Tag Archives: the czech republic

Čočková Polévka

That is what is boiling on my hotplate. I eat a lot of lentil soup here. But it is good, it is easy, I can throw in whatever vegetables I have on hand, and I’m pretty sure the lentils provide protein.

I had a good, busy weekend. Posted a lot of pictures, which tell the stories in a more exciting manner than this entry will, I’m afraid. My flickr has a bunch, as does Mike’s (it is fun being friends with a photographer because he documents everything for us and doesn’t even make us pay!), as does Brian’s, as does Tina’s yahoo page.

The Zoo was amazing. I couldn’t ever remember going, although Mom and Dad informed me that they took me to not one, not two, but three zoos when I was a child; all of them have escaped my memory. But there were only a few of us Friday, with Zdeněk, Jana and Jana’s photographer friend, and it was fun to see the elephants and giraffes and lemurs and everybody. Went to Malý Buddha after we got back and I gorged myself on crab meat spring rolls and fried noodles with vegetables. . .all for like 90kč. We went back to Klub Újezd Friday night, had a few drinks, and left to go to a dance club. But we were intercepted at the night tram stop by a Slovakian guy named Robert, who told us he knew a really good, cheap beer hall where lots of locals hang out. We figured we were okay, since there were 5 of us and 1 of him, so we followed him on a long walk around Nové Město (he was totally lost) and eventually ended up at — lo and behold — a big, cheap beer hall with lots of locals. It was pretty fun; we talked with Robert and a few of his friends he was meeting there, I drank some good house bilé vino, and we were boisterous among the Czechs.

Got up early Saturday for a day hike in Hřensko, a little town near the German border. It was fantastic to be out in the woods, get my legs moving without the hindrance of traffic signals or cars or dog poop or frowning Czech people. We hiked about 6 miles on a nice, though heavily-traveled trail, and stopped in a little town to get an authentic Czech lunch at a beer house. I had really good mushroom and potato soup and bread, and the best dark beer I have ever had in my life. It was a Czech microbrew called Březňak, and it was so creamy it almost tasted like a milkshake — but it was beer. It must have been some kind of milk stout. Delicious. Then we hiked a bit more and got on a little rowboat that a Czech guy paddled down this river while pointing out camels and dragons and snakes and lions in the rock formations lining the canyon and playing Amazing Grace for us on his harmonica. We didn’t get home until about 9:30, because our bus driver got lost in Prague for like an hour, so a few of us went to the Hanging Coffee and I had a warm Irská kavá before they kicked out the Americans, as usual, at midnight. We came home and watched Lost in Translation.

Slept in a bit Sunday morning, and then went to Petrin Park for a picnic with TIna, Laura, Brian, Zac and MIke. It was pretty much the best idea Tina has had so far in Prague. I took a baguette, a hunk of Eidam, an apple, and a bottle of Müller Thurgau, and I was set. I also brought along my iPod and speakers and we rocked out to some old school emo while we lounged in the sun. It was a really fun afternoon and felt good to just be outside, relaxing with friends. I had to do homework, however, when I returned. Read a bunch of Kafka (I’m pretty sure he’s going to make me insane) and wrote a paper for Pavla about kitsch, my yellow submarine tattoo, and the films Wedding Crashers (which my roommate gave me a spur of the moment synopsis of, since I haven’t seen it) and Štěstí. Yeah, that’s why I want to go to graduate school for cultural studies.

Had a good day today; got through my boring classes, and walked around Malá Strana and Smíchov a bit to find Mom and Dad’s hotel. The neighborhood where it is seems cool; it is practically in Malá Strana, and close to everything else, so I don’t think they will even need tram passes. (I think since we got tram passes issued to us, we just always take the tram and the Metro, but really, it isn’t necessary at all, because this city is tiny.) The hotel is on the main street, but if you go off a few blocks it is a bit more secluded, and there are some cool bars and a kavárna with “Cat” in the name that I really want to check out. I rewarded myself with a trip to Bohemia Bagel where I ate a cheese bagel with garlic and herb cream cheese. If that doesn’t taste like home, I don’t know what does. It was delicious, and I did my Czech homework while I ate.

I might go to a welcome party tonight for the international students studying at Karlova. It will be cool to meet more of the Germans and Fins and Poles and Danes and French and Swedes that are in some of my classes. And I think there might be free drinks.


Nebe, Štěstí, and Terezín

My first real weekend in Praha has been a good one.

Went to Nebe for indie rock dance night on Thursday, and actually had a great time. Danced with Tina and Laura, listened to good music, only drank one beer. (I am re-learning moderation.) I stayed out until 3:00. . .by far my latest night. So I must have been having a good time.

Slept in until 1:00 yesterday, missing breakfast at the Kolej for the first time since I’ve been here. Was pretty much lazy all afternoon; went down to Wenceslas Square to see Štěstí, finally, with Laura, Tina, Megan, Zac and Bryan. It was quite a good film. I am 3 for 3 on my Czech film adventures thus far. The film was deep, had a lot going on, at many levels. A lot darker than American films; perhaps due to American cinema’s embracing of the aesthetic of kitch. (I have recently been influenced by Kundera. He says, “Kitch is the absolute denial of shit, in both the literal and the figurative senses of the word; kitch excludes everything from its purview which is essentially unacceptable in human existence.” American cinema denies the existence of shit by making all of its films be void of problems, of shitty life situations of its characters, or else it ties up any problems by the end with a bow and sends audience members home feeling good about themselves. Czech cinema, on the other hand, embraces the shit that is inherent in life for many of its citizens, and makes you leave the theatre with something to hash through.) The film also reminded me a bit of Von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark, because of its dark, downtrodden aesthetic, and also, I think, because of the role that industrialization, the factory, played in the film. So, these all added to a good film experience.

Interesting cultural observation: the lights don’t come on and people don’t get up after a movie until all the credits are over — this, as opposed to in the States, where we jump out of our seats before the last scene even fades out.

Ate Thai food with Zac and Megan after the film, then walked across the Charles Bridge and got Tiramisu gelati at Cream and Dream. It was delicious, all of it.

Got up this morning and went on an ECES trip to Terezín, about 1.5 hours north of Prague. I thought the trip was going to entail mostly hiking, but it entailed mostly hanging out in Terezín, which is a small Czech town turned Jewish ghetto/Nazi concentration camp turned Communist Party Headquarters turned back into a small Czech town. It was quite interesting; we went to a few museums, saw a propaganda film about the city. Essentially, it was an American Indian Reservation situation — the Nazis appointed this town for the Jews to live in, have as their own, self-govern, etc. But in reality, it was a holding pen for them before they were sent to the gas chambers at Auschwitz. One museum was dedicated to the thriving intellectual/cultural community that developed in the ghetto, with artifacts and stories from composers, musicians, painters, writers, and thespians that lived there. Pretty eerie, though, to be standing in the middle of a place that was once populated by tens of thousands of deported Jews, most of whom were killed in the Holocaust. Laura and I ventured into this antiques store that had authentic Nazi belts, jackets, and a whole hidden shelf of Nazi medals and pins and whatnot. Pretty creepy. After the Nazis left the CZ, the Party turned the old fortress into a Headquarters for them, and after they left, it turned back into a little town. But it is quite rundown, the buildings are in bad condition, and the whole place kind of stunk, literally. The CZ is apparently worried because they have been having trouble repopulating the place since the end of Communism. I wonder why.

There also happened to be some festival going on in the center of town, something like celebrating Czech heritage. There were kolbasa and candy and wine and beer stands, jewelry, trinkets, and men dancing and women twirling batons. Also, someone had put out their private collection of old army tanks and other miscellaneous vehicles, and at noon, people in army regalia toting guns got in these tanks and trucks and drove them round and round the town square. There were also Czech boy scouts milling about and riding in the trucks. I guess it isn’t that different than our 4th Of July celebrations. . .it just felt a little more para-military. (There are some pictures here, more on the Flickr blog. I took a lot of pictures today — something about this town was quite photogenic.)

At the end of the day, we finally went for our “hike,” which was a 1/4 mile slog up a hill to a tower where we could climb up and see a nice view of the surrounding valley. I was really craving a good hike, so I found a side trail and hiked on that for a bit, smelled the wilderness, enjoyed the singletrack, but I didn’t want to get left behind, so it didn’t last long.

I was going to stay in tonight and read, but I think my friends have convinced me to check out a wine bar/book shop with them. That shouldn’t be too taxing for me, and will probably be fun and cool and something new. And I can sleep in if I want to tomorrow. .

Terezín Tanks

Terezín Tanks
Originally uploaded by Meg Around The World.

A few tanks from some Czech’s private collection in Terezín. These are infinitely more creepy because Terezín was a concentration camp during the early 1940s; kind of an American Indian Reservation, if you will — the Nazis told the Jews they could have this town, govern it themselves, etc. In reality, it was a holding chamber for tens of thousands of people who were eventually sent to the gas chambers at Auschwitz.

Another Terezín Tank

Some Roma kids are playing on this tank. The day we visited, there was some kind of celebration going on where people broke out their old army regalia and drove these tanks around the town square.

Terezín Kluk

Terezín Kluk
Originally uploaded by Meg Around The World.

A little boy standing outside the door to some apartments in Terezín. The whole town had this kind of run-down, paint’s-peeling look to it.

Laziness and Zmrlzina — I better be careful.

This is definitely the laziest day I have had thus far in Praha. I got up and ate breakfast downstairs, but then came back and layed in bed and read. Fell asleep now and then, read some more, woke up at 1:00 when Mike and Zac came to see if I wanted to eat lunch. I didn’t. I read some more. The only good thing is Kathryn was doing the same thing, so I didn’t feel that bad. It was quite funny how we kept talking/reading/sleeping away the morning. But sometimes you have to, and I don’t feel like I did it out of depression, so that is good. I’ve been wanting to just relax and read, and now I have. Almost done with the Julian Barnes novel I’ve been reading since I left the States.

Had a fun night in Old Town Friday; ended up going out in search of a restaurant with Kathryn, Megan, Bekka, Laura and Zac. We wanted to go to a Thai place that had been recommended, but when we got there, it was a restaurant-combination-fancy-glass-art-gallery, and we decided it would be too pricey. So we ended up at a Mexican restaurant across the street, and had a great time. I had the strangest burrito I’ve ever eaten, with carrots and broccoli inside, and what tasted like pizza sauce instead of salsa. But it was good, and a ton of food for the price, so I can’t complain. We walked around Old Town after that, half-heartedly trying to find a pub, mostly just wandering. Walked through Old Town Square at night, which hadn’t done yet, and that was pretty cool. Had one of those, “Holy shit, I’m in Prague,” moments, which I also haven’t had in a while. Ended up going to KFC and getting 17kc cones of zmrzlina (ice cream!) and catching a tram home. (There is no such thing as normal ice cream here, only gelati — even at American fast food chains.)

Went to Český Krumlov yesterday and had a really good time. I was worried it would be crazy running around like the trip to Moravia, but it was really calm and relaxing and just a nice day in a little Czech town. We walked around a bit with tour-guide-Zdenik, saw some old buildings and the castle there. Then we had free time for lunch, and Kat, Brian, Zac and I stumbled upon this awesome hole-in-the-wall Bohemian place. I don’t even remember the name, but we climbed this little stone spiral staircase to a room with 4 tables, and ate the best meal I’ve had in the CZ so far. Kat and I got the “Old Bohemian Feast,” vegetarian style, and it had all kinds of different authentic mullet casseroles and puffed barley and potato cakes and buckwheat and sauerkraut and fresh cabbage and I can’t even remember what else. It was amazing. I also had a local beer, Bohemian Regent, that was pretty good. It was nice to hang out with Kat and Brian because they are so calm and chilled out. I really enjoyed it.

When we got back, I tried to round up people to go see this film at Kino Oko, in Praha 7. Zac, Kat and another kid, Justin, ended up coming, and we took a tram and 2 metro lines to get there. The film was awesome — I had been craving a good film, a good few hours of escape. It was called Příběhy Obyčejného Šílenství, roughly translated to Wrong Side Up, and was originally a play by the same guy who adapted it into a screenplay; he cites artistic inspirations as Almodovar, Bukowski, Luis Bunuel, P.T. Anderson, and the social phenomenon of urban legends. It was set and filmed in Praha, which is still quite novel to me, and was full of seemingly random incidents, quirky characters, and strange situations, but it was so self-referential that it became not random anymore. I really enjoyed it. And the actress who played the main female character, Jana, was absolutely gorgeous, as many Českas seem to be. So, I was quite happy that I finally got to see a good Czech film, and explore a new part of town.

It has been a fun weekend, and I have managed to avoid any uncomfortable clubbing outings. I think maybe next weekend I might be up for that again, maybe trying to find some new, cooler places, but it has been nice to have a break and doing some things that are more unique and cultural and off-the-beaten-path. (If eating Mexican food can be considered as such. . .but I mean, Mexican food in the Czech Republic? That’s gotta count for some kind of adventurousness. . .)

Don Giovanni is tonight. I am excited. Laura is playing Ted Leo in her room, and it sounds like home. We are all getting ready for the opera. School starts tomorrow. I am so psyched.

Český Krumlov

Český Krumlov
Originally uploaded by Meg Around The World.

A view of the red roofs of Český Krumlov in Bohemia, the Southern Czech Republic.