Good King Wenceslas

Today is a National Holiday – Czech Statehood Day and the Feast of Saint Wenceslas (Svatý Václav). Most businesses and stores are closed as well as government offices. Wenceslas is the Patron Saint of Bohemia, the Spiritual Protector of the Czech Lands. He was actually “just” the Duke of Bohemia from 921 to 935, but he was elevated to Sainthood and posthumously declared King by the Catholic Church after his assassination in 935. Only 24, Wenceslas was murdered by his younger brother, aptly named, Boleslaus, the Cruel.

Although he lived such a short life, Wenceslas managed to gain a reputation as a heroic and virtuous leader, and he became revered not only in the Czech Republic but in England. He became symbolic of what a good and kind king can, and should be. If youŕe old enough, you may remember singing about him at Christmas time…..

Good King Wenceslas looked out on the Feast of Stephen. Where the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even…….

An ancient legend, (not unlike that of King Arthur), says that in the country’s darkest hour, in order to save it from ruin, this statue will come to life and lead an army of knights who now sleep beneath the Czech mountain, Blaník. As Protector of the Czech Lands, it is only fitting that it was in Wenceslas Square that the Czech people gathered and protested, and eventually drove out the occupying Soviets in 1989.

Vítejte v Praze!

Dear Readers, I have finally made it to Prague! Here is a view of the magnificent Charles Bridge (almost 700 years old) crossing the beautiful Vltava River. In the background you see Prague Castle and the Spires from St. Vitus Cathedral.

I have landed in the Karlín neighborhood of Prague 8. It is referred to as the “Brooklyn” of Prague with good reason. Tree lined streets, magnificently restored old buildings, cafes, coffee shops and wine bars on every corner, all with a real neighborhood feel.

This is the entrance to my building on Křižíkova Street. It is a fine example of Art Deco that abounds in Prague, built in 1905.

But things weren’t always this way…..

In August 2002, Prague suffered one of its worst floods in history.

One of the hardest areas was Karlín. This is a view looking down my street, Křižíkova. But the flood had its upside. It spawned a renaissance of this neighborhood and led to the revitalization of businesses and the preservation of its gorgeous buildings. The work continues and I see reconstruction and new construction all around me.

In the coming weeks, I will introduce you, dear readers, to the various parts of mz neighborhood, which is already beginning to feel like home.

Jsem Tady! I Am Here!

Actually, I’ve been here for 2 weeks. I wanted to write before, but between jet lag, lost baggage, numerous technical difficulties, and adapting to my new surroundings, I’ve been, well, a bit overwhelmed!

I never thought I could undertake such a move alone, and let me just say, if You are considering a similar uprooting, be sure you have friends or family in that foreign place to take you in and help you get on your feet.

Kat (Kateřina) and her brother, Kuba (Jakub) were at the airport to pick me up. They live in a small suburb of Prague called Brandýs nad Labem. Nad Labem means “on the Labem River.” (The Labem is the Elbe River in Germany) Currently I am living with Kat, her mother Růžena, and Kat’s 13 year old son Bohdan in a lovely big house that sits high above the river. Kuba and his family live close by and I will introduce them to you later.

Růžena is an excellent cook and she prepares all of our meals. We sit at table together without the tv on, remember those days? Breakfast consists of various breads, ham and cheese, butter, local honey, and an assortment of Růženaś homemade jams: apricot, cherry, and strawberry. Lunch is the main, and only “hot”meal of the day. In the afternoon we have our coffee with a zakusek, a sweet pastry or dessert-often taken outside in the garden gazebo overlooking the river. Dinner is a light affair like open faced sandwiches called chlebíčky (chleba means bread).

The weather here is quite pleasant as the Czech Republic sits at 50 degrees north latitude. It is noon as I write this and 82 degrees. The high will be 87 with low humidity. Of course, like all people around the world, they complain about the “hot” weather.( I know all of you back home in the US, like me, are rolling your eyes right now.) So, when it is hot, we take our walks in the evening along the river. The scenery is simply idyllic dotted with ducks on the water and small boats anchored along the riverbanks.

Of course, my transition has not been without its share of difficulties and complications. I will say more about those later….. Until next time- Mějte se Hezky! Have a Great Day!

-The Bohemian Freethinker

Swing to the Jazz of Spring

With Spring just arrived, and in honor of National Poetry Month, The BohemianFreethinker is delighted to introduce Wilmington poet and photographer Marie-Claire Lander, and to share with you a selection of her previously unpublished poems and photos.

tulips

Swing to the Jazz of Spring

Rouge, blush, orange…
Tousled petals
Jostle in the breeze
Cheek to cheek.

Swing to the jazz
Of spring, heads bowed
To the rhythm of the wind,
Tulips dance, lanky and tall.

Crowned heads will soon shed
Their lipstick red,
Gushing yellow,
Brazen pink, and pious purple…

But for now
They can rest easy
On their green sepals,
Pedestal of spring

white blossoms

First in Bloom

Ah, the honor
Of being first
To bloom!
The first splash
Of blush
In the whole drab world.
Cleome Hassleriana,
Can I call you Spider Flower?

Your sisters will join you soon,
But for now, you swoon
And caress the air
With your smug pink corolla
Just because…
You know that only the first
Bloom counts,
Like the first kiss
Of spring.

daffodil1-e1522857098148.jpg

Petal Alphabet

I don’t speak daffodils
Or dogwood.
I’ve never learned
The petal alphabet.

Would it go something like this?
Azaleas
Blooms
Chrysalis
Daffodils
Elderflowers
Fields
Garnered
Hills
Jasmine
Kniphofia
Lantana
Magnolia…
All the way to…
Zinnia, Elegant Liliput Mix.

I am not fluent by any means
But I speak bud a little,
Blossom occasionally,
Delight, always.

heron.jpg

Heron

Still,
In the presence of the wind,
Cold
But stoic.
Life as a heron
Is heroic.
When the only defense
Is mere fluff and feathers,
A passive wait is the only way.
Still,
You remain,
Let the air ruffle you at will
As if it didn’t matter,
As if warmth came
From a wisp of hope
And wishful thoughts.
Still,
You remain tranquil
For so long the wind winds down
to the occasional ripple
and deserts the creek.
The taunting is over.
Still,
You stand your muddy ground,
One stalk-like leg steeped in muck,
The other tucked in.
Acrobatic feat,
Singular triangle-like stance,
A balancing act
Stilled to perfection.

airlie fountain

Airlie Gardens, Wilmington, NC

A native of Anjou, France, Mrs. Lander received her Bachelor of Arts in English from the Université Catholique de l’Ouest. Her sense of adventure led her to New Zealand where she studied at Auckland Teachers College and began teaching French in high schools. It was while in New Zealand, that her first poems were published in the University Journal.
She now resides with her husband Hal in Wilmington, NC where she continues to pursue her life long passions of poetry, nature photography, and French translation.

All photography and poetry copyright Marie-Claire Lander 2018. All rights reserved.