Saturday, April 7, 2012

Go Brno!

This is a story told in reverse. Brno is the last city I visited on my one week vacation. It was going to be just the city I flew away from, but then I read a little about it and decided to stay the night. First, when you are in the Czech republic taking the train from Prague to Vienna, say, your train will probably stop here. You won't see too much of it but you will see, against the constantly grey Czech sky, a cathedral on a hill. This is the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul. The inside is impressive too, though I only saw a glimpse before realizing I was about to be crashing Good Friday services. But what is really amazing is its height on the hill.
If you are interested in architecture at all and maybe you are passing through Brno, you would like to know that they have just finished refurbishing the Villa Tugendhat. It reopened for visitor a month ago, as I read in the international New York Times I saw at school one day. I could not get a reservation, which is mandatory to go inside, though the grounds are free and open. I arrived a bit before the english tour, asked nicely, and luckily got myself a slot on the tour. It is ninety minutes and includes the boiler room so maybe that is too much for you. But for me, it was worth it to stand inside the famous, ever-photographed living room and experience what Mies van der Roh intended. When he was offered the commission, he was offered unlimited funding, so there is a wall that costs the same as building aa average 5 bedroom house. But after visiting multiple cities with palaces and having no desire to experience the opulence, the experience in this space was breathtaking. And they never tell you in an art history survey class that 2 of the giant glass windows retract into the floor. Who needs walls?
When I booked a hostel in Brno, I expected the institutional sleeping arrangement I needed. Just a place to stay on my way to the airport. But the Hostel Mitte is in a historical building downtown with high ceilings, tall bunk beds and themed rooms. I had the Austerlitz room, telling the story of a famous battle with Napoleon that occurred a few miles from where I slept. More impressive however were the floor-to-celing Napoleon themed tapestries. I sat at this little table, ate my bread and hummus and slept like a dream.
So it is grey, though I hear it is sunny sometimes, and the Czech Republic has a pretty rough history. And a language I can't even guess at. This is the list at the bar where I stopped to draw and have a beer on my way out of town. Kava means coffee, and I am pretty sure vina means wine but I stuck to vegetarian restaurants and pointing. People were very nice and I said "thank you" often, because it is the only phrase I could remember. At the chocolate shop, I didn't know how to explain that I only wanted one of each so I had to take 2 each of three truffles. Hard life.