In the last blog, I introduced the Prague Quadrennial and the main Georgian exhibit. The Quadrennial is the Olympics of theatre set design, a showcase held everyone four years for performing artists and designers across the world to celebrate their love and dreams and to show off the hard work that they’ve done. Yesterday I went to Kafka’s House, where most companies that were presenting were associated with schools or governmental grants, since those were the only groups that could afford to come and make such presentations. Some governments and companies cared more about the production, others didn’t, and that could be seen in what they displayed. Some presentations were simply pictures or videos of what they’ve done, others were transformations of the room and the space, yet others made the viewer part of the performance. Indeed, the best displays were the ones that provided the viewer with a unique artistic experience, that, whether through interaction or emergence, provided a link between the viewer, the artist and the art.
At first, I didn’t know what a Quadrennial was, so when my wife told me we were going to the Georgian Pavilion, I did what any smart husband would do and nodded my head and smiled. Also knowing that it was a Georgian event, I knew that there might be some free wine to be scored, and Georgian wine is always great to have a glass or four of. Nobody makes a sweet red quite like them, so you can keep your Tokays and Beaujolais thank you. We made our way to where the Georgian Pavilion was, which was in the historic Clam-Gallasuv palace. It’s a bit redundant to say something in Prague is historic, since the place bleeds history, but still. The palace is on Husova and Marianske in Prague’s old town. It was built in 1714 for the Viceroy of Naples, and the parties there saw such hipster musicians of the day like Mozart and Beethoven in attendance - I’m sure fashion will swing full circle and powders and wigs will replace the mustaches. Now it holds festivals and events, like the Opera Barocca in August and the Quadrennial every fourth summer.
Over the past few years, Krymska has sprung from being on the border of Prague civilization, from being a hipster central, from being on the border of everything, from being hipster central, and so on. These days, it's back to being the center of it's own little mustachioed polka-dotted world, just after suffering a five year lull which caused the famous Shakespeare and Sons bookstore to close up shop (a decision they're probably regretting now). There really isn't much there for eating, shopping or other non-beverage activities, but the place is beginning to blossom - though from how most people talk, it has already blossomed and the underground appeal has gone on over to the Letna district.
I know what regular readers are thinking. "This guy moves to Czech Republic, and now he only writes about Africa!" First Morocco, and now African culture "events" everywhere in Prague. I can't help it, my friends! The African Food Festival was held on Saturday, May 16 at Dejvicka, and my mouth was just watering for something spicey. One can only have so much of meat baked in creamy stuff, i.e. standard Czech food. I also was happy to attend the Africa Day fest as I love African food - most American "Southern" foods have their roots in Africa, like hot sauce, black eyed peas and Popeye's chicken - I didn't know how wonderful of a festival it could be, especially with the focus on the Islamic countries of Africa - and these days, nobody's big on Islamic countries of anywhere. It says something, or perhaps nothing, that the best PR skill promoting Islam is coming from the Islamic State, and isn't necessarily lost on Europeans.
To complete a real tour of a city, one must have its street food. It's impossible to truly get an authentic feel of the flavor of the city without enjoying what most occupants feed off of. Sure you can eat the best examples of their food, sit in some restaurant with a grand view eating some French guy's reinterpretation of the native ethnic gesticulating preferences. But to truly know - to truly know! - you must descend from your high ivory tower and denigrate yourself enough to spend a bit of time in the dense jungle of Adidas track suits and felt Kangol caps - at least if you're in Eastern Europe - and eat what those highly studied individuals are gorging themselves on. In many cities, due to the ubiquity of the Turk and their breathless ability to create hordes and migrate, it's usually shawarma or doner kebab. The interesting thing there is that, the shawarma of any city outside of Turkey is actually better than that served within the land of Ataturk. I've tried shawarma from Istanbul to Olympia to Sarpa, and haven't ever found durum or kebab comparable to that moist, roll of guaranteed diarrhea case as I have found outside the towering casino-slash-five star hotel Holiday Inn in Tbilisi.
The weekly couchsurfing meeting was held at a place called Simply U Kravaty, now called the Uptown. The first time I had gone was with my wife and a couchsurfer friend, Maia, just to check out the scene and possibly meet some other expats or open Czechs. Making friends in Prague is like making friends anywhere else, except where the locals are fairly disinterested and are quite active already. Which is understandable, but it also means that you have to get out there and make something of yourself in order to meet more people. To go out on a limb, so to speak. At Maia's push, we decided to start with the couchsurfing meetings. READ MORE
A nap was in order at the hostel. Despite the cacophonous sounds of my neighbor's nostril orchestra, I was able to get one hour of sleep and felt refreshed enough to pull a late-nighter and get fully inebriated in my new weekend home of Krakow. It's not a proper vacation nor a proper time spent sans wife if not a bit under the medicinal influences of Dr. Pivo. After the nap, coffee was in order. We had our pick-me-up at a cute little bookstore coffee shop on the corner of the street called the Tender Barbarian, or Czuły Barbarzyńca (Brzozowa 15) in Polish. They had English language books and a nice courtyard for outdoor coffee drinking. By the time I'm writing this, I'm convinced that Krakow is overflowing with cute bookstore/coffee shops. The only thing that might rival that in number is the amount of strip clubs that Krakow is also full of - thus, a tough city to stereotype! Equal parts intellectual and equal parts bromantic!