Today was a bit of an Elliot tours special. One out of the box and what many people who come to Prague would not know of nor do. My research had led me to discover that Prague is famous for its Czech style marionette puppets. I had located a maker of these puppets : the Czech Gepetto, who ran four hour workshops. After the workshop had concluded you got to take home the puppet that you had made. All this for around $85 Aus which seemed like pretty good value given that basic manufactured puppets sell in Prague from a starting price of $30. The puppet maker has travelled around Europe with his own puppet troupe and makes puppets for various famous television personalities to give to their guests. Therefore he really is a puppet master not just someone who can run a workshop.
To get to Truhler puppet workshop we had to catch a train to Flora-about five stops on the A line, catching public transport in a new city for the first time is always a challenge as every city has its own ticketing system, validation method and overall metro system. Luckily for us Prague’s system is pretty basic all round. Three lines only that traverse one another at only a couple of stations. Therefore when you get on a train you are either going in the right direction or the wrong direction. There’s not much else. We had also been told to buy a 24czech ticket which is a single ticket for a short period. This would get us to Flora and then we would need to repeat the same thing to get back.
From our attic apartment the train station (Mustek – A line) was about 10 minutes walk and located at the bottom of Wensceles Square. We validated tickets, caught the train and arrived at Flora in around 10 minutes. Flora train station comes up in the middle of a shopping centre so we walked through it and headed left to the Main Street, from here we turned right and then a couple of streets after that took a left. We used our knowledge from the previous day to locate the building as addresses are written based upon the street number and building order number. Therefore 2515/11 Boleslavska was building creation number 2515 and the street number was 11.
There was no big sign or banner to show that this was the correct location however we peered through two small windows that were at knee height we saw a studio filled with puppets. Pavlo came out an greeted us and after a few minutes wait when he went and got milk and additional paint, we were taken into the studio to begin our class. Firstly we were able to select which puppet out of about 30 we would like to make. Each person was able to select their favourite or at least the one they thought they may be able to do somewhat successfully. Claire had been feeling very apprehensive about the whole experience given that she is not arty at all and secondly hates any form of paint or make up on her body. Thirdly she hates not to able to succeed ( doesn’t sound like anyone else on this trip!)
Before we were able to start making the puppet, we were given a paper pattern that we needed to colour with our choice of colours we wanted our puppet to be. Then we had to use colour pencils to create the image we wanted for our face. It became quite quiet at this point as everyone tried to do their best and not make too big a fool of themselves.
With out designs completed we were given the wooden pieces to our puppets : one head, one body, 2 separate arms and four separate pieces for the legs. Firstly we were asked to do the face – everyone gave it a go before Claire used her wit and charm to persuade the puppet master to refine some of her pencil lines and shadings. Philip and I obviously did not have the same degree of charm and were subsequently left to our own devices.
When all the pieces had been dried and varnished, the puppet was then constructed with a few simple raps of a hammer and the use of leather tubing to connect the appendages to the body and therefore enable movement. Finally little additions like caps, neckerchiefs and hats were fixed onto the puppet and then strung up using thread.
In the end the workshop went for over five hours and we were all pretty chuffed with our creations. Another addition to the suitcase. Whilst it may not have shown us anymore of Prague it was a special thing to do and our puppets will forever remind us of this time and place. What a unique thing to do in a unique and special city.
After catching the train back from Flora we dropped off our puppets at the apartment and ensured that we would be able to get a taxi early tomorrow morning. Then we paid the 100 Czech each to go up the tower. This tower is a 14th century building the enables people to see the prominent landmarks of Prague. It also looks down on the Old Town Square and across to the Church of our lady before tyn. This structure is one of the most amazing that I have seen – it just protrudes into the atmosphere and its roof looks like the skin of a snake about the shed, it’s just one of those buildings you want to keep looking at!
We spent some time up the tower taking photographs and soaking in the landmarks that are now indicative of Prague. Having done the Castle tour and Segway yesterday we knew what a lot of the buildings were and this helped in identifying whether they were prominent ones or just another a Prague church spire (there are a lot of them)
Before heading back to pack, we took the opportunity to sample for one last time so of the food we won’t have again for quite some time – a huge hunk of hot ham, special donut rings and shaved potato chips. This is definitely turning into the food lovers calorie explosion tour of Europe!
So tomorrow we head off to Vienna; a train trip of around 4:45 minutes. We catch the 6:39 am train from the main inter country station so an early start but this has been designed so as to give us the afternoon in Vienna rather than wasting an entire day travelling. The trains have also been really good so if necessary a “snooze” can be had whilst travelling – ah yes hit the ground running once there! Prague has been a fabulous experience; the architecture, the location of our apartment, the apartment itself and the amount of very tasty but not so good for you food all serve as wonderful memories of our time here. Tonight we fall asleep to the violin sounds of Pachobel Canon rising from a street busker below. We will speak very fondly of Prague in the future as it has been a wonderful surprise and a must see city.