The Travelling Czech Postcard

Scribbles from Praha

Last week, I received a postcard from a friend based in Switzerland, who at the time was visiting Prague, Czech Republic. It was a sweet offer made during a conversation that we were having about travel bucket lists, and my mentioning that the Czech Republic is in my personal top three. I was asked about what postcard I would like in particular, and after a brief sifting through Google Images of Prague architecture, I chose the Dancing House.

The Dancing House

Located in downtown Prague, particularly in the area where the 1945 Bombing of Prague destroyed the previous structure, the Dancing House took four years to construct and was completed in 1996. The building is a combined effort between Canadian architect Frank Gehry and Croatian-born Czech architect Vlado Milunić. The Dancing House sticks out in comparison to its more typically Czech counterparts, which is a motley crew of building styles of the Baroque, Art Noveau, and Gothic persuasions. Like every revolutionary piece of architecture, the Dancing House was seen as a controversial building at the time. But it garnered the support of former Czech president Václav Havel, who saw it as a potential cultural asset for the nation.

The Dancing House has been nicknamed “Fred and Ginger”, in reference to Fred Astraire and his constant on-screen dancing partner, Ginger Rogers, of the silver screen’s past. More bluntly, it has also been dubbed as “Drunk House”, due to the multi-directional linear design elements. The building currently houses a handful of multi-national firms, and the French fine-dining establishment, Celeste Restaurant, on its roof.

The Czech Postcard

Below is the postcard in all its glory. One section of the Dancing House shows rectangular casement windows juxtaposing the fuller fenestration on the left-hand part of the structure. The bar that connects the two resemble the supporting arms of two people dancing.

The

Unsurprising for someone who is fascinated with world cultures, I have a knack for collecting little souvenirs. Over the course of the last five or so years, through the generosity of friends from all over the globe, I have received a miniature pair of clogs from Holland, a Swiss Bell keychain from Switzerland, red kombolói from Greece… to name a few. My own selections have ranged from candles and postcards from a trip to Italy and France ten years ago, and beautiful hotel toiletry packaging from last year’s trip to the United States. Ever since becoming interested in the art of taking photos, most of my souvenir-collecting has been underlined by the occasional moment to break out the camera and capture slices of the trip forever in a single frame.

This is the first time I’ve received a magic travelling postcard. Well, not exactly a magic one per se, and in order to serve their purpose, all postcards travel. But this one probably deserves a passport of its own. Note what was stamped.

The

When I mentioned to my friend that I had received her postcard, she remarked about the timing being late. True, as she had sent the postcard in the middle of August. I’d attribute it to the fact it was sent to South Asia instead of Southeast Asia. I am trying not to ruminate the possible reasons their post office to get the mailing destinations mixed up. Beyond the established fact that the country the postcard passed through and the country it is supposed to go to is in the same continent, I couldn’t help but wonder where the discrepancy started. Is it a lapse in judgement during mail sorting? A forgivable yet apparent lack of knowledge about Asia? Either way, I’d like to believe the postcard — had it been granted the blessing of speech — would have had adventures worth telling.

What About You?

Do you collect souvenirs when you travel? In the age of instant corresponding, are you still a proponent of good old fashioned written mail?

12 Comments

  1. Maria Celina

    @lifeis2munch: You know, Mon, your comment couldn’t come at a more opportune time. I also see minimalism — weeding out one’s belongings and hanging onto the very essentials — as a means of achieving mental and emotional clarity. It is just as beneficial for those who are not of the nomadic ilk. Incidentally, I had a conversation with a couple friends on the Sunday I left Singapore that touched upon things you articulated in your comment.

    After the weekend that I spent in Singapore, finally exploring it with tourist’s lens instead of a student’s, I finally feel the appeal to take a weekend off and spend it carrying a light bag on my person. This is not to say that I haven’t been enticed by the idea before, but it finally hit me on a personal note. It also helps that I finally have the means of financing the travels myself.

    I’ll email you my mailing address soon! Nice to see you commenting on here, and I thoroughly enjoy reading your updates.

  2. lifeis2munch

    I wish I can collect things! The way I’ve been moving around countries every 2 years (on avg) for the past 10 years means that I really need to narrow things down to the essentials. I guess you can say that I collect memories through the photos that I take…

    I also love getting postcards and handwritten letters – so much more personal! Didn’t know that you like postcards. Send me your address, so that I can send you one next time I travel.

  3. Maria Celina

    @Nikz: When I collect souvenirs, Nikz, I also put a place for them to be displayed. I did it with my old apartment back in college, and I want to re-accomodate those pieces again where I currently live. For a global nomad who loves cultures, there is something wonderful about having little bits of the world neatly placed on a series of shelves.

    I miss the art of sending written mail, as well. I do agree that postcards have a public element to them, which also explains the content of the postcard that I photographed for this post. Regarding the “Mis-sent” stamp, I believe they have one for every country. If it’s not stamped on, at least it’s written on. I’d like to believe this particular postcard is not an isolated incident.

    @Gillian: Gillian, when I was in high school, my school had a travel club, where people who are interested in travel can go to places that go further than the bounds of grade-wide trips that only go as far as to other cities. I hope the ones who did have the opportunity to go to Prague enjoyed their trip and did catch a glimpse of the Dancing House.

    I guess the effort of writing is sometimes taxing. It takes more time to compose a coherent thought instead of going into a shop hunting for trinkets. However, I do hope your friends and family appreciated your thoughtful gestures, nonetheless.

    @Lissy: I think my love for Disney diminished as I grew up, Lissy. A pity, admittedly. However, you are lucky to live in such close proximity to a Disney World.

    @Jessica: Our world really is beautiful, Jessica, and I do hope that you get to travel in the future. Granted, I have many places I have yet to see myself, and I am itching for that eventual opportunity to cross off places on my personal travelling bucket list. Prague is priority, for sure.

  4. Jessica

    Ah, that postcard is so cool! It’s also awesome that your friend is in Prague =D I find that extremely interesting, ahaha.

    Personally, I don’t get to travel very much, so I can’t say that I really collect anything from my travels :( It’s sad.. I really hope I’m able to visit tons of places when I get older. I really need to experience the world :’)

    That postcard is beautiful! Though I’m sure it’s nothing compared to the actual building. The name is also really interesting. If I ever DO get a chance to go to Prague, I will definitely have to remember the Dancing House!

    I’m a huge fan of written mail! But it’s very rare for me to get any… my friend from elementary school and I used to write each other all the time, but as we got older, we stopped =/ Darn technology, making everyone so lazy! Haha.

  5. Lissy

    Your site makes me want to redesign my site. Seriously. Wow. Beautiful layout and the blog is so organized and you have the pretty picture of the postcard in the middle. Very impressive.
    I’m not much for traveling or collecting souvenirs. I do buy a little Mickey every time I go to DW though. I have a Disney shelf in my office.

  6. Gillian

    The Dancing House is amazing! I’d never heard of it before reading this post. When I was in high school, I went on a student-musician tour of Europe; we didn’t stop in Prague the year that I went, but they swapped out one of the stops for Prague the following year. I wonder if anyone who was on the tour that year got to see the Dancing House (and I wish I knew someone who went that year so I could ask).

    I’m definitely a fan of hand-written mail, whether it’s a letter or a postcard. I was really bad about sending any mail when I was abroad. I brought back some really nice presents for my friends and family, but all they wanted to know was why I hadn’t sent very many postcards!

  7. Krysten

    Haha… generally when I travel we get magnets and/or shot glasses. I don’t know what started those collections but it seems like most places are going to have those trinkets and for relatively cheap so it’s easy to start a collection.

  8. Nikz

    Hmm, I don’t collect little trinket souvenirs when I travel, come to think of it. Those would make a good travelling collection for display … Agh! Too late :) Haha! I guess I content myself with photos, having been and eaten there X)

    I miss receiving snail mail! You know it took more time to write a letter, than it would an e-mail. So generally, the content is more meaningful. (Postcards might be a bit more light-hearted, though, because it’s so public…) About the postcard by the way, I wonder why they have a stamp specifically made for that purpose? Are postcards often “missent” there? XD

  9. Maria Celina

    @Chris: Chris, I really liked what you said here: “Souvenirs should be about the place you visited and preferably come with a story, something significant that can be regaled to your intended recipient.” — I don’t think I could have stated that better myself.

    I might ask you for your mailing address and do a postcard correspondence. In time, though, in time. I have very unusual handwriting, so prepare to hire a handwriting specialist to decipher my postcard to you.

    @jannie: Jannie, you’re referring to the Prague Astronomical Clock, am I correct? I was looking at it, and the work on that structure is beyond words. Perhaps I’ll make a stop-over at that place if or when I have the opportunity to go there myself.

  10. jannie

    Wow. That Dancing House postcard is beautiful. The building is uniquely shaped too. There’s another nice building in Czech Republic too. It’s some big clock that looks like a castle. I forgot the name of it. Another thing I like looking at from there (through pictures) is the Charles Bridge. :)

    Thank you for showing us the postcard. I’m sure someday when you get to Praha, you’ll be able to get pics in front of the Dancing House. :D

    From travels, I haven’t really collected souvenirs. I do bring home magnets for my mom though. She collects them. As I open the refrigerator and see the magnets I’ve gotten from previous trips, I get really fond memories. A thing I’m really big on from traveling is pictures. Mainly pics of the location and surroundings. I love sharing those on FB and my blog too. :)

  11. Chris

    I’ve only just got on the souvenir bandwagon. It used to be just small mementos of a place; a spoon, pencil (if I stayed in a hotel, I wouldn’t flick one from a stationery shop), little stuff like that. But on my travels now, a souvenir is something I look for, though, I try as much as possible to not get things that are atypical; nougat and kangaroo from Australia, ninja figurines from Japan, contraband from China. Souvenirs should be about the place you visited and preferably come with a story, something significant that can be regaled to your intended recipient.

    I like the crisp smell of a travelled (and well-seasoned) mail. Of course, I’ve embraced email wholeheartedly but I would never rule out snail mail. But if I send you one, please bear with my handwriting. :)

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