In Prague, I was able to visit a museum dedicated to one of my favourite artists, Alphonse Mucha, a Czech painter who is often considered the father of Art Nouveau. Although I have mostly known him for his flowery illustrative style, I was particularly interested to see his more nationalistic posters. His pieces are so subtle compared to the communist artwork that appeared later in the region. Mucha was involved in the formation of the independent state of Czechoslovakia, designing banknotes, stamps and promotional murals, and was one of the first arrested by the Gestapo when the Germans invaded the country in 1939. He did not survive the war and never saw Prague under Soviet occupation.
The Czech Republic was pretty, funky and very touristy; after four days in Prague, we were both looking forward to Germany. A few backpackers had told us to skip Dresden and transit straight through to Berlin. As it turns out, Dresden was really worthwhile and I’m glad we had a couple of nights there to soak up the bohemian culture. Due to generous government handouts, the city is overrun with young parents with prams. There are children EVERYWHERE. I half expected a stowaway baby to jump out of my backpack when I reached Berlin. Dresden is also home to Augustus the Strong’s Grünes Gewölbe (the Green Vault), the largest treasure collection in Europe. Some of the highlights in the museum included fist-sized green diamonds, sailing ships carved out of marble, a miniature Indian court of porcelain, jousting equipment, Ottoman tents and ornate tea sets created by the Dresden court jewelery master Dinglinger. It seems creativity runs rampant when no expense is spared!
We are currently in Berlin and this sprawling city deserves a dedicated post, so I will leave you with some photographs I took at the East Side Gallery. The gallery restores and repairs the murals painted on the crumbling remains of the Berlin Wall. A range of local and international artists decorated the wall shortly after it was spontaneously destroyed by Berliners in 1989 (a literal and symbolic step towards the re-unification of East and West Germany).