Behind every front cover, there’s an inside, a story to be told, long and wordy and often quite boring. Yawn. Who wants to read books anymore anyway when we’ve got Avengers movies and Game of Thrones? The idea though extends to buildings too, where there’s a front, there’s a back. Depending on the country, the front side is usually the nicely held up representation of what’s inside. People want to say, “Look, whoever lives here lives well, lives nice, lives proper.” So they spend all of their money making up a beautiful façade, but then run out of money for the interior. Maybe they’ll get to it later.

Then again, I’ve been in countries where they don’t give a single haypenny worth’s of care about the façade, and they only care about the interior. Sometimes just the façade of the interior. There are so many metaphors that can fly around this that one should consider a fly swatter. Just watch your heads folks.

entering a "hidden garden"

All that to say, over the weekend there was an interestingly themed “festival” of sorts. Most people know the much more famous sister festival of this one called “Open House Prague”, when all these old Baroque beauties open their doors and let you look up their skirts (indeed, most cities have some sort of variation on the theme). On this not-quite-the-same weekend was Malostransky dvorky, the festival that you shouldn’t confused with Prague Dvorak Festival, which comes from the same roots. That is, Dvorak comes from the word for courtyard. Or porter, actually. A porter was the guy who tends the courtyard and answers the front door and tells the residents if they have a guest. You see, back in the day before the doorbell and cell phone were invented, each apartment complex had their own non-composing dvorak to act as the doorbell. “Hello, I’m here for Svarak,” you might say. Then it was his job to look you over, make sure you were a decent fellow, and then yell up the courtyard, “Svarak!” Then a random neighbor would yell, “Shut up! Everyone wants svarak these days!” True story.

"The svarak comes from up there?!"

So the festival this last weekend saw many buildings in one of the oldest quarters of the city, Mala Strana, open their courtyards to the public. Usually there was some sort of bizarre art display, like one with a bunch of bricks playing sounds from busy places. Another was pretty straight forward, with large paintings for sale.

She's checking on the Internet to see if art makes sense there

art for sale... or not... I don't know...

I went through about half of the courtyards. Some were small and unimpressive, maybe in bad condition even. Others were in a cute rustic condition, where I could imagine happily spending hours drinking coffee and writing, while gazing off into the dark recesses hidden by the thick hanging ivy. The last courtyard I saw was a real masterpiece, one perfect for endless garden parties. The place had their own miniature baroque garden with a fountain, and half a dozen busts and sculptures.

many places featured galleries of sorts

and more galleries

I could imagine a garden party here

fanny packs are in

Vrtba Garden

All of these courtyards really left me for an appetite for more gardens. On my way out, I passed the completely hidden but for a small sign “Vrtbovska zahrada” leading into yet another courtyard. I shrugged and decided to go on in. My day of courtyard wandering had been fully established. But I really wasn’t prepared for what came.

the entry garden house ceiling of Vrtba

cool party house

The entry into the garden was in the courtyard. I went in, and there they were charging 69 crowns, or three dollars. That seemed a lot to me. I mean, that’s like two beers in Prague! So expensive! But really, it’s not that much, so I paid the money and went in. That little pretend baroque courtyard I saw was just a teaser for this. The Vrtbovska zahrada (or Vrtba Garden, in English) was the real deal.

the first terrace

Fantastic gardens were all the rage back in the 1700s, so every nobleman who was anyone had to build a bigger and better one than the next. This gardening boom included the massive gardens just underneath the castle, along with Wallenstein (which I’ll get to next) and Vrtba.

looking down on the first terrace

Vrtba is a Baroque terraced garden built on a closed off area of Petrin Hill, on a spot where you don’t even realize you’re on Petrin Hill. It was created by the Count of Vrtba, Jan Josef, to go along with his newly renovated palace. The palace isn’t accessible today, though the garden was renovated in the 90s and the garden house (along with its large Greek murals) were cleaned up and opened in 1998.

a window from the palace

You enter from the bottom of the four terraces, first to a large courtyard with trimmed hedges and a bird cage. The bird cage is there to give it the real nice touch of creating a constant bird song, as though you’re in the nature or somewhere apart from the city.