Friday, July 27, 2018


The Red Cardinal Garden of Neglect soldiered on while we were away.
Behold, the first Iris of the season..

We have roses, with a bit of black spot..

Winter is, quite frankly, a bit of a fizzer.
While we are having early mornings down to 2-3 degrees, the maximums have been 26 - 28 degrees!
If this keeps up, the daffodils will refuse to play this year...

These little guys were glad to see us return...

They might be wild birds, but they believe they own us.
They are quite happy to have us walking about and feeding them, but when visitors come there is great consternation, fussing and squawking.
You'd think they'd seen a snake...

Today is my mother's birthday.  
She would be 100 years old if she were still with us.
Mum was a great teacher, and taught me so many things I still enjoy.
Music, sewing, reading, gardening, baking - the list goes on.

This is her portrait as a young woman in her teens.
Happy Birthday Mum...

Some of you may have heard that 12 hours after we returned home from Europe, Mr Cardinal slipped and fell, fracturing his left hip.
He had a week in hospital and is now at home recuperating, unable to put weight on that side for at least six weeks.  There was no surgery needed, just rest and avoidance of any movement which would extend the fracture.  
This is actually very difficult to achieve, but he is very strong-minded and a good patient. 
Another X-ray will be taken in a couple of weeks to check his progress.

Fingers crossed.


Wednesday, July 25, 2018


Our first duty in Prague was to admire the beautiful white swans which inhabit the river city.. then it was off to the Old City Square and an architectural tour..

Awakening on our last morning on the boat, I looked out to see a mother swan and little sweet and charming...

Soon we were on our way to Prague Castle, high on the hill overlooking the city.  The complex includes the home of the Czech Head of State, the historic St Vitus Cathedral, and a series of historic churches and museums.

Our first destination was a tour of the only privately owned palace within Prague Castle, the Lobkowicz Palace:

Google image

Our group had a private tour, and we were ushered into this, the concert room:

Google image

Once seated were greeted by William Lobkowicz (b. 1961).

This charming and engaging Prince with an American accent presented the remarkable story of the Lobkowicz family, dating back to the 14th century.
Interesting family members include Nicholas of Lobkowicz (1378-1435), the supreme scribe to King Wenceslaus IV; Jiri Popel z Lobkowicz (1551-1607) who founded a Jesuit college, and became the Court Administrator at the Imperial Court.  The family intermarried with the Habsburg empire and as Catholic nobles, in 1624 Zdenek Vojtech Popel z Lobkovic was granted the title Imperial Prince by Ferdinand 11, and thus the first hereditary Prince Lobkowicz.  

In the 18th century, the 7th Prince Lobkowicz was a patron of Joseph Haydn and Ludwig van Beethoven.  For seven centuries, the family has been integral in the preservation of Czech culture, and have amassed significant culturally significant collections of art and archival materials in Central Europe.

Following World War I, and the foundation of the Czechoslovak Republic, the then Prince Lobkowicz, Maximilian, opposed the rise of Hitler in Germany.  Listed to be arrested after the 1939 occupation, he escaped to London during the war.  After the communist took over in 1948, the family again fled and all the family property was seized.

Ten castles, and hundreds of thousands of objects were taken over by the state.  The family relocated to the United States, and two generations passed.
William (b.1961), the grandson of Maximilian, was educated at Harvard majoring in European history, and began a career as a realtor in Boston.

Following the fall of the communist government in 1989, William moved to the Czech Republic in 1990, speaking very little Czech.  He told us that new laws had been enacted to allow restitution of property, but it was a long, difficult and costly legal process.  His father financed his first efforts, and over a period of 22 years, the palaces and much of the collections have been restored to the family.  Some buildings have been sold to finance the restoration of the four palaces now open to the public and maintained by the family.

Most breath-taking of the objects (for me) were the rooms of antique musical instruments, the portraits and the original hand-written manuscripts of Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven...

Antonio Canale called Canaletto (1697-1768) The City of London from the River Thames with St Paul's Cathedral 1748
and the Canaletto!  This was on loan to London during the Queen's Diamond Jubilee year.

William now spends his life sharing his family's cultural collections, overseeing the properties which are used for concerts and other public events, and continuing the research into the family history.
We wished him well and enjoyed his story very much.

A few steps away from the palace stands the beautiful St Vitus' Cathedral..

Alphons Mucha, Stained Glass window 1931

While the cathedral is 700 years old, restoration during the 20th century saw the installation of a beautiful window designed by Art Nouveau artist Alphons Mucha.

The silver tomb of St John of Nepomuk, the saint of Bohemia.

and of course, 'Good' King Wenceslas:

Nearby, the swans of Prague..

and if that wasn't enough excitement for one day, we went off to the Opera that night, to see Romeo and Juliet - set in an Italian Art Deco hotel in the 1950s.
And it worked!


Thursday, July 19, 2018


Following our journey into the mountains of Saxon Switzerland, we crossed the border into the Czech Republic by coach, before reuniting with our boat at the royal city of Litomerice.

After dinner we enjoyed a twilight walking tour of the historical centre of the city, known for its fine Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance buildings.

The wonderful Town Hall

In the City Square

The tiny cobbled streets were so narrow I had to lean hard against a wall on the opposite side of the street to take this picture!

Next day we sailed through Bohemian country on the upper reaches of the Elbe River before entering the Vlatava River

Along the lush green river banks we saw many rustic caravans, so very old-fashioned they looked like those in the old Enid Blyton books we read as children...

Mr Red Cardinal relaxes on the Upper Deck...

Sweet little chapels in the landscape..

A  beautiful old lock

After an overnight mooring at Kralupy, 35km from Prague, we set off to visit the Nelahozeves Castle and the home of the great Czech composer Anton Dvorak.

Located high above the Vltava River the 16c Nelahozeves Castle owned historically by a Bohemian noble family, the Lobkowicz, was confiscated by the Communist government in 1948.  It was restored to the family in 1993, in a remarkable story of which we heard more in Prague.

Now restored, it has been opened to the public as a museum, it features an exhibition 'Private Spaces: A Noble Family at Home', showing the lifestyle of the family in the 19c.  The Lobkowicz family has played a major role in the history of Central Europe for over 600 years.

The Gun Room was astonishing:

And at the bottom of the hill, this simple garden leads into the birthplace and childhood home of Dvorak..

The home has been turned into a small museum, with memorabilia of his life and career..

His violin..

We returned to our boat thinking of the life of the great composer, and his journey to America where he was director of the National Conservatory of Music of America from 1892 to 1895.  It was at this time he composed the Symphony No 9 in E minor 'From the New World'...popularly known as the New World Symphony.

On a rainy afternoon, we sailed into the Prague City Centre and our last mooring, to the accompaniment of the Fourth Movement of the New World, and an excellent kirsch cocktail! 
 It was quite the Triumph..