Sunday, 24 December 2017

Prague has cafés. Real ones, not only the press button and microwave coffee sort which – admittedly can be avoided but that still occasionally lurk behind the trappings of international trendiness to lure unsuspecting travellers in and burn their Americanos. Yes I found this one in a New York Times article and yes all the cakes had macha in them.

Czech cafes do very nice fresh lemonade which would make lots of sense in Sydney. The above is not an Americano. I do not know what an Americano actually is.

Yesterday we walked around the city, and saw the Christmas market in the square and had Trdelnik.

Prague is full of people. But you can’t resent it for it, not only because that would be too hypocritical but also because it makes sense. There is nothing not good about it. Even the tourist parts are in beautiful buildings, art nouveau next to mediaeval, next to baroque and rococo. You could probably do without the baroque, sure, but it’s still certainly better than a 1980’s tourist shop built of concrete and cheap fittings would be.

Most importantly, today we went to the Museum of Alchemy. The Museum of Alchemy is UNESCO World Heritage listed. That is to say, the city of Prague is UNESCO World Heritage listed and the Museum of Alchemy is in the city of Prague. The small bottles on the outside are elixirs. They are mixed by confused monks and cost 60 euros, with 70 different herbs but no opium any more so they probably don’t do so much.

There was a suprisingly legitimate series of rooms under the building in which Rudolph II had sponsored a group of Jewish mystics to try and create the philosopher’s stone. The guide claimed that one of the tunnels led from the laboratory to the castle, which would have been a kilometre under the river. That I am not sure of. But there were turnip shaped glasses on tables, shiny and rainbow with age and moisture, and there was a bookcase that turned and swung backwards to lead you down the staircase going in. There was a frescoed motto:

‘Aurum nostrum est non aurum vulgi’

Or

Our gold is not ordinary gold

Which if you think about it is a bit like bottled water: the better gold is the more completely exchangeable and intrinsically unexceptional it must be. Anyway apparently it was also meant to imply that knowledge was their gold, which is nice and also true in that they didn’t have any actual gold because alchemy doesn’t work. (Or not true, because consequently they didn’t have any knowledge either). But at least they had their opium.

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