Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Czech language knows no rules!

Things that make me happy: eating cheap pastries for breakfast, visiting art museums, going to convents, seeing history come alive, touring foreign cities, election season (they are tomorrow!, mexican food, photography, having conversations entirely in Czech, making dinner without harming anyone (including myself), watching Glee with friends, drinking English tea... I could go on and on, but this more or less sums up my day.
I had my Art & Architecture class this morning, and after reading about Romanesque and Gothic painting and sculpture, we went out to see it for ourselves. First, we went back to Old Town's town hall to take a tour- something we weren't able to do earlier this week. Hearing about all of the history within this building was incredible. It's even more astounding to think that this 14th century building has withstood so much. Parts of it were destroyed during the Second World War, but for the most part, it remains largely intact. After our tour, we went to visit the Convent of St. Agnes. Something about it reminded me of Tinturn Abbey. It's hard to explain, really, but I think it had to do with the fact that despite the fact that the church was so empty- no furniture, no art, no pews, no altars, no ornate carvings- there was still something very filled about it, something to be revered. It was a really need experience. Today, the convent is used as an extension of the Czech National Gallery, primarily housing the permanent Medieval Gothic Art exhibit. To be so close to such breathtaking works of art was incredible. What was really amazing to me is the simple fact that so many of these works are beautifully preserved. Very few of the paintings had any damage- we're talking 12th-16th century works here- and while some of the older statues were missing appendages, a surprising number remained whole. After our tour finished, we parted ways with our professor and found a Mexican restaurant, Bandito's, that came highly recommended. Finding it was a little difficult, but not a big deal, because the weather was beautiful, and what's a bit more walking in the scheme of things? I don't particularly mind. Besides, it was delicious. At this point, you're probably taking that sort of statement with a grain of salt; I seem to say that everything is delicious. Let me remind you of two things: first, I am not particularly difficult to please and I have a tendency to think that just about anything is great, and second, it really IS all delicious. It doesn't matter whether I'm eating a gyro on the run from a sketchy street vendor or sitting down at a nicer restaurant- I haven't been displeased with a single meal on this entire trip! Maybe I just tend to pick good items on the menu, or maybe I would dive into anything they set in front of me (well... maybe not anything. I have my limits. But it would be part of the fun!). We headed back to the apartment for a bit before our language class, which, admittedly, I was a little concerned about. No English?! I hardly consider my Czech good enough to make it through a two-hour class. Somehow, though, it all seemed to work out. We have a really wonderful professor, Lenka, who keeps the class light and fun. Czech is a crazy language- there are a whole slew of ways to pluralize word, nouns have 10-15 cases... really, it's nuts. But for now, we're just working on the basics. I'm learning fast (or so I like to think...), and being immersed in the language helps with that significantly! I put my language skills to the test when we stopped by Tesco to pick up some groceries after class. That adventure was a rousing success, as I've really started to get the hang of grocery shopping. Sometimes, it gets a little risky. You don't always know what you're getting (for example, one of my friends inadvertently purchased salsa instead of spaghetti sauce the other night). These things happen- you live, you laugh, you learn. It all works out in the end. While checking out, I managed to entirely avoid English while talking to the cashier (hooray!). It wasn't much of a conversation, but it was a conversation nonetheless. I tend to be fairly quiet in public places, because (obviously) I don't like to draw attention to the fact that I am a foreigner and, as one of our program leaders said "It's pretty easy to tell who isn't from this country, by the way you dress and the way you act... and the way you don't speak Czech." Amusing, yes, but very true. I can generally blend in- until I open my mouth, that is. Thank you, moving around my entire life, for teaching me how to assimilate. I greatly enjoy people watching and picking out people from various countries. It certainly makes lengthy tram and metro rides go by quickly! Upon our return, I made spinach and ricotta tortellini for dinner! Sounds like I put a lot of work into it, but that's a lie. I boiled water (and cheated a bit with that, because we have a water heater- sort of like a giant electric teapot- so I boiled it in that, and then poured it into a pot on the stove) and set my pasta in it for five minutes, but hey, somehow I managed not to injure myself, or anyone else for that matter. And it was- of course- delicious! If that's not a momentous achievement for me, then I don't know what is. My cooking skills may be notorious, but that's not always a good thing! I was quiet pleased. After watching Glee with my roommates and some friends, I enjoyed a good cup of tea. All is well (:
Tomorrow, we leave the apartments at 8:25 for a group field trip to Terezín and Mělník. I also- at the last minute- decided to go on another, optional overnight field trip to Moravia this weekend. It should be fun! I had something philosophical to say tonight, but my brain really isn't functioning appropriately at this point. So it goes. I better go and get some sleep- there are more adventures to be had in the morning, but I won't be having any adventures if my body calls it quits on me... that would be no fun whatsoever.
Part of the Town Hall that was rebuilt in the 1940's after the Nazis destroyed a significant bit of the chapel.
An all-purpose room- I do remember it was used as a courthouse at times, although I can't recall what else
This is also part of the chapel- please note the Gothic arch (hey, look who's learning something!)

Remnants of the original wall paintings in one of the four houses that comprise the Town Hall
Once upon a time, this little room was a street!
Saint... Somebody. I don't remember anymore- oops!
Mosaic work- it tells the history of Prague
Again, more mosaics. With a horse- what else would you expect?!


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