Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Many Saints of Bohemia

Mrs Hickory had the excellent idea of going to Prague for a few days in the new year, and there we have been. Fascinating place, full of magnificent buildings, structures generally, idiosyncratically and tastefully decorated houses, churches and synagogues of varying quality, filled with paintings, reredoses, images and frescoes of much interest. There is not a lot I can say that isn't better said by others, but the cold is quite bearable if you wrap up properly, the quantity of live music is quite unbelievable (Mozart, Janacek, Smetana and Dvorcak of course, but also Vivaldi seems very popular, and then there are all the jazz clubs with live acts most nights) and there are dozens of small galleries exhibiting painters, sculptors and photographers, many of them well worth a look. Impossible to be bored in Prague.

They have a lot of saints who led interesting lives and had surprising deaths; St Wenceslas was murdered by his brother for reasons that are still obscure; his grandmother St Ludmilla was strangled by her mother-in-law out of jealousy; St Sigmund had his own son strangled for political reasons; St Vitus was boiled in oil and thrown to the lions, but they had to cut his head off before he stopped moving; St Adelbert was thrown into the river because he had heard the king's confession; then there was St Cyril who probably created the Glagolithic script used for Old Church Slavonic (an attractive and curious script it is) and St Methodius who might have created the Cyrillic alphabet, credited to Cyril. St Agnes was of royal birth but gave it up to found a convent of which she was abbess. A woman worth having a pint with.

It looks like a Western city, a successful, lively Western city. It has shed the poverty and the indolence that communism imposed upon it, and become a place where it is worth living, and where work and ideas are rewarded. An example of many things, and a lesson which too many will not want to learn.

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