In early June last year, I had the opportunity to visit Prague and Franz Kafka Museum. Visiting Prague was something I have been wanting to do for a very long time. And I absolutely loved it! We rented an apartment in a building which dates back to 13th century, located in the heart of Old Town Square and only 100 metres away from Astronomical Clock.
Prague is full of history, art and Franz Kafka. Our apartment was right opposite House at the Minute (see photo above), a historic home from the 1400s where Kafka and his family lived from 1889 to 1896. Kafka’s three younger sisters Gabriele (Elli), Valerie (Valli) and Ottilie (Ottla) were born there. From this house, as a child, he walked to the elementary school, accompanied by their family cook. House at the Minute is an interesting looking building with its façade displaying many Italian renaissance-style sgraffito frescoes. Today, there is an Italian restaurant on the ground floor called Ristorante Italiano A Minuto where we had one of the best Italian dinners alongside to a stunning red wine.
On the opposite corner of the Old Town Square, there is Kafka Café (see photo above) under a large building located on the corner of Kaprova Street and Maiselova Street. This is where Franz Kafka was born. He and his family lived there until 1885.
Visiting Franz Kafka Museum in Prague
I saw the sign of Franz Kafka Museum from St Charles Bridge and immediately wanted to go and visit. It’s located on the other side of Vltava River, an area called Malá Strana (Lesser Town). When we got there, a weird looking old woman with a slipping make-up greeted us. It looked like her face was trying to catch up with the make-up and failing miserably. Even though, we told her that we were from Australia, she carried on talking to us in Czech. Still, we miraculously understood that we had to go back to the gift shop to buy our tickets for the museum.
It was dark inside. I didn’t know what to expect from the museum but when I stood in front of the first page of Kafka’s letter to his father, the one starting with “Dearest Father, You asked me recently why I maintain that I am afraid of you.” I felt an immediate connection with this remarkable author although I hadn’t read any of his books before I visited Franz Kafka Museum.
The exhibition consists of two sections: Existential Space and Imaginary Topography. Existential Space is all about how Prague shaped Kafka. His diaries, letters to family members, lovers, friends and editors are all part of this section. Imaginary Topography, on the other hand, is all about how Kafka recreated this imaginary Prague in his books.
On November 1, 1907, Franz Kafka was hired at the Assicurazioni Generali –an Italian insurance company where he worked for nearly a year. His correspondence, during that period, witnesses that he was unhappy with his working time schedule which made it extremely difficult for him to concentrate on his writing but at the same time he felt more like a sketch artist than a writer. In a letter to Felice Bauer he wrote: “I was, in another time, a great sketch artist, but I learned to draw in a scholastic system, under the direction of a mediocre woman painter, causing the loss of all of my talent.” Today, some fifty small sketches and illustrations remain and some of them are on display at the museum.
As a tribute by Franz Kafka Museum, Kafka’s drawings were used to produce and animation called The K Animation. It represents the daily descent of Kafka’s soul into the abyss of the blank page. You can watch a part of it here.
Museum shops are my thing and I so wanted to buy one of Kafka’s books from the gift shop but they didn’t have anything in English. So I had to wait until I came home.
Pissing fountain just outside Franz Kafka Museum. Enjoy!