Oh yea, making my way off Praha’s Charles Bridge as part of an urban kanga line of 25 international journalists, bloggers, social media experts and photographers invited along by Insight Vacations (Insights) to sample a portion of its premium-escorted Bohemian Rhapsody journey through Prague, Vienna and Budapest.
Snaking our collective way along the crowded cobble, cameras dangling from our necks as ballpoints and No. 2s scribble down the narrative, we stop just long enough to grab a whiff of the freshly made pretzels, gingerbread and piggies-in-a-blanket wafting from storefronts dotting the route. We’re now just a few paces away from experiencing an Insight “signature” moment, a private Bohemian crystal glassblowing demonstration at the Karlova Crystal Shop.
Through the front door we march, passing by glass enclosed cabinets filled with the house’s superlative curiosities — for gazing and purchasing — and then ushered into a small studio tucked in the back of the intimate shop.
Celebrated as Bohemia’s gift to the world, the art of crystal glass making has been around since the 13th century and is appreciated for its quality, craftsmanship, beauty and often innovative designs.
Hand-cut, engraved, blown and decoratively painted crystal, ranging from champagne flutes to ornate chandeliers, from ornaments to tiny figurines, Bohemian crystal glass products are some of the Czech Republic’s best-known exports, right alongside, if not on top of, its superlative beers and savory Prague ham.
Taking our seats like first-year medical students observing a surgical procedure, a hearty, artisan glassblower, fronting a more than 2,000°F solar-orange furnace, begins to ply his trade and turn liquid silica — along with lead, potassium and zinc oxides, a dash of soda and a sprinkle of alumina — into works of art, just as it was done back in the day for Europe’s noblesse.
Throwing caution to the wind as their backsides heat up from standing so close to the red-hot furnace, they huff and puff like the late jazz trumpeter Dizzie Gillespie and somehow manage to exhale large crystal balls.
A round of applause from the peanut gallery echoes across the studio acknowledging a job well done, but the roar of the crowd is short lived as the expert artisan shrugs his shoulders and nonchalantly tosses the efforts of the wannabe glassblowers into the trash.
Hm. No sooner did their apprenticeships begin then they also came to an end, just like this demonstration.
For complete information on Insights’ premium and luxury-escorted itineraries, including the Bohemian Rhapsody and 100 other journeys throughout Europe, just click HERE, or call toll free 1-888-680-1241, or contact your travel agent.
Join me in a couple of minutes when we’ll stroll over to Prague’s Old Town Square just in time to watch a one-of-a-kind, 15th century, astronomical clock strike high noon.
©The Palladian Traveler | ©Tom Palladio Images