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I thought that this week I'd share with you a short hike I took in an area of Prague entirely unknown to tourists-- my back yard. I live in one of the pre-fabricated, rebar-laden concrete, "rabbit-hutch", communist era, housing estates on the southern edge of Prague. But never fear, I won't be posting photos of my immediate neighborhood. Some other time perhaps?

As it so happens, I live near one side of a beautiful valley-- more of a ravine really. If you know entirely too much about paleontology you might have heard of the Prokop Valley (note regarding the wikilink-- the Prokop Valley does not encompass the stream called "Dalejský potok" that is in a different valley that joins the Prokop Valley. Surprisingly, you can't trust everything you read on Wikipedia). I keep my eyes open for fossils when I hike around there but I never seem to find anything. It's a pretty vast area dominated by limestone cliffs and basalt outcrops. Below the ginger hairball I'll take you up to the top of the cliffs seen in the background of the following photo...

I had a few errands to run on Tuesday. I stopped by my local post office to mail one of my prints off to someone and decided to go for a walk. It's remarkable how quickly I can walk into an area where I can see no buildings.
It was warm enough that what little snow we had on the ground was icy and melting. The light was muted, it was around ten o'clock in the morning and cloudy, but broad patches of blue sky often showed through.

The paths I took up to the top of the cliff were often narrow and wound through the woods. I occasionally stopped to take a photo; sometimes I focused on the broad vistas, sometimes I focused on the little details.

My goal was to visit one of the archaeological treasures of Prague. The site is atop a limestone bluff overlooking the point where the Dalej Valley (and its Dalejský potok) joins the Prokop Valley. The whole area is part of a nature preserve.

That information panel is one of several found atop the bluff. The aerial photograph of the area seen in the lower right-hand corner shows the (darkly wooded) valley outlined in red as it wraps around the bluff which appears almost like a pointing hand in the center. If you can imagine that pointing hand with perhaps a stubby, darker finger pointing off to the left then you can also see the dark line that would define the wrist and maybe a second dark line where the lightest area ends and a slightly darker patch begins. The slightly darker area is an area of woodland and orchards with a few open grassy areas. both of the lines are what remain of two ramparts built to protect a fortified settlement. There was an extensive archaeological survey of this area in the early 1960s and evidence was found that this area was first settled around 3000 BC. As a fortification, the site of Fort Butovice, ceased to have any strategic importance and fell into disuse around the beginning of the 10th century.

It certainly still commands a grand view of the surrounding area.

The area was peppered with molehills and I examined a few of them hoping that the moles had pushed up something interesting. I found a few shards of pottery and one old piece of bone. Perhaps nothing very old or interesting, but it sure is a beautiful area for hiking.

And here's an informational panel that describes the site and the surrounding flora and fauna in a bit more detail:

Of course this panel says that the oldest signs of habitation here date from the early stone-age around 4000 BC. Then between 2400  and 2300 BC there arose a proper agricultural community but the area became less heavily populated  during the bronze age. Then around the beginning of the middle ages the area bloomed again with the ramparts being built of calcite (sort of a fine limestone) the nearest site for this pale stone was over 3 kilometers away. The settlement mostly occupied the western end of the spur behind the western rampart. The remains of that rampart are still visible-- mostly because it's a break in the terrain, about 2 meters (over 6 feet) tall, overgrown with bushes and trees in an area otherwise quite flat and grazed by goats and sheep.

There's not much left of it as you can see from that view taken just outside of it, at the northern end and looking south-southwest along the length.

The outer rampart is in even sadder shape:

That's a view from somewhere about mid-point looking back toward the north. A few lichen covered rocks are visible.

Leaving the area along the road that led past the orchards I stumbled upon an area with a fence topped with shiny, stainless razorwire. Here's the gate:

I wondered what was in what looked like the entrance to a cellar or bunker behind the fence.

On the way home the sky cleared:

Originally posted to Street Prophets on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 01:07 PM PST.

Also republished by History for Kossacks, Pink Clubhouse, National Parks and Wildlife Refuges, and Shutterbugs.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Cookie Jar (15+ / 0-)

    I have a few more pictures to share from my walk but they sort of make a mini-chapter all to themselves. Maybe I'll add them later to the comments.

    We've got company here this evening. My Favorite Female, her sister and three lovely friends are all out in the livingroom sipping wine and tea and gabbing.

    You may ask what the lone adult male in this situation is doing perched in front of a computer monitor typing when there's the company of 5 beautiful women to be enjoyed. I'm asking myself that question.

    Time for a glass of wine.

    I'll be back to read any comments, answer any questions and cavort with those of you bravely taking advantage of this open thread-- although, my involvement will have to wait until I wake up in the morning.

    Anybody watching the Olympics in Sochi?

    This is an open thread.

  •  A Little Art (7+ / 0-)

    Been working a bit on art today. I thought they were going to see me today for my ankle but they changed it to Tuesday morning instead so I'll be limping for a few more days.

    Since we have storms coming in I thought I'd use that as a theme for Dragon Storm.

     photo DragonStorm_zps19ab8276.jpg

    "A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world." Oscar Wilde

    by michelewln on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 02:13:11 PM PST

  •  Thanks for the tour (3+ / 0-)

    As an archaeologist, I am particularly intrigued by the Mesolithic and Neolithic past in this area. It is also, of course, on the migration route of the Indo-European speakers as they left the area north of the Black Sea and began to spread throughout Europe.

  •  Good morning? (2+ / 0-)

    I loved looking at the photos of your hike, Marko, and I especially liked #5. I read recently that landscape photographs taken with long perspectives are relaxing to view, so I've been observing my response to those kinds of photos. And I believe what I read is correct.

    Right now, if I get any more relaxed I will fall asleep at the keyboard. ;-P

    There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.--Shakespeare's Hamlet, Act I, scene 5

    by Ooooh on Fri Feb 07, 2014 at 07:39:08 PM PST

    •  Good morning! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ooooh, RiveroftheWest

      I may do this again next week.

      I agree with that about the calming influence of long perspectives. I think it works in paintings and drawings too. Any picture that draws my eye into it and allows my imagination to wander in the landscape... going deeper into the picture, wondering what's beyond that bend in the road...

      Those were always my favorite illustrations in children's books-- like the incredible landscape near the end of Dr. Seuss' Sleep Book from the crazy details like figures sleeping in keyholes in the foreground to snoozing whales in the distant background.

      Pictures like that let your mind go for a walk.

      •  Pictures that let your mind go for a walk (2+ / 0-)

        Is a great way of putting it.

        At first I was shocked at you remembering illustrations from children's books, and then I remembered you have kids and have most likely been exposed to them more recently than me. And as an artist and illustrator yourself, you are probably more visual and attentive to illustrations than me too.

        I used to collect children's pop-up books, although I've since given most of them away. I do remember some of those ingenious pop up illustrations. I'm really mechanical, so to me they were not only illustrations, but feats of engineering as well.

        There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.--Shakespeare's Hamlet, Act I, scene 5

        by Ooooh on Sat Feb 08, 2014 at 07:45:58 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Some of my classmates in college (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RiveroftheWest, Ooooh

          had a project to design pop-up illustrations. I've seen some really brilliantly complicated designs. They nevr seem to last though. Most of the pop-up books of my childhood were populated with headless, limbless characters.

          I'm a somewhat mechanical person. I enjoy building things, solving problems... I built a little cage/loft/hiding space atop some bookshelves in my kids' room-- with barred openings around the sides, a built-in ladder and a trap door, complete with carpeting. My dad was my main influence there. He was always building his own work benches and constructed elaborate, multi-storied forts for his own kiddies in the backyards of a couple of homes we lived in.

          I could have named several illustrations, amazing landscapes filled with curious characters from books I loved as a kid but the Dr. Seuss book was a particular favorite and one I shared with my own kids.

          •  Totally amazed (2+ / 0-)

            That you remember book illustrations from when you were a kid. I loved books and reading, in fact I taught myself to read the summer between Kindergarten and first grade, and I spent a lot of time with books. But I couldn't begin to tell you about any illustrations from those children's books.

            When it comes to sensing the world, you must be very visually dominant. One thing I've noticed about artists is they seem to really see the world differently. In the few art classes I took, it was such a hard thing for me to grasp how to see shapes and duplicate them with paper and pencil, or paint.

            There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.--Shakespeare's Hamlet, Act I, scene 5

            by Ooooh on Sat Feb 08, 2014 at 02:55:19 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Memory and Learning to Draw: (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Ooooh, RiveroftheWest

              I guess that shows how complex and varied our brains can be.

              I'm more likely to remember the cover of a book than its contents. I remember that one of the earliest 'fantasy' books I read was called "Magic to Burn", I couldn't tell you much of anything about the story. I won't cheat and read the synopsis or reviews from that link. I might even be confusing it with another book but I recall the hardcover edition that my brother had featured a little sprite/brownie/gnome/elf/leprechaun of a man-- in profile I think, maybe seated under a leaf, smoking a pipe with the title of the book coming out of the smoke. Seems to me he was called a "boggart"...

              Now you've got me wondering whether I was always like this or if this visual dominance was something I worked at to develop. To a certain extent I know it was developed because the human brain garbles so much of its visual input. There's a lot to unlearn. Almost all children will draw trees on a hill or chimneys coming out of a slanting roof like they were pins stuck in a pincushion.

              Ask most people to draw a face and they'll almost entirely ignore the forehead and make the eyes much too big. We focus on what's important to us and ignore the rest. There's a whole generation of art teachers over here that must have run into the same insane professor in college. They draw the human head as if the eyes were found a third of the way down. Some of my fellow art teachers at the university here were teaching their students this bizarre rule of thirds. I tutored a girl trying to get into an art school and her previous art teacher had taught her the rule of thirds. She had stopped drawing people because she could never get their faces to look right-- gee, I wonder why.

              Unless you're badly deformed your eyes are nearer to the half way point of your head. Children's eyes are found even lower because the bones of their face aren't fully grown.

              I took a sheet of tracing paper and a handy magazine and drew little ovals over the heads in the photos, ignoring the hair, and every time-- zoop! right through the middle were the eyes.

              I warned her then that the 'rule of thirds' will probably not be the last bit of utter nonsense she'll learn in school-- and that to be a good artist we have to be aware of how our brains warp the information we get from our eyes. By careful observation we can unlearn the nonsense.

              Our brains know that sight is the least trusted of our senses even if we don't. I used to ask my students to spin around until they were dizzy and then tell me what the world looks like as they try to stand still. It's their eyes relaying the information that everything is still while their inner ears are still swirling and sloshing around; telling our brains that we're still spinning-- so our brains spin the image we get from our eyes.

              Our brains are particularly bad at judging colors and tones. Learning to correctly identify color is one of the most difficult things a painter struggles with. Our brain carries so many prejudices, forces so many contrasts on a world that just won't look right if we try to paint it that way. No, that's the same tone of gray-- it's just that over there it's next to a dark green and over here it's surrounded by light blue... You can create some really eye-opening exercises for yourself by comparing samples of color taken from different parts of a photograph.

              It takes a lot of practice.

              This problem with our brains distorting reality is something that should be better emphasized in art education.

              It's not easy to learn to draw what's really there and ignore what your brain is telling you must be there.

              You may have experienced some of this difficulty in your art classes. We grow up drawing objects as if they were pictograms, symbols representing the object-- a deciduous tree becomes a lime-green lollypop, coniferous trees are dark green triangles on brown blocks or perhaps manage to be a steep pyramid of green bananas. Then, when we're finally sitting in front of a real bottle and asked to draw it realistically, we have to ignore our preconceived image of "bottle" to draw it well.

              A bottle is a typical object for a teacher to stick into a still life to easily detect if their students are seeing what is really in front of them. Often the bottle will be placed so that it's at a height where the top is above the eyes of the students-- where they couldn't possibly see the bottle from the top and see the lip sitting there like an inner tube in a pool.

              There's a lot to learn and unlearn but if you enjoy the process and remain motivated through the inevitable failures I think anyone can learn to draw. And I write that as if it was a final goal. Learning to draw is an endless journey. There's always more to learn.

              •  The way you describe learning to see (2+ / 0-)

                What is really there, instead of what the brain is telling you is so interesting. It parallels what one does in Buddhist practice, learning to see what is really there instead of relying on the what our ego driven minds are telling us.

                It's mind boggling to consider these similarities, and fertile ground for pondering this week.

                Another thing I was considering when I was thinking about the way I've noticed artists pulling apart a visual to see things in shapes in ways that are foreign to my way of seeing is that maybe it is a kind of ability the same way some people can eat something and know how to duplicate it by tasting the elements within it. It is something that has always been easy for me, but I know some people just are unable to do that.

                Once a friend was telling me about a salad she ate that she knew I would really like, she told me about the ingredients in the salad. I asked her about the dressing, if the overall flavor was sweet and she looked at me like I was crazy and said she didn't know. I know everyone's senses are tuned uniquely, but I suspect she "eats with her eyes" and not her taste buds.

                In hypnotherapy training we were instructed to test for a client's learning/cognition style, visual, auditory or kinesthetic, in order to build imagery that would be easy for the client to work with. When working with groups I always made a point to include all three types of imagery. And still there were always people who had trouble relaxing and letting go, in order to get them to relax you had to overload and confuse their brains.

                Perception, cognition and human behavior are endlessly interesting. Now I have enough to ponder for days about perception and creating visual art, at least if I'm stuck inside due to the weather I've got good stuff to think about. ;-)

                There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.--Shakespeare's Hamlet, Act I, scene 5

                by Ooooh on Sun Feb 09, 2014 at 06:56:25 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  I'm now thinking that I should (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Ooooh, RiveroftheWest

                  learn more about Buddhism. Not that my brand of disdainful skeptical paranoia is a good fit for any organized spiritual practice but I see aspects of many religions that I consider to be insightful and valuable.

                  What little contact I've had with Zen Buddhism and koans has been great fun.

                  I think I'd enjoy a bit of mind boggling myself this next week. Been mostly plunking away at a friend's website design and one of my paintings. Hoping to be able to finish them both soon and move on to new projects.

                  I have an awful time trying to discover what ingredients were used in something. Especially herbs and spices-- but I think my sense for identifying certain favorite herbs is improving. Over time I've learned a bit about what to add if I want to achieve a certain flavor. It took me entirely too long to identify the taste of rosemary in many of my favorite Italian dishes. Generally it's impossible for me to untangle a complicated flavor. And, I'd have to admit that some very simple flavors baffle me as well. Imagine my surprise when learning that just by adding a bit of anise to my stir fry I can achieve the taste of the Hoisin sauce that I'd so enjoyed in so many of the cheap take-away dishes I'd sampled over the years. No, I'm not a culinary genius.

                  I suppose the story about your friend could be a reminder of mindfulness. The old Chinese saying that "first you eat with your eyes" is quite true in my experience; you too know the value of presentation. Floral and culinary displays eh? But so many of us forget to really taste the food after we've shoveled it into our mouths.

                  There's some potato soup waiting for me in the kitchen. Yes, by request I made some more Czech potato soup yesterday. This time I used up a few frozen Brussels sprouts-- all out of the savory cabbage. I think I'll practice trying to identify the individual tastes. Perhaps it'll be easier if I already know what's in it.

                  •  Zen is a complete mystery to me (2+ / 0-)

                    That's probably because of the way I came to Buddhism. I studied Vedanta for a long time and had wonderful teachers. But I stumbled on Pema Chodron's books about Buddhist Lojong. They were so helpful, it was like finally reaching an oasis spring after crawling, parched, across a desert.

                    However it is only recently that these teachings became commonly available, Lojong was reserved for special students in the past. When I learned that I was indignant, but then when I realized how resistant people generally are to the wisdom in those teachings I understood why they were not taught to everyone. So in my case it was Vedanta that prepared me for the Lojong, and that is not normal.

                    Now it's time for me to go get busy in the kitchen, time to bake cookies! :-))

                    There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.--Shakespeare's Hamlet, Act I, scene 5

                    by Ooooh on Sun Feb 09, 2014 at 11:36:43 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

              •  Excellent explanation, Marko. (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Marko the Werelynx, Ooooh
                It's not easy to learn to draw what's really there and ignore what your brain is telling you must be there.
                I've had some good teachers who repeatedly said Draw what you see, not what you THINK you see.

                And it's so true. So hard to remember and follow consistently too, when you're actually faced with doing it.

                And I find it very hard to combine an actual scene with elements or features that I remember, or imagine. Getting the imported details to jibe with the real ones... now, that's hard!

                •  Thanks, and yes-- you're right. (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  RiveroftheWest, Ooooh

                  Combining elements taken from different sources is very difficult. It's simple to sit down and reproduce a photograph (that's just proportion and color sense (--cough!--)) but to use photo reference of different objects perhaps in combination with something you've sketched to make a coherent image requires a lot of technical skill and the ability to imagine all sides of the objects you're rendering. Knowing too when your elements require their perspective to be shifted, recognizing and correcting lens distortions-- it gets rather complicated if you take the the time to try to do it right.

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