If you look closely as the famous astronomical clock on the south wall of the Old Town City Hall, you will make out a skeleton representing death among the gothic sculptures.
A Czech local can tell you, with a twinkle in their eye, a bloody story of the clock’s creator, Jan Růže.
They might say that the counselors of Prague had Jan Růže’s eyes gouged out, so he would be unable to recreate similar marvels around Europe. And Jan Růže threw himself into the clock’s vast wheels and his mutilated bones splintered throughout the 365 cogs, stopping it working for hundreds of years.
Your guide will point out the figures of the apostles that adorn the astronomical clock. He will tell you that its mechanics and astronomical dial were created by Mikuláš of Kadaň and Jan Šindel, and that it was first repaired after 142 years of working order by Jan Taborský, a clock-master of Orloj.
If you dare to ask about Jan Růže, you guide will shake his head and tell you the story is a historical mistake, that it was fabricated by a Czech author of historical novels and plays called Alois JirÃsek.
You can look up Alois JirÃsek’s account of Jan Růže, which involves a hot poker and a blind Jan Růže breaking the clock’s mechanics; and his heart stopping at the same time as his beloved clock, so that the knowledge of how to repair it died with him.
Then you will have to decide which story to believe and what version of history matters most when we travel to foreign lands, the one written in history books, or the tales that stay in the hearts of the local people who inhabit them.
Jessica Lucy is an Australian freelance writer and novelist based in New York City
Czechs have a reputation for being creative and crafty. This is evident in the traditional wooden crafts, glass, crochet / knit and ceramic goods. I, myself, love to create and if time and money permitted, I would have a painter’s studio, a dark room, a pottery wheel and oven, etc…you get my drift. Anything authentic, hand-made, and original catches my eye. Unfortunately, I am not a millionaire, and can keep on dreaming about having all of the “luxuries” mentioned above.
A great way to get my creative juices flowing and making it a kid friendly activity (kids come first right?) is to visit Vypálené koťátko (Fired Kitty, as in when you fire pottery – terrible literal translation, I know). Other than great desserts and good coffee, this non-smoking café has a dedicated work-room with an assortment of unpainted ceramic products, ranging from ceramic cups, plates to vases and figurines.
After selecting your “canvas”, you have a wide variety of color glazes and brushes to paint with. If you have never done it before, the staff is happy to explain the best color combinations and what tends to happen with different glazes once the ceramics have been fired. Generally, the colors seem a bit dull and subdued while wet, but once the ceramics have been fired, they are quite rich and cheerful.
Kids can make lovely presents for family and they have quite a bit of fun doing it. If you want to seriously create, I advise not taking your kids with you. It probably depends on the child, but my son got bored after painting half his cup and most of his body. Vypálené koťátko is pretty active on FB and posts some of the master pieces on their facebook page so check it out (some are quite good!). I can only recommend this great little creative café! Vypálené koťátko also hosts various themed events – concerts, exhibitions, readings etc.
Mařákova 5, Praha 6
Tel: 737 726 104, 222 947 888
Credit cards: Visa, Mastercard & Amex
Get your creative juices flowing!