Central European culture with its sassy Bohemian cobblers

It’s finally time for some central European culture. After two weeks dedicated to roaming the streets, finding the best grocery stores, and memorizing the city’s public transportation system (so I never have to pull out a map and look like a tourist), I’m ready to head indoors and see some of Prague’s outstanding cultural artifacts.

Prague City View

I now have roommates in my 4th floor walk-up—father, mother and aunt. They, too, are discovering the benefits of homeexhchange.com. My father, having never heard of the organization, thought it was a hoax. “Why is some stranger going to give you his fancy apartment next to the castle,” he asked when I showed him the pictures and extended an invitation. I explained that it was an exchange, but he still had his doubts. To seal the deal, I had to promise that if the “so called apartment” didn’t really exist, that I would make sure they weren’t going to be homeless in a foreign country.

So with their arrival we went down the list (see arriving in Prague entry):

Apartment –check
Downtown Prague-check
Fancy new kitchen-check
Prime Minister next door–check
109 stairs up to the apartment-check

“See, Dad, it’s all true,” I said when he got to the top of the staircase, counting each step along the way. We were now able to begin our adventure.

Prime Minister's House--View from Kitchen

First on the list—the Prague City Museum, featuring a special coin exhibit that my coin-collecting father wants to see.

Street Musicians on Charles Bridge

We take the trolley (with no aid of a tourist map, I might add) across “our” bridge and into old town. Once there, we enter the deserted building, an elegant former palace, and set out for the coin exhibit. While my father analyzes mankind’s first minted coins with astute knowledge and unbelievable enthusiasm, I become enthralled with a pair of 17th century black leather boots. To say they are fabulous is an understatement—they are, by far, the most wonderful shoes I have ever seen.

Oh, those sassy Bohemian cobblers, trendsetters of their day, mixing practicality with style and flair. The toe is crescent-shaped, a quarter moon, indenting inward, with two sharp points on either side. They scream originality, as well as I dare you to make fun of my double-pointed boots. The 3-inch heel is solid and stout. The soft jet black leather holds tight against the foot and lower calf, but then boldly widens into a flounce at the upper calf–a wide beautiful, full flounce with soft draping leather puddled at the bottom.

If this isn’t enough to make you admire Baroque craftsmanship, then consider the top of the boot: above the flounce is a tight chocolate-brown leather sock pulled up to the knee. The color contrast was bold for its day and I’m sure the design made for great debates: it’s a boot, no it’s a sock, no it’s a boot with a sock, no it’s a sock with a heel and leather flounce, but in reality it’s a 2-toned boot, which resembles a sock. Absolutely brilliant!

Here, of course, would be the perfect place for a picture
of the boots. However, the museum guards are very strict…
and the security cameras are everywhere. I hate getting yelled
at in a foreign language, so use your imagination.

Image the man who must have worn these boots–definitely upper crust, maybe even a minor royal. This man would have owned dark purple velvet breeches and an elegantly embroidered waistcoat. Most likely, a hat with a fine feather accompanied the outfit. Dashing in his day, no doubt, however queer beyond belief to the modern eye, he probably had rotten teeth, bad breath and lice, since bathing wasn’t yet in fashion. But with those boots, proudly pulled onto his feet, did it really matter? I think not.

Take note Salvatore Ferragamo!

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