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A Day in the Life

This morning was overcast and rainy in Brno. But there was exciting news! Finally, I arranged an interview with Karel Holas, violinist and frontman of the folk-rock-world music group Čechomor. And it was all (shameless pat on back) conducted in Czech. Well, except for the odd English phrase here and there (and a few of those anglicized Czech words, those with Latin and Greek roots, body language, non-verbal communication, and a "Can I get your autograph?"). (I hope I'm not violating any confidentiality clause when I reveal that there was also at least one Germanism I noticed, too. He referred at one point to a business deal as kšeft [it could have been some sort of negatively connotated sentiment {e.g., a mafia deal or something, but that's pure conjecture about the nature of Germanism in modern Czech}], which comes from the German Geschäft [business {or shop, transaction}].)

When he learned that I don't smoke (but he does), he told me what it was like to be a smoker the first time he visited New York City. Apparently it was just after smoking was prohibited in NYC restaurants and bars; I guess there were not a few dirty looks from passersby as he stood on the sidewalk smoking. There was, however, one bar that still allowed its customers to smoke &mdash a Russian one! Oh my. That Russian mafia is everywhere. (The Czech word for mafia man is mafián? Perhaps less sinister ones could be called kšefťáci! And extraterrestrials are ufoni [from UFO] or perhaps ufonové if they are very refined and humanoid or marťané for Martians?)

Now I, too, have been in an elevator with Holas (that's where he met Jaz Coleman, collaborator from the punk band Killing Joke, at least in the 2002 film Rok ďábla, as you see in the illustration). The elevators in the Bobycentrum were rather anti-smoking, and you can guess that Mr. Holas was not staying on the third floor!

We met at Brno's premiere luxury hotel, the Bobycentrum. I'm sure he didn't choose this hotel &mdash it was likely where his sponsors put up the band &mdash and there's nothing wrong with the hotel itself. (Other than looking a bit like an oversized Ramada Inn with an attached conference center the building is solid, but the chain-hotel aesthetic is not the most appealing venue in a European city, at least in my view.) It just happens to be like something from the outskirts of Las Vegas that was dropped in a field near the edge of Brno. The sort of place where a Mr. Brno competition might be held. (Indeed, some rounds of the upcoming Miss Czech Republic pageants have been held there.) Or perhaps it was transmogrified here by aliens. It sits among a hodge-podge of older buildings &mdash a derelict stadium, a factory with mutiple smokestacks, gas stations, and a large stripmall &mdash and all on this next to a busy stretch of road. In other words, it is in a suburban wasteland that seems not to have developed in the way that the owners probably hoped. Even the casino, "open 18.00 to 06.00 daily," was closed and a sign on the door pleaded understanding: "Dear Guests, the company responsible for this Casino terminated the operation in Bobycentrum." This sign was only in Czech, so it seems that the locals (Czechs) already know that something is strange with this Casino. (I'm imagining one of those bizarre sci-fi plots where aliens abduct the gamblers, in this case only out-of-towners. Or, it could be the mafia.) The best part of the hotel was the view from the upper stories toward downtown Brno. It's almost as good as the Villa Tugendhat's. You can see St. James church, Sts. Peter and Paul cathedral, and of course castle Špilberk.

After the interview I decided to take a walk around and survey the terrain. The fitness center in the stadium was not my first choice of a gym. As the sign on the gate warns, "Look Out! Area guarded by dogs!"

Then there was the "Car wash left, Brno straight ahead[, Carrefour to your right]" sign.

Some beautiful snails, of various varieties, were enjoying the grass in the rain

in the field outside Carrefour

in the shadow of the cooling-tower-cum-Globus-billboard

And inside the Carrefour, like an oasis for a traveler whose palette has been deprived of spice these last eight months, was the "Indická kuchyně" restaurant. (The palette is still deprived of spice, though I recommend the "Veg Thal" for anyone craving a good-sized vegetarian meal. It will be a bit longer until I learn that people here are being euphemistic when they say "it’s spicy," which I take to mean "hot," but actually means it has a different flavor. I'm an optimist at heart.)

And so ends today's photo essay.

(The Holas-as-violinist photo is from a recent interview in Reflex, which you can read here [only in Czech].)

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Blogger Karla said . . .

I guess I'll have to interview you to get more details on the Holas interview.

Nice collection of snails.    

10:52 PM, April 29, 2006

Blogger Julia said . . .

I'd like to hear more about it too!    

11:02 PM, May 04, 2006

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