A Travellerspoint blog

September 2019

We interrupt this transmission.....

The Incredible Sagrada Familia

Most of you will have heard of the Sagrada Familia in Catalonia's capital Barcelona. If you have, you've either been, or it's on your bucket list. We're way behind on our trip blogging, because we've been doing too much tripping but last Monday we got to go and we just have to share this.

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Hands down the highlight of our trip, and there have been a few. The Sagrada Familia (Holy Family in Catalan) is a church that has been under construction since 1882! The masterpiece of modernist architect Antoni Gaudi, it is due finally for completion in 2026, the one-hundreth anniversary of Gaudi's death. There are plenty of other fantastic examples of Gaudi's work in Barcelona (we'll save those for our Barcelona post) but the SF is out on its own.

For some odd reason, they call this in Catalan a 'temple' and use this word when translated into English there. We kept finding this jarring; there are no Christian 'temples' we know of. It's not a cathedral, 'cos Barcelona already has one of those. On the other hand, "Church' just doesn't do it justice.

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We were absolutely awestruck. Phil was in tears. Such a healing and spiritual experience after some of the historic monstrosities we've encountered.

The SF is to have three facades; two of which are complete (the Nativity Facade and the Passion Facade; the former the only thing Gaudi lived to see (almost) completed). The third is to be the Glory facade, highlighting Christ's Resurrection and Kingship, the latter ones completed according to instructions an designs left by Gaudi. A key difference is that all artwork, sculptures etc sit on the outside of the SF, leaving the inside for something really special.

Here's the Nativity Facade.

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Gaudi started with this facade work because he knew it would be attractive, and he needed to foster financial support (the place was initially funded entirely through donations). He knew the planned starkness of the passion facade would be off-putting if that's where he was to start. "Dedicated to the Passion of Jesus it is intended to reflect the suffering of Christ in his crucifixion. That is why he conceived a more austere and simplified façade, without ornamentation, highlighting the nakedness of the stone, resembling a skeleton reduced to the simple lines of its bones". Here it, as completed by another sculptor, Josep Subirachs. Many will recognise scenes from the Gospel passion narratives.

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Peter's denial:
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The betrayal by Judas:
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Others more obvious:
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But the breath-taking, gob-smacking, overwhelming, jaw-dropping, utterly incredibe experience is the interior. "There are no straight lines in nature" said Gaudi who designed the inside to reflect nature, pillars spreading randomly and interwining like a forest canopy. Utterly, absolutely fantastic. You have to go!

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We were sad to leave; in fact we got kicked out prematurely because they were closing for some special function. So we missed our trip up one of the towers, but even that could not extinguish the overwhelming nature of the experience. The fourth-last picture, the rather naked facade, is where the Glory facade is going.

A fantastic sacred place in which it is impossible not to worship. We'll be back someday!

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Posted by philandmc 08:00 Archived in Spain Tagged sagrada familia Comments (0)

Centering

2-4 September 2019

Mon 2 September: Our drive from the Algarve on the south coast to Porto on the North West coast would take us through the centre of Portugal. We’d eyed a few possible places to visit en route and had a few more suggested, so off we went.

Bega was supposed to have an interesting castle, so this was our first stop. But with the temp in the high 30s, it was way too hot to do any serious middle-of the day sightseeing, and the supposed castle didn’t fall into our lap, so we had a brief wander then limited ourselves to a couple of great filled rolls for lunch in the town square.

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...and moved on to Evora. We’d scored a lovely room via Air BnB in a magnificent new house with all mod cons, and a lovely host family, in the country-side a bit out of town. Another advantage of travelling independently by car! Big pooch of a dog, pool and ensuite. It seems you can find these places reasonably-priced if you’re prepared to be away from beachfronts and town squares! We arrived about 3pm, decided to leave sightseeing in town until dinner and the cool of the evening. Collapsed into the pool and rested for a couple of hours.
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Had a brief wander around the centre, then ate at a guide-book-recommended restaurant; excellent local food, again meat-heavy.
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Tues 3: Back into Evora to visit Geraldo Square and the (apparently) famed Sao Francisco church
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Quite liked this footwashing painting:

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and its adjoining ‘Chapel of the Bones’. We’d read it was designed to help the (medieval?) monks focus in prayer on their mortality. We weren’t sure quite what to expect, maybe the odd skeleton on a glass box. Certainly not this!!

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But some amazing tiled stations of the cross on the entranceway wall as we came out.
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We realised we'd missed a highly recommended tourist spot: the Castelo del Monsaraz - a lovely little village on a hilltop, still entirely contained by the ancient wall. So we detoured. Just lovely.
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Another recommended attraction on route was Tomar, a town dominated by a huge hilltop castle/old convent complex, founded originally as the HQ of the Knights Templar, the archetypical Crusader outfit with the huge red cross on white tunics. Phil had read bits and pieces about the Templars over the years, fiction and otherwise. They almost certainly will have featured in the Da Vinci code and other books about Jesus marrying Mary Magdelen, and other such nonsense, but we wouldn't know!!

Associated with apocryphal secrecy, including the location of the Holy Grail they got too much even for the Vatican. "The secrecy with which they operated and its vast accumulated wealth " lead to a falling out with the then equally-political Vatican and the order was banned and its members imprisoned by Pope Clement V, in 1307! Among the accusations, later conceded under torture (so clearly true) were "denial of Christ and the cross, foreced and consenting homosexuality and adoration of the goat-headed idol Baphomet"!!! Three leaders were burned at the stake, protesting their innocence. This is becoming a common theme :) The Templars were replaced in Portugal, whose King was reluctant to follow the Vatican's lead, by the Order of Christ which seems to have been no more than a re-branding. There was a large convent there most recently; you can see clositers and the refectory in some of the photos. I'm bringing home a little booklet on the history, if anyone's interested in following up.

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The we headed to Coimbra (pronounced Queembro), an early Portugeses capital (I think) and a major historic university town.

A map and guide MC picked up contained a, to us, hilarious story. St Isabel, originally Queen Isabel de Arajao, was married to a King or ruling Duke of the area. We're talking early 14th century. She was in the habit of taking bread to the poor in a big basket thing. Apparently hubby disapproved, or something so she was doing this secretly. But one day he came across her in her wicked pursuit and asked her what she had in the basket. "Roses, sir" she said and opened her basket to reveal, not bread, but indeed roses! For this apparently worthy miracle, she was in 1625 canonised!!! Apparently about 20 other saints, incluing St Elizabeth of Hungary did similar things. We'd have thought, if one was to be canonised for such magic tricks, then surely, turning roses into bread for the poor would have been a far more worthy direction :)

To be honest, we were a little underwhelmed by Coimbra. Maybe it was a bad day, maybe we were put off by the disappointing hop-on hop-off tour we did (we stayed on), or maybe it was a rather unhappy check-in experience at the otherwise satisfactory hotel. Or maybe we just didn't get it. Here are some photos anyway :)

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And so, on to Porto and a highlight of the trip.

Posted by philandmc 02:59 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

Alive on the Algarve

Wednesday 28 August: Our first big drive. Nearly 300km but just 2 ½ hours on a major toll road with a speed limit, regularly and spectacularly exceeded by many, of 120kph. We have a toll story but will save that for the Portugal wrap up.

So the Algarve is kind of Portugal’s Riveria, all beaches and sun; G-strings and bikinis. We went mainly for the beaches!! We’d found a reasonable place on Air BnB that looked nice, so booked it for four nights. Liked it so much we stayed a fifth.

Just wonderfully extraordinary hospitality from Peter and Sylvia! And an marvellous property to go with it. No doubt if it didn’t appear to be in the middle of nowhere it would have been well out of our price range. Huge room, with huge en-suite bathroom. We’d seen the double shower before, which gives you a choice between the spray from the wall/handheld and a rainfall but this had a double – double. Storage for Africa, a gorgeous and much-used pool, huge shared kitchen etc etc. For those, especially in Europe, looking for a place for an Algarve break, have a look. Normally only advertised for July, August and the first half of September Peter indicated they’d consider opening up at other times for specific requests. You want one of the rooms with private baths, not the shared ones. Here it is.

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Peter was a great guy, and not a above using a photo of his son with playboy looks to attract interest to the listing – not that it influenced us in any way! We got a grand tour of the house and were assured nothing would be too much trouble. It never was! Message after message responding to queries about the best reasonable restaurant, the best beaches, and the best destinations on departure and en route north etc etc.
Thursday 29.8: A lovely day on the main beach at Faro; hot as, water great, followed by our first big supermarket shop on the way home. Major panic on exit. Spent 20 minutes walking up and down the enormous car park, in the heat, panic quietly building as the possibility it had been nicked began to suggest itself. Then out of the corner of my eye, cars moving up a ramp to a another deck! Wrong place. Again! Relief and embarrassment, again.

Then home to cook some nice looking, and very cheap, Hapuka at about $12/kg and a second night in our - to us - palatial accommodation.
Wednesday 30 August: Our 39th anniversary. We drove to Olhao, a resort about half an hour away. Busy and touristy with all the beaches on adjacent islands requiring a 30 minute ferry trip, in our case to Faro Island. Pleasant enough, and may have been more enjoyable if we’d had the time to take a cruise round the islands. Mary Clare felt she’d just as well be at the local beach but it was all very pretty. A nice cold Lisbon Red IPA on the waterfront on return (craft beer is definitely universal) then home for something a bit special.

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Perhaps the best Peter story concerns the cataplana. Phil had queried the purpose of a strange looking copper kitchen utensil – basically a wok with a lid forming a neat oval. So this is the traditional Algarve cooking method; it basically seems to involve making a flavourful sauce in the base, then adding any manner of fish or meat ingredients with herbs, spices and vegetables – tightly reclosing each time with the integral clamps.

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Phil, with Peter’s very great assistance, had decided to try cooking a cataplana for our anniversary, using as a main ingredient, ‘carabineiros’, seafood about halfway between a prawn and a lobster. Not cheap, but hey, 39 years!

Peter provided Google Map directions to the fish market, an experience in itself, and in the end provided some key ingredients, personal step-by-step cooking instructions: Bacon, then sequentially a couple of onions, garlic, mushrooms, red chilli, red & green capsicum, fresh coriander. Finally carabineiros. Serve with plain potatoes. Yum.

Peter and Sylvia provided, gratis, a bottle of white wine, a candle-lit table on the pool deck, dessert wine PLUS homemade brandy and sweet treat to finish! Spoilt as! Here you go:

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Sat 31st: We’d intended to drive west to Lagos (pronounced Lagosh) but we didn’t end up making it. Peter (again) had recommended a lovely beach on the way, also in our guides: Praia da Marinha. Lovely. Surrounded by cliffs and a steep walk down; well worth it.

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Bit of fun, though with the tide. The beach comprised several coves and as the tide came in, it was apparent, not only that the position of many was about to become precarious – think Tuvalu and climate change – but also that the coves would be cut off from eachother. Old salt Mary Clare observed early the significance of the boundary between the wet and dry, hard and soft sand and insisted on some early strategic re-positioning. Then we watched the fun. Beachgoers, Neptune-like, scuttling and scurrying like disturbed crabs as the water relentlessly undermined their positions. Some decided, not always successful to remain on chairs, feet in the water. Others scrambling after rapidly departing chilly bins, jandals and what-have-you. Great fun watching from our morally superior position  Another simple home-cooked dinner with MC doing the honours – Pork and salad.

Sun 1.9: Split shifts. MC keen on another stint on Faro beach, which she gratefully enjoyed. Phil decided it was time to have a holiday around the pool, and catch up on some trip planning and blogging. Well, 2 out of three….. Grilled salmon and salad back at the house.

Mon 2.9. Our last day and Peter’s final flourish saw him delaying his arrival at work to take Phil to a local Cataplana source to buy one to take home. “That’s your birthday present” said MC!!

And so a memorable 5 days came to an end. We’ll remember the fabulous weather, the beaches, the food, but most on all the palace that was The Suite Blanco at Casa Mar and the stupendous hospitality of Peter and Sylvia. From here, a drive through the historic centre (Evora, Coimbra, Castelo de Monsarat, Tomar) and thence to romantic Porto!

Posted by philandmc 10:21 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

Lisbon Larks

24.8.2019 - 29.8.2019

28 °C

And so to Portugal. Saturday 24 August. We flew in the evening on Air Portugal, Prague to Lisbon in one of the quietest flights we’ve been on in long time. Contacted the local Eurolease rep to collect our Citroen C4 Spacetourer (the car formerly known as the C4 Picasso). Strange transaction, conducted at 1030 at night in what seemed to be a random carpark! Young fella who was handing over the car seemed, not unreasonably, focused on getting home to bed!

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But we got enough of a briefing to take charge of the vehicle and drive it, via our first experience with a Portuguese petrol station. ‘Gaseleo Simples’, the cheaper diesel, apparently the thing. Around NZD 2.70/litre all taxes included. Then all of 2k down the road to our overnight stop in an airport hotel. Wee taste of luxury at the ‘Radission Blu’ for our first night ‘on our own’.

Monday 25 August: Another day, another Metro conquered! Into the city, to a station adjacent to the start of the yellow #28 tram. Every piece of tourist publicity one reads on Lisbon/Lisboa suggests this as a highlight of the visit! What! A tram? With some scepticism, we boarded. Well, what a hoot. Shake, rattle and roll! Definitely a highlight of the trip! About an hour, over the 7 hills of Lisbon, up and down. Really narrow sreets, cars competing with the trams, tourists and other pedestrians - often trying to take photos with the trams bearing down on them, and rarely a footpath to be seen. The cars were built circa 1930 but underwent a thorough running gear upgrade in the 80’s (I think). At various stages crowded, we stood and we sat and we marvelled. You really have to experience it.

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They could have been a real crowd-puller in Wellington but I guess light rail is more likely; we’ve struck some great examples of that too.
The difference? Largely that trams run on roads shared by cars, whereas light rail, though looking more like modern tram cars than trains, run on their own dedicated lines, often in between traffic lanes.

Tuesday 26 August: Then a bit more of a wander around the centre of Lisbon, another church or two, a famous but rather unremarkable lift (elevator) and it was back on the metro to collect the car from near the hotel and head to a 3* hotel at Estoril/Cascais, more-or-less seaside suburbs of Lisbon.

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Wed 27: On what would not be the first occasion, MC arose all fit and energetic and walked in the heat, but along the waterfront, from Estoril to Cascais. The need to buy replacements for a pair of sandals that had fallen apart MAY have been part of the motivation. Phil swam/ rested/ admin’d/ blogged/ sunbathed. MC arrived back; hot, exhausted but sandal-resplendent. A brief visit to the local beach confirmed the Guide-book’s view that the Atlantic water was cold. But MC braved it, briefly, then we had a drink and watched people sunbathing.

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Then, the guidebook alerted us to a little place, Azenhas Do Mar, a small village scatterd on a hillside, with an amazing wee beach and tide-filled pool below. Both of us walked down, and up again! Gorgeous spot.

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We went searching for a recommended restaurant within walking distance but couldn’t find it. We ended up at a little bistro and had a most entertaining evening. Mum and Dad were trying to run this place, clearly fed-up and exhausted after a long summer, dealing on their own with maybe 30-40 places, some of which clearly turned over more than once. Service was not rapid and some of their interactions brought to mind Basil Fawlty and, if not Manuel then certainly Sybil :) Plus a group of four brits that included one very drunk, loud Scot who made sure the rest of the restaurant understood his opinions on everything from Portugal to Brexit to English soccer clubs!

We learned the next night, when we found our original target, darkened and adjacent, that it had closed two days’ earlier for a month-long break. No wonder the elderly couple wondered what hit them. The food was good though.

Thurs 28. The town of Sintra was only a few kms away and was recommended by every travel guide, along with the #28 tram, as one of Portugal’s must-visits! There were a few tourist targets, including a “Moorish Castle” but we decided to limit our ambitions to the incredible Pena Palace, which seemed to us, rightly as it turned out, to be more than enough for one day. And an entertaining one it turned out to be!

All advice suggested we not try to drive up the tourist route but park in the centre of Sintra and get the tourist bus up. That is where things started to go wrong. Mistake #1 - We turned the wrong way from the car park, walked away from the bus terminal and slogged up a hill for 30 minutes in heat in the high 20s, while all the buses we should have been on roared past us!

We eventually caught up with one and were deposited without further hassle outside the Pena palace. Lonely Planet says this about it: “Rising from a thickly wooded peak and often enshrouded in swirling mist, Palácio Nacional da Pena is a wacky confection of onion domes, Moorish keyhole gates, writhing stone snakes and crenellated towers in pinks and lemons. It is considered the greatest expression of 19th-century romanticism in Portugal. Ferdinand of Saxe Coburg-Gotha, the artist-husband of Queen Maria II, and later Dom Ferdinand II, commissioned Prussian architect Ludwig von Eschwege in 1840 to build the Mouresque-Manueline epic (and as a final flourish added an armoured statue representing a medieval knight overlooking the palace from a nearby peak). Inspired by Stolzenfels and Rheinstein castles and Potsdam's Babelsberg Palace, a flourish of imagination and colour commenced.” Most of that went over my head, but here it is:

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So the bus we were on takes about an hour to do a narrow, challenging, hilly circuit from the centre of Sintra past the four main tourist attractions. Not having got on the bus in the right place, there was next the issue of identifying the right place to get off! Mistake #2! Slight disagreement about whether we were there when we got there, and far be it from me to disclose who was right, but the end result was another hour on the bus travelling past all the tourist sites, most of which we’d had no intention visiting in the first place!

Then, again since we had not walked from the car to the bus stop was the question of where the car was. In the interests of the next 39 years, I won’t say too much about that experience but shall we just say that we go there eventually, and made it back to Estoril. Another reasonable restaurant. Phil had ‘black pork’ – that still looked white but was just a tad salty.

Wed 28: Metro back into town. Walked along the waterfront. Another huge monument to someone important. Again, impressed with the trams.

But the visit confirmed our growing impression of Lisbon, despite the wonderful exceptions as a bit lack-lustre and graffiti-covered. And here's MC crossing the tracks, not at all per Kiwi Rail!!
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Had lunch at Belem – Mary Clare duly impressed with the place – took photographs of the Cathedral, ‘cos we hadn’t done that for a while. Phil had an interesting discussion with a Sri Lankan waiter about how to order coffee in Potugal (“Café Galau, poco leite”) - but not sure that’s right) and of course, cricket! Metro back to Estoril, dinner and bed.
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Thursday 29: Up early to drive south, over a colossal bridge and past Lisbon's version of Christ the Redeemer to the Algarve and a story of wonderful Air BnB hospitality. But that’s for next time.

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Posted by philandmc 11:11 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

Prancing About in Prague

20-24 August 2919

Phil had been wanting to see something of eastern Europe for a long time but it didn’t look particularly likely until we received an invitation from a Czech family we had hosted through Servas last year. Vladimir, Irena and Stepan has visited NZ, and Tui Tce, last spring and had suggested we come. So, instead of flying direct from England to Lisbon, we planned a small detour!

We received a marvellous welcome and have spent a great 4 days here in the ancient Czech capital and we got to meet Stepan's two brothers, and most significantly their flat-haired retriever, whose name won't come to mind. In typical retreiver fashion, the only thing on his mind was food. Phil had some sourdough brewing on the bench until said dog went for it, ruining sourdugh and smashing bowl!! Huge gratutude, especially to Vladimir and Irena for their support.

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Once again, the photos really tell the story of a wonderful and ancient city that, possibly uniquely in Europe, remained largely unscathed physically by WW2. It really was spectacular; the only downside was the avalanche of tourists; you can understand why the citizens of Prague are a best ambivalent about the whole thing. But, in spite of that, the place is beautifully clean – there is huge pride in this place!

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The Czech Republic consists of two provinces, Bohemia and Moravia. Something of a magical feel. Not only do some of the churches look like something straight out of Disneyland, many of the store displays conjure up fairy tales – witches and goblins and other fantasy characters. Pinocchio originates here 

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We were very impressed with the public transport, especially the busy and comprehensive network of trams, on which we became quite the experts by the end! Underlined what a shae it was that Wellington got rid of ours in the 60s. And with a bit of time to kill on the last day after dropping bags early at the airport, Prague became the latest Metro/tube to be mastered by the McCarthys. And our local station was dedicted to Charlie Chaplin!!

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The churches were something else! Although at various stages, Czechs have been Protestant in significant numbers, virtually all the churches in Prague were Catholic. And many just unbelievable. Take this one – St Nicholas – apparently designed and built in ‘flamboyant’ style to persuade errant reformers of the glories they were missing! Digby – some ideas here for the Tawa Anglican refurb??

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To be honest they were dreadful places – totally overblown and, I would say almost impossible to worship in. We’re neither Protestant nor Evangelical, so have no problems with the odd judiciously placed statue, stained glass, ornate altars or even the odd bit of silver or gold. But these were so totally OTT as to be utter travesties. I doubt they persuaded too may reformers back! And the truth is Protestantism was ruthlessly supressed and sparked the 30 years war. Here’s a few more.

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On the subject of the reformation, we learned a few things. Apparently the Reformation proper got underway in Prague about 100 years before Luther! The lead guy – eventually burned at the stake in a wonderful example of religious and spiritual concern for the man’s immortal soul – was a fellow named Jan Huss.

Like Luther, he had this totally unreasonable objection to the notion that making donations to the church could secure one an early exit from Purgatory. He probably had other silly ideas: That Christianity should be a simple affair. The notion seem to be that because Jesus preached peace and simplicity, a kingdom not of this world to which all had access, that Christians should seek to emulate him. Total nonsense of course and medieval Catholic objections to all this unnecessary change sparked, from Prague, the 30 years’ war that decimated 14th century Europe. We can’t have people thinking they can just follow Jesus, can we! The forced convetsions that followed the Catholic victory prbably explains the absence of historical Protestant buildings! But there was this: This is a restored version of the Bethlehem Chapel, which was kind-of Huss’s HQ. Just the odd wall painting; apart from that it could be a cinema!

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The whole affair also introduced a new word: In English ‘defenestration’; throwing people out of windows. Apparently it happened twice, where Protestant opponents of Catholic rulers resorted to storming their offices and throwing them out of windows!!! In the second example, in/from Prague Castle. Amazingly all three survived and were given for the devotion and loyalty (and apparently brutality) the lands of the nobleman who had defenestrated! This is the window, apparently, along with some other photos from inside (incl medieval torture instruments) and the views from, Prague Castle. Mary Clare was particularly impressed by Empress Marie Therese of Austria, who was the first woman to rule the Austro-Hungarian empire. She had and breastfeed 16 children, had a bed in the throne room and introduced many progressive reforms, including universal access to education. Her youngest daughter was Marie Antionette, cur from rather different cloth apparently!

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Other titbits of Czech history.

There have been people in the area in permanent settlements since 4000 BCT but it seems to have been Celtic tribes who arrived circa 50 BC who mark the beginning of Prague’s history. The founding of the city proper is told through the myth of Libuse (there’s supposed to be an accent over the ‘s’), daughter of early ruler, Krok who in the middle of the first Millennium had a vision on the banks of the Vtlava river, seeing a great city arising in the future. Here’s the photo of the event:

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The whole Czech.Prague affair really got going though, with King Karel (Charles) IV who seems to be regarded as the founder of the Czech nation, and a pretty decent sort of guy. One of his predecessors was a guy named Vaclav. Apparently in English, this is good old King Wenceslas who last looked out on the feast of Stephen. I can’t for the life of me figure out how Wenceslas is an English word, and why we didn’t simply sing about Good King Vaclav, but there you go! Apparently a much later Hapsburg ruler, maybe Marie Theresa again. had a daughter who ended up married to the King of England and she popularised the story of this rather obscure medieval king in her new homeland.

Then at some point, the Czechs got involved with the Austro-Hungarian Empire which lasted quite a few centuries and even briefly saw the capital, Prague, take over from Vienna as the centre of the whole thing. Vienna took it back though. It fell apart though, in 1918 because these guys were on the wrong side in WW1. That led to the establishment of Czechoslovakia, a federal union of Czech and Slovak states, which went fine until the leaders of Britain and France (Chamberlain and Daladier) decided to appease Hitler by letting him have the German-speaking bit (the Sudetenland) to achieve ‘peace in our time’. Neither seemed to care a fig what the Czechs thought about it, it resulted in the Czechs losing all their border security and of course, it all didn’t work out that well.

Though this article seems to suggest that Chamberlain bought Britain 12 crucial months, which may have been material to the outcome of WW2???

So the Nazis took over the lot, without the permission of anyone, least of all the Czechs, and the usual nastiness occurred, including the slaughter of the entire Jewish population. Then came the Russians, who liberated the city a couple of days after the Czechs had done it themselves, and 40-odd years of secret police, Trabbies, red stars, grey buildings and all that. About half-way through, a beloved leader Alexander Dubcek attempted some reformed communism but the Russians were having none of that and in 1968 sent in the tanks (apparent Polish and Ukrainian, who thought they were doing a bit of benevolent peacekeeping).

Then a writer/professor, also much beloved, named Vaclav (or Wenceslas if you’re English) Haval took advantage of the crumbling Berlin wall to tell the Russians to piss off, which they duly did. The one slightly sad bit of an otherwise triumphant freedom tale is that the Slovaks asked nicely if they could please have a country on their own. Everyone by that stage had had quite enough of fighting over that sort of thing so the Czechs said OK and we now have separate Czech and Slovak republics. Wenceslas, the new one, was apparently rather sad about it and as President, refused to go to the divorce proceedings.

The food was great. Lots of sausage, and slow cooked meats with dumplings. "Pork Knee" aka knuckle is quite a big thing. And street venders all over Prage sell Trdelník, or Trdlo: "This hollow, spiral-shaped cake , grilled over an open flame then dusted with vanilla sugar and almonds (or cinnamon sugar and walnuts), is found in abundance everywhere tourists congregate. It’s got a yeasty aroma like brioche and a gritty sugar shell, and is delicious all on its own, despite the fact that a lot of stands cram it full of ice cream."

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Prage is famous for its beer - especially pilsener. Good stuff; more robust and flavourful than most lagers. And there's usually a 'dark' option - similar to a porter. Cheap as - generally NZD$3 for a half litre! Main two breweries taken over by multinationals but, like in NZ, the response has been a proliferation of micro (craft) breweries. Perhaps a narrower range but there may some IPAs and sours floating around. Phil took an opportunity, whilst fortuitously footloose and fancy-free, to visit a Beer Museum, which was discovered, while Mary Clare was elsewhere, just after having a beer in a pub resplendent in quirky Tintin-like cartoons :). Excellent, all the better for a 4-beer tasting at the end. To sum up Czech beer - balance and flavour!

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Last day - we needed to move on from out hosts so found a cheap and cheerful place not too far away. Awoke, found a wonderful coffee at "Boomerang" - yes there are Oz connections. Hands down the best coffee since leaving. We got our bags to airport storage (the uber to get there was a fraction of the cost of the bags storage for 5 hours!) then back into town on metro and bus for a last walk around - the interestig "dancing building" and a vsit to Wenceslas Square. Then on a flight to Lisbon to pick up our carlease for the next five weeks.

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Posted by philandmc 02:43 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (0)

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