A Writer’s Journey To Prague

prague.bridgeA WRITER’S JOURNEY TO PRAGUE 

This Journey is a chance to travel to one of the most beautiful cities in the world for a unique adventure, a deliberate passage in living the writer’s life. It is an opportunity to write from inside the heart of the city of Prague. Together we will witness this powerful and ancient place with the elegant eye of the writer.

Artists have always journeyed out into the world to fill up their senses; to open their eyes, ears and hands to new experiences and new ideas. In this Journey we will live, eat, write and sleep in one of the most magical cities in the world, a city that will inspire you and set fire to your imagination. This is a powerful moment in history to be a writer,
 an amazing and vital time to bear poetic witness to what we see, what we remember and all that we can imagine. For these days you will live and work in a supportive community with a small group of fellow writers to learn the skills and rhythms that will allow you to get your life into your writing, and daily writing into your life.

sc00f8213bOn this Journey we are called not to be tourists, but to be travelers. There is great adventure, great responsibility and great possibility in being a traveler. As working writers, we travel to calibrate our senses to capture and experience everything the city has to offer. Together we allow ourselves to be fully present in each moment, whether that moment is joyful, boring, fascinating or filled with possibility. We allow everything we observe and experience to become raw material for our writing.

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Like many beautiful cities, Prague has been known to change people. As you will discover, the city has stood at the crossroads of some of the most important moments in European and world history. You will pass under windows where Mozart played, you will see a cathedral built by miners and a crypt made of human bones. You will stand at a small rise in the street on Wenceslas Square, where thousands of people gathered to protest communism and reclaim their country. You will sit at the graves of poets and kings and have tea outside Kafka’s father’s bookshop. You will walk through courtyards where Hitler once strode and you will stand inside a cell that held Czech resistance fighters in WWII. You will see a building that dances and a ceiling that couldn’t be hidden. You will watch people juggle fire and make wishes on the Charles Bridge. You will explore castle gardens where popes, beggars and soldiers once stood to see the city spread out below them. You will see the horizontal lines on walls and buildings, evidence of the 500 year flood that keeps trying to wash the city away. And you will stand beneath stained glass windows where the light is so rare that Czech folks swear it is where the sun goes to die. By traveling to Prague as a working writer, you step into each of these moments and places, each of these histories. You join a lineage of some 
of the most passionate and important writers and artists that have ever lived. In Prague, myth is often as important as fact. You will be invited to create your own myths and to invent your own stories, deciding for yourself what is real and what is not. So put away your compass, lay down your assumptions, grab your notebook and join us.

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THE CITY OF PRAGUE

Prague, the golden city of a thousand spires, lies at the epicenter of Bohemia and has emerged from its years behind the Iron Curtain as an international center for poetry and the arts. The city is amazingly well preserved (having escaped most of the bombing of World War II) making visitors feel as if they have wandered into a medieval city in its prime.

We journey to the city in the spring, by far the most beautiful time of the year to visit, when the city and gardens explode with green after the long winter season. The Vltava river runs through the city and cobblestone streets have “felt the hooves of king’s horses, the jackboots of Hitler’s armies, the heaving wheels of soviet tanks and the feet of students in passive revolt.” Home to Mozart, Kafka, baroque and renaissance architecture, winding alleys and hundreds of beautiful churches, Prague holds over a thousand years of history in its skyline.

Prague's St. Vitus CathedralTHE CLASS 

Our curriculum is based on an artistic practice that asks writers to create living texts at every stage of their journey. It draws on an old quote that says “To be an artist means to never avert one’s eyes.” We will explore the city every day, looking deeply into Prague’s identity, customs and culture, and writing about what we discover. Some of the themes we will investigate include: promises, bridges, lies, appearances, windows, forgiveness, history, perspective, honor, observation, devotion, loss, memory and the imagination. Together we will develop a daily itinerary that challenges each student to engage fully with the act of writing, dreaming and exploring this unique city. The goal is for each student to fill their pocket with notes and possibilities. Each of us will create a collection of strong beginnings and establish attentions and patterns in our own lives that will sustain our writing practice long after the Journey is over.

prague.alley.nightDuring this Journey the city itself is our classroom. We will meet each morning over breakfast to plan writing exercises and discuss the day’s events. Days will be spent writing and exploring the city, both together and on our own. In the evenings we will read to one another and plan forays into the many poetry readings, literary, musical and theatre events the city has to offer. We will write in churches, train stations, ancient cemeteries, modern art museums, cafés and parks. We will investigate the history and culture of Prague, as well as learning about the contemporary art scene and the new generation of political activism. We will visit the famous Slavia café, write portraits under the stained glass windows in the magnificent St. Vitus Cathedral, explore hidden passages inside the alleys of Prague Castle and discover the infamous history of the Charles Bridge.
Jewish cemetery in PragueOur on-site Czech coordinator will be with us during the trip to conduct tours, translate, show us the best places to eat, orient us to the local culture and customs, teach us a bit of the language and show us around. There will be time each day to further develop any texts that you got started, and most evenings we will end the day by having dinner or coffee together. We will also schedule some free days, when you can have the day or evening to yourself to wander, explore, shop, sleep, read, write and plan forays into the many poetry readings, literary, musical and theatre events the city has to offer.
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HOUSING

Accommodations are in the center of the city, just a short stroll away from churches, shops, restaurants, Prague Castle, St.Vitus cathedral, the Charles Bridge, Old Town Square, open-air markets and all of Prague’s major attractions.

OTHER THINGS TO DO

Prague is one of the most interesting and accessible European cities to explore. In the city center are parks, numerous pubs and cafes, gorgeous churches, museums and galleries. Spend the day wandering through Old Town, stroll along the Charles Bridge or rent a rowboat on the vltava river. Check out the national opera, theatre, ballet, symphony, or get tickets to the Prague Spring International Music Festival, which runs mid-May through June. You can also enjoy the contemporary music scene by visiting any of Prague’s notorious underground rock clubs. Just outside the city limits you can find castles, fortresses, mineral spas and small Bohemian towns. Since Prague is seated in the heart of Europe, many of our students choose to stay after the Journey’s end to join family or friends traveling to London, Berlin, Vienna, Paris, Budapest, Warsaw, Athens or other European destinations.

100_0632PASSPORTS, VISAS AND TRAVEL

A valid USA Passport is required for travel to the Czech Republic, but no tourist visa is required for stays under 30 days. If you do not have a valid passport, you should apply for one as soon as possible. There are direct flights to Prague from New York, London, Amsterdam, Frankfurt and other major cities. Airfare is not included in tuition, but Hollowdeck staff will be glad to assist students in finding the best flights and affordable airfares from their city of departure. On both Journeys students are responsible for tuition, airfare and food costs. As Prague is still one of the most affordable cities in Europe, daily costs can be kept to a minimum. Beyond the point of registration students are committed to paying tuition in full, but extended interest-free payment plans are always available. If for any reason the Journey is cancelled or postponed, all monies will be refunded. Payments can be made by cash, major credit card, money order, check made out to Hollowdeck Press, LLC. For payments made with a major credit card the processor will charge a 3.75% processing fee.

IMG_9571The Full 10-Day Journey

When the full 10-Day Writer’s Journey is offered Hollowdeck Press will book and arrange all housing in the city and well as ground transportation. Students will be housed in shared private apartments, sharing a kitchen, bathrooms and common areas, but wherever possible we will strive to offer private bedrooms.  Accommodations are fully furnished with linens, bathrooms, showers and kitchens.

We will spend our 10 days exploring the city and will also spend a day in the fortress town of Terezin, where 80,000 Jews, resistance fighters and dissidents were transported to extermination camps in Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe during World War II. Tuition for the full 10-day Journey is $3500 and registration is limited to six students maximum. A deposit of $800 is due upon registration and is non- refundable. Tuition includes housing in Prague for 10 nights, transportation to and from the airport, all trams, metros and transportation around the city, orientation materials about the history of Prague and Eastern Europe, a sourcebook of readings and ideas and the daily writing class. This Journey generally runs in mid-May. Registration opens in the previous October and the deadline to register is usually the previous December. The Full 10-Day Journey to Prague will likely be offered again in May of 2018.

The Mini 5-Day Journey

The Mini 5-Day Journey is an intensive writing experience with more flexibility and affordability than the full 10-day Journey. In the 5-day Journey Students (with the support of Hollowdeck staff) will book and pay for their own housing in the city using sites like VRBO or Prague-stay. We will then meet in the city for 5 days of intensive exploring and writing, touring sites in the city center including; The Charles Bridge, Mala Strana / The Little Quarter and Kampa Park, Old Town Square / Tynska, Prague Castle and The Golden Lane, St. Vitus Cathedral, The Castle Gardens, The Jewish Quarter, The Pinkas Synagogue, The Old Jewish Cemetery, Wenceslas Square, Vyshrad and the Artists Cemetery. IN addition we will share some dinners together and opportunities to read and discuss our on-going work as well as catching an opera or classical music concert in one of Prague beautiful concert halls. Max will also be available for Private one on one Sessions to talk about your writing or project work if that would be useful to you.

Tuition for the Mini 5-day Journey is $950 and a deposit of $300 is due upon registration and is non- refundable. Tuition includes orientation materials about the history of Prague and Eastern Europe, a sourcebook of readings and ideas, one group dinner and the daily writing class.

We would love to have you join us for one of these Journeys, but please make sure the class dates and deadlines work for you before you register:

  • A non-refundable deposit is required upon Registration, which holds your place in the class. If you require a Payment Plan please contact Max as soon as possible
  • For cancellations within 90 days of the Journey students will pay a $300 cancellation fee as well as their non-refundable deposit.
  • Cancellations within 45 days of the Journey students are responsible for the entire tuition. Tuition will be refunded (minus the deposit) if we locate another student to take their seat on the Journey.

For more information please email us at hollowdeckpress@mac.com

The writing faculty for this Journey will be Max Regan, MFA. For more information, please see Max’s faculty bio.

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(For a look at some of our adventures on this Journey, see A Prague Journal [PDF].)

For more information, here are some Frequently Asked Questions:

Writer’s Journey to Prague

Q: Can you tell me more about the housing accommodations in Prague?

A: Sure! On the 10-day Journey, with the help of our Czech on-site coordinator, Hollowdeck rents one or two VRBO-type apartments in the city center, walking distance to all of the major attractions in Prague 1. There is a surprising shortage of affordable high-end short-term rentals in the city, so the sooner the Journey fills the more choices we have of housing. Wherever possible we look for flats where each student can have a private bedroom while sharing bathrooms, kitchens and common areas. All flats we rent in are secure buildings and come furnished with linens and comfortable furnishings, as well as full kitchens. Most have Wi-Fi and many have laundry facilities as well. If you’d like to check out one of the agencies we work with online, go to: http://prague-stay.com On the 5-day mini Journey students use some of the same sites to rent their own flats, also in the city center.

Q: What about travel to Prague? What is the most affordable and easiest way to get there?

A: I can’t even count the number of flights I’ve taken to and from Prague over the last 15 years of teaching there. Usually when you book a trip to Prague from your home city in the US you fly through a major European hub (like Heathrow/ London or Paris or Frankfurt or Amsterdam) and then from that hub on to Prague. Most major airlines fly these routes and those flights are the most common but they have been getting more and more expensive over the years. Of course many of you may want to fly with the airline or partner with whom you have the most points or frequent flyer miles. But my preference is to find an affordable flight from my home airport to JFK in New York and then to take Delta’s once daily flight direct overnight from JFK straight to Prague. The flight leaves JFK at about 8:30pm and arrives in Prague at 10:40am the following day. Please note, this Delta route is more frequent in the Spring and Summer season, when Prague tourism ramps up, so don’t be surprised if you don’t find this flight being offered as frequently throughout other months of the year. Prices have been all over the board this year; I saw one Delta ticket on Kayak.com for $800 and another for the same route on Expedia.com for $1700 so there is A LOT of variation! Check the sites like Priceline and Kayak and if you register for the Journey don’t buy your ticket just yet, prices often go down after the New Year.

Q: What is the daily schedule like? Will we have any days to ourselves?

A: Yes indeed. Since the group is so small (4 writers min in the class, 6 writers maximum) it is easy for us to move around the city together. I will be staying in my own small flat across town and each morning we will have breakfast and coffee together and talk about writing ideas and exercises, some of the history of what we will be seeing that day and we can make a plan the day together. Based on the schedule and the weather we will head out and visit a series of sites in and around Prague. There is no classroom for this Journey; the city itself is where we will write. For most of these sites we will walk, occasionally taking a tram or metro, but for some of the sites that are outside the city I will hire a van. In the monthly bulletins I send out I will let you know exactly what to pack in order to be as comfortable moving around the city as possible. In the 10-day Journey the cost of all ground transportation, including airport pickups and drop offs, is included in the cost of your tuition. Some of the sites we will see together include:

Old Town Square, Tynska, The Charles Bridge, the Little Quarter Square, Nerudova street, The Castle district and the castle complex, The Golden Lane, St. Vitus Cathedral, Petrin Hill and the Strahov Monastery, Kampa art museum, The Trade Fair Palace, The Municipal House, The Jewish Quarter, The Old Jewish Cemetery and the Pinkas Synagogue, Vysehrad and the Artist’s Cemetery, the Wallenstein Gardens as well as Wenceslas Square.

In the full 10-Day Journey we will also visit the town of Terezin and the Holocaust Memorial Museum there,  As we visit each site I will talk with you all about the history, myth and symbolism of what we are seeing, and give you optional writing exercises customized for each site. These exercises can be used, misinterpreted, changed, fragmented or ignored, whatever you choose. The idea is to make notes everywhere we go, capturing fragments of writing and text, imagination, observation and memory, so we can assemble those fragments later.

Site visits are the core of the daily schedule, but sometimes we have folks who choose to sit out all or part of a site visit and that’s no problem at all.

Even in the midst of this full schedule, we will have certain days where all or part of the day involves exploring on your own. Folks can use this time to re-visit places they wanted to see again, or to write or shop or sleep or adventure on their own. Most meals will be on your own but we will frequently have a lunch or dinner out together as we wander. The cost of meals isn’t included in your tuition, but since each flat has a kitchen it should be easier for folks to keep their food costs to a minimum.

Q: Could you say a bit more about what you expect from us in terms of writing? Is the Journey open to writers of all levels and genres?

A: Absolutely! The purpose of this Journey is to see and feel the city of Prague as a working writer. This means being as fully present as you can, filling up all your senses by seeing, hearing, listening, looking, watching, smelling, tasting, touching, recording, imagining, remembering, observing and feeling the city. It is from this presence that we gather our text fragments each day. The goal in our daily writing throughout the city is NOT to create any finished or perfect texts. It is simply to use our senses and our notebooks to jot ideas and gather as much raw material as we can, material that might later be turned onto working texts in ANY genre, from poems to stories, essays to memoirs, imagination or memory. Visual artists have also taken the Prague Journey in previous years, using the daily site visits to gather drawings, sketches, notes, photographs, etc. that they use to feed and inspire their work.

Q: Are there any specific physical requirements for this Journey? Is it physically arduous or not suitable for writers of different ages?

A: One of my only complaints about the city of Prague is the lack of housing, facilities and public access for folks who are differently abled. Most of our accommodations have lifts/ elevators but many have inaccessible interior stairs and very few if any have accessible bathrooms. So at this time, I wouldn’t suggest this Journey for folks who have different mobility needs. (But if you are one of these folks and will be visiting Prague on your own I would be more than happy to support you in finding accommodations, writing ideas and ways to tour the city that might work for you!)

Students will be walking all over the city each day and the beautiful cobblestones in Prague can be hard on the feet, so you will simply need a good sturdy pair of walking shoes, along with your backpack/ day bag and a notebook. So as long as you are comfortable walking and some stair climbing, the Journey is absolutely open to writers of any age.

As for food allergies, I have hosted writers in Prague who have allergies to gluten, nuts, dairy and certain fruits and we have figured out how to keep them safe and well fed. Prague is still a smoking city, so if you are allergic to cigarette smoke then certain bars and restaurants may not be comfortable for you, but those are usually places we would avoid going as a group anyway. All accommodations and most sites we will visit as a group are strictly non-smoking.

Q: Like many Americans (and folks from other countries as well) I am concerned about traveling to Europe with so much random terrorist dangers and activity. What are your thoughts about security for this Journey?

A: This is a big concern for many folks right now, especially for those of us who frequently travel overseas for work. The world can feel a bit crazy and unpredictable at the moment, for all of us. Thankfully there are no specific US State Department warnings or travel advisories for Prague or the Czech Republic. I am also lucky to have good Czech friends who live and work in the city center, in the exact areas we will be traveling through each day, and I pay a lot of attention to their perspectives. I have thought out each aspect of our Journey with these concerns in mind and here are some of the common sense features of how the trip will work:

I suggest that folks catch the Delta flight from JFK straight to Prague, so they have the option of avoiding major European airports. We will travel around the city in a very small inconspicuous group, instead of a large one. We will take private transport (vans and taxis) to and from the airport, and to all site visits outside the city, instead of public transport. There are only 2 or 3 site visits that require a short tram ride and only 1 or 2 that requires a short metro ride and we will take these at non-rush hr. times. I will, as always, stay as aware as possible, keeping an eye on our surroundings so that students can feel free to relax and write and enjoy the city. Prague is strangely safe when it comes to street crime; there is rampant pickpocketing, and some taxi drivers will scam you and overcharge if you get into the wrong cab, but in all the years I’ve taught in Prague I’ve never had a student get hurt or get anything stolen.

We do live in an ever-changing world, so if anything happens internationally that makes this trip seem non-viable, I will of course cancel the Journey and refund all deposits and tuition. But as a working artist I feel it’s vital that wherever we can go safely in the world, we should continue to GO. We travel awake and aware and we watch over one another, but there are cities and places in the world that offer rare power and passion to the lives and hearts of writers, and I believe Prague is one such place.