Vernal Venturings, Part Dva

In my previous post on my recent peregrinations, I neglected to mention that while in New Orleans I also visited the Barataria Nature Preserve (a boardwalk through a swamp with alligators sunning themselves along the path).

In San Diego I hung out with my good friend Gary Chartier. On my last day I had lunch at Bali Hai, a childhood favourite I hadn’t revisited since the 1970s.

Prague was delightful as always. I realise it’s the first European city I’ve been to four times. Had dinner with a bunch of the CEVRO students at Gruzie, a cool underground Georgian restaurant. Met some Molinari/C4SS fans.

On this trip I visited some Prague locales I hadn’t had a chance to on previous visits: the Jewish Cemetery (the old one in Josefov, not the somewhat newer one in Žižkov with Kafka’s grave, which I’d visited previously) (I’d also visited Čapek’s grave in Vyšehrad on a previous trip) (and Hašek isn’t buried in Prague) and Pinkas Synagogue, the Cubist Museum (can you believe two of the leading Czech cubists were named Kupka and Kubišta?), the art nouveau Obecní Dům café, and the Petřin Lookout Tower and oddly charming Mirror Maze.


11 Responses to Vernal Venturings, Part Dva

  1. Irfan Khawaja May 8, 2019 at 12:07 pm #

    Which side of the city/river do you prefer?

    • Irfan Khawaja May 8, 2019 at 12:11 pm #

      In Prague, I mean.

      I didn’t mean New Orleans. The last time I was in New Orleans, someone falsely accused me of aggravated assault (on a non-existent victim). The police banged on my door to arrest me at 4 am. I finally convinced them I hadn’t done it, then slept until 6 am, walked nine miles to the conference venue, got rained on, gave a paper, and went home. I have not been to New Orleans since.

      • Roderick May 11, 2019 at 1:15 pm #

        I remember that story. I promise it’s possible to have a better time in New Orleans. (Indeed I’d love to get you out to the PPE.)

        Re Prague, it’s hard to say, because there are so many interestingly different neighbourhoods (including the over-touristy [but for good reason] and the not-over-touristy) on both sides of the river.

        I guess if I had to pick, the Čertovka / Malá Strana area, on the left (western) bank of the Vltava, has a special charm (and is also the least touristy of the more touristy sites — minimum maximorum). But as soon as I say that, I start thinking of reasonable competitors. This is a bit like Sophie’s Choice, though with somewhat lower stakes.

        • Roderick May 11, 2019 at 1:28 pm #

          Relatedly, I often divide cities with rivers into two categories — those in which most of what I want to see is on one side of the river (e.g., London, Vienna, Kraków, New Orleans) and those in which the stuff I want to see is fairly evenly spread across both sides of the river (e.g., Paris, Rome, Prague, Chicago).

          Istanbul falls in the former category if we pretend the Bosphorus is a river, and in the latter category if we pretend the Golden Horn is a river.

        • Roderick May 11, 2019 at 2:05 pm #

          Re “over-touristy but for good reason” — people often advise travelers to avoid over-touristy sites, but I think this is bad advice. The over-touristy sites are usually over-touristy precisely because there’s something worth seeing there, so one shouldn’t let the crowds prevent one from seeing those sites (though if one can manage to go at times of day when they’re less jammed that’s worth a try).

          The grain of truth in the advice to avoid over-touristy sites, though, is that one shouldn’t confine oneself only to the over-touristy sites, but should try when possible to seek out, as well, the quieter (and usually cheaper) but no less charming areas often just a few blocks away from the major draws.

        • Irfan Khawaja May 12, 2019 at 11:11 am #

          I actually sent a proposal to PPE (on Brennan on character-based voting), but it was rejected. Sayre-McCord invited me to attend anyway, but Felician doesn’t fund mere conference attendance (not that anyone does).

          Not that I know Prague all that well, but I guess I’d say that Mala Strana is my own favorite neighborhood. Of course, that’s the neighborhood we stayed in, and it’s possible I would have declared any such neighborhood “my favorite” simply because we stayed in it (I’m assuming that Petrin Hill is in Mala Strana, but not entirely sure). But I woke up every morning thinking, “I could live here,” followed immediately by “But I don’t.”

          Very much agree with what you say about “touristy” places. We had personal reasons to be in Dudince over Christmas, and I found it a charming place, but it’s not as though one reflexively thinks of going there for Christmas: no one’s there because there’s nothing to see. We went to Prague over New Year’s, when it was “very crowded” by Czech standards, but in some cases that added to the festive atmosphere It’s not as though the place would have been merrier had there been discernibly fewer people milling about. And in another sense, through crowded, it certainly wasn’t all that crowded by our standards (think Manhattan subways and Jersey traffic). Even when it appeared crowded, that often ended up being an illusion. The Bedrich Smetana Museum is in a crowded, touristy part of town, which I was at first tempted to avoid, but when I went there, I was one of maybe three people in the museum itself. Everyone else was in the neighborhood for the restaurants, the clubs, the shopping, or the view–and you could hardly blame them. But you could also easily avoid them.

        • Irfan Khawaja May 12, 2019 at 11:30 am #

          I clearly have not traveled as much as you have, much less been to as many riverine cities. The only thing I’d add is that Lahore (Pakistan) is the interesting case of a city on a river where the river doesn’t bisect the city so much as divide the city from its hinterlands. The hinterlands are for that reason often ignored by those who visit the city, but are in some ways at least as interesting as the city itself. But once you cross the river, there’s a bit of culture shock: there is no “buffer” between urban and rural space. New Yorkers seem to have the same belief about New Jersey, but I don’t think it’s quite the same (though there is a sense in which New Jersey is NYC’s hinterland, and one experiences a bit of disorientation on encountering the Meadowlands after being in Manhattan).

          There is no river in Jerusalem, but one can’t go there without sensing the palpable divide between “East” and “West” Jerusalem (in scare quotes because the terminology doesn’t really correspond to geographic east and west). I used to think that the Palestinian description of East Jerusalem as “occupied” was an exaggeration, but no longer do. And if you go by the wall, dividing things into Jerusalem and “east of it,” you get a sense of what the divide between East and West Berlin must have been.

        • Roderick May 12, 2019 at 1:30 pm #

          The PPE conference prefers proposals of entire three-paper panels to proposals of individual papers. So your odds of acceptance would be better if you can find two other people who want to present on a similar topic.

        • Irfan Khawaja May 12, 2019 at 5:33 pm #

          My strategy for next year: attack Jason Brennan on some other topic, ask him to join me on a panel on that topic, then seek a third participant.

          Hey–wanna be on my panel? Topic forthcoming.

        • Roderick May 12, 2019 at 5:38 pm #

          Technically neither your hotel nor Petřin Hill is in Malá Strana, at least according to Google maps:


        • Roderick May 12, 2019 at 6:01 pm #

          “Hey–wanna be on my panel?”

          Ordinarily yes, but I’m likely to be speaking on another panel, and the PPE frowns on multi-speaking.

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