The market-place is a very regular square. The big church St. Bartholomew is to be seen from every angle. The town hall was built in the late 1580s. The tourists all leave the town around 11 AM in big busses to see a brewery somewhere outside. This is excellent, because then you have the city just for yourself. And slowly, as slowly as it pleases you,you walk over the market, look at the children, who run around the new, golden fountains, still wrapped up, waiting for a warmer season still to come, but in their hands they carry willow sticks, with colorful ribbons that are sold everywhere. You might then, it is not even 12 yet, enter a rather functional building, where the Western Bohemian Gallery shows pictures from the vibrant and energetic art scene emerging in Munich around 1900. It might be well the case that you laugh as hard as I did about the excellent caricature of Franz von Lenbach, whose vanity always stuck me as a bit ridiculous, but maybe you admire Lenbach and you do not stop in front of the wild and always a bit furious looking Jan Autengruber, whose two self-portraits made in the short distance of only three years are impressive, not only because all of us wonder, where are we and who will we be. But as always I could not take my eyes of, Gabriele Münter’s view on Murnau, the small village she lived in, where the sky is violet-grey, the house an exception and the mountains are white- blue, and a carriage leaves slowly. And while you might go on to Gabriel von Max, you will find me sitting in front of Marianne von Werefkin, who looks at the world from a far away point, where everything is lined out clear and sharp. When you get back into the daylight, the tourists are still far away, but you with the all pictures still in your mind, you greet the church and the market-place as old friends and then your feet carry on, without much asking for directions, and street for street you enter more closely the old and long ago destroyed world of the Old Habsburg Empire, and while you look at the massive houses all built between the late 1880s and early 1900’s you might believe that in Vienna the old Emperor is still alive. When you are lucky, a door is open any you find yourself in an old courtyard, cracked tiles tell the story of lives long lived, the staircases are as old as the houses and when you look up at the ceiling you still see art déco decorations and carefully painted scenes of frugal life. And if you have time enough, you might sit for twenty minutes or longer on a rusty, half rotten chair to listen, voices from far away you may hear or a shrieking piano, where a nervous child practices Chopin, or a telephone rings but no one will answer. When you close you eyes, it might be truly possible that Max Brod, who knew all the timetables of the old monarchy by heart may stop by and look at you and than on his watch. And don’t be worried, even when you open a third or a fourth door, no one will feel disturbed by you. The people, who still live in the formerly so splendid streets, with their magnificent houses, know probably better than anyone else that people come and go. The facades still tell their very own stories, of arousing Czech Nationalism, mostly represented in dancing woman and stern looking man, the Jewish bourgeoisie had to be as ever careful, not too show too much. The German minority was still not too sure that art nouveau was the new thing to have, but they all looked into the direction of the Skoda factories, the railway, the future that should become a brighter one, to the day it was destroyed. But you by now a bit cold, and tired, you walk back into town. The tourists still out of sight! „Le Frenchie“ is a most cosy and heartily place to rest. The men have beautiful beards, the women are all looking like working for Vogue but do eat cake, and the cake indeed is very delicious. Before you get back to the market, you as I did might want to see the synagogue, once splendid, now renovated, but without any sight of life, you feel your heart beat faster, not a single believer is to be spotted on Pessach. But in the later afternoon sun, at least the roof shines bright and golden and about some things its better not to speak now. Better go back to the market place, greet the old cathedral, the town hall and finally the tourists, who arrive with plenty of plastic bags.
Le Frenchie café
Smetanovy Sady 332/6