Having never been in the Czech Republic, I just had to spend a day in Prague on my way to give two talks in Olomouc, a day of contrasting delights. I had asked for some guidance from the director of the programme I was teaching on; so having arrived mid-morning, I left my luggage in the hotel and set off by tram for the House of the Black Madonna armed with Veronika Klusakova’s list of other recommendations.
Although the Czech Cubist collection has been moved to the museum, the building (Josef Gočár 1911-12) is formidably Kubist and upstairs in 2005 they recreated the splendid Grand Café Orient. A beer and sandwich in this atmospheric interior was just what I needed but what was that smell – the cigarette smoke sort of belonged there, despite the EU!
Then off to the Zizkov TV tower (Václav Oulický 1985-1992); surely the Czech communists didn’t actually build a piece of Archigram? It manages to be both modern high-tech and so old-fashioned at the same time. Not only is it still open but it has a posh restaurant and bar and a one-bedroom hotel, all with great views. Being mid-afternoon on a weekday there were only a couple of visitors and I didn’t fancy a drink but I understand it is extremely popular.
The next day it was off to Olomouc on the Leo Express; with the help of Google translate I had been able to buy my ticket online in London for what was a breeze – 157 miles non-stop in 133 minutes, in clean comfort with refreshments and an airline type screen telling us where we were, all for £6.00 – get that HSII! The interesting thing is that the National Railways are challenged by Leo and one other private company using the same tracks!