A Writer’s Journey To Prague

prague.bridgeA WRITER’S JOURNEY TO PRAGUE 

May 12-23, 2020

The Journey

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.

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On 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. It invites us 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.

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.
sc00f85d12By 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. This is our chance to put away our compass, lay down our assumptions, and grab our notebooks to dive in and see what we find

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.

Prague 139We 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.

The Class

During this Journey the city itself is our classroom. Since the group is small it is easy for us to move around the city together. Max will be staying in a small flat close by and each morning we will have breakfast and coffee together and talk about writing ideas and exercises, and some of the history of what we will be seeing that day. Based on the schedule and the weather we will head out and visit a series of sites in and around Prague.  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 we will hire a van.
Prague's St. Vitus CathedralDays will be spent writing and exploring the city, both together and on our own. 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. 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.

We will also visit the town of Terezin and the Holocaust Memorial Museum there,  As we visit each site you will learn the history, myth and symbolism of what we are seeing, and have 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.

Max will guide the group through the city to show you the best places to eat, orient you to the local culture and customs, teach you a bit of the language and show you 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.

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.
Jewish cemetery in PragueOur 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
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Housing in The City

With the help of our Czech on-site coordinator, we rent fully equipped apartments 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. There is a surprising shortage of affordable high-end short-term rentals in the city, which is why this Journey registers so early, so we can have first choice of housing. In these flats each writer will have a private bedroom, but will share bathrooms, kitchens and common areas with 2-3 other students. All flats we rent in are secure buildings and come furnished with linens and comfortable furnishings, as well as full kitchens. All 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. Full housing costs are included in the Journey tuition.

Physical Activity Level and Food Allergies

One of the only complaints folks have about the city of Prague is the lack of housing 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, we 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 we 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, we 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.
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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 or jazz 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.

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Airfare, Passports and Visas

A valid USA Passport is required for travel to the Czech Republic, but no tourist visa is required for stays under 30 days. The Czech Republic (Czechia) is a member of the European Union (EU) and of the Schengen area, so if you do not have a valid passport, you should apply for one as soon as possible. There are currently no state department warnings for visitors to the Czech Republic, it is considered one of the safest European capital cities to visit, but as always we will keep a close eye on world events as we traverse the months leading up to the May Journey. 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 artists 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 Prague is one such place.

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. Many of you may want to fly with the airline or partner with whom you have the most points or frequent flyer miles.

However, the most direct way to reach Prague is to find an affordable flight from your 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 in the evening and arrives in Prague the following morning. This route is sometimes a bit more expensive but it is MUCH easier and shorter than other routes. 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 a Delta ticket on Kayak.com for $900 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.

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. Beyond tuition students are responsible for airfare and food costs.

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Registration and Tuition

Tuition for the full 10-day Journey is $3500 and registration is limited. 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. In the monthly Journey Bulletins that will be out between Nov and May,  we will let you know exactly what to pack in order to be as comfortable moving around the city as possible.

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. Please note: for payments made with a major credit card via Pay Pal there is a 2.9% processing fee.

Dates and Deadlines

September 1, 2019
Pre-Registration Open for folks who have already expressed an interest in the Journey
October 1, 2019
Pre-Registration ends, Journey is advertised to the community
November 1, 2019
Deadline for non-refundable $800 Deposit, students encouraged to find airline tickets
May 12, 2020
Students leave US
May 13, 2010
Students arrive in Prague
For more information please email us at hollowdeckpress@mac.comThe writing faculty for this Journey will be Max Regan, MFA. For more information, please see Max’s faculty bio.

 

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