Great sculptors and painters of their time have created an architectural treasure, whose masterly opulence bears witness to their genius to this day. Jan Preisler, Mikoláš Aleš, Max Švabinský, František Ženíšek, Ladislav Šaloun, Josef Mařatka, Josef Václav Myslbek or Alfons Mucha – names difficult to pronounce – were but a small fraction within the remarkable group of skillful artists involved in building and decorating Obecní dům – the Municipal House located right in the heart of Prague. Since its inauguration in January of 1912, the extraordinary building has served as a splendid stage for atmospheric concerts, grand festive balls and fancy fashion shows and is justly listed a national heritage site.
Its two protagonists – the Smetana Hall and the restaurant Francouzská – alone are well worth the trip to Prague, from whichever corner of the globe it may have to commence.
Reading time: about 2 minutes
Whenever there is reason to celebrate on a festive scale, a dramatic sound scape must not be missing. Worldwide, solemn ceremonies are carried by Beethoven’s „Ode to Joy“ (Ode an die Freude), being played by enthusiastic orchestras and sung by effervescent choirs in front of a mesmerised audience. Since its debut in Vienna in 1824, the compassionate tune and emotional lyrics manifested themselves as the epitome of the brotherhood of man.
Reading time: about 4 minutes
Hergé: Master of the Comic Strip
Georges Prosper Remi – born in Etterbeek/Brussels on May 22nd of 1907 – became a renowned cartoonist who chose to sign his drawings with the pseudonym Hergé (RG), standing for his initials read backwards. The adventures of his tireless heroes Tintin and Snowy were first published in 1929 – and nothing could halt their ascent or their lasting worldwide success. Their exciting adventures were translated into numerous languages and devoured by hundreds of millions of readers – notwithstanding their age. The constant flow of Hergé’s inspiration sprang from the reality situations of everday’s life, a reliable source likely never to run dry. Before founding his Studios Hergé, the productive artist accomplished the challenge of his unique creative mission as a solitary fighter for more than two decades. Georges Remi died in 1983. The artist’s legacy comprises a wealth of works of impressive diversity in its distinctive unequivocal style. It is displayed at the Hergé Museum in Louvain-la-Neuve near Brussels in the Belgian region of Walloon Brabant. Read article
Reading time: about 2 minutes
The Solent? Non-Britons may wonder what or where that might be. A marine area brimming with flat fish floundering about perhaps – or a lonely island lost somewhere in the limitless ocean? Whereas the former’s majority are commonly frequenting the chilly waters of the North Sea around the bend, the latter is a pretty close guess, at least when it comes to the „island“ part. Solving the geographical riddle: the Solent is a strait (about 20 x 4 miles) running between the mainland of England and the Isle of Wight. It not only serves as a shipping route for commercial and military vessels, but also poses as a welcome playground for a multitude of watersports. Southampton, the largest port, surely rings a bell in many a mind as being the last British pier for RMS Titanic to call at before commencing her unfortunate voyage across the Atlantic. Another popular harbour lying by Solent shores is Portsmouth, from where before-mentioned enigmatic islands are best reached: the Solent Forts, a group of sturdy man-made islands built in the late 19th century to ward off sea-born attack. The three Forts – Spitbank, No Man’s Land and Horse Sand – were decommissioned after WW II, lay dormant for a number of years, put up for sale in the 1960s seeing changing ownership. Today, the Solent Forts offer luxurious accommodation incorporated in extraordinary venues and are owned and managed by the AmaZing Venues company. www.amazingvenues.co.uk/solent-forts
Reading time: about 3 minutes
The Making of a Bohemian Microcosm
Montmartre evolved following a massive urban reconstruction and relocation scheme initiated by a great man of the 19th century: Napoleon III. Together with his ambitious town planning prefect Baron Haussmann, he aimed at creating a mundane Paris of dazzling allure and wanted it to become „the most beautiful city of Europe“ – not without granting spacious plots of land in prime locations to Haussmann, his many friends and financial supporters. By rigorously stomping unsightly areas into the ground and by replacing humble housing by posh manorial edifices and narrow crooked alleyways by grandiose and airy boulevards and squares, Paris’s face was substantially lifted and embellished – albeit at the expense of the less privileged population, who became early victims of gentrification.
Reading time: about 6 minutes