Prague Spring

It was a cold weather during the 10 days I spent in Prague at the beginning of March. Such a major difference to the sunny Rochefort that I visited in February. For the tourists interested in city attractions there are many articles on what to visit in the Czech capital so I won’t talk about that. I will cover only the out of the box things. I appreciate the sense of humor of the Czech people although it’s quite different from the Romanian’s sense of humor.

Let’s start with the history first. In the Wenceslas square there is an imposing statue of the former Duke of Bohemia from the tenth century – Wenceslaus I. A few hundred meters from this place, in the Lucerne passage, there is another representation of the same ruler only that this time is riding on a dead horse. This statue is the creation of the sculptor David Černý.

The next stop is the Prague castle, the biggest castle in Europe. There is a famous window the scene of the Defenestration of Prague in 1618. This led to the Thirty Years’ War in our continent. It was a tragic event, but it was somewhat funny to see next to that window a note that asked the visitors not to open the window. Last time that window was opened a war that lasted for thirty years ravaged Europe. We should better keep that window closed. As a side note, although the distance from that window to the ground is 21 meters all the three people thrown out of the window in 1618 survived the impact. This was considered a miracle at the time.

Let’s return to more modern times. Below are two similar sculptures. While I don’t know where the man with an umbrella in the first picture was heading to, the second man is the creation of David Černý mentioned above. It is a statue of Sigmund Freud attached with one hand to a flagpole. It is an inner struggle for Freud whether he should let it go or not.

In recent times, in 1996, they built a dancing house in Prague nicknamed “Ginger and Fred”, which can be seen as a modern symbol of an old city. Near the house, I saw the text in the second picture at a traffic light pole and I … did push the button.

These were a few things that caught my eye, amused me and made me think during my visit to Prague. I invite you to search for other out of the box cultural elements in Prague. This way you will understand more of the Czech spirit and way of thinking.

Les demoiselles de Rochefort

In February I was in Rochefort for a week playing in a chess tournament. When I was a kid, “Les demoiselles de Rochefort” was my favourite musical. It was written and directed by Jacques Demy following his success with “Les parapluies de Cherbourg” two years before. I enjoyed very much the soundtrack composed by Michel Legrand and the way it talked about love. The movie it’s about three men coming to Rochefort where each of them meets the love of his life. It was filmed in Rochefort for three months in the summer of 1966. Since that summer this little town has been changed forever.

Visiting Rochefort 53 years later for playing chess, I wanted to see the places where various scenes from the movie were shot and I discovered that not much of the original décor has changed.

The movie begins on a Friday morning with the arrival of showmen for a festival that was set to take place during a weekend in Rochefort. You can see that not much has changed in the town center over the years:

Rochefort town center in 1966
and in 2019

The gallery of Lancien is a “Natur House” in 2019:

The school of Boubou where Gene Kelly has a very nice dance scene:

The music store of Simon Dame became a local market. That’s the most dramatic transformation.

The market was closed that day

The tavern owned by the mother of the twins was modernized.

Michel Legrand passed away in Paris in January 2019. He was my favourite composer of movie soundtracks. Among other recognitions he was awarded with three Oscars during his career.
The town hall of Rochefort is adorned with a poster that says “Michel Legrand – Rochefort vous dit merci”

In the same town hall building Catherine Deneuve and her real life sister Francoise Dorleac sang the song of twin sisters in the movie:

The memories of this musical live strong in Rochefort as well as in my mind.

The movie ends with the showmen departure from the town next Monday morning once the festival finished. They came for just a few days then left Rochefort and… so did the chess players.

The movie will remain actual as long love is a topic of interest for human beings.
I enjoyed every day of my stay in Rochefort whether I was winning or losing a game. It feels great when you follow your dreams.