Prague: An artsy fartsy walking tour

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Having visited Prague before, I felt like I had covered the guidebook list of sights to see. We came back because we loved the gothic atmosphere of the old town, varied architecture of the greater city, Czech beer, and the hope of snow. Naturally though, we wanted an idea of “things to do”. So, figuring Prague has so many cool public artworks, I jumped on Google to perform an “Alternative Prague” search. I’ve done this in several cities and you do discover some of the cities cooler sites by doing so; however, I’m still amused at how counterintuitive a website that lists “Prague’s Top 10 Alternative Sights” is going to be. I would wager that those sites, if they really are worth seeing, won’t be alternative for long.

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Still, like I said, you do discover some interesting things and it didn’t take long for me to come across and start researching the works of Czech artist David Cerny. Finding images and descriptions, I quickly appreciated the humour and obscurity of his sculptures, so out came the map to plot said pieces over the city. The next day, we had an extensive walking tour marked; one that led to a great range of pleasant arty surprises along the way.

My tour started on the wrong side of the river (that is, leaving the city centre) with Prague’s Metronome, a giant, functional metronome that sits high up on Letenské Sady, ticking over Prague where once stood the largest Lenin statue in Central Europe. There’s a big skating scene up near the Metronome, which might explain all the sneakers thrown lace-tied over the power line. The shoes make for some arguably cooler shots than of the time-piece itself, as the hill provides some excellent views of the city with plenty of examples of Prague’s mismatched cityscape.  Also, if you squint at the TV Tower off in the distance, you’ll see some of David Cerny’s giant babies climbing up the thing…

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On from the metronome, we headed downhill and along the Vltava River towards Charles Bridge, on which a horde of tiny humans can be spotted competing the length of. The bridge wasn’t what we were after, though, but rather the Kafka Museum for the first of the day’s Cerny’s. Entitled Piss, the statue in the museum’s forecourt is pretty hilarious; if not for the fact it’s two fellas swinging back and forth and taking a leak, but that regardless of this tourists still want to cosy up for a photo. There is something quite wrong about that prospect.

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From Piss, we made our way to the other side of Charles Bridge (that is, past the bridge, not over it) to find Lennon’s Wall. The area here was pretty cool, with lots of crafty shops and windy streets to get lost amongst.  The Wall itself isn’t too hard to find given it has become a pretty popular spot to visit – a stretch of concrete covered in graffiti, stencils of John Lennon’s face and lyrics and messages from the former Beatle’s extensive works. The wall was a nice, bright photo op, complemented by an equally colourful display of padlocks just around the corner. These locks give the bridges of Florence and Paris a run for their money and create quite an effect.

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South from the wall, keeping close to the river, we came across Kampa Park. There were a number of public works here, but we came for another of Cerny’s – a trio of enormous babies whose faces had been converted into some kind of cassette stack; caved in and alien like, the stuff of horror films. Disturbing as they were, at least there was something more upbeat happening over the river’s edge. Perched along a structural beam in the Vltava, a line of yellow penguins sat, patiently waiting for no one. These guys were particularly amusing for the game the seagulls were playing on their heads. Forming a line and moving up sequence each time a penguin’s noggin was contested. Also in the park was the Kampa Gallery, of which you could find plenty of neat sculptures just by wandering through its courtyard.

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From Kampa we kept heading down and just away from the river. At the end of Patřinská (I think this was the right street), at the edge of Patřinské Park, there was a really powerful and sobering memorial from Soviet Victims. Obviously, you can draw your own interpretation of pieces such as this, but to me I slow destruction of a man, worn away by the tyrants that once controlled the Czech Republic. Behind the memorial, Patřinské Park is steep and expansive; but it offers some A grade views of Prague between the trees for those with the energy to climb (of course, all the trees were naked given it was winter so the views not be as giving in Spring and Summer time).

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Back at river level and down further, this time heading south west along Holečkova, we tried and failed to find Cerny’s Brown Nosers. This is an unbelievable installation of two giant rear ends that you can actually climb a ladder and enter! Unfortunately, we failed to pinpoint its exact location and couldn’t find it. Bummer. Backtracking, there was at least a great coffee spot in this area called Lou Kafe on P. Švandy z S.

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Crossing back over Vltava on Jiráskuv most, we approached The Fred and Ginger Dancing Building, which is a landmark structure of Prague and a stunning and whacky piece of architecture. Finding the remaining Cerny works required us to head north after the Dancing Building, but there were also a couple of cool spots further south again. These included Emauzy, a unique and pointed modern church, and Vyšehrad, a distinctive and peaceful cemetery with some beautiful sculpted memorials.

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Three final works of Cerny’s completed our not so little walk around Prague and in no particular order (because no such order makes sense), they included: Freud (above U Medvidku beer hall on Na Perstyne), a life sized statue of Freud hanging by one arm from a pole three or four stories up in the air (at twilight, the thought that someone is genuinely hanging there is quite real); Wenceslas’ Dead Horse (inside Lucerna Pasaz on Vodickova), a hanging statue of said King mounted on the belly of his belly-up steed; and Guns (in the courtyard of AMoYA – Artbanka Museum of Young Art), a well and truly larger than life sculpture of four handguns suspended midair and aimed at one another.

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