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Night at the Museums


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A Touur of Prague's Museums on a Saturday Night

At the Ides of June every year Prague hosts one of the most unique city-wide events I have ever heard of. It is called Free Museum Night, and it is exactly what it sounds like. You get free admission to a large number of museums across the city starting from seven o’clock in the evening until one o’clock in the morning. It turned out to also be one of the worst advertised city-wide events ever, as my girlfriend and I had not heard about it until the night before. We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to explore the extensive cultural heritage the city is so well known for.

When we got to the website it turned out to be a challenge just to decide where to go. The Spanish Synagogue seemed a must, but it wasn’t open until eleven thirty. What were we to do before then? After debating the merits of modern art vs medieval architecture, amongst many other choices I similarly knew nothing about, we chanced upon an exhibit that appealed to us both: ghosts. The Prague City Museum had an exhibition devoted to classic tales of the supernatural from all around the city. Sold!

This supernatural line of thinking led us to another famously haunted part of town, The Convent of St. Agnes. According to legend, the convent is home to a wandering wraith, a nun murdered by her own father for shaming the family after falling in love with a poor young knight. She is said to appear at night wearing bloody clothes and helps unhappy lovers, somehow. I suppose the shock of seeing a weeping ghost can act as a bonding experience of sorts.

We now had three museums in sight, all relatively close to one another, from Florence to Old Town. Prague City Museum was first up. The building itself is impressive to look at and very easy to find from Florence station. The first thing that greeted us as we entered the exhibit was a cardboard cutout of a cartoon golem, and it was about at this point we realized we had made a small miscalculation. We were the only ones more than seven years old who wasn’t a parent or chaperone. In addition, despite being in picture form, the stories were nearly indecipherable. In one panel you see a green man doing a little relaxing fishing. Soon enough he’s fighting a bear. Then you have another with a classic tale of a devil cooking food for a bunch of salacious monks, only to be turned into a chicken for some inexplicable reason.

Luckily we ended up meeting someone who was able to translate the stories for us. The green figure is the water man, and he was rudely interrupted from his fishing by some greedy men trying to buy up his land. So he tricks them into leaving, only to be confronted by a man from the circus who sets his bear on the poor waterman. Actually it’s still not very clear to be honest.

We had a good laugh and saw the rest of the exhibits quickly. The Prague City Museum’s main claim to fame is a cardboard miniature model of the Prague, of which we could not have had less interest in. We saw it anyway, and though it was actually quite impressive, it is still not worth making a trip over. I looked at some halberds and broadswords while my girlfriend went to check out some paintings by mentally disabled people. Finally we left to see if our next adventure would yield a little more ghostliness.

Night had fallen by the time we reached the Convent. We took a small unintended detour to a nearby deserted alley overlooked by a large cathedral and its ominous gargoyles. We might have seen the ghost if not for a nearby pub crawl to the Drunken Monkey breaking the mood, so we backtracked until we found the museum. Unfortunately, there was nothing too creepy about the place, despite the Ghost Tours we saw passing through. It is interesting in its own right though. It has one of the oldest preserved structures in the city and an extensive medieval art exhibit to boot. Personally, there are only so many statues of the Madonna and paintings of the Crucifixion that I can handle, although one could argue that’s ultimately a kind of ghost story.

Finally we had our fill of Christianity and we headed to the famous Spanish Synagogue. We knew almost nothing about it or what to expect, but apparently it is quite famous. After waiting for about a half hour in a line dominated by Spaniards we were allowed to finally enter.

It was a worthy finale to the night. The synagogue is more akin to a lavish cathedral than anything else, including a set of organ pipes, stained glass windows and gold-coated everything. Ostentatious and beautiful, the architecture and design was worth the wait. If you were so inclined you could browse the many small glass cases containing various Jewish artifacts, including original manuscripts by Max Brod and Franz Kafka, a small consolation for the fact that the actual Kafka Museum was not included in the event.

It is an odd feeling coming home late on a Saturday night with a feeling of actual accomplishment and enlightenment for once. For most, including myself, the week

Author: Travis Springer

Category: Arts and Cultures Viewed: 980 times
Username: Travioso Listing Ref: 1807196927
Date of Listing: 28 June 2014, 10:40:53

Night at the Museums


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