Week One and the Hotel Krystal

The first week in class, we covered the basics of lettering, measuring, and drawing both in 2D and isometrically. The main point of this course is to learn how to bring your ideas out of your head and on to paper. We are graded on accuracy and neatness.

After class this week we visited the Hapsburg’s Winter palace, now the national library and museum of Austria.

Fun-fact: Hilter held a massive rally here from this balcony after his successful annexation of Austria

Inside are massive exhibits of the Hapsburg’s armory, treasury, and an interactive musical instrument collection, complete with a playable harpsichord. I tried some blues scales on it, but I think the Hapsburgs would have reacted like the crowd did at the “Enchantment Under the Sea” dance from the Back to the Future when Marty McFly played Johnny B Goode.

Next we visited the Art History Museum, one of the “Twin Museums” built to house the Hapsburg’s extensive collections of art from ancient Egyptian times to early expressionist era.

The collections includes some increduble Rembrandt, Velasquez, and Vermeer works

After class, the night before we left for Prague, my friends and I met up with bunch of students from the IES at Danube Park to play ultimate Frisbee.

A particularly great day along the Danube

Connor Walker, Mark Loveland, and myself, planned to visit Prague this weekend. Connor took it upon himself to book our bus ride and hotel. He found some deals that were incredibly inexpensive, yet did not fill us in on any details.

The bus was very nice, much nicer than I expected, and actually was faster than taking a train. It was nice to see some of the Austrian and Czech countryside.

We watched a spectacular sunset light the rolling hills ablaze in red light

The in-ride entertainment was mostly in Czech, except for “The Iron Lady” a drama of Margret Thatcher’s life. So heading behind the Iron Curtain I watched a movie about the lady who helped end the Cold War.

I arrived in Prague, filled with British conservative ideals and a newfound pride in retaking the Falklands from the treacherous Argentinians.

We arrived after the metro closed, so we decided to take an Uber to our hotel. We were taken a couple miles from the town center to the Hotel Krystal, a hulking soviet building which became one of the strangest and most hilarious places I’ve ever been to. Apparently built in the late 70’s-early 80's, it was one of the main hotels of Prague, complete with abandoned conference rooms and a massive auditorium that look like time capsules into the soviet era. Today, the Hotel Krystal is a relatively nice budget hotel.

View from the overgrown park behind the Hotel Krystal

Remnants of communism existed within the building: WiFi was limited only to the lobby and the elevators felt like we were descending into a coal mine. The lobby area was quite nice, with well preserved furniture and signs with fonts from the 80’s. The rooms are fitted with some inexplicable device controlled by a switch and knob:

The knob and switch did nothing

The next morning, we had our complimentary breakfast: hardboiled eggs, boiled hot dogs, assorted cereals, cheeses, and vegetables. We found our situation hilarious and struggled to contain our laughter from the other guests, none of whom were American.

We took the metro to the town square. The Prague metro was designed with poor ventilation, so before you see a train coming, you feel a strong breeze that you can see move through the crowd, hair flopping everywhere.

We emerged in old town Prague, and walked across a bridge to the north of Charles Bridge:

St. Vitus Cathedral rises above all of Prague

We spent the first day walking around the city, finding all that we could do for free, like peeking inside the many baroque churches and finding the peacocks that live in the Czech Parliament grounds.

Mark is the reflection on the door

The next day we bought a ticket to explore the castle, which belonged to the Hapsburgs and a few Holy Roman Emporers:

I N S A N E Vaulting

There were huge exhibits on clothing, armor, alchemy, and torture.

St. Vitus Cathedral:

Brilliant yellow stained glass separates the apse from the nave through light color

and later, Frank Gehry’s Dancing House:

Traditional Czech food is the reason their knights were on average 5'5". The few meals we ordered from traditional Czech restaurants consisted of some sort of expertly seasoned and stewed meat, swimming in sauce that needed to be mopped up with bread dumplings (boiled bread).

Around 4:30 Sunday morning, we left our room at the Hotel Krystal to checkout and make our 6:30 bus back to Vienna. We walked through the dark lobby to an empty reception desk. Then, to our left a rotund, old, Czech man materialized out of the darkness. “Just leave the key on desk, you’re good” said the man in a tired and disinterested tone. And thus our stay at the Hotel Krystal had come to a close.