The Nadrazni street leads one from Andel square to the old Smichov station, from which the whole municipality takes its name. Along it, the road passes under a railway bridge. In this street, there is the front entrance of the Staropramen brewery, a 19th century complex occupying a whole block in the side street leading to the river front. Two tram stops away is Smichovske Nadraži. I walk to its modernist, greyish facade, and an abstract fifteen meters tall concrete monument between sets of tramway tracks. Above the station rise hills with stately villas, a number of them modern rectangulars, with a couple of real castles in between.
To the left, one of a number of old factory buildings now housing a fitness studio. From a window of a nearby building, looking at its simple, barren interior, I see women with flexed thighs squatting with barbells on their backs. In a side street further up, there is a man sized bomb shell with a propelller and all, decorating the store window of an army supplies’ shop. Circling around this block, going back, is another refurbished factory facility – this one containing a mixed use overpriced italian restaurant, still with concrete floors.
Vystavište Holešovice tram stop—terminus of the line twelve—is at the edge of a large Prague park called Stromovka. Strom means electricity in German, so I associated the name with something like trees being hit with lightning, or simply with some old powerplant; Prague having had a lot of industry even during belle epoque. But in Czech Strom means tree, of course, making the name much more prosaic and self-explaining actually – a place of trees. What else would a park be? Not one, but two railway tracks run through the park though, disturbing the expansive natural setting. The industrial character of the city, with its numerous railway stations, was not to be denied. Not even a park was to be spared of its presence. That is Prague. Some mighty ole’ oaks where to be found there. A lot of oaks in general, with ripe acorns all around them.
From the window of the fourth floor apartment in Holešovice, every day, for two weeks, I could see the workers renovating the facade on the opposite building. One of them, smoking a cigarette, was especially busy, moving skillfully on the scaffolding, while applying the plaster. Now he was on the third floor, sliding the trowel over the window; moments later he would descend to the floor below to help out. Seeing ongoing works first thing in the morning was a good way to start the day. It made me think of work I ought to do that day. The effort of the workers serving as an example of efforts the individual needed to make himself; the progress witnessed each day instilling belief in the success in completing the tasks.
The small studio I had temporarily rented had no washing machine, and so it was that day of the week again, the day of going to do the laundry. The place was open until 10 pm, and I needed to arrive at least before quarter to 9. I gathered all the bigger crown coins I had, and also took a good amount of fivers from a jar full of one’s and two’s to exchange for bigger ones, as the machine didn’t take fivers. Spending time at these laundromats only accentuates the feeling of loneliness for a city bachelor. The sound of the washing and drying machines, the random, usually silent encounter of a fellow washer, while spending time in a small room with many heavy duty, shining steel machines operating according to their predetermined rhythms.
I left my dirty laundry in the washing machine of this self-service laundromat located in the basement of a cafe on Strossmayerovo Namesti, and went to a cramped supermarket several blocks away to buy some food. I bought a big sweet potato, a patata. Back home, I cooked it for a whole hour, driving a knife through it every now and then to check whether it was done. After pouring out the boiling water, the skin of the patata was practically coming off by itself, revealing the tender, well-cooked orange flesh of this sweet vegetable. The cut up sweet potato weighing half a kilogram filled the whole plate.
I ascend to the surface at Florenc, leaving the escalators behind me. To the left of me is the neo-classical building of the city museum, somewhat obscured in the night by the trees between it and the station.
I continue upwards, under an overpass, and take a left at the intersection. Walking along Na Florenci, I pass a couple of hotels, and a shopping center. Prague darkness is noticeable here. For some reason, streetlights in Prague always seem to be dimmed somehow. For this reason, I could never remember clearly the streets I’ve walked through after the early November sunset.
Vinohrady has all major types of residences. The grand turn-of-the-century buildings for the upper middle class, the villas for the rich; and the 1920s four-storey social housing with front gardens for civil servants of the First Republic.
Art Nouveau palaces make up the residential blocks which characterise this part of Vinohrady.
Above Ruska street, on an elevated ground there are many large mansions. Going along a curving street reach Saloun’s villa. One storeyed grey facade with a row of ornaments resembling golden amulets. The impression the house leaves on me is such that I can only describe its style as ancient Egyptian. A zodiac wheel is in the backyard. Walking around it, above the front door I see an intense looking face with unruly hair, like that of Beethoven from the famous portrait. Perhaps the sculpture depicts the architect himself, caught in the creative act. The house strikes me as a place for occult gatherings. It makes one think someone had spoken with the dead inside of it.