Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Wenceslas Square and a magnificent concert

It occurred to us that we hadn't seen Wenceslas Square. Actually, we had been there on a visit to Marks and Spencer's but it was dark at the time. Once again we headed off by foot to visit the statue of the Good King, who was murdered by his brother in the 900s.

Today the Square is well known for its role during the Velvet Revolution, following the events of November 17, 1989. It was in Wenceslas Square, where thousands of Czechs held up and rattled their keys, telling their communist leaders, "The time has come for you to go home." The National Museum is at the top of the Square, which is surrounded by big chain stores. In fact there was another demonstration in the Square, two days after we left, people demanding the resignation of the present leader, Zeman, who they feel is too close to the Russians. 

We had an interesting encounter in the nearby M and S coffee area. I asked an older lady sitting reading a book at the bar-type chairs if she could move her coat from the chair next to her so I could sit down and drink the coffee I was juggling. She was really quite hostile and didn't want to move it but I finally prevailed. We had another problem in the hotel, where the light from the hallway shone through a red blind high up on the wall covering a window. It shone right in my face at night and in fact I felt like I was sleeping next to a brothel, it was that red. The man at reception told me several times that in four years he had never had a complaint about the room. I didn't really see this as my problem. The maintenance person put something translucent over the window but of course it still let the light in. We were offered two different rooms, one smaller and one with stairs up to the bathroom, which we didn't think would be great at night. The good side of this was that in that room we got to see  the wooden, painted, so-called decking ceilings with various ornamental scenes. These wooden ceilings have been covered for almost three hundred years. Empress Marie Theresa issued a decree that all combustible constructions had to be covered, — at least by plaster – so that they were hidden from sight to those who came later, but were preserved for centuries.

Finally, I solved the problem by tying a pair of new socks together and using them as a sleep mask.  Perhaps these are just two examples of grumpy people but our Australian friend did tell us that some of the people weren't that friendly, and suggested that not all business people had fully grasped the concept of customer service.

Enough of that. We were very happy that we had tickets to see Simon Rattle conduct the Berlin Philharmonic. It was part of a tour celebrating the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the tearing down of the Iron Curtain. We arrived at the Municipal House in plenty of time. It is a beautiful building from all aspects. The outside has intricate stonework, gold trimmings, frescos and stained glass windows. The concert hall, Smetana is an architectural masterpiece, a mix of carved white stone and gold illuminated by hundreds of lights, and with frescos adorning the walls.

It was quite interesting to see how people were dressed. Most of the men were in suits and the ladies were in very nice clothes and a very few in fancy dresses. I had expected to see the ladies dripping in finery but it wasn't the case. In fact I didn't see one woman in the six inch stilettos that are so popular now. They were wearing flats or shoes with very small heels.

The concert was magnificent especially Beethoven's 9th with the Prague Philharmonic Choir. The Ode to Joy was particularly moving. The audience truly loved the concert and showed it with a ten-minute standing ovation. We were very fortunate to have been part of this celebration of the Velvet Revolution.

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