Happy New Year to everyone who still reads this blog. In the style you’ve grown accustomed to I have delayed this entry nearly a week from the event to gather my thoughts on the subject. It took this long to realize that I haven’t any.
Last year I spent New Years Eve in Prague amid the myriad fireworks being detonated by the local citizenry in the absence of a municipal display (the city was saving money). The streets were a dangerous mess of explosions, many of which I initiated, and I loved every moment of it. My only regret was that I spent the whole night mired in the action and failed to cross the Vlatva river to higher ground where I may have seen hundreds of fireworks illuminating the skyline.
This year, responding to a last minute invitation, I had a rather different New Years Eve experience which may stand out as the black sheep of my life’s December 31sts. Instead of filling a bag full of fireworks and running half mad with glee through the frosty European streets; I sat down for a long, swanky meal and watched fireworks like a civilized adult. I don’t think it suits me.
The night, however, was wonderful experience. I was invited to Kutna Hora, a quiet fairy-tale city east of Prague where my friend Gavin’s father-in-law owns a hotel and restaurant (a penzion). Kutna Hora is famous for it’s silver mines and the churches they paid for. The most famous of all is the “bone church” which we visited on January 1st. Actually called the Sedlec Ossuary, it’s one of the biggest tourist attactions in the Czech Republic because, as the nickname implies, it’s a church from the dark ages decorated with the bones of over 40,000 nameless dead. The most interesting features are the bone chandelier and the four bone pyramids. A bit strange, like the set of a quirky vampire flick, but well worth the visit.
Penzion Barbara is so named because it sits adjacent to the UNESCO World Heritage St. Barbara’s Church. A magnificent piece of fairy-tale architecture. The next day we joined an enormous group of Turkish tourists to gain free admittance. Inside I was mesmerized by the church’s epic stained glass windows far more than the intricate gothic stonework and architectual nuance without (which is saying a lot).
It was a quiet evening highlighted by the gourmet, seven-course meal that was served to us throughout the night starting with a martini and an amuse-bouche in 2011 and ending with ham and freshly baked bread a 2012. (Eating ham and lentils on New Years Day is a Czech tradition bringing health and wealth in the new year.)
We also had fireworks which, while being nowhere near the magnitude offered by Prague, were timed perfectly with midnight snow flurries and magnificently silhouetted against St. Barbara’s like a real world version of the Disney Castle fireworks. There were also 8,000Kc worth of fireworks at the restaurant, dozens of citizen displays and one person periodically sending aloft Chinese lanterns which being so incongruous to the fireworks in their quiet ethereal beauty drove me into a senseless rage.
The next day I was lucky. I could have opened my eyes that morning facing the wall of my room at the penzion, or the ceiling, or even even the base of the toilet but I didn’t. The first thing I saw when I awoke on January 1st, 2012 was St. Barbara’s Church outside my window airbrushed dreamily in fog. It was perhaps the most beautiful thing I’ve ever woken up to see and as fine a way I can imagine to start a new year.
Best wishes to all in 2012.