The Obecni Dom, or Municipal House, is not the first place that Prague tourists think to visit. It is a civic building and concert hall located in the Republic Square, right next to the Powder Gate. Concerts are regularly held in the Smetana Hall. The hall can accommodate a symphony orchestra, however during the summer holidays I think it is usually a chamber orchestra targeted at the tourists.
Okay – first a digression about the powder gate. It was one of the original gates to the city and is now a tower built in stone in gothic style. It is ornately attractive from the outside, however, like many buildings in Prague, it is almost black. I suspect this is years of accumulated soot, although one guide claims that is the colour of the stone.
At one stage the tower was used to store gunpowder, hence its current name. Wikipedia says it suffered “considerable damage” during the Battle of Prague (1757). Our guide said it ” blew up”, and afterwards the decision was taken not to store gunpowder so close to the city. (Ya’ reckon?) Let your own imagination decide the extent of the damage. Anyway it was rebuilt, and more decorations added about one hundred years later. The photo on this post of what looks like a puzzled monk eating a chicken drumstick is one of them (taken from a second story window of the adjoining Municipal House).
So, back to the main topic of this post. As town halls go, the Obecni Dom is one of the most impressive you will ever see. You must visit it by guided tour, and there are around three per day in English. Photography is allowed for an extra fee. I try to limit the amount of photographs that I upload per post, and it has been a difficult task selecting which to display. My advice is: spend the money, both on the tour and the photo addition.
All the buildings in this part of town are Art Nouveau. Very elegant, grand, dressy, with all the trimmings, and very tasteful. The foyer of the Obecni Dom is grand, staircase impressive, and lifts quaint. Unfortunately these are some of the photos I have had to cull out. It is an area you can partially access without a ticket.
The tour starts in the Smetana Hall, named after their great composer, and housing a magnificent organ which famous persons have played. The hall is richly decorated with allegorical frescoes (music, poetry, art and so on). There are special boxes for royalty and others of the well-to-do.
The tour moves on through ‘ladies’ rooms’. All of these are sumptuously decorated in a soft style. Every wall and ceiling fresco hold special meaning.
The mens’ rooms contrast with a definite masculine feel. Also sumptuously decorated (I just wanted to test if spellcheck could insert the word correctly twice. oh! I forgot. It is a computer. It will just keep doing the same thing until you tell it different).
Towards the end of the tour there is a circular room that is decorated all around with figures and scenes of Czech History. It was wonderful to have the tour guide bring every painting to life, even though I cannot repeat it back now. The painting of the mother and child came from this room. If one stands at a certain (marked) spot in the centre of the room, and make a noise, clapping for example, you will hear an odd reverberation above your head and in your ear drums. Not an echo exactly. More like surround sound clanging.
The last room in the tour is the Lecture Hall. This is a fine room, but the least decorated of all. It was suggested this was to reduce the distraction of the students attending presentations here. The photo of the ventilation system comes from this room, although the ventilation design is used throughout the building. Very ahead of its time.
Third week of July 2013, Garrulous Gwendoline, Still in Prague