Hol­i­day Home­work

Delve into Prague’s his­tory, arts scene and beer cul­ture

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A decade ago, with only a Sovi­etera guide­book to help her, Aus­tralian Rachael Weiss went to Prague to ex­plore her fam­ily’s roots and to seek ad­ven­ture and ro­mance. Land­ing un­likely jobs and mak­ing odd­ball friends, she stayed for a year, later re­turn­ing in what was in­tended to be a per­ma­nent move. The writer chron­i­cles her time in “Europe’s most ec­cen­tric city” in two funny, en­gag­ing mem­oirs: Me, My­self & Prague (2008) and

The Thing About Prague (2014).

Also con­sider…

The Un­bear­able Light­ness

of Be­ing (1984): Czech Milan Kun­dera had found refuge in France when he pub­lished this post­mod­ern novel, a best­seller much de­bated for its at­ti­tudes towards women. Its love tri­an­gle is set against the brief free­dom of the Prague Spring of 1968 and the to­tal­i­tar­ian crack­down that fol­lowed.

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The 2006 film I Served the King

of Eng­land is based on ac­claimed Czech writer Bo­hu­mil Hra­bal’s novel of the same name, writ­ten in 1971. It fol­lows the rise and fall of a small man with big ap­petites and even big­ger am­bi­tions who goes from hot-dog seller to ho­tel owner to pris­oner as the forces of 20th-cen­tury his­tory roll over him. Part Chap­linesque farce, part sharp satire, it per­fectly en­cap­su­lates a Mit­teleu­ro­pean sen­si­bil­ity in which irony is prized, power is tran­sient and nu­dity is un­re­mark­able.

Also con­sider…

Cze­choslo­vakia 1918-1968 (1969): Spon­sored by a pro­pa­ganda arm of the US gov­ern­ment, this short Os­car-win­ning mon­tage of archival stills and footage – eas­ily avail­able on­line – shows an idyl­lic land and its suf­fer­ing, first un­der the Nazis and then the Sovi­ets.

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Com­poser An­tonín Dvořák deeply loved his home coun­try and its Bo­hemian folk mu­sic, which in­spired his 19th-cen­tury Ro­man­tic com­po­si­tions. In 1993, the Bos­ton Sym­phony Or­ches­tra with con­duc­tor Seiji Ozawa and stel­lar soloists, in­clud­ing cel­list Yo-Yo Ma and vi­o­lin­ist Itzhak Perl­man, trav­elled to the Czech

cap­i­tal to hon­our his mem­ory. The re­sult­ing al­bum, Dvořák in

Prague: A Cel­e­bra­tion, fea­tures 11 of his best-known and most­loved pieces.

Also con­sider…

Good Beer Hunt­ing: Episode 105 of this free pod­cast, de­voted to all as­pects of the brewer’s art, fea­tures an in­ter­view with Czech-born, Aus­tralian-raised Robert Lobovsky. The global mar­ket­ing man­ager and evan­ge­list for the famed Pil­sner Urquell brand delves deep into the his­tory of Czech beer.

Če­chomor: To Ne­jlepší (2005): The band Če­chomor gives a rock/pop spin to tra­di­tional folk tunes on their “best of” al­bum.

(From top) The well-pre­served Czech cap­i­tal; Rachael Weiss’s 2008 mem­oir about liv­ing and lov­ing in Prague; cel­list Yo-Yo Ma

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