Saturday, December 17, 2016

Travel Report, EPT13 Prague, Day 9 -- The Maze of Life

Today the European Poker Tour Prague Main Event continued apace, playing down from 65 players to just 18. There are a few familiar folks still in the running, including David Peters and Team PokerStars Pro Felipe “Mojave” Ramos.

Of course, they’re all pretty familiar to us by now after four days of this tournament plus seeing most of these folks in other events over the last week-and-a-half. One player coming back to a short stack is one such example, the Czech player Martin Kabrhel who talks at the table as much as any player I’ve covered in a while -- more than William Kassouf, even, who was making noise as part of the €10K High Roller field on Saturday as well.

For your humble scribbler, however, Saturday’s highlights all came away from the Hilton Prague Hotel as Vera Valmore and I were able to make a couple of excursions, one in the morning before play began and another in the evening once things had wrapped up.

The morning one involved joining our friends Howard, Stephen, and Gareth for a subway ride down to Vysehrad, the historical fort built on the Vltava River a thousand years ago (or more) where are located a few of Prague’s oldest buildings.

Indeed, one of the first sights we saw as we made a loop around the hilly “city within a city” (as Howard advertised it) was the Rotunda of St. Martin, a chapel built in the 11th century said to be the oldest Christian house of worship in the country.

There was the Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul and other old, Gothic structures at which to marvel. We also walked through the famous Vysehrad cemetery where many of Prague’s most famous are buried, mostly painters, musicians, sculptors, and others responsible for the country’s considerable contributions to the arts.

The Romantic composer Antonin Dvorak is buried there, whose Symphony No. 9 (“From the New World”), commissioned while he was in the U.S. during the 1890s, is one of the more famous symphonies ever composed (and was played during the Apollo 11 mission to the moon in 1969).

So is the poet and journalist Jan Neruda whose collection of short stories from the 1870s were famously translated into English during the 1950s as Tales of the Lesser Quarter. Playwright and novelist Karel Capek who wrote science fiction and is often credited with having coined the word “robot” (in a 1920 play) is there, too, along with about 600 others, I believe.

The various shapes and sizes of the headstones well suit the creativity of those resting underneath, creating a kind of crazy quilt of different designs that are fascinating to look upon and even inspiring. Hard not to think, also, about the many paths life can take a person, all of which end similarly.

The entire fortress is a bit like a maze, actually, with various paths all winding and criss-crossing through it. Appropriately, on the way out not far from the Rotunda of St. Martin is a circular maze on concrete. We watched as Gareth chose to negotiate his way through it, and I snapped a few photos as he did.

Reading around online, I found a reference to this “magical maze” and how those who enter it “while ruminating over an important task or urgent issue... will find the solution upon reaching the exit.” While we weren’t aware of this story at the time, we nonetheless had fun making an emblem out of Gareth’s circuitous journey, applying it more broadly to the human condition.

After the poker, Vera and I grabbed dinner at the hotel and then took another, more direct walk straight over to the Christmas market to see it all lit up at night. We’d each been there separately during the day, but it was fun to return together and be among the crowds enjoying a festive Saturday night filled with lights and music.

We’re angling toward a museum visit or two here during our last couple of days, if we can manage it. Meanwhile wind your way back over to the PokerStars blog for more from the last EPT festival.

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