Tuesday, 26 April 2016
I have to admit that, despite having visited Brno, I hadn't made it to the city's Spilberk Castle. I don't know why; it was always on my to-visit list and it is in the city centre. This month I at last made up the short hill to the formidable building.
Spilberk Castle is home to the city's museum and an art gallery, which features local artists in a permanent exhibition and international artists in a temporary gallery. As I walked into a castle courtyard I encountered a huge blown-up soup can. Yes, Andy Warhol's amazing graphics are on display in the temporary gallery.
The gallery was busy, but as I have observed elsewhere in the Czech Republic not so much that I could not enjoy the artworks fully. I doubt that it would be the same if the exhibition had been on in Britain. I had a rather limited view of Warhol's work based on his most famous works, but this exhibition showed Warhol to be more than just a showman, to be a brilliant artist.
If you want to see a larger permanent exhibition of Warhol's work you can either go to New York or you can go to to the Warhol Museum in Medzilaborce in Eastern Slovakia. When Warhol was asked where he came from, he replied "Nowhere", suggesting that he created himself. He, of course, reinvented himself. He changed his name from Andrej Warhola to the anglicised Andrew Warhol. His parents were Czechoslovakian immigrants from a little village close to Medzilaborce. They were ethnically Ruthenian, an ethnic group related to the Ukrainians from that part of the Carpathians.
Warhol practiced his parents' Orthodox Catholic religion and towards the end of his life started to paint icons. The first artworks he would have seen as a child would have been the icons on the walls of his mother's room. Knowing that suddenly we see Warhol's prints in a different light - in some ways he was always creating icons - of Marilyn Monroe and soup cans. It turns out that Warhol didn't come from nowhere after all.
Thursday, 14 April 2016
As I passed through the wine country south of Znojmo on my way to Vienna, I stopped at the village of Satov. Here I was told by my friends at the Znojmo pension was a treasure: a wine cellar decorated with folk art.
I don't know what I was expecting as I descended into the cool of the cellar. What I found was just magical and rather weird. The whole of the cellar had been decorated by its former owner, Max Appeltauer. Both walls of the main hall and the walls of the rooms that lead off it are covered with naive images of landscapes, country folk, mermaids, and dwarfs.
Every Sunday for thirty-six years Max Appeltauer would descend into the cellar to carve and paint his designs by a candlelight. Nothing could stop the obsessive Mr Appeltauer, not even losing an arm in the Second World War. What his wife and family thought about it, one can only guess.
I assume this picture is of the long-suffering Mrs Appeltauer. I also assume that she didn't make it into the most obscure room, which is adorned with images of naked ladies!
Saturday, 9 April 2016
Early April is a special time for me in the Czech Republic. Winter is losing its grip, warm sunny days are interspersed with cold grey ones. In the woods and fields the first flowers are appearing - the Alpine Snowbell, little cowslips, violets, and these purple buttercups. A few days ago I took a walk to the wooded hill of Ptaci Hradek (Bird Castle) which stands behind Krumlov's castle gardens. The ground was so covered with buttercups that the wood floor was in placed purple.
As I stood admiring the flowers, I was reminded of the first time I saw them on another April. It seems many years ago. I was taken there by my friend, Hannah. I suspect she knew that I would fall in love with the little flowers, as we shared a sense of awe for the little miracles of nature. I remember that as she was dying, Hannah expressed a regret that she would not see Krumlov's spring flowers that year. She died in early April. So as I followed the path we had followed I enjoyed the flowers and thought of her walking with me through the trees.
Hannah on my first walk among the buttercups.
Wednesday, 6 April 2016
At last! My travel guide to Cesky Krumlov is now available on Amazon. It has been a year in the making, but I think the hard work has all been worth while. This is the first in a series of travel guides to the Czech Republic that I am planning.
You can buy it here:
For UK purchasers: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Insiders-Travel-Krumlov-Republic-Guides-ebook/dp/B01DQ20A12
For US puchasers: http://www.amazon.com/Insiders-Travel-Krumlov-Republic-Guides-ebook/dp/B01DQ20A12
It is also available on the Canadian, Australian, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Indian, Dutch, Japanese, Brazilian and Mexican Amazon stores
If you do buy a copy and enjoy it, please leave a review on Amazon.
Subjects covered in the book:
- How to get to Cesky Krumlov from Prague and other locations
- How to get around on public transport (trains and coaches) and private trips
- Take a tour of the Cesky Krumlov's Castle (the Czech Republic's second largest castle)
- Take a guided walk around the historic streets of the ancient town
- When to come to Cesky Krumlov (weather, festivals, when to avoid the crowds)
- Secret Krumlov – how to find the Krumlov most travellers never see
- Children's Krumlov – how to have a great Krumlov holiday with kids
- How to explore the lovely countryside surrounding Cesky Krumlov, including the Sumava National Park
- How to see some of the castles, abbeys and historic villages near the town
- How to shop for essentials and souvenirs
- What and where to eat in Cesky Krumlov
- How to find and choose your holiday accommodation
- Useful Czech words and phrases
- Useful information and websites