Sunday, November 6, 2016

Valley of the dog

A post by Jayda. Woof.

I love not having a proper job and just being able to nap all day, but things can get a touch monotonous for my furry taste. So when ma and pa had a day off work, I yipped and yowled about going into the wilds so I could chase birds and get some sun.

Acquiescing to my demands, ma and pa took me to Prokopské údolí (Prokop Valley), a nature reserve located in the southwest corner of Prague full of flora, fauna and limestone. It was our first time there, and we kicked ourselves for not coming sooner because, man, was it grrrrgeous!

It took about 40 minutes by tram and bus to get there, and the first thing we saw was this viaduct, which I promptly peed on. Ma searched it on the internet and found out it was built in 1872 to transport coal and wood to the city of Prague, but now it's mostly used in the Summer months for a tourist train line named "Prague Semmering" because its beauty is like that of the more famous Semmering railway in Austria. 

Next stop waProkopské jezírko (pond), made in 1905 from limestone quarrying. Since it's not that far from Prague's Barrandov film studios, the mini-lake is shown in a number of films and TV show. I think I'm pretty enough to be in films, too, FYI.

Oooh - and then we happened upon my favorite, a spot that seemed to be a petting zoo of some sort. So I bade hello to my beastie friends-in-arms.

The nature trail through the valley was very pleasant, and I walked longer than I normally do before petering out and making dad carry me. We hit a cafe in the woods just in time, because my paws were getting tired. Several attempts at taking a family selfie were made but it didn't quite work because I kept swivelling my noggin to see everything.

After refreshment, we just wandered along. This area was mined for limestone, and a number of prehistoric fossils have been found here. I dug a little in one spot but didn't unearth anything special. 

Finally, just outside of the park, we sat down for some Czech food at Černý Kohout (The Black Rooster). I got a little nibble of pork here and there but really could have used my own plate and let ma and pa know that. 

We caught a tram and my shaggy self passed out in ma's lap as we journeyed back home. Zzzzzzzz.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Time to settle the pedals

Prague's wet, chilly Autumn weather has caused us to hang our bikes up for the season. And by that I mean lean them against the wall in our abnormally large kitchen.

Every year we admonish ourselves for not riding more, though we did clock a fair amount of kilometers this Summer. Truth be told, we should be on our bikes a lot because 1) we enjoy cycling and 2) Prague has improved lightyears in infrastructure for bikes compared with a decade ago.

Bike trails and road paths have appeared around town, as well as signage to mark them.

The cycling webpage for the city of Prague has a lot of information, including maps. I also like to use the Prague Green map for city bike routes, though it's solely in Czech. Finally, I've been reading Grant's Prague Bike Blog for years. He's not posting as much as he used to, but there's still a wealth of information on places to cycle and see around greater Prague.

We like a leisurely spin around the city, with stops for refreshments now and then. This one is just north of the center of Prague, on the right side of the River Vltava.


Our pup rides in a bike bag with us, which can at times elicit surprised looks from motorists and pedestrians.


Once in a while, we'll catch a train out of town and cycle back, or vice versa. Tickets are very reasonable and never more than the equivalent of a couple of bucks.

We always see something interesting, like the Okoř Castle ruins on a recent jaunt. The area was full of road construction that day, so it was unusually quiet, but we were able to get there on our bikes.

So, ciao for now, bikes. It's on to snow boots and mittens! 

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Czech things that intimidate me

I used to throw the hammer in college and have broken up my share of high school brawls. However, there are a few things that I'm too big a wimp to sample whilst living in the Czech Republic. Here's what and why:


This is the Czech version of U.S. sites such as Groupon and LivingSocial. The content - discounts on body waxing and rotating sushi - doesn't intimidate me, but the vernacular does; it's all in Czech. I'm at the point now where I can understand conversations on the tram and can speak like a toddler, but don't feel confident purchasing an item or service with fine print I can't properly understand. Even if it means 25 percent off a round of laser tag.

- Tlacenka

I.e. headcheese in a a viscous gelatin. I think of brains as zombie food. I just can't.

- Ambivalence toward nudity

This is an item I wish I was more relaxed about. I admire this body-positive, non-sexualised consideration of the human figure au naturale. It's normal to see little ones frolicking in a fountain sans clothing on a hot summer day, or a woman breastfeeding her child in a cafe, or elderly people sunbathing in their gardens in their skivvies. On a recent trip to the Krkonosse Mountains, I even ran into a hiking group with their tops (but not bras) off. I wish I felt that ease. Below is Jan Saudek, a Czech artist famous for photography featuring nudes.

By Karolína Černá - FilmCZ.Info

- Mliko

I don't think a glass full of beer foam with just a smidgeon of liquid at the bottom is a hugely popular thing - but it's still a thing. Perhaps it's an elixir of youth; I've mostly seen older gentlemen order it. Even so, I'd sooner go thirsty than gulp a foamy substance.

*Last 3 photos via Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Our hop around Croatian islands

Until this year, Croatia was the top holiday destination for Czechs - it's now been trumped by Slovakia. After the eighth or ninth Czech friend told us how much they loved Croatia in summertime, we figured we'd better make our way to the Dalmatian Coast. 

With our severe lack of melanin and inability to lay prone for more than an hour without sleeping, we are not particularly beach types. Yet, Roman ruins and fresh fish sounded enticing, so off we went on an island-hopping adventure posted on Chasing the Donkey, a Croatian travel blog.

Split, our first stop, was stunning. We only had a day and a half, so we spent a lot of time wandering around the old town, purchasing a ticket to see Roman Emporer Diocletian's Palace and hitting up a local beach.

Per BW’s request, we took a gander through the Fish Market and the Green Market. I get a kick out of how eager he is to see local food culture everywhere we travel. I do not get a kick out of a fruit peddler trying to sell me overripe figs for ridiculous prices because I am a tourist.

The first spot off the mainland was the island of Vis, which served as a Yugoslav naval base and was cut off to foreigners from 1950 to 1989. I'd found an AirBnB in a former palace (!) that was being renovated painstakingly by hand by the elderly gentleman owner (?!). We happily slept among piles of dusty old antiques.

Our main activity on Vis was renting a motorbike and finding a hidden beach that we had to scale about a kilometer of rock face to get to. (Smarter people took boats.) We also indulged in marinated sardines, shrimp and cuttlefish brodetto at Pojoda, a fresh fish restaurant.

Whereas Vis was cozy and sleepy, our next destination was high-octane decadence. We boated to Hvar Island with a huge Californian family who was in Croatia on holiday with their 80-year-old patriarch, who had been born on Vis. Hvar was a sight to see - all luxury yachts and party bars and modelesque figures stretched out on cabana chairs.


Calling Hvar expensive is an understatement; a bottle of sunscreen was over 20 US dollars. So we enjoyed the views, ate in and fell asleep to the sounds of the Adriatic Sea and the incessant "dns dns dns" beats of the beach clubs in the distance.

Our third and final island - Korcula - was our favorite, largely because our friend the Serbian and his daughter spend their summer holidays there and they showed us around. We swam and were gluttonous to our hearts' content, and we got to explore an old church and visit with locals.

The night before we were set to go back to Split, I saw on Facebook that my sister's sister-in-law and her husband were in the city, on their way to new jobs in Poland! We were lucky enough to enjoy a walk on the Split Riva and then meet them and an aunt who had been travelling with them for a fish dinner. A serendipitous event!

We'd hop on Croatia again any time.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Transitions - big ones!

I saw this quote on a Twitter #edchat recently and it resonated with me:

This Summer has been one of transition on a grand scale. We've traveled as usual, but bigger things have been brewing, things that have made our hearts full but also required a fair amount of emotional and spiritual hardiness.

We've said goodbye to dear friends, as is typical for teaching in an international school environment. It's difficult saying adieu, but we feel incredibly blessed to have met such marvelous personalities, even if only for a short time. (Sorry to those I didn't nab photos of!)

We've moved flats, as our former landlady decided to move back to Prague. It's a shame because we assumed we'd reside in it longer than a year, but we've secured a bigger, brighter one nearby and have nested nicely. There are huge green spaces across the road, good tram connections and loads of cafes - our own little Mayberry in Praha. 

I've changed jobs. Whilst our former school is a special place that does fantastic work with kids, I've been offered a post at another international school that is a significant promotion - it will allow me to use my Ed.S. degree and Administrative license, and to work specifically with staff on Approaches to Teaching and Learning, which is my passion. My students and colleagues were so lovely with send-off notes and well-wishes, and a particular Y12 group even brought a special gift: 

We didn't go home this Summer like we usually do. Instead, we stayed close to our European home (reason below), visiting a couple of within-driving-distance destinations and relaxing at cool Prague spots like the Stalin Cafe/Pub pop-up at Letna Park, at the base of where a statue of Joseph Stalin stood from 1955 to 1962. 

And finally, our biggest transition of the year is... we hope to become parents through adoption! I've hesitated to write about it on the blog because it's so deeply personal and I guess I haven't wanted to to jinx anything as it's a bit precarious undergoing a domestic adoption in the Czech Republic, in a foreign language with unfamiliar legalities. With the help of a supportive translator, a compassionate social worker, helpful friends who've also adopted here, and now a government-appointed adoption advocate, we are on the way. The road has not been without bumps (and paper cuts - the paperwork is massive), but all signs point to an early Spring match at the moment. BW is going to assume the role of full-time dad, which I am grateful that we're able to swing. He is an exceptional nurturer and will be an amazing father. We are so, so blessed to have this opportunity.