Archives For Prague

Theatreland

December 15, 2012 — Leave a comment

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Over the past two days I’ve seen three shows in London, with one more tomorrow before everyone heads back to Dublin. Haven’t had much time for sightseeing, but this is my fourth time in London, so I already have a lot checked off the Must-See List. In my downtime between shows, I visit with the UCD gang a bit, but mostly I just walk and walk and walk, observing life in this sprawling and crowded city dotted with some of the most famous landmarks in the world. And it’s amazing the amount of theatre that goes on in the West End and everywhere else in the city. They’re running a remount of the incredible production of Twelfth Night I saw ten years ago, but I decided against seeing it again. Best to save the original in my memory the way it was.

Aside from the heartfelt and brilliant War Horse, which I was completely on board with, nothing has grabbed me here, really. And looking back at the dozen or so shows I saw in Dublin, it was only Farm and The Boys of Foley Street that really left an impact on me. More and more, I keep wondering if theatre has anything left to say. Most people I’m here with shrug their shoulders at what we see, or nod off, or leave early, and so much of it is pretentious and boring. It’s theatre for serious theatre-goers only, and I think that’s just a shame. I’ve always believed that art should be as accessible as possible to the average person, while still trying to be interesting and innovative. You shouldn’t have to have a deep background in Marcel Duchamp or understand post-modernist theory to enjoy something.

Now that my trip’s coming to an end, it’s been the theatre of the everyday moments that stay with me the most. Little kids saying hello to St. Nicholas on Prague’s Mikulas celebration; cafe conversations on the boulevard Saint-Michel in Paris; schoolchildren on a tour of the National Gallery in London. That’s theatre to me at this point. Theatre of the small moments of humanity that remind us how fascinating life and people and cities and towns can be.

There are other kinds of theatre as well. The grotesque picture show of the Nazi’s Theresienstadt; beggars lying prostrate on the ground in Prague, heads down and a cup in their hands, and the people passing them by; the empty nothingness of waiting for the lift at Russell Square tube station in London. The theatre of life can be both beautiful and horrifying all at once, as the news from Connecticut reminds us.

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On Wednesday evening as I was wandering around the city I accidentally stumbled upon the London premiere of The Hobbit. The crowds craned their necks in Leicester Square to catch a glimpse of Peter Jackson, Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, and Cate Blanchett, and then to top it off I saw Prince William drive up at the end as well. Quite the unexpected journey, I have to say.

IMG_0844 IMG_0852Most of the UCD gang are young and full of energy, and stay out until all hours having a good time. They always plead with me to come out and join in on the fun, but I’m not 25 anymore, and to be honest, Thank God. I’m fine to come back to my room before midnight and read a bit before falling asleep. I turn 41 in a couple of weeks, and I’m totally okay with that. 
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So tomorrow it’s farewell to London, and my brief relationship with the UCD crew. Haroosh and I have one more small journey to take before we head back to Dublin on Sunday, and then it’s home for good on Wednesday. There will be some very difficult goodbyes to make before then, and that will be the hardest part of all of this. But it’s time to head back and figure out what the next act has in store for me, and I’m ready for it.

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Mind the gap, Haroosh.

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French Rituals

December 11, 2012 — Leave a comment

Just some random thoughts from the past few days. I’ve written plenty more than this, but I thought I would keep it brief and to the point. And also, photos!

Say what you want about the French, but they love the ritual of sitting down for dinner. When you enter a restaurant, or cafe, or brassiere, you are always greeted with a “Bonjour!” You sit, order food, and when it comes, you get both “Voila!” and “Bon Appetit.” Every time. And it’s great, mostly because it’s the only French I really know.

Because I’m in the solo part of this trip right now (in between visiting friends in Prague and meeting up with the Dublin UCD crew in London tomorrow), I sit and write my thoughts down while I wait for my food, or I knock out a story or two in James Joyce’s Dubliners. It also helps to slow down the dinner process; I normally eat quick and efficient-like, as a bachelor often does. But a European dinner can last a couple of hours, so it’s important to sit and relax and enjoy the food and atmosphere.

And as I realize time and again, a book or a notepad is fine, but company is always better at dinner.

We’ll see if all those observations I wrote down make it onto here. I’m heading into the closing stretch of this trip, and London is going to be pretty jam-packed with theatre and (probably) late nights with that young crew from UCD.) But I have more stories to tell, and one last city to visit after London, so as always, stay tuned, dear readers…

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Can I tell you how fantastic train travel is over here? I could do it all day and never get tired. This is the train I took to Paris.

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Oh HI there! Years from now, I’ll want to look back on this trip, and so it’s important to remember what I looked like. Old and bald, yesirree…

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Snowing in the Strasbourg Christmas market.

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The Venus de Milo, in the Louvre Museum, Paris, France.

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Looking out the window at the Musee D’Orsay, Paris. It used to be a train station. Shout-out to all the Hugo fans out there.

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Haroosh and I at the Eiffel Tower, Paris. He’s afraid of heights, so we didn’t go up to the top.

Also, I need a shave.

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Another picture of the Eiffel Tower. Had to get the light just right.

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Walkway across the river Seine, in Paris. Those are locks on the left and right. It’s become a popular thing for people in love to write their names on a lock then attach it to a bridge. Saw the same thing on the Charles Bridge in Prague.

Man, that’s just a fraction of what I’ve seen and done in the past few days. Hopefully I’ll get more up soon!

Train of Love

December 11, 2012 — Leave a comment

I’m a bit behind with the chronicles, as I’ve been wandering various German and French cities for the past few days. But I’ll try and post a few journal-type entries I’ve been keeping while riding trains and sitting in cafes.

December 8th, 2012. 9:45 AM

Aboard the Franz Kafka Express to Munich

Dropped off in Dejvicka by Patty, then used my last Prague Metro ticket on the subway to Hlavni Nadrazi rail station.  Quiet Saturday morning in Prague. A few female tourists with their bags rolling behind them, me with this huge suitcase (it’s all I had, and didn’t have time to buy a smaller one.) I have named it Bill the Pony.IMG_0746

Bought breakfast in the station: pastry with Nutella, my European favorite. Wander a bit, see the old abandoned station building, sitting atop the new long low boring one. Watch the departures board, wait for the platform. #3 is displayed and away I go.

Older train, slow, mostly compartments of six seats. A white plastic version of the Hogwarts Express. I have a reserved seat. Old Czech man in there as well. Face reminds me of guys back home. Bull-necked and barrel-chested, uses a cane to navigate the corridor. Pulls rosary beads from his pocket from time to time, prays silently to himself.

Young skinny guy with no luggage rides the first leg, but disappears (along with his noticeable body odor) once the conductor starts checking tickets.

Pass through leafless woods, brown and grey, dusting of snow on the ground. Small, run-down villages, reminders of the old days. Revolutions come and go here, but not a lot changes, I imagine. Mountains appear to the south, far away. Snow gets heavier, forest gets thicker, evergreens still giving off a dull color.

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Cross the border into Germany, the old bull gone from the compartment, replaced by a mother and a daughter examining boxes of Christmas chocolates. Then another young brunette woman, then two more speaking some far Eastern European language join us in the compartment. Five gorgeous women and me, rattling along southern Germany, dozing here and there, the sun glinting off the solar panels on the roofs of barns and houses as we make our way to Munich.

The Swell Season

December 9, 2012 — Leave a comment


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My time in Prague was brief, but incredible.

Prague has this annoying association still attached to it, one of those cities that young backpackers always go on and on about. “You gotta go, man. Prague is amazing.” I avoided it until now partly for that reason. But it is the site of Vaclav Havel’s Velvet Revolution, part of that fall-of-the-Iron Curtain era of history that I’m so fascinated with. And ever since a family I knew from my 5th grade days moved there this past summer, I had vague plans to travel there to finally see it for myself. And with school wrapping up, and my time living overseas coming to an end, I made it the first stop on the Last Tour.

I was able to see Ian’s school, a small British-style international school that, aside from the small class sizes and some cosmetic differences, didn’t seem that much different than what we were doing back home. The teachers are all ex-pats, travelers from around the world looking forward to teaching in a foreign country for a few years before they eventually move on. I looked into something like this several years ago but couldn’t quite pull the trigger.

For three days I wandered the city, spent time with Ian and his family, and ate heavy meals and washed it down with a few good Czech beers. The language barrier was only a small inconvenience; Czech is a difficult language to understand, but there are enough people here that speak English, and you get by.

The city is gorgeous, but here and there you see echoes of the former Communist past. Gloomy, boxy buildings made to service the proletariat but add little to the grandeur of the older architecture. The older folk carry that heavy, resigned grumpiness that comes from being occupied by an oppressive power for decades.

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When you teach fifth grade, you get the kids for a short nine months, three seasons and then you pack them off to the junior high and you say goodbye. Most of the time you never see them again, occasionally some stay in touch, but even that fades in time. But if you’re lucky, sometimes you build a relationship with a few that last for years and years. Sometimes, you even get to go to a wedding.

For a few days, Haroosh and I were reunited with an old friend, on the other side of the world, and I can only hope that it isn’t the last time I see Ian and his family. That last day of school, where everyone says teary goodbyes to the little community created within four walls of a classroom, gets worse and worse every year. Too many goodbyes, too many good kids you don’t want to part from. Limelight offered the chance to sustain a relationship for years and years, but now that’s gone too, a swell season of my life that has given way to a new, more uncertain one, but still full of promise and potential.2012-12-05 16.22.20 2012-12-06 11.46.13 2012-12-06 19.20.03
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Flew to Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, the other day to see a former student and his family who relocated here this past summer.

I have slept well and eaten even better. Longer post soon, but for now, enjoy some Mikulas  action!

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An Angel and a Devil riding the Prague Metro.

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Prague’s awesome Astronomical Clock. I want one.

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Christmas markets in Prague.IMG_0722

Eatin’ some Trdelnik. You can really taste the cylindricalness!IMG_0713Nothing says Christmas like some good old medieval torture!