Nebe, Štěstí, and Terezín

My first real weekend in Praha has been a good one.

Went to Nebe for indie rock dance night on Thursday, and actually had a great time. Danced with Tina and Laura, listened to good music, only drank one beer. (I am re-learning moderation.) I stayed out until 3:00. . .by far my latest night. So I must have been having a good time.

Slept in until 1:00 yesterday, missing breakfast at the Kolej for the first time since I’ve been here. Was pretty much lazy all afternoon; went down to Wenceslas Square to see Štěstí, finally, with Laura, Tina, Megan, Zac and Bryan. It was quite a good film. I am 3 for 3 on my Czech film adventures thus far. The film was deep, had a lot going on, at many levels. A lot darker than American films; perhaps due to American cinema’s embracing of the aesthetic of kitch. (I have recently been influenced by Kundera. He says, “Kitch is the absolute denial of shit, in both the literal and the figurative senses of the word; kitch excludes everything from its purview which is essentially unacceptable in human existence.” American cinema denies the existence of shit by making all of its films be void of problems, of shitty life situations of its characters, or else it ties up any problems by the end with a bow and sends audience members home feeling good about themselves. Czech cinema, on the other hand, embraces the shit that is inherent in life for many of its citizens, and makes you leave the theatre with something to hash through.) The film also reminded me a bit of Von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark, because of its dark, downtrodden aesthetic, and also, I think, because of the role that industrialization, the factory, played in the film. So, these all added to a good film experience.

Interesting cultural observation: the lights don’t come on and people don’t get up after a movie until all the credits are over — this, as opposed to in the States, where we jump out of our seats before the last scene even fades out.

Ate Thai food with Zac and Megan after the film, then walked across the Charles Bridge and got Tiramisu gelati at Cream and Dream. It was delicious, all of it.

Got up this morning and went on an ECES trip to Terezín, about 1.5 hours north of Prague. I thought the trip was going to entail mostly hiking, but it entailed mostly hanging out in Terezín, which is a small Czech town turned Jewish ghetto/Nazi concentration camp turned Communist Party Headquarters turned back into a small Czech town. It was quite interesting; we went to a few museums, saw a propaganda film about the city. Essentially, it was an American Indian Reservation situation — the Nazis appointed this town for the Jews to live in, have as their own, self-govern, etc. But in reality, it was a holding pen for them before they were sent to the gas chambers at Auschwitz. One museum was dedicated to the thriving intellectual/cultural community that developed in the ghetto, with artifacts and stories from composers, musicians, painters, writers, and thespians that lived there. Pretty eerie, though, to be standing in the middle of a place that was once populated by tens of thousands of deported Jews, most of whom were killed in the Holocaust. Laura and I ventured into this antiques store that had authentic Nazi belts, jackets, and a whole hidden shelf of Nazi medals and pins and whatnot. Pretty creepy. After the Nazis left the CZ, the Party turned the old fortress into a Headquarters for them, and after they left, it turned back into a little town. But it is quite rundown, the buildings are in bad condition, and the whole place kind of stunk, literally. The CZ is apparently worried because they have been having trouble repopulating the place since the end of Communism. I wonder why.

There also happened to be some festival going on in the center of town, something like celebrating Czech heritage. There were kolbasa and candy and wine and beer stands, jewelry, trinkets, and men dancing and women twirling batons. Also, someone had put out their private collection of old army tanks and other miscellaneous vehicles, and at noon, people in army regalia toting guns got in these tanks and trucks and drove them round and round the town square. There were also Czech boy scouts milling about and riding in the trucks. I guess it isn’t that different than our 4th Of July celebrations. . .it just felt a little more para-military. (There are some pictures here, more on the Flickr blog. I took a lot of pictures today — something about this town was quite photogenic.)

At the end of the day, we finally went for our “hike,” which was a 1/4 mile slog up a hill to a tower where we could climb up and see a nice view of the surrounding valley. I was really craving a good hike, so I found a side trail and hiked on that for a bit, smelled the wilderness, enjoyed the singletrack, but I didn’t want to get left behind, so it didn’t last long.

I was going to stay in tonight and read, but I think my friends have convinced me to check out a wine bar/book shop with them. That shouldn’t be too taxing for me, and will probably be fun and cool and something new. And I can sleep in if I want to tomorrow. .

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