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CZECHGREATS

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Winter is winnowing away and while there's been lots of theatre-going and park-walking, we've also been checking items off the ol' to-do list, which seems to sprout another few inches every time we pick it up.

- Get hole in rear of red pants stitched up
- Bathe the dog
- Write reference letters for students
- Make Czech travel plans for family visiting this Spring
- Get winter coats dry-cleaned
- Have taxes prepared
Etc. Etc. Etc.

A post I wrote a couple of years ago detailed some CZECHACHES - minor annoyances involved with living in the Czech Republic. Today, I want to highlight CZECHGREATS, or things that make life here pleasant. These are the sorts of things I'd miss should we move.

First off, art being at your fingertips all the time, everywhere, is a CZECHGREAT. On the weekends we'll scan the internet for something to do and there are always more art exhbitions than we have time to see, from vintage photography to performance art to contemporary sculpture and more. Below was a retrospective of Olbram Zoubek at Prague Castle a couple of years ago.


It's a snap to hop on a train, bus or bike and access nature within minutes of Prague proper. Being able to live in the city yet easily spend a morning hiking before popping back into Prague for dinner is a CZECHGREAT. Just don't climb and then get stuck on a pile of logs like our pup.



There is an abundance of starožitnictví (antique shops) and bazaars in this town, and they're very reasonable. Finding a set of old Czechoslovakian crystal goblets or yellowing 1970s film posters is surely a CZECHGREAT, whatwith the history and mystery attached. (And said items help one de-IKEA-fy) one's home. This is our favorite, in Prague 2.



Another CZECHGREAT is the wealth of opportunity to learn about history, sociology, conflict and more. Below, my feet are poised on the edge of a WWII memorial in Plzen after visiting the General George Patton Museum there. It's true that museums exist everywhere, but the Czechs do an extraordinarily good job of providing lectures, exhibits, tours and more to the public. I know more about Bohemian King and Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV than I ever thought I would!


For those with a sweet tooth, a CZECHGREAT is the gaiety surrounding desserts. Coming from diet-obsessed America where people are swearing off anything with sugar in favor of Paleo this or Whole30 that, it's lovely to sit in a cukrárna (sweet shop) and have a slab of carrot cake or ice cream with warm strawberries. Food culture is quite different here.


I could write heaps more about CZECHGREATS, but I really should get the floor swept as dustbunnies are pooling in the corners. Perhaps you have more to add?

A flat fiasco, now fine

Friday, March 3, 2017

BW and I ended up in our current flat on a fluke; we never planned to be here. We loved our last place and had no intention of moving - but we got displaced when our landlady decided to relocate back to Prague. It was a pain because...

1) We had to find another flat during the busiest part of the school year
2) We were confined to Prague 6 because our adoption paperwork was in the pipeline and switching districts meant re-starting the paperwork process, and
3) Prague 6 is not an inexpensive place to live; we had to find something within our budget that had room for a new child.

We visited a number of flats, many of which had various stains, chips, black mold and/or seedy agents/owners. And then we found this, our ideal sanctuary:


It was exactly what we'd hoped for!

But when we went to sign the papers, the man who'd promised it to us sheepishly told us that his mother (who owns the building) had promised it to someone else - an elderly woman. Deflated, we started the hunt again.

And then a week later, we got a phone call - the flat was available again. Say what?

Sadly, the elderly woman who'd leased it had passed away. I absolutely did NOT want to get the flat under those circumstances (and I promise I did not slip cyanide into anyone's tea). But we were still without a place to live and of course we said we'd take it.

Turns out she'd had the beautiful, airy white walls painted in shades of turquoise and salmon. So we asked for them to be returned to white, took a trip to Ikea, and moved in.


BW misses the central busyness of our first flat in Prague, but I'm enamored with our new 'hood - it's green, quiet and full of kids and dogs. And a good wine bar. Here's a trip around the block, on a grey February evening:

We're lucky to be right next to a tram stop and a bus stop, just around the corner. It's 10 to 15 minutes into the city centre, depending on whether you change to a metro or not.

This wine bar, which translates to "the green monk," is a quirky, cozy spot where we nab glasses of Czech wine for 25kc ($1) and a wide selection of cured meats and cheeses.


 Just across the street is a tasty Czech restaurant that also does a killer fish and chips. There are old Czech film posters on the walls.


Continuing on, I like how this statue of Ivan Konev waves hello to passersby. He was a highly decorated Soviet military commander who was front and center in the liberation of Prague from the Nazis.

On Konev's square is a funny little wooden playground and - although it looks brown now - loads of grass for our pup to run through.


According to this sign on the edge of our block, our street was named in honor of the village of Terron in Northern France; a Czechoslovak brigade fought there against German troops and "occupied the German position," it says.


 Across the street from our building, there's a lovely primary school with a campus full of birdhouses, a running track, a gazebo and more. Sometimes they'll hang kid art on the surrounding fence when it's warm out.


 Here are some Google Maps screenshots of the area in Springtime. Spring can't come soon enough!




Frantiskovy Lazne in February

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Reasons to go to the charming little Czech spa town of Františkovy Lázně in drab February:

1) Goethe, Beethoven and Franz Joseph the First were all regular guests to the mineral baths and spa treatments here - and you'll be able to follow in their footsteps without the Spring/Summer tourists.


2) There's a big aquatic center called the Aquaforum where you can easily while away 4 warm, relaxing hours for about 200kc (120kc more for the sauna, too).

From www.frantiskovylazne.cz

3) Someone yarn-bombed lampposts and flower planters in the center, and it looks like they're wearing sweaters.


4) You can "take the waters," i.e. drink the highly carbonated mineral spring water from fountains scattered around town. The taste is vile but it's supposed to be very healthy; you can get rid of that Winter cold.


5) The chilly evening temperatures will cause you to seek refuge somewhere warm and you may stumble upon a gem like the Country Saloon Bažina, an "American" country bar. The night we went, a band played Kenny Rogers and Alan Jackson in Czech! (They need to ditch the flag on the left, though.)


6) There are numerous parks, and many hotels offer Nordic walking tours through them with all the retirees (who are basically the only other people in the town besides you).


7) The grand 19th century architecture is striking - no matter what time of year you come.


8) You might quietly spot a celebrity in a cafe. We saw Czech comedian/actor Lukáš Pavlasek while we were eating this afternoon snack.


9) There are a number of peaceful spots to pop into, such as the Russian Orthodox Church of Saint Olga.


10) It's just a lovely cure for the long Winter doldrums.



5-sense Saturday

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Slush, muck, shivers and smog - Prague has been a tad worse-for-wear recently. The city just issued its third air pollution alert this year and formerly lovely blankets of crystalline snow have melted down into gravely grey piles. Indulging the senses among the drollness is essential.

So...

My friend Scotswoman and I TASTED a divine Korean meal at Bibimbap Korea Praha, in the Zižkov neighborhood. Highly recommended; so thrilled to have found this culinary gem.



On our way to meet friends at a climbing park in southern Prague (which ended up being mostly closed), BW and I SAW an underpass filled with tunnel after tunnel of chaotic yet vibrant graffiti. It was near Nádraží Branik.



We HEARD all of the life updates from our dear friends the Brits, who were visiting from their new home in Paris. We're thankful for many a coffee and beer we got to steal with the adults during the week they were here, but we were glad to get the whole family together - four adults, three kids and two dogs - over pizzas and salad at Wine and Food Market in Prague 5.



In the opulent Zofin Palace, we SMELLED remnants of LA Looks hair gel, watermelon ring pops and Bonne Bell lip smackers as our Year 6 students danced a smashing montage of 90s music, in full 90s gear. It was phat, home skillet.



BW and I both FELT the snip-snip and swishy freedom of new haircuts. I was happy with the outcome, even though my tired self doesn't look it in this photo.



Home for the Holidays :)

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Ho ho ho, Merry Midwest Christmas! We hadn't been back for Christmas in the four years we've lived in the Czech Republic, so a trip home this winter was long overdue. Also, with our pending adoption, we weren't sure when we could next leave the EU. Thus, in December we packed the pup in her little red carrier and flew to the US with suitcases full of presents.

The highlight of the trip was meeting our 6-mo-old baby nephew and baptizing him as Godparents in our parents' church in North Dakota. He lives in Washington, so it was monumental for us to all be together!



We had planned to split our time between Minnesota and North Dakota... but if you've ever been to the American Midwest, you know that blizzard season makes travel unpredictable. So Minnesota kept us a bit longer than we'd planned on. Part of that time was spent in a sketchy hotel room off the interstate, eating Walmart fried chicken when we nearly got blown off the road driving toward the North Dakota border.

In Minnesota, we ate and ate and ate, as evidenced by the many photos I have of us sitting around large dining tables. An extra-special event was visiting BW's grandparents at their Jordan, MN, farm; aside from being marvelous people, they've got a stuffed bobcat, a pole barn full of antique cars, and a collection of photos from relatives through the generations. We also saw friends, renewed our drivers' licenses, celebrated Christmas #1 and bought American things we can't get in Prague, like Crystal Light drink mix and proper Chapstick.






We only had a measly four full days in North Dakota. Nonetheless, we celebrated Christmas #2, had the baptism, saw dear friends and family, and journeyed through the snowdrifts to a cabin that my dad built waaaaaay out on the prairie. It's been extraordinary watching him build it by hand bit by bit these last few years, and it reminds me of Czech chata (cottage) culture. Oh, and we ate more,







It was difficult saying goodbye, but we've been assured by loved ones that they'll visit this Spring, Summer and Fall, so that makes us feel a touch better. So does not having to deal with blizzard conditions and ice-coated roads. Ha.

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