Friday, October 12, 2012

Never Never Land

Never Never Land is the walls and trim of the outside of our house.  This is the 7th week of our builders trying to paint our house making it worse each time than when they started.

September 2010 renovation started on our house, built in 1824.  It was what is called a "Vineyard House" because the manager of the Strahov Monastery Vineyards lived here with his family,  pigs, chickens, presumably horse and cart to cart the grapes to be processed into wine and  wife who filled the house with the smell of cooked cabbage.  Perhaps they had numerous children who played in the vineyards between the 850 year old Strahov Monastery with its gold flected towers to the East and the  onion dome of 1,000 year old Brevnov Monastery in the West.

Today,  on what used to be acres of South facing vineyards, turn of the last century buildings obstruct the view of Strahov.  However,  the tips of the spires of the St. Vitus Cathedral  ( three quarters finished in the 1300s and the rest completedin the 1920s ) on the Castle Hill several hundred meters further East from Strahov peek between early 20th century structures.  We can see them  only from our East facing attic window. The Gothic spires poke up with the dawn light behind them shooting their holy messages into the awakening Prague sky.    

Late 19th,  early 20th century and Communist era buildings hide all of Brevnov except for its Baroque onion tower.  Late afternoon light that pours through the West facing attic window of my study gives more definition to what looks like an upside down top.  At night it is lit like a beacon to guide whatever faithful may be left in this mostly atheist country through the long dark struggles of their lives.

The medallion of Jan Hus, the 15th century Chancellor of Charles University who was against the corruption of the Catholic Church especially indulgences lies embedded in the plaster above our front door.   In 1415 the Church burned Hus at the stake at Lake Constance for the sin of trying to make the church a better place.  A restorer of antique church art repaired the much damaged medallion. He said he thought it was made in the 1920s, but was not sure.  Most likely the "heretic" was not on the house when it was part of the heavily Catholic Austrian Hungarian Empire.  It was probably put on after World War I when the State of Czechoslovakia  was made from the old Czech lands of the Empire: Bohemia, Moravia and Slovakia.  Jan Hus was a defiant symbol for many in the new Czechoslovakia of standing up to the oppressor of Empire, religious or secular.

I have to keep in mind the joy of owning and living in our house which itself lived through dramatic moments of the 19th and 20th centuries.  I love its stone walls. Unfortunately obscured by scaffolding. I love the sunlight that fills our house on bright days.  Through the bars and planks of the scaffolding.  Yes, I am frustrated by the builder's lack of competence in completing a simple job which should have been finished in a week.  But this too is part of this country's history.  The Empire and Russia patronized the Czechs so long there is a saying: the right way, the wrong way and the Czech way.  Which is Kafkaesque i.e. in Never Never Land.

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