Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Fish Market, Rybi Trh

Off  to Prague to see  the Christmas or Easter Market or  make a pub crawl for Czech Brews?  Although famous for beer, you can find fish here, too.  Hidden behind  the Tyn  Church is an old courtyard where fine restaurants can be found at modest prices. The Fish Market is one of them.


The Ungelt was established in the 12th century as a fortified courtyard to protect the merchants travelling through Prague. It is located directly behind the Tyn Church and hence is also called the Tyn Courtyard.  The courtyard was originally protected by ditches and walls and under the protection of the  king. "Tyn" means "protected."  The later German  term "Ungelt" refers to the area as customs zone where the merchants paid a duty for entry. It had a third name s the "Cheerful Court"  Laeta curia, because of the socializing and festive atmosphere that surrounds  large market places and trading. The Ungelt flourished during   the time  of Charles IV and  Wenceslas IV during the 14th century. As trade broadened through centuries, the Ungelt lost importance and by 20th  century, the Ungelt was a circle of dilapidated buildings that gave refuge to poor people and rundown offices and work places. In 1996, the Tyn Courtyard was renovated and Renaissance Granovsky Palace restored. The palace dates from 1558 and is decorated with beautiful Renaissance sgraffiti with an arcade loggia decorated in illustrations of Bible  stories and Greek mythology. Across from it is the  Black Bear  at No. 642 already established  in 1428.  The Black Bear  has a Baroque facade with 18th century  statues of St. John of Nepomuk, St. Wenceslas and Florian. The building is named after a black bear in chains. Inside this hourse is the Indian Jewel Restauarant, but across the  courtyard is the Rybi Trh, Fish Market. 

On a cold winter's day when heavy clouds smother Prague, fresh fish over in the Fish Market  brings back the warmth of the Mediterranean  sun  Fish is delivered regularly and  the menu varies accordingly. The bream comes from Croatia, the salmon from Norway, the mussels, clams, oysters and prawns from France and the octopus from Morocco. The Atlantic halibut and monkfish from Norway and the turbot form Croatia, but the lobster is Canadian. Red Snapper comes from Italy. Unlike the tourists, this is their final destination and their appearance is exclusive for you.

There's fish I know and fish I've never met before, but they're here for your pleasure. The bream is stacked  on ice alongside the red rockfish. The rockfish laments  every day of the week as Monday.  His face shows the  intimate displeasure of being caught. The bream are still gasping their last breath,  their mouths wide open with eyes pallid. They make a tasty dish.

The restaurant swims in pleasant  aquamarine  pastels of tourquoise and sea-green. Lobsters patrol their tank with their giant  claws taped so to discourage anti-social behavior. Nearby swim domesticated small fry in brilliant orange and pink, happy to escape the kitchen and dart away into their broken pots and scallop shells whenever anybody looks at them. They apparently comprehend the significance of the piled bream on ice and find their tank a more secure place. They're all for the spectator sport but not for participation.

The manager, Tomas Plechata arrives. He's friendly person who sees that the  restaurant is well-stocked, efficient, clean and hospitable. The dining area is modest and comfy—a good choice for an intimate chat or romantic dinner. The décor is simple. In a window is  beautiful model of tall-masted ship and over the doorway a swordfish arched in an eternal leap.


The kitchen staff are friendly, amiable and courteous. I watch the chef  select  my bream and filet it expertly. His fingers  are swift in their execution and the fish is cleanly cut in neat ribbons  with admirable skill. His assistant prepares the vegetables. In minutes,  their hands arrange  the vegetables on the plate, settle the fish, set the garnish and make the final artistic touches. It's cinematic watching them prepare the food so precisely; but much more enjoyable to eat it. There's no waiting about for the ship to come into harbor and dock.

The bream is perfect. I'm in heaven. It's everything fish should be: delicate, succulent, smooth, airy and delectable. It falls apart with a prick of my fork. It's  perfectly moist without being soggy or mushy. The tender bits float about in my mouth like  small bits of paradise.  Only a cat can purr more loudly than my stomach. It's indescribably good. The bream is accompanied by fresh vegetables that have been sauteed on hot fire. They are tender, but still have texture and crunch so important to making carrots and broccoli attractive and delectable.

The food is well-prepared.  There's no need for huge servings, heavy fats or salty fried carbohydrates.  A modest portion satisfies the mouth and stomach with healthy nutrition and fabulous high-definition flavor. The broccoli is crisp with fresh sweetness. The carrot slices are delicate as  almond slivers. Crispy is mixed with succulent zucchini in all its glorious richness. If my tongue were only a bit longer, I'd be licking my face and nose to catch the small splatters of food caught on the cat's whiskers.  Outside, winter brought icy snow; but inside my stomach is one warm fish that won't be returning to the sunny Mediterranean clime. 

Vlasatice Chardonnay accompanied the  bream. It was a good choice made by the manager. The wine was light, a bit fruity, but not dry or excessively sweet. It tasted like the first drops of spring rain after a cruel winter. Although Czech wines are not so well known on the market, the area close to the Austrian border near Slovakia is rich in vineyards that are making a stunning revival into the international market. They are smooth and pour easily, particularly around the time of the late harvest when the new wine arrives in Prague in large kegs and  sold on the streets in frothy glory. 

Fish Market  dishes are  meticulouosly  prepared and artistically arranged. It's a shame to eat such food. The entree of  salmon, prawn and yellowfin tuna are as artfully designed and presented as the finest Swiss  after dinner chocolates. They are miniature works of art delivered by expert hands. The manager is totally aware of presentation—it's not just the  careful selection of fresh fish and its origin, but the details of service; the colors and shapes that are important. 

It's food art and because I lack words for the skill involved, I leave some images of the  artwork from Rybi Trh.

There's two important words to repeat: it's good  and secondly, go there.

Restaurant Rybí trh

 Týnský dvůr 5
Praha 1 - Staré město
110 00

Phone: +420 224 895 447
Fax: +420 2 24 89 54 49
Tomas Plechata,   Manager

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Benatky the Fair

They say that Venice to the north is fair,
fairer than the golden strands of steaming hair
that encircles Apollo's crown.

The streets were vacant when I came;
deserted when I left.
Through the cool shadows of the morning, I walked
to the rising warmth of dusk.

I wandered through
the town's deserted streets
from castle ridge
to local vitner and back,
around the empty lanes
where Jan of Drazic once rode
and John Augusta raised his voice
to protest Catholic avarice and vice.

I stood before the windows where Tycho Brahe gazed
and spanned the universe with measurements,
between the earth and backward roaming Mars
that conjoins with Saturn every twenty years
to create chaos on the earth.

Where Tycho left a record of a solar eclipse
so many centuries ago on June sixth.

I left the vineyards sleeping by the castle
to follow the wayward road
that led beyond a lazy wooded hill
into an tangled path.

It led me down through
meadow lands,
across a narrow rumbling bridge,
and through waves of newly scalloped fields
where workers fought with enormous snakes of irrigation pipes.

Dust clouds rose from the padded
footprints in the sand;
time stretched its legs behind me.
Each step was yet another,
kilometer and kilometer together,

there'd be no turning back.

I saw the noble falcons circling
in the sky,

awaiting a rabbit to go bounding by.

The onion-pickers bent double by their toil,
did not unbend or wave at me
as I passed them by.

And still the way lay long before me
as day stretched loong behind me,
I passed, a shadow, through villages alone.

The road wound round deserted churches
and forgotten baroque saints,
created for the counter-reformation
and persecution of Bohemian Brethern
that inhabited this land.

Though Thirty Years of war were fought
and even more endured,
the land lies peaceful in this evening
that echoes with the shot
of a solitary huntsman shooting wily pheasants.

From meridian to eve I kept
my pace,
and feared I might miss the train
and sore pressed, I never once looked back
to where I once had stood
before your house.

There was no other way
when I had stepped upon the path,
for way leads onto way

and path breaks into path
as I made the lengthy trek
from Benatky to Lysa on the Labe.

Unless I put your home behind me,
there is no way to Prague.

They say that Venice to the north is fair,
but fairer is Benatky

that hides the secrets of your eyes
and the shadows of your smile.

And there, the birds all practice lively trills
to contest your fingers' lively arpeggios
and even lowly chickens got Gershwinn's rhythm
in cackling enthusiastic syncopation.

The sunlight flirts with shadows on the Jezera
with kisses rippled by the wind
that reminds me of your gentle laughter
mixed with the charm of Mozart arias
inside the Lichtenstein Palais.

Somewhere in evening's shade,
a listener hears a snatch of Brahms Ballade,
the rippling charm of Chopin's nocturnes
and Debussy's moonlight's enchantment
spun with the spinner's gossamer thread
that snares the gleaming raindrop
to glisten in the morning sun.

They say that Venice to the north is fair,
but fairer are your hands
that draws the winsome music from the keys
and weaves its net around me.

Benatky nad Jizerou
Aug 11, 2006 - 32 Photos
Benatky: Tycho and Kepler

In 1599, the Benatky Palace was bought by Rudolf II who although being Catholic, had great interest in things arcane and boasted a court of artisans, alchemists and astronomers, some with overlapping abilities. Tycho Brahe had just become persona non grata in Denmark for horrendously abusing his rights as a noble. Christian IV apparently had enough complaints of his tyrannical abuse while watching a tenth of all Danish income support his lavish life on Hven. Given warning to reform and desist from abusive behavior of his citizens, Christian was not doubt justified in expelling the Tycho. Tycho had more than 11 villages and their income accumulating in his pockets which he had gained through royal charter of Frederich II. As a Royal Astronomer he received the island, Hven where he built Uraniborg and created his many astronomical instruments that were a wonder to the awakening world. Dispossessed, Tycho first went to Germany, but found no patronage. To curry favor, he wrote letters and sought patronage through the promise of publishing new discoveries and scientific expertise. Rudolf II offered him the palace at Benatky which he could modify to satisfy his needs. Tycho arrived with his family and part of his instruments. He had to leave the large ones behind him in Hven.

Kepler had been expelled from his job in Graz. Not that he was a brilliant mathematician, but because he would not submit to the new order of Catholicism there. Moreover, he was in rebellion with the Lutherans and Protestants because he ascribed to Copernician theory that the earth orbited the sun. However, it took him most of his life to debunk the myth of a universe constructed on perfect solids and epicycles with perfect orbs in circles to recognizing elliptical orbits. He had no money and had no ablity for complex calculations for which Tycho was notorious. He perceived Tycho to be the perfect solution for his professional problems and apparently Tycho understood the dire straits of Kepler to exploit them to suit his own interests. He gave the invitation and Kepler arrived in Prague to join Tycho in Benatky. Astronomically, they were both fiery temperaments about to collide. Tycho rcognizing the weaknesses of Kepler, gave him the impossible task of analyzing the orbit of Mars. Kepler admitted he had no knowledge of complex mathematics and became dependent on Tycho's superior analytical abilities and largesse.

Almost a year afterwards in 1601, Tycho died suddenly, apparently of heavy metal poisoning. Kepler free of his tyrant, became the Royal Astronomer until the demise of Rudolf II which left him without much political protection, despite patronage of the Jesuits in Prague who were in need of astronomical research for their far flung world missions. At the time, Jesuits were actively teaching heliocentric theory in China. Kepler stole Tycho's calculations which were finally published in 1627 in the Rudophine Tables to become the foundation of astronomical calculations for the next three centuries, including the 777 accurately catalogued stars of Tycho Brahe. The problem was elliptical, not circular thinking. This caused Galileo's error with the Inquisition. He refused to admit the previous work of Tycho and Kepler, insisting on perfect circular orbits without any scientific proof and then further antagonizing his interrogators by insulting them as stupid and unlearned whereas his chief interrogator was a prominently acknowledged astronomer.

Obviously in the unruly times before the outbreak of Thirty Years War and the Batttle of White Mountain, Prague was no longer safe for the outspoken Kepler. He left.

Benatky, which like all other Protestant havens became rigorously Catholicized after the Battle of White Mountain in 1620. The palace was given as bounty to the general Jan van Weerth who added the north wing to the castle. The palace was completed in 1702. Later it became the domain of the Catholic Hapsburg, ThunHohenstein—not to be confused with a famous general Thun who led the Estates allied with Sablat of the Protestant Union against Vienna in 1619. During the years of 1844-1847, young Bedrich Smetana instructed the children of ThunHohenstein the art of pianoforte. The piano still stands on the second floor of the palace which is today a museum of local history.

For a town of about 6000 inhabitants, it has more history than can be easily contained on a page and made incredibly complex by religious wars and astronomical debates which reach into the heavens.

To get to Benatky
Bus from Florenc, Stand 12 7am, 7:55am, 9:20 am, 12:15pm
pay on bus, approx 45 kc one-way

catch bus at Ceska Sporitelna in Benatky 18:05, 20:40, 21:40
or walk to Lysa to catch the train. 18km train ticket: 66kc

Museum entrance: 20kc
Offering of postcards and mementos. Small medals range in price from 80kc for the small basilisks and 300kc for a Tycho medallion.

Open Tuesday –Sunday
9:00 – 12:00 a 13:00 – 17:00
Zámek 49, 294 71 Benátky nad Jizerou
Telefon - 326 316 682

Benatky p1

Wikipedia: Tyco Brahe

Wikipedia: Kepler

Benatky: Tycho and Kepler

Benatky nad Jizerou
Aug 11, 2006 - 32 Photos
The Grapes of Drazic and Basilisk of Vrazda

Benatky nad Jizera lies approximately 30km northeast of Prague on important trade routes crossing east and west in an area that was settled by Celts in pre-Christian times. The first mention of it appears around 1052 as the town, Obodr. In 1356, Jan of Drazice applied to build a town with a monastery at the crest of the hill. The church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary was built in 1349 adjacent to the new found monastery. The village of Drazice is within walking distance from Benatky where ruins from the ancient castle can be found.

The Benatky arms include two shields bearing three golden grapeleaves on a blue background, representing the Drazic heraldry. The Drazic nobility provided at least three Bishops of Prague and the first Archbishop of Prague.

Jan 1 Bishop of Prague 1134-1139
Jan II of Drazice 1227-1236 bishophry
Jan III of Drazice 1258-1278 bishophry
Jan IV of Drazice 1301-1345 bishophry

The Drazic arms can be seen on the Bishop's House in Prague, located on Drazicke Square on the left side of Charles Bridge in Malostrana. The Bishop's House was established as the original bishop's palace in Prague. Later Charles IV established the Archbishophry at St Vitus at the castle.

Other associations to the Drazic family include the development Cesky Brod. Under Jan I, Bishop of Prague, a marketplace was established by the church of St Gothard and a town called Biskupsky Brod, established under Jan III in 1268. The name was altered to Cesky Brod in 1315 during the occupation of the Romovs.

Jan IV of Drazic knew Pope Boniface VIII, the last pope before the Avignon Papacy. Where his loyalties lay in the struggle between church and state is not clear since he was also a friend to John of Luxemburg. John I was a strong ally of Philip the Fair who rebelled against the avaricious taxation of the Church in Rome. Philip the Fair made the succeeding pope, Clement V, his vassal and refused to concede to the superiority of the Pope over King. Charles I also maintained his independence from the papal supremacy and appointed the first Archbishop of Prague,who was also a descendent from this family.

After 1385, the Drazic lineage vanished and little can be discovered. During the Hussite Wars, the monastery was destroyed. The area became Hussite territory. In 1526, Friedrich of Drazice, burgrave of Donin moved his residence to Benatky where he built the Italian renaissance palace on the hill over the ruins of the monastery.

The large shield on the Benatky arms displays a castle with a rampant golden basilisk or cockatrice which represents the heraldry of Oldrich of Vrazda from Kunwald. Kunwald became the source for the stream of Hussitism known as the Unitas Fratrum, later called the Moravian Brethern. A certain John of Rokyzana gained permission from George of Podebrady to establish a new community centered with the supremacy of the Bible to Catholic ecclessiastical authority.

Ironically the town that produced three bishops shifted allegiance with a stong following of the Bohemian Brothers ( Church of the Moravian Brotherhood), administered by John Augusta in New Benatky. Brother Lucas, the second leader of the Bohemian Brothers (Unitas Fratrum or Moravian Brothers) died in 1528 to be succeeded by John Augusta who was persecuted by the Spanish Hapsburg Ferdinand I of Austria (1503-1564). Ferdinand I was a staunch Catholic and intolerant of dissenting beliefs in the Bohemian lands. In 1547, the Bohemian Estates rebelled against Ferdinand, in retaliation of his intolerance and brutal dictatorial powers. The combined forces of Charles V and Ferdinand defeated the Estates. Ferdinand imprisoned John Augusta for his leadership in the rebellion in the White Tower of Prague where he was tortured and then transferred with Bilek to Pürglitz where Ferdinand maintained a seat. In 1551, Ferdinand I introduced the Jesuits into the Bohemian lands to enforce rigorous acknowledgement of Catholicism and suppress dissenting beliefs. The Bohemian Brethern and their associates were driven into hiding. In 1561, John Augusta was confronted in debate with the Jesuit, Jindrich Blissem. He was released from prison in 1564 and died in Jungbunzlau.

To get to Benatky
Bus from Florenc, Stand 12 7am, 7:55am, 9:20 am, 12:15pm

pay on bus, approx 45 kc one-way

catch bus at Ceska Sporitelna in Benatky 18:05, 20:40, 21:40
or walk to Lysa to catch the train. 18km train ticket

Museum entrance: 20kc
Offering of postcards and mementos. Small medals range in price from 80kc for the small basilisks and 300kc for a Tycho medallion.

Open Tuesday –Sunday
9:00 – 12:00
a 13:00 – 17:00
Zámek 49, 294 71 Benátky nad Jizerou
Telefon - 326 316 682

Benatky nad Jizerou
Aug 11, 2006 - 32 Photos
St Vitus Cathedral

Dominating the Prague horizon, St Vitus crowns the Prague castle above Malostrana. The original plans of St Vitus were dran by Matthias of Arrau under the commission of Charles IV, the holy Roman Emperor. Charles inherited from his father's cultural and political interests, his love of all things French. The cathedral was originally envisioned as a basilica in casthedral form begun by Matthias of Arrau around 1348. Matthias envisioned a circlet of nine chapels around the rump of the cathedral which are heavily supported externally by graceful flying buttresses. However, Matthias died suddenly in 1352, leaving a partially completed eighth chapel. Charles IV, summoned Peter Parler to continue the work. Matthiaas of Arrau is entombed in the Chapel of St Anne's Chapel which was completed by Peter Parler.

Peter Parler arrived in Prague in 1356 to overtake the supervision of the cathedral's construction according to the plans of Matthias. He also employed his father, Master Heinrich, in the construction of the prebstery and the Church of the Holy Cross. Parler completed the Chapel of the Holy Cross in 1356. His artistic skill is recognizeable in the delicate tracery of the enormous windows that surround the main altar. he completed the large windows of St Andrew's Chapel and the Chapel of St Wenceslas in 1366 where the relics were interred. The Chapel of the Holy Cross
was meant to be a twin of the Chapel at the royal treasury at Karlstejn. The vaulting rises to 30meters which soars above the main altar. People aer dwarfed by the immense porportions of the cathedral. Parler understood the dangers of construction and the risks of roofs collapsing. He practiced the construction of the vaulting on the Old Town Bridge Tower. Despite the massive stonework involved, the cathedral structure is light and airy, delicate in its tracery and flowing columns that burst into flower as they reach toward the heavenly vaulting. The vault was completed in the 1370s and the royal treasury established established on the upper floor of gallery. In 1370-1371, the great portal to the south, known as the Golden Gate, was finsihed facing the palace. The gilded mosaic above the gate was created under Parler's workshop after Byzantium influence and depicts the Last Judgement.

In 1385, Parler completed the choir. He used his understanding of architectural design to hide the skeleton of the main buttresses by using the small supporting piers between the windows for the supports of the choir, creating a contrast of internal unity and simplicity with the complexity of the external flying buttresses and their ornamentation. With this completed, he began the preparation of the double nave; but for pragmatic reasons, he built a provisional wall on the west side of the Golden Gate so that the completed portion could be used for religious services. his provisional wall almost became permament, lasting for more than five centuries as wars waged and the lack of technical expertise and financial support left the cathedral abandoned with only the chancel completed.

The cathedral was not completed until after the First World War in 1925 and concecrated on 12 May 1929. As you look down through the double aisle, the neo-gothic blends harmoniously with the original plans of the great gothic master builders, Matthias of Arrau and Peter Parler.

Notre Dame of Reims

possibly the model for St Vitus
has chevet

the asp that is designed using radiating chapels – distinguishing French Gothic architecture

cathedral architecture
origins and basic designs of cathedral architecture

St Vitus Cathedral

St Vitus Cathedral
Aug 12, 2006 - 15 Photos