Before I report on day 3 of the EAA conference, I will tell you about yesterday’s journey home. My half-day opportunity to explore Pilsen began by taking the trolley bus from the hotel into the city centre. It was great to travel in a city with trams and trolley buses: the only civilised means of urban transportation.
6th May 1945: Thank You America!
I got off onto America Street framed by a memorial in honour of the US army’s liberation of Pilsen from German occupation. The monument consisted of a pair of pillars with plaques in English and Czech, expressing the gratitude of the citizens to the men of the US 16th Armoured Division. There is a fountain below and an explanatory plaque fronting the pillars and the street honouring America. In the centre is a map, showing the advance of American forces from Italy and Normandy to secure the liberation. The memorial was raised on 6th May 1990, the forty-fifth anniversary, appositely and significantly soon after the Czech’s liberation from communist rule.
Cathedral and Square
I headed to the main square. En route and whilst looking around I was accosted by numerous young men looking for money for food. Also, a young man, clearly drunk from a night-long sessionn, started up a conversation and insisted I drank with him in a nearby bar. Beside these interruptions, I looked around the amazing historic buildings and the cross. Then, I acscended the cathedral tower, open every day and free to EAA conference delegates. The cathedral of course was closed because of religious worship ongoing.The tower was great – modern graffiti everywhere, incised and painted – and I loved the bells, named as females as one might expect. Survivors of many threats and challenges through the recent centuries, these named artefacts have identities and mark time in important ways, affording a sonic identity to the church and to the city.
The views from the top of the tower were impressive, looking out over the historic city and towards the site of the original medieval town on the hills to the north. A distant castle framed the view to the south.Museum
The museum was amazing for the range of antiquities on display. I also liked the friendly staff, many almost as antique as the displays. The armoury had a fabulous range of early modern arms and armour from halberds to blunderbusses. Then I ascended the stairs and enjoyed the disturbing violent friezes of naked women slaying bearded barbarians.
The prehistoric gallery on the second floor focused on artefacts and photographs of excavations, as well as some great reconstructions of costume, industry and burials. A real treat for me were plenty of Bronze Age and Iron Age/Early Medieval graves. All was set to upbeat folkly prehistoric music.
The medieval and modern gallery was equally set to music, and contained a VR of the former medieval town of Pilsen as known from archaeological excavations and surviving buildings. The best find on display was a fifteenth-century church door; stunning. It was a very relaxing gallery and I encountered a sleeping professor of archaeology in the early modern section.The porcelain gallery was the last to be visited. I didn’t want to look around by the old lady had grabbed the pamphlet of English translations before I could retreat. I was forced to look around and learned a lot about porcelain against my will.
There was something fun and entertaining to come across small groups of EAA delegates everywhere I went – in the museum, at the top of the cathedral tower and so on.
The Journey Home
I then decided it was best to head for the airport and home. A tedious bus ride to Zlicin via the Student Agency coach – a weird experience that I won’t rant about. After the usual experience of international airports, the flight back involved two spectacles. Evening views descending into Schipol Airport were spectacular in two senses; the amazing human-made reclaimed landscape of northern Holland and the blood-red sunset behind the clouds. I don’t want to be disparaging about the North of England, but I can say it is super-spectacular when you can see the lights of Leeds, Bradford, Halifax, Huddersfield and the rest from the air. An exhausting final day of a four-day European expedition.
A good trip to the Czech Republic, but about two or three days shorter than I would have liked. I never got to see Prague again, since my last visit 22 years ago. I will have to go back…