Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Gardener's Travelogue Part I

An Old World Expedition:
Prague, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Southern Turkey and Athens
           November-December 2010


Even though there was not one, but two shark attacks in the Red Sea at Sharm-el-Sheik only days after our visit there, and though we had extraordinarily beautiful weather for every day of the three weeks, one week after we departed the eastern Mediterranean there were 30 foot waves, and while we did experience a mini-encounter in Athens that closed the parks and shut down the museums — one week later there was bloodshed and an all-out protest — but when we were in these places — dare I say? — it was perfect.  
So I recount a non-spine-tingling, but  thrilling trip to the MidEast.  We saw the remnants of great (and indulgent) civilizations and in some cases, so much of the city still standing that you could almost sense the way of life, or expect some languid first-centuryt-Syrian to come peeping from behind a massive column.  
What would be left of New York, I kept thinking, the Library Lions, the Post Office on 8th Avenue, maybe.
So, on the way to Cairo where our journey began, we stopped in the fairy-tale city of Prague where in the last ten centuries it has risen in the intensely beautiful topographically ideal situation of hills around a river and has been adorned  with a magical combination of history and art that encompasses Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Empire and every other romantic notion in between.

To attend the premiere of a Robert Wilson extravaganza, The Makropoulos Case, starring the legendary Czech opera star, Sona Cervena , along with many connoisseurs and cognoscenti that follow Wilson’s work around the globe.

The production was held in the very same jewel-box, the Estates Theater where Mozart premiered Don Giovanni in 1787.  Can you imagine how gorgeous? The audience was rapturous and the reviews ecstatic.  Our hotel room had a 14 foot wide crystal chandelier (Bavarian, of course) and the dinner hosted by the French Embassy for Bob Wilson on the opening night was replete with every rococo  detail you might expect from a French embassy in Prague, including footmen and the most delectable foie gras one might ever savor.
Coinciding with the premiere, Bob had an installation in a small but special museum that could be seen across the Vltava River from every important vantage point of the center city

To get to it we crossed the Old Town Bridge.unlike any other bridge in the world — filling us with great doses of Christianity before arriving in the B.C. world of Egyptian pharaohs ..

 Bob’s exhibit was wonderful.  I cried at the sight of so much of his monumental 
work on display in one place at one time 
We crossed Prague by foot, revisiting a courtyard with
an extraordinary cross
And what appears to be the namesake of the Crown of Thorns.  
I think it is a Euphorbia.  Does anyone know?       

In the midst of this old bohemian city bursting with architectural treasures and art from 
all ages…there is one museum, the Rodolphinium, that is a haven for contemporary art…. 

The beauty of the Old World helped prepare us for the even older world…

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