Category Archives: czech republic

na zdraví: Prague, part 3. that castle life

prague castlethe next day i awoke early from my jazz hangover and left the boatel.  robert and i had agreed to split up again, as i was interested in a bicycle tour to a castle in the czech countryside, while he was interested in seeing some of the lesser explored neighborhoods of prague.

after a little googling, i decided on going with praha bike, a local bicycle tour company, as i was interested in a tour they offer that takes you out of the city and into the countryside to visit karlstejn castle, the former king’s vacation home.  i walked over to the bicycle shop early, as i didn’t have a reservation but i knew they were running a tour that day because i had emailed and gotten a reply, but had not confirmed a booking (i wanted the option to not go without losing money in case i stayed late at the jazz club).  i got there about 20 minutes before any staff arrived so i had to wait in the cold morning air before someone opened up and helped me finalize the transaction.

the group was led by our tourguide, sasha, a slovenian guy in his mid 20s with a welcoming smile and an amiable disposition.  he quickly walked us through the basics of the tour and we set out.  after passing through prague square, we made our way to the riverfront and crossed along the southernmost bridge and slipped away into the countryside.

karlstejn homes czech republicour destination was about 40 kilometers outside of prague to the village of karlstejn.  our group had 12 people not including myself, all couples from various different countries all over the world (yes, i was the only solo attendee again, haha), and during the ride our guide did a great job of personally interacting with each rider individually, dropping back in the pack at times when there wasn’t much deviation from the path and didn’t require a leader.  I made a little small talk but I mainly kept to myself on this day.  i would ride ahead and scout out good photo opportunities, stopping to snap photos as the group passed me by, then hopping back on and catching up to the pack a few minutes later.  i did this all day long, and I could see sasha preferred that i didn’t out of caution that i might get left behind or something, but he eventually accepted that i was in shape enough that i caught back up quickly each time so he never actually objected.  plus i think he knew i was going to do it no matter what, so he let me be.

after a couple hours and a few scenic stops, as well as a beer break (no kidding, out in the sticks someone had set up a bar off the side of the dirt cycling path.  cycling appears to be popular in the czech republic) we made it to karlstejn castle, a large gothic castle established in the 1300s by king charles IV, the king of bohemia at the time.  it was known to be a vacation spot for him and has also housed the crown jewels for most of its existence (currently kept elsewhere).

karlstejn from below
karlstejn from below

situated up on top of a hillside inside a canyon with really only one entry point, it has a pretty fair height advantage on anyone approaching for nefarious reasons.  as we ascended the road leading up to the castle, i tried to put myself in the shoes of the people who had lived here in the days when royalty actually took their holidays here.  it seemed like such a surreal world to live in. the town was only founded after the castle was built, so there wasn’t really anything there before, and you have this one monarch and his court and his family that comes into town and suddenly there is a big “to do” about everything. and then he’s gone, and you go back to your normal life.  and what is your normal life?  you have a small garden in your backyard, or a café on the corner that the neighbors come to everyday?  i guess it’s not that strange, but i have never lived in such a life, or anything similar for that matter.  i looked at the people working the cafes as we walked by.  basically every business there was geared toward tourism now.  i suppose the king’s greatest gift to the people really was building his summer home up in the hills there, as he gave the gift of the tourist dollar for centuries to come.

karlsteijn kolorswe finally reached the city gates and we entered into the castle walls.  we walked around inside the compound, we leaned over the walls and looked down, we craned our necks up at the towers.  sasha, our guide, told us that if we wanted to enter into the actual castle itself and see the rooms and living spaces, we would have to pay an extra sum of money to enter and then go on an hour long tour which he was not allowed to lead (i guess that is somebody else’s job onsite). i suppose no one in our group felt like paying more money (or perhaps we really just liked hanging out with sasha.  seriously, he was a fantastic guide and made the whole experience karlstejn's rear guardmore than just a bike ride out of the city. a tour like this can go wrong really easily if your guide sucks, but sasha was perfect), because we all elected to stay with sasha and head back.  i declined only because i’m not really a big museum guy and i really was only on this tour so i could be on a bicycle and get outside of the city to see something different.  seeing a castle was a bonus!

we exited the castle walls and sasha took us out a back exit that circled around to the other side of the castle that apparently none of the other tourists knew about because we basically had the road to ourselves.  And this side was incredibly more scenic, the views of the castle profile were more spectacular than anything on the main approach.  We were all thankful to see this side, especially as the sun had begun to set and the light was hitting the castle walls really well, making the castle extremely photogenic.

karlstejn castle poses photogenically in the sun
karlstejn castle poses photogenically in the sun

after enough photos, we headed down to the karlstejn train station and boarded a train back to prague.  apparently the ride back was too long to make it back before dark, so when we had chained the bikes up before our walk to the castle, the owner of the tour company had come and picked all the bikes up in a truck and carted them back to the city.

20 minutes later we were back in the city.  i thanked our guide and exchanged goodbyes with all my tour-mates and walked quickly back to the boatel.  time to pack.  time for vienna.

——-

today’s ear wax comes from an artist we’ve already heard from on this blog, but this song is such a perfect soundtrack for this day that i couldn’t ignore it.  from tweedy’s new album “sukieray,”  this is my favorite track from the offering.  “flowering” features subtle acoustic guitars, a muddy lead guitar melody, muted vocals and a mellowed out drum track, this is the kind of song you put on after you put your sunglasses on and go for a walk in the sun.

and here’s the link to the we philistines song selections on spotify:

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na zdraví: Prague, part 2. jazz in a basement

busker jazz band in old town prague square
busker jazz band in old town prague square

after having a taste of prague jazz, my appetite for it became insatiable.  i began wandering the streets looking for buskers and performers and would stop and listen for as long as i could before it was too obvious that i was just trying to enjoy a free show.  eventually i decided i should find a proper place and pay to go for an actual concert.

after some googling, i ultimately ended up deciding on a place located in the southern end of old-town.  i had wanted to avoid something that was too fancy and proper, as i don’t really have the appropriate attire. i also have a mind that good jazz, real jazz, should be an informal and dirty affair.  jazz was born out of poverty and emotion, not martinis and evening jackets.  additionally, my search had led me to understand that proper czech jazz had similar roots, being born and raised up in dirty, musty basements and halls before making its way into more popular circles.  so i wanted to try and have an experience of the former variety, and not the latter.

after surveying my options, i decided on “the blues sklep” (click for info) mainly because it was in a legitimate  old basement in old-town.  after looking at some of its reviews on trip advisor and google and seeing how some tourists had been unhappy with the place because of the cramped environment or having seats with obstructed views, or just general complaints about there being too much smoke in the place, i decided this was exactly what i wanted.  something perfectly imperfect.

located on a small side-street near a few semi-popular czech pubs and restaurants, the place wasn’t overly difficult to find but i did walk by it afew times due to its decidedly modest and somewhat uninviting appearance.   i entered into a dimly lit hallway where two other restaurants were also located, and i found a third doorway that was only marked by a small standing chalkboard announcing the performer and the door charge cost.  i entered the unmanned door and followed the walkway immediately right and down a steep flight of stairs.  i made it about halfway down the stairs before becoming suddenly paranoid that i was actually entering into a kitchen for one of the restaurants or, worse, someone’s house.  before i could turn around i saw a few feet shuffle past the end of the stairway and i reassured myself that this was definitely a nightclub. i finished my descent and entered into a very tiny and crowded room.  on the left was a small bar with a barkeep behind wearing an old fashioned hat and tie. he gave me an emotionless nod and i approached.  i spoke slowly, not knowing how much english was understood here, and asked to pay the cover charge and for a glass of whiskey with ice.  he obliged and handed me a glass of jameson and a glass of ice with tongs.  i had never been served in such a fashion so i smiled, thanked the man, and moved away from the bar and into the adjoining room to locate a seat before the concert.

i immediately understood what negative reviewers on trip advisor had been complaining about.  the room was a musty old brick basement with low ceilings and the room could probably accommodate no more than 40 people, and that was pushing it.  by my estimation, around 50% of the seats had an obstructed view due to the thick arched brick pillars that had been keeping the structure up for hundreds of years.  space was extremely cramped, there was no standing room allowed, and instead of having rows of seats for you to choose from, there were tables with chairs and then chairs that lined the walls.  the room was in an L shape, and the short hook to the left actually had no view at all (save for a tiny space between a half arch of pillar and wall which one – maybe two –  people could peek through), so all you could hope for if you were sitting over there was that the music would be really good, because you weren’t going to see anything at all.  the place was completely full of smoke, as everyone had a cigarette lit and there was no ventilation at all, so the cloud just sort of grew larger and larger as the night wore on.

i loved it.

i looked for a seat, i was definitely the only person flying solo tonight and i wasn’t exactly early, so most of the room was full already. all the seats with a clear view were completely filled, so i had to move into the short section of the “L” hook with no views.  there was a small table for 3 that was unoccupied which i sat down at somewhat reluctantly, but i noticed that if i positioned myself up against the wall and then leaned forward over the table and looked around the corner, i could see half of the stage. i dropped a couple cubes of ice into my whiskey and took a slow drag from the glass.  relax, i told myself.

i casually glanced around the room and tried to eavesdrop on conversations. there wasn’t a single interaction going on in english, only czech.  i wasn’t really bothered by this, but it did leave me feeling a little exposed, especially as the room became completely full and the only two remaining available seats were the ones at my table without a view.  three different people approached and asked me in czech if they could sit there, but after hearing my reply that the seats were available and accompanying apology for not speaking czech, they would give a puzzled look for a second before realizing i was a tourist and then they would retreat to the other room, content to watch from the bar and enjoy the view through the doorway.  i couldn’t blame them, the view was probably better back there and there weren’t likely to be any outsiders there either.

the band made their way through the middle of the narrow smoke filled room and crowded onto the stage.  a five piece sporting a piano, trumpet, tuba, an accordion, and a lead singer pulling double duty with a clarinet and a baritone saxophone, they struck up with a lively waltz tune.  it was decent but not great jazz, as you could tell that the lead guy playing 2 instruments and singing was the one carrying the group, and easily had the most talent.  the really unexpected moment, however was that after the first song with no vocals, i had settled into the expectation that this was just going to be an instrumental group with no singing.  that changed when the second song started in and johnny, the lead singer, belted out the opening lines in a huge, operatic, bass-heavy voice that filled the entire room and shocked the audience.  it made sense.  these countries in central europe love their opera and symphony, so a broken, worn down louis armstrong voice wasn’t something that would work out here in prague.   no, the male lead vocal was something that needed to soar commandingly, evoking strength and volume that could dominate over all the other instruments that people were used to hearing in live music.

but i hadn’t expected it, especially judging by the appearance of the guy.  johnny seemed to be a caricature of the archetypal 1930s jazz musician in europe.  sporting worn slacks with suspenders and a white collared shirt with the sleeves rolled up, he wore an old fashioned bowler cap and was very skinny. probably around 30 years old.  he sat at a chair in the middle of the small stage with the others crowded around him.  the entire concert he had a cigarette lit which was hanging from his lips while he sang into the microphone, or if he was committed to his sax or clarinet, he would hilariously tuck the filtered end of the cigarette into his ear, leaving the lit end to dangly out freely and making it look like he was smoking through his ear while he was playing.  he must have smoked an entire pack during that concert.  it was impressive, especially considering how dominant and strong his voice sounded.  i couldn’t help but wonder what he would sound like in 15 years.

  the only other person i could see from my narrow vantage point was the trumpet player.  he was definitely the baby of the band, as he was the most nicely dressed of the group and was a little chubby with a near bald shaved head. a couple times between songs they appeared to tease him a little (in czech) about his energetic youth and his baby face (again, i have no idea what they were saying, i can only guess based off their actions and the reactions of the crowd’s laughter).  at one point they stopped between songs to all do a shot together, i think to celebrate his recent birthday or something.  actually they stopped for shots a couple times.  and they had beers alongside them the whole show as well.
i would love to be able to describe the other members of the band, but I couldn’t see them, and they weren’t really as fun to watch anyway.  all the talking was done by these two into the single mic onstage, and by listening to the solos from everyone in the band, they were the only two who were really worth watching.  but the trumpet player was probably the funniest.  whenever he would get really excited about a part in the song but wasn’t blowing into his trumpet, he would start bouncing excitedly and snapping his fingers off-beat, both hands swaying up and down in opposite motion, as if he was running.  it never got old, and i laughed every time he did it, which was basically every song.  you could tell he was just one of those kids that loved life and loved music, and he wasn’t afraid to show it even if he looked goofy in the process.

after about an hour and a half, the band broke for an intermission.  they all made their way outside.  i’d say they were going for some fresh air, but i saw them smoking up there as well, so i guess they just wanted some different scenery behind the glow of that cigarette.  the crowd rose and lined up behind the small bar, ready for another drink and to stretch their limbs from their temporary imprisonment in the prison-like venue.  i evaluated if i wanted another drink and if i thought my lungs could make it another 90 minutes without coming down with emphysema, and decided that i was content with my experience already, so i decided to leave.  i quietly made my exit, up the stairs and down the alley into the night.  the brisk evening air tried its best to liberate the smoky stench from my clothes, but the odor clung tightly as i walked down the streets of prague.

as i walked, a feeling of pride in myself welled up.  even though i consider myself a bit of a lone wolf in life, i have always had a slight fear of doing things or going places by myself.  i’ve never had a problem being by myself in private settings, in fact i often need “me time” in order to recharge my batteries, but being out in the world and being seen alone has always been an insecurity of mine.  i’ve never known exactly why i feel this, but i think it is a mixture of a deep hatred of feeling out of place – and it is easy to feel out of place when alone – and that widely accepted notion that experiences are so much better when you have someone special to share them with. in the words of the controversially canonized chris mccandless, “happiness only real when shared.”  and so it had been in my life up until this trip.  in my 31 years on this amazing planet, i had repeatedly postponed or canceled trips or vacations to exotic places if whatever girlfriend i had at the time was unable to go, or if i was single and unable to convince any other friends to go with me.  i had been putting my entire life on hold, watching it slowly pass me by while i waited for the perfect woman to come into my life and finally grant me the ability to go do what i wanted to do.

afternoons on the avenue in prague
afternoons on the avenue in prague (has nothing to do with jazz)

i think we humans do this a lot, particularly americans.  maybe not with our romantic relationships, or our travel, like i do.  but i think we too often think that we are not great enough in our current capacity to go chase what we want, and so we defer happiness for a later day.  we think “if i can just improve in this one area, then i’ll be right where i need to be in order to get what i want” and so we wait, inactive, and we tell ourselves to be patient, hold out, be confident that what we seek will find us when both we and the universe or god or our boss has determined that now is the time.  sometimes we wait years.  sometimes we wait a lifetime.  and then one day we wake up and wonder what the hell happened to ourselves.  we’ve changed.  we’ve grown complacent. after getting passed over for that promotion multiple times or after repeatedly wimping out on asking out that person you like, after giving yourself excuses like “i’m still working on this area of my life,” we eventually create a safe haven for ourselves which shields us from being able to improve or grow.  and now, a perceived weakness has become a debilitating illness that we have no idea how to recover from.

i’ve never been a very good student, nor have i ever had very good focus when devoting myself to improving my knowledge through traditional study and learning.  i am one of those dumb fools who will ram my head into every part of the door til I find the knob that opens it, rather than study the door first to find out how it works.  or i’ll just give up and jump out the window.

but if there is one thing that i have learned thus far in my often turbulent life, it is this:  we never learn anything new in this life by doing what we already know how to do.  if we want to improve our lot in life, we must put ourselves into a position of uncomfortable growth, where we are challenged, pushed, and in over our heads, and that is when our light shines brightest.  our eyes are open, our brains absorbing, and our muscles strengthening, and even if the end result is something less than remarkable commercial success, your own personal success will have been realized and you will have something that you can walk away with.  to put it in simpler terms:  it’s better to go down swinging than to leave the bat on your shoulder.  It’s better to ask that girl out and fail miserably than to sit idly and watch as some other douchebag takes your girl out right in front of you.  it’s better to insist on interviewing and get turned down even if you’re underqualified.  because now you know.  not knowing is a paralyzer.  paralysis is death.  don’t live your life on the sidelines.  go. do. now.

then again, all i did was go to a smoky jazz bar in prague by myself and leave early. i guess it depends on how you look at it.

————-

i seem to have painted myself into a corner with today’s musical selection after writing a thousand words about jazz.  so to keep with the theme, i’ve picked out a soulful jazzy little number that came out this summer and landed itself on a small npr feature about the “top 10 songs we can’t stop listening to,” or something to that effect.  this song definitely isn’t the big czech jazz that i heard in prague and it’s not going to headline any jazz compilations, but if you happen to be one of those souls stuck in unpleasant weather out in the states somewhere right now, pop this one into the tape deck, light some candles and open a bottle of red, and snuggle up next to your significant other. this one will having you feeling romantic before you can finish your second sip.  enjoy…

na zdraví: Prague, part 1. castles, cheap beer, and street jazz

prague square at night
prague square at night

robert and i had some time to kill before leaving berlin and we both had some minor items we’d wanted to pick up from a large city like berlin before heading into some of the smaller places that might not have the shopping selection options one could enjoy in a massive city like berlin.  we split up and agreed to meet later.  my feet had begun to seriously hurt me on this trip now, to a point where the pain was almost unbearable after walking for 4 hours.  i had begun to get sharp pains in specific points of emphasis under the knuckles of my feet, as well as my arches.  robert had explained to me I likely needed orthotic shoe liners, as my current shoes were not giving me any support.  he confirmed this for me when i told him it didn’t hurt me when i ran, only when i walked for a long time.  having had similar issues in the past, he offered a lot of well-researched information on the subject and so i set out in search of some insoles that could cure my woes.

i didn’t find any, so i found a boutique shoe shop and i bought some nikes, confident that this would fix the problem.  it didn’t, but at least i look hip now.

eventually we met back up and boarded our bus for prague.  it was to be a 4 hour ride, during which i had meant to write as much as possible.  i was successful for however long it took us to get to the Czech border, but once we

warm sunshine blankets the czech countryside
warm sunshine blankets the czech countryside

crossed, i became enthralled by the breathtaking czech countryside, dancing by under a doting sunset, as if the sun and the czech republic were aware that we were arriving, and wanted to roll out the red carpet to their new guests.

we passed by a few very small towns with a little river running through the middle of them.  a castle on the side of the mountain, overlooking the water and the small houses below with the sun setting in the background, it all seemed very pedestrian and unspectacular to everyone else on the bus and probably to anyone living there, but i couldn’t get enough.  i put my computer away and set aside my camera and let my eyes drink in the scenery.

after a few hours we had arrived in prague, and we made our way to our hotel. before we had left, robert had researched accommodations, as he is a little more particular than i am, and after having not been incredibly excited about any of the immediate options, he looked up quizzically and asked me directly “how would you feel about staying on a boat?” i didn’t even hesitate. “book it. don’t care if it sucks. i want to say i stayed on a boat.”

and so we stayed at a place called the “botel albatross,” (how clever) situated right on the river on the north side of old-town prague where the river bends.  it wasn’t particularly incredible, but it was about as affordable as it gets on short notice and it was easy to find.  also, it’s a hotel on a boat on the river, so it needs no further justification. the novelty of it was great.  after checking in and getting settled, neither robert or myself were ready to turn in for the night, so we immediately set out in search of a few cheap sights and more importantly, something to eat.

neither of us really knew anything about prague, other than everyone always saying “oh prague is awesome!” so we weren’t sure what we should be looking for (i think this has become the theme of not only my travels, but my life).  we decided to head for the main square.  within 2 minutes of leaving, we were already impressed by the quaint nature of the town, with cobblestoned streets and narrow walkways that seemed to go whichever way they pleased, all under the careful watch of centuries-old buildings with spires and clocktowers on seemingly every structure (seriously, I’ve never seen so many clocktowers in my life).

…and now I'm in Prague.

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everything was lit up like a movie set.  every building that needed to be seen was clearly visible at night, with floodlights placed strategically on opposing rooftops and any other vantage point that would give the most flattering view of whatever needed to be shown off.  prague knows it’s beautiful, and it knows how to show off.

telling time in prague square
telling time in prague square

none of this was more impressive than the old town square.  a wide open space with people walking to and fro, brisk in pace or slow with head directed up and marveling at the architecture on display, people were mingling this way and that, musicians were busking, trying to impress enough to earn some change from anyone who would listen, the asian tourists were busily taking photos with their selfie sticks, and british stag parties were loudly consuming beer from large mugs on patios on the sideline.  i saw few cities so easily accessible and interactive in europe as prague was. it was clear to me almost immediately:  i like prague.

after we had gawked enough at everything to see, robert and i realized we had both gotten extremely hungry.  we also had trouble finding anything that looked palatable and non-touristy, or that wasn’t going to take forever to be ready to consume, so we settled on a pizza place a modest distance away from the plaza.  it was decent enough, and the owner there was clearly italian, so we justified not eating something inherently “czech” by assuming the pizza was “italian enough.”  plus it had free wifi.

the next day, robert and i made for the other side of the river, on the north and western banks of the river bend. our goal was to explore the neighborhood and eventually make it up to the castle, crossing 2 different bridges in the process.  we first made for the charles bridge, and were a little dismayed by how many people were already there.  we knew that to truly enjoy the bridge without the throngs of tourists, you had to get there early.  apparently 8:30 – 9am is not early enough.  nevertheless, we slowly made our way through the crowds and the vendors, stopping briefly to enjoy a couple musical performers, including one guy who was a maestro on the accordion, and a folk trio complete with a banjo player, a guitar player with a harmonica, and a percussion player playing the spoons and the washboard.  they were all quite good.

as we made our way through the streets, i was amazed at just how picturesque the city was.  every direction i turned my head looked like it should have a frame around it and be placed above someone’s fireplace.  it might be the most photogenic city i’ve ever seen.  we ascended into the hills, heading in the general direction of the prague castle, but we were generally avoiding the main thoroughfares that the large crowds were following along.  whenever one of us would see some small alley or side street that looked interesting, we’d motion to the other to signal we were deviating from the path in search of something less trodden.  this behavior eventually led us to a large “tv tower” on the western hillside that sported, in my opinion, the best view of the entire city.  these tv towers are indicative of most significant cities in central europe and east, particularly anything that at one point was under soviet control.  imagine an air traffic control tower that you might see at your airport, then imagine it looking a little more like it was from the jetsons, and now you have a tv tower.  these things served as watchtowers that one could see incoming threats and send/receive radio transmission for 360 degrees.

so robert and i paid 5 euros to enter and climb the 200 or so stairs to get to the top and take in the view.  it was magnificent, and totally worth the cost.

the prague riverfront on a hazy morning
the prague riverfront on a hazy morning

after snapping photos and taking enough video, we descended and made our way to the castle.  on our way there, we wandered by a centuries-old underground monastery that now had a restaurant friendly towards tourists (how nice).  i insisted we stop inside so i could sample some of the “blueberry beer” advertised on a chalkboard out front.  i ordered a bowl of goulash to balance out the beer and enjoyed the cave-like structure around me.  it was dimly lit with rounded and arched ceilings that seemed to follow no rhythm except whatever the earth had given the constructors to work with whenever the place had been built.

after the monastery, we wandered by a cathedral and crossed a few more small squares before finally finding the prague castle.  by the time we got there, it was closing time, so there was no opportunity to ascend into the towers or enter into the structure, but i was okay with that.  typically in my experience, when you get to the top of the biggest, coolest point of interest within a city, you lose your ability to appreciate the biggest, coolest point of interest within a city.  i was much happier having found the tv tower earlier (actually a little taller than the castle, but not nearly as impressive looking) and having paid significantly less for my ascension to the top.

that night robert and I found somewhere to eat where robert made a very annoying observation.  well, it was very annoying for him, but for me, it was one of my favorite things about my time with robert.  he became visibly frustrated that, at every single place we had been to in prague (which was probably 5 or 6 restaurants at this point), water was more expensive than beer, usually by at least a euro.  i started laughing joyously.  finally one of my vices was paying dividends instead of costing them.  robert good naturedly picked up on the humor of the situation and this scenario became a ritual of every place we went in prague.  we’d pick a restaurant and he would immediately find the beverages section on the menu and would let out a sigh of exasperation and would read the cost of a water versus a beer aloud, to which i would appreciatively laugh.

robert had tracked our steps that day with a pedometer app he has on his iphone 6.  he mentioned we had walked somewhere around 20 miles that day.  that explained why my feet hurt so bad (coupled with the issues i was starting to develop with my arches).  i had wanted to go find a jazz bar that night after learning that the czechs really like jazz music, but i could barely stand to be on my feet anymore so i elected to do that another night.  on our way back to our

alley jazz in prague
alley jazz in prague

botel, however, we encountered by chance a tiny restaurant down a back alley where a little jazz trio was playing for a small group of patrons.  led by a violin, a guitarist and standup bassist accompanied in the background, robert and i elected to stand and watch for about a minute before i asked if robert minded if we grab a seat for a nightcap and watch them finish their set.  robert acquiesced and we sat down.  i ordered a couple fingers of whisky and focused on the music.

three generations of jazz in prague
three generations of jazz in prague

we were able to watch them play for about 5 or 6 songs, and they did not disappoint.  to this point in my trip and beyond, i haven’t heard anyone quite as talented as these 3.  the violinist was clearly the star of the show, as he stood front and center and adeptly maneuvered up and down the neck of his violin maniacally during each song, never missing a note and channeling gypsy maestros from the 20s and 30s with remarkable ease.  this man could have easily been playing on a large stage or at a city hall with an orchestra, but here he was playing in a dimly lit patio for a few tourists with his bandmates.  i actually think there was a good chance these three were all different generations of the same family, as they all bore a resemblance to one another.  the guitarist being the youngest and the bassist being the eldest, they were all very familiar with each other and knew exactly when the music called for a change-up or someone else to hop in and improvise.  it was excellent jazz, and i was vocal about it, clapping appreciatively or responding audibly after an impressive solo.  no one else in our crowd seemed to understand that this is how you appreciate gypsy jazz, by letting the performers know that you enjoyed whatever it is they just did, rather everyone else sat quietly, waiting to be entertained.  after the first time i offered praise, you could tell the band was immediately glad that robert and i were there, as they began to orient themselves a little more in our direction, and they would smile and nod every time we offered applause, or whenever one of them was about to do something cool in improvisation.

when the performance had ended, the guitar player came over and attempted to engage in conversation with us but his wnglish was extremely limited and both robert and myself and i speak absolutely zero of his native tongue, so the conversation didn’t go very far.  we thanked him profusely for the music and offered a few euros as compensation.  they gratefully accepted and we made our exit.

we wandered through the illuminated streets and crossed through the main square again on our way back to the “botel,” as one can never get enough of looking at those buildings.  eventually sleep’s pull was too strong however, and we turned in for the night.

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today’s tuesday tune is a song that’s been kicking around my spotify account for a couple months now (check me out over here if you’re following along:  
and i just can’t get enough of this song.  its what i listen to when i’m feeling happy go lucky.  if i’m wandering a city and i want a break from the sounds of the city, i pop my headphones in and put this song on, put my hands in my pockets, and happily stride down the street.  plus it feels appropriate to to suggest a song called “emperor” when we’re talking about a city like prague, where there are castles and royal looking buildings everywhere.  give a listen to this one when you get a chance.  enjoy…