner...


How nice. Okay that is pretty much it for this post. I'll do a separate one momentarily for my weekend trip since this one already has a lot of pictures and two videos.