In photos from his 2005 and 2010 visits, the Monkey takes an arts-oriented stroll along the embankments of Prague’s Vltava River.
Prague grew up on the banks of the Vltava River, and the city retains an intimate connection to the river. While tourists swarm the famous Charles Bridge that spans the river and links the two halves of the historic city center, elsewhere along the riverfront there are quiet spots where visitors and locals alike enjoy not only the sweeping views, but also cultural landmarks.
Here, the Monkey takes in the panorama from the grounds of the Museum Kampa.
The Museum Kampa is a modern art museum with an emphasis on Central European art. Housed in a restored former mill in the riverside Malá Strana district, the Kampa opened in 2001. In this photo, the Monkey meets a sculpture in the museum’s courtyard.
Straddling a channel of the Vltava, the Mánes cultural center mixes 1920s functionalist architecture with a medieval tower on the location of another former mill. The building was designed in the 1920s by Otakar Novotný as a headquarters and exhibition space for the Mánes Union of Fine Arts, a prominent group of architects, artists, and sculptors somewhat akin to the Viennese Secession.
The Mánes union and its pavilion were shuttered during the Communist period from 1948-1989, but the group reformed after 1989. Although the union has since moved offices, the Mánes building continues to serve as a cultural center, with event and exhibition spaces, a bar and restaurant, and a lovely riverside park on a slender island. When the Monkey stopped during his 2005 visit, he found a burgeoning tango scene. Who knows what you’ll find?
Very near Mánes, the twisting form of the Tančící dům (Dancing House) contrasts with the more traditional lines of its neighboring buildings. Affectionately known as Fred and Ginger (for Astaire and Rogers, the Hollywood dancing stars), the building was designed by Frank Gehry and Vlaco Milunic and opened in 1996, becoming something of a symbol of Prague’s post-Cold War thaw. The Monkey brought his dancing shoes, but sadly couldn’t pry Ginger away from Fred…
Leaving his new friends Fred, Ginger, and Mánes behind, the Monkey headed back toward the old heart of the city. On the left is the small island that Mánes connects to the mainland, and further along the canal is the elegant edifice of the Czech National Theater (see below).
Just a few steps from away from the Vltava embankment, the Monkey inspects the 1883 Národní divadlo (National Theater) and its 1983 extension—quite a stylistic shift over the course of that century. The National Theater, clad in gold-hued stone and capped by a gilded crown, was very much an expression of late 19th Century Czech nationalism (during a time they were still under Austro-Hungarian rule). It was built by public subscription and opened at first in 1881, only to be gutted by fire the same year, followed by a complete restoration and reopening in 1883. The 1983 extension was put up by the Czechoslovak Communist government as a Nová Scéna, or new stage, for the theater. While it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, the Monkey is inclined to enjoy this sort of architectural juxtaposition.
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