Saturday, 22 September 2012

Thanks and Goodbye

It's now a year since I last posted in Vršovice Photo Diary, In the meantime, the neighbouring vineyard has brought forth a new harvest, and autumn weather is with us again. Today I have taken the decision to suspend the blog, and dedicate my spare time to improving and expanding my other websites, The Prague Vitruvius, and Prague Leaves

I would like to thank everyone who has visited Vršovice Photo Diary since it began in 2009. Even without any updates, hundreds of people still visit each month to find out a little bit about life in this corner of Prague 10. If I start posting again, I will try to let as many of you know as possible.

Coincidentally, Google have chosen this week to permanently remove the old-style interface for what used to be an excellent blogging platform - on which this and my other websites are built - making the publishing process far less straightforward and intuitive than it was. If you are on Facebook and would like to join my protest page, it is at

For now, a fond 'na shledanou' to all.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

The Vinobraní: 'I am Hannibal!'

Today's picture is one of several extraordinary spectacles at last weekend's Vinobraní, or wine-harvest festival in the Grébovka park which borders Vršovice and Vinohrady. Just after my friends and I arrived, a great trumpeting was heard, and a fully costumed warrior rode in on the elephant roaring out 'Ja jsem Hannibal!' at the top of his voice.

The elephant was then led in triumph around the park, which also bore witness to archery contests, gladiatorial fire fights, and a huge crowd of people sampling the flavour of the year's first burčák.

Burčák is partly-fermented grape juice - the preliminary stage of the wine-making process. The extremely sweet and potent liquid (between 5% and 8% alcohol) is sold in one-litre plastic bottles and consumed throughout the afternoon. This innocuous-looking drink (it reminded me of slightly fizzy pear juice) is so refreshing in the late summer heat that many unsuspecting drinkers are legless by the evening.

At the point when I took the picture, the elephant was also going down on his knees, though l'm not sure it was the burčák in his case; I rather think he had been trained to do the trick - but who knows?

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Putting things in perspective

Today's picture is not from Vršovice at all, but from Holešovice in Prague 7. That's just about as far as we have ever ventured in these pages - but there's a good reason for the journey. Today is theme day on City Daily Photo, a splendid website which aggregates photo diaries from all over the world and publishes the main pictures side by side, so you can see what's going on pretty much anywhere at a glance. And the theme for September is 'Perspective'.

A few weeks ago I paid my first, long overdue, visit to Dox, the newest - and one of the most successful - of Prague's contemporary art galleries. Here we can see 'Zig Zag Corridor' by op-artist Petr Kvíčala, an unbroken 10cm-wide red line painted directly on the walls of the gallery. The idea is that when viewed end-on, the rectangular lines start to reveal diagonal 'zig-zag' paths, which emerge in a ghostly way from the design. But to me there's a further illusion. Can you see how despite the straightness of all the lines, the walls of the corridor appear to curve or bulge out slightly? Only one person could answer my query, my friend David, a specialist in optical illusions. He told me what was going on:

'It's the Hering illusion, a special case of the more general Zollner illusion. In both, the short cross lines usually extend either side of the long lines that seem to bulge or lean over, but, as here, the effect works even if an edge just abuts an array of short obliques.  Amazingly, it was first reported in the edges of the feathers of arrows by Montaigne.' So, now you know!

Click here to view thumbnails for all participants in today's City Daily Photo theme day. Or, for more optical illusions, please visit David's site here. And now I'm feeling just a bit dizzy, so I'm off for a beer to set things straight again.