Travel Expert and Radio Talk Show Host Stephanie Abrams - Travelers411 Travel Radio Shownotes
"Travelers411" Radio Show - December 25, 2010 - Show Archive

A Live Tour of Prague with Ivana Tatkova of Top Travel, Prague, Czech Republic; Learn How One Family Discovered Galaxies, Built Steam Turbines, and Took the Moon's Temperature With Martello Media at Birr Castle, County Offaly, Ireland.

Listen to the show in Windows Media Format:     hour1     hour2

Listen to the show in MP3 Format:     hour1     hour2

Hour 1

Topics Include:

Link to this segment

Ivana Tatkova, Owner, Top Travel, Prague, Czech Republic.
www.toptravelprague.com

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams and the "Travelers411" Radio Show take a tour of Prague with Ivana Tatkova, Owner of Top Travel in Prague, Czech Republic. Prague's history goes back to the 9th century, and visitors today can see elements from nearly every era since. "Every century marked the city somehow and left wonderful architecture," says Ivana. "It's a great museum under open skies." Prague was also fortunate to not have been destroyed in war.

St.Vitus Cathedral in the Castle District of Prague, Czech Republic.
St.Vitus Cathedral in the Castle District of Prague, Czech Republic.

Ivana starts the tour on the border between New Town (Nove mesto) and Old Town (Stare mesto). "Most churches are marked by Gothic style, because at that time, Prague was the capital of the Holy Roman Empire," she says. "It was the center of culture and commerce and had a ruler, Charles IV, who was a big builder. First, though, we'll pass an old rotunda church dedicated to the Virgin Mary and built in the 9th century, around 880 or 885. There's also a beautiful basilica in Prague Castle that was built in 920."

Ivana Tatkova, Owner, Top Travel, Prague, Czech Republic.
Ivana Tatkova, Owner, Top Travel, Prague, Czech Republic.

Ivana explains that many Romanesque churches have a similar shape, with a rotunda in the middle and chapels around the outside. She points out Prague Castle (Prazsky hrad), which is actually a large complex with several buildings. "You'll see the red roof of a long green palace and two yellow spires – that's Romanesque architecture as well," she says. "The church built in 920 is the Basilica of Saint George. The castle itself is wonderful because you can stand in one square, look at the different buildings, and see how each one was built in a different century and in a different style. It's quite amazing."

Pokladna Otevrena Monestery Library in Prague, Czech Republic.
Pokladna Otevrena Monestery Library in Prague, Czech Republic.

"Now we're approaching the Charles Bridge, which is also Gothic," Ivana continues. "It was built in the city's golden age, in the time of Charles IV. It is the fourth oldest bridge in Europe." The oldest bridge is in Regensburg, Germany; the second oldest is in Pisek, Czech Republic, the third oldest is Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy, and then comes the Charles Bridge. The bridge was built in 1357 and construction started on July 9 at 5:31, so that the date reads 1357 9/7 5:31. The Charles Bridge is over 500 meters long, stands on 15 arches, and is decorated with 32 Baroque-style statues of saints from the 17th and 18th centuries.

Pokladna Otevrena Monestery Library in Prague, Czech Republic.
Pokladna Otevrena Monestery Library in Prague, Czech Republic.

Prague Castle is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest castle area in the world, according to Ivana. "Inside, the most significant building is the St. Vitus Cathedral, which was built by Charles IV in 1344," she explains. "It's one of the most important Gothic cathedrals in Europe. It's the church where Czech kings were crowned and buried, where the crown jewels are kept, and where the main saints are buried, including our patron saint, Saint Wenceslas."

City Street in Prague, Czech Republic.
City Street in Prague, Czech Republic.

After crossing a bridge (not the Charles Bridge, which is pedestrian-only), Ivana takes Stephanie into Prague's Old Town. The historic center of Prague was once five different towns. "Each town was founded in a different period for different people," Ivana continues. "Each has managed to preserve its own character, too. The Little Town (Mala strana), for example, is full of hidden treasures that tourists don't often discover. There are many peaceful secret squares and gardens, but you have to know exactly where they are."

Prague, Czech Republic.
Prague, Czech Republic.

The Little Quarter was founded in the mid-13th century for German merchants and eventually became home to Italians, artisans, and architects, too. Prague also has a Jewish neighborhood, an Old Town where Czech merchants lived, and a New Town, so named because it was founded in 1348. The area around Prague Castle was once home to Czech noblemen, who wanted their homes to be as close as possible to the seat of the rulers. Passing behind Prague Castle, Ivana and Stephanie reach the Strahov Monastery, the highest point of the historic town center.

Charles Bridge on the Vltava River in Prague, Czech Republic.
Charles Bridge on the Vltava River in Prague, Czech Republic.

"The monastery was founded in 1143 and since then has been one of the centers of cultural life in Prague," says Ivana. "It's kept by Norbertine monks, who were known as very good educators and very well-educated people. There were many artists among them, and they built an amazing monastery with beautiful interiors. After the Communist era, the monks returned to ruined conditions; it was very badly maintained." The monastery is currently under restoration, but it has taken two years and 2 million euros to renovate the library halls alone.

Prague, Czech Republic.
Prague, Czech Republic.

Fortunately, the monastery encompasses several apartment buildings, restaurants, a brewery, and a church-cum-art gallery. The monks rent out these properties and use the income to maintain the monastery. Financing for the restoration, however, has come from grants from Norway. "Norway is the richest country in Europe because of its oil," Ivana explains. "They're choosing some projects to finance and like to come here as tourists, so they've sponsored some restoration here. We're grateful for the support."

Jewish Quarter in Prague, Czech Republic.
Jewish Quarter in Prague, Czech Republic.

Ivana and Stephanie arrive at Loreto Square, where they take in two examples of Baroque-style buildings. On one side of the square is a palace in Palladian Baroque style. It was built around 1650 and is the second-largest palace in Prague. "But looking at it, it almost looks boring," says Ivana. "There are columns there, but nothing too entertaining" On the other side of the square, though, is an example of Czech Baroque architecture, which features colorful statues and even an onion dome. Loreto Square itself was an old pilgrimage site. "Inside the cloisters, there's a beautiful little house that's a copy of the Virgin Mary's home," Ivana adds. "There are also Rococo chapels and a treasury on the second floor."

Jewish Quarter in Prague, Czech Republic.
Jewish Quarter in Prague, Czech Republic.

Next, Ivana and Stephanie head to Castle Square (Hradcanske namesti), in front of Prague Castle. "It's named for the castle, or 'hrad,' in Czech," explains Ivana. "The richest noblemen always wanted to live around here and built a number of beautiful palaces. Each wanted to be the neighbor of the ruler. The most interesting palace is the Schwarzenberg, built in the Czech Renaissance style. For some reason, in the Czech Republic, every style became more ornamental than anywhere else."

Jewish Cemetary in the Jewish Quarter in Prague, Czech Republic.
Jewish Cemetary in the Jewish Quarter in Prague, Czech Republic.

The result is a very ornate decoration called sgraffito, which comes from a word meaning 'to scrape off.' "There are two layers, and the white was scraped off to make a geometrical pattern," says Ivana. "It's really lovely and looks almost Asian." Finally, Ivana and Stephanie arrive at the entrance to Prague Castle. The complex has served as the seat of Czech rulers since 883, although today it is the seat of Czech presidents. It runs 800 meters from the western gate to the eastern gate, where the archbishop of Prague had his seat. "Secular and church power were always connected in one place," Ivana remarks.

Prague at night.
Prague at night.

From Prague Castle, they move to the Jewish quarter. "Prague has the oldest and most preserved Jewish monuments in Europe; the Nazis didn't touch them during the war," says Ivana. "In most cities, the Nazis destroyed synagogues and desecrated Jewish cemeteries. But here, they planned to open an exotic museum of an extinct race after the war. This corresponded with their idea to preserve the city of Prague and change it into a German city."

Prague at night.
Prague at night.

Today, visitors can explore the oldest working synagogue in Europe, built in 1270, and the oldest preserved Jewish cemetery in Europe. "We don't know when the cemetery was founded, but it was probably around the 14th or 15th centuries," Ivana continues. "You can see five more preserved synagogues and the old Jewish town hall with a Hebrew clock on top – it runs the opposite way. There's also a very narrow street preserved from the old Jewish ghetto. Jewish merchants helped found the city and settled here as early as the 9th century. But from the 13th century to the Enlightenment, they could only live in the ghetto.

Sausage shop in Prague, Czech Republic.
Sausage shop in Prague, Czech Republic.

"In 1781, they were finally allowed to move out of the ghetto, start different businesses, and study at universities," Ivana adds. "The Orthodox and poor stayed in the former ghetto, though. It was very overcrowded, with many little streets." Before World War II, Prague had a practicing Jewish community of 35,000 people. Today, there are only 1,700 practicing Jews in the city.

Related Photo Galleries:
Czech Republic Album 001 Czech Republic Album 002

Travelers411 Community Forums - This interview's thread:
http://www.travelers411.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2628

For more information visit www.toptravelprague.com


Guests Include:

Ivana Tatkova, Owner, Top Travel, Prague, Czech Republic.
www.toptravelprague.com

Hour 2

Topics Include:

Link to this segment

Mark Leslie, Managing Director, Martello Media, Dublin, Ireland.
www.martellomedia.com

Travel Expert Stephanie Abrams and the "Travelers411" Radio Show discover Birr Castle with Mark Leslie, Managing Director of Martello Media in Dublin, Ireland. Martello Media is behind exhibits at the Blackrock Castle Observatory in County Cork, the Yeats exhibit at the National Library in Dublin, the visitors center at Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin, and the visitors center at the Cliffs of Moher.

Mark Leslie and Stephanie Abrams at the Yeats Exhibit at the National Library in Dublin.
Mark Leslie and Stephanie Abrams at the Yeats Exhibit at the National Library in Dublin.

The company has just received a Thea Award for its work at Glasnevin. The awards are presented by the Themed Entertainment Association each year. "They're given to serious museums and shows, from the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics and San Francisco's Exploratorium to the Abraham Lincoln Museum," says Mark. "They've recognized that we've done some pioneering work at Glasnevin, turning it into a place of meditation, reflection, education, and even entertainment. You can do serious research there in a fun, exciting, interactive way."

ark Leslie and Stephanie Abrams at the Yeats Exhibit at the National Library in Dublin.
ark Leslie and Stephanie Abrams at the Yeats Exhibit at the National Library in Dublin.

Martello Media was also recently lauded for its work on the Ireland pavilion at the 2010 Shanghai World Expo. "We received three awards: one from the Irish Institute of Design, one from the Communist Party of Shanghai, and one from the World Expo organization because we did the unusual thing of sticking to the expo theme," explains Mark. "The theme was 'better cities, better living,' and we were one of three pavilions to follow that and produce an engaging experience. The expo was the biggest in world history with 70 million visitors, and we had 3 million of those through our modest – but, we hope, engaging – Irish pavilion."

ark Leslie and Stephanie Abrams at the Yeats Exhibit at the National Library in Dublin.
ark Leslie and Stephanie Abrams at the Yeats Exhibit at the National Library in Dublin.

Stephanie has been to most of Martello's exhibits and says that other visitors can expect the unexpected. "The first time you enter the Cliffs of Moher visitors center, you feel like you're sloshing around in water," she recalls. "You walk a spiral-like circuit with waves of water flowing down – but it's all done with light." According to Mark, when the building first opened, the architect was told the building was leaking and was actually convinced the sea was coming in.

The Cliffs of Moher, Ireland.
The Cliffs of Moher, Ireland.

Visitors also have the chance to 'fall' off the 200-meter cliffs. "So many people fell off or got blown off, so they discourage going right up to the edge," says Mark. "For people disappointed by that, we've recreated it in the building. We fly you off as though you're a sea bird, then plunge you under the sea as the bird goes diving for fish. You'll see a great basking shark – a thirty-foot fish that's the biggest in the world. Unless you're a sea bird or scuba diver, you won't see them, though. Then you land back up on the ledge."

The Cliffs of Moher, Ireland.
The Cliffs of Moher, Ireland.

Mark's current project is Birr Castle in County Offaly, home to the Earl of Rosse. "It's one of the most extraordinary places in the world," he says. "For 400 years it's been the home of the Parsons family, which has produced generation after generation of scientific geniuses. They were very often educated at home, so the whole castle is a lab." One of the family's most notable achievements was building the world's largest telescope in the 1850s with an 80-foot scope and a 7-foot mirror.

The Cliffs of Moher, Ireland.
The Cliffs of Moher, Ireland.

"This was the first man to discover other galaxies outside the Milky Way, and nobody believed him," Mark continues. "He didn't have a camera, but he did some amazing drawings. It was only when the Hubble telescope went up and took photos that they realized he hadn't just made it all up! In fact, his drawings were often better than the Hubble photos. We compare them in the exhibit to show this extraordinary achievement."

Glasnevin Cemetary in Dublin, Ireland.
Glasnevin Cemetary in Dublin, Ireland.

The earl was also famous for driving around in an automobile – in the 1850s. "He developed a very small high pressure steam engine; the same thing was used for the grinding machine that made mirrors for his telescope," Mark adds. "His sons had toy flying helicopters. And his wife was a genius, one of the pioneering photographers in the world. Her photo lab is completely intact – when she died, they put a lock on the door and just shut up the room. It's the oldest surviving darkroom in the world."

Glasnevin Cemetary in Dublin, Ireland.
Glasnevin Cemetary in Dublin, Ireland.

One Birr denizen, Charles Parsons, invented the steam turbine, which was the basis for steam turbine ships and, ultimately, the jet engine. He had the same problem as his father, however, in that nobody believed he could make boats go that far, that fast. "So he did the ultimate publicity stunt," says Mark. "In 1896, he built the ship Turbinia. When Queen Victoria was reviewing the fleet, he came zooming through at high speed. The destroyers were sent to chase him, but couldn't catch him. Finally, they tracked him down and talked to him about his invention."

Glasnevin Cemetary in Dublin, Ireland.
Glasnevin Cemetary in Dublin, Ireland.

"Charles's brother measured the temperature of the moon in the 1850s," Mark continues. "It was not until Armstrong landed on the moon that he confirmed the temperature. And it's an amazing castle, full of history with fantastic gardens. The family have explored all over the world and were great plant discoverers, so they have 17 world specimen trees, 12 of which are from China." The gardens are zoned by different regions of the world and include some of the largest and oldest box hedges in the world, at 30 feet high.

Mark Leslie.
Mark Leslie.

Visitors who come to the castle in the midlands of Ireland can see how the family lived and worked. "There's so much scientific heritage there," says Mark. "The family is one of the great science dynasties of the world. And all their notes, scientific instruments, and bric-a-brac were just lying around. In the workshop, you can see where a private citizen built a huge scientific instrument. That's like a private citizen investing money and building the space shuttle. The whole castle was transformed – they cut holes in the Gothic rooms so the mirror grinding machine would fit."

Glasnevin Cemetary in Dublin, Ireland.
Glasnevin Cemetary in Dublin, Ireland.

The family also cut trapdoors in the rooms in order to test the mirror. "If you could read the second hand of a watch at the top of the flagpole, the mirror was properly ground," Mark explains. "So they cut out trapdoors to the dungeons where they actually make the mirror." The telescope has been fully restored to working order, and Martello Media helped open a national heritage science center in the Birr stables twelve years ago.

Glasnevin Cemetary in Dublin, Ireland.
Glasnevin Cemetary in Dublin, Ireland.

"We got the instruments and documents out, but didn't have enough money to do the degree of interactivity that we wanted," he says. "Now, we're adding a layer of multimedia engagement. You can see the very buildings where all the inventions and discoveries were made." Although the public can write in and ask to visit the castle, Birr is still home to the Parsons family. The science center and grounds of Birr Castle, however, are permanently open to the public.

Glasnevin Cemetary in Dublin, Ireland.
Glasnevin Cemetary in Dublin, Ireland.

Martello Media is currently trying to open the darkroom and figure out how to fit modern exhibits into historic spaces. "Medieval spaces are not always great for doing modern exhibitions, but we pulled it off at Blackrock Castle Observatory," Mark recalls. He believes that Ireland should invest more in bringing its heritage to life. "Ireland sort of lost its way with the Celtic Tiger," he explains. "Now, everyone is reassessing and wants to get back to traditional Irish values – art, culture, hospitality, the things we're good at."

Mark Leslie (L) and Stephanie Abrams (R) during a broadcast on location.
Mark Leslie (L) and Stephanie Abrams (R) during a broadcast on location.

"We borrowed huge amounts of money to invest in golf courses in Florida or Bulgaria and lost our shirts," he continues. "What we need to concentrate on is Ireland and being Irish. But it's a marvelous time to be in Ireland. There's a huge investment in wonderful hotels, and all hotels and restaurants are offering fabulous value at the moment. Yes, there is 15% unemployment, but that means 85% of people are going to work as normal. From the pictures on TV, you'd think of riots in the streets, but we're very calm, very safe, and very pleased to see people."

The Cliffs of Moher.
The Cliffs of Moher.

Mark ends with a joke: "President Obama met with the taoiseach [prime minister] of Ireland. They were asked by a reporter what they thought of the economic condition of the world. Obama's reply was that it was serious, but not hopeless. The taoiseach replied that it was hopeless, but not serious. That's a very Irish mentality!"

Related Photo Galleries:
Dalkey Castle Heritagetown Clonmacnoise Blarney Castle Donegal Angry Sea

Travelers411 Community Forums - This interview's thread:
http://www.travelers411.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2629

For more information visit www.martellomedia.com


Fun Facts:

A world specimen is the finest example of a tree or plant in the world.


Guests Include:

Mark Leslie, Managing Director, Martello Media, Dublin, Ireland.
www.martellomedia.com

Travel Info on Air Quick Links Travelers411 Featured Links Travelers411 Featured Content
Travelers411 Mini Sites
Featured Content

Visit the Travelers411 Directory for
Tanglewood Music Center

Click here to visit the Travelers411 Directory for Tanglewood Music Center

The magnificent summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra is located in the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts, jsut a two-hour drive from Boston or 2 1/2 hours from New York City. Tanglewood features classical, Pops, jazz, a wine festival, and po ...

Travelers411 - Travel PR Sidebar Widget

Travel PR from
Claremont Hotel Club and Spa

Claremont Hotel Club and Spa

Travel PR From: Claremont Hotel Club and Spa. Click here to listen now.

Luxury resort and spa in the heart of the San Francisco Bay Area with amazing views of the city. ...

Travel Deal for
Boston Symphony Orchestra

BSO subscription benefits include $30 ticket voucher, $15 Symphony Cafe or Symphony Shop voucher, free ticket exchanges, ticket insurance for misplaced tickets, 15% discount on any additional individual BSO tickets and more!

Click here for details

sabrams.com Quick Links
Featured Directory:  Sunset Point Oceanfront Villa
Click here to visit the Travelers411 Directory for Sunset Point Oceanfront Villa

Listen to Bob Bouknight from the Sunset Point Oceanfront Villa in Turks and Caicos interviewed by Stephanie Abrams, commercial free.

Click here to explore.

The Travelers411 Family of Brands:   Travelers411.com     sAbrams.com     Travelingfeet.com     Jetset411.com

© 2016 Travelers411. All Rights Reserved. Travelers411 and Persistent Visions are Registered Trademarks. "Your Travel Community" TM. "Explore Your World" TM. Travelers411 and all subpages and sub domains are protected by US Copyright law. We also strive to respect the copyrights of others. Please do not post material to this site for which you do not have proper permission from the copyright holder. To request use or report abuse please contact us.

| Sponsored Link |
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  U.S. Department of Commerce.  Get up to date information on weather, climate, oceans and coasts, fisheries.  Click here to visit www.noaa.gov