Friday, December 30, 2016

25 years of lasky (love)

A love poem translated by *Václav JZ Pinkava:

The sort of love that results in 25 years of togetherness is extraordinary, and we were able to celebrate  it recently at our friends' quarter-century anniversary. As this couple (whom I've crassly given the pseudonym "TyVoles" on this blog - sorry, guys!) is a pair of world travelers, I thought the aforementioned poem fit nicely.

Our couple also has enormous senses of humour, so the day started off with Mr. surprising Mrs. with a Czech comedian performing a mock marriage ceremony in front of family and friends at a Prague restaurant.

 Afterward, we crossed the street to the Rotunda Nalezení sv. Kříže where our couple had a proper vow renewal. Being from the 11th century, that rotunda has likely seen many happy pairs consecrate their marriages.

Then of course, what would a ceremonious anniversary be without a party with copious food and drink? My favorite is the traditional Czech wedding fooŠunka plněná křenovou šlehačkou - ham rolls with horseradish cream, and BW and I ate our weight in it. And somehow the evening ended with BW taking home an entire tub of leftover tlačenka (headcheese) and onion in vinegar.

Much more importantly than food, though, we always love seeing the TyVole family and their friends, and with some minimal Czech language skills now, we could even chat a bit with the grandmas.

So cheers to "heart(s) with dewed pearls a-beading" and all of the beautiful things that come with long-term commitment through the many changes that life brings. We raise a glass to our lovely friends.

*Mr. Pinkava has translated many Czech poems at

Sunday, December 18, 2016

In the Christmas spirit

There is a complete lack of snow here in Prague; apparently Jack Frost is holed up with the Grinch somewhere. So we've been striking up Christmas spirit on our own, and trying to do it in a more Czech manner than we have in the past. 

The flat is bedecked in spangly things, mostly left by our dear Australian friends who moved back home this past Summer. It's been lovely not only having our abode extra-cheery, but also having a constant reminder of our pals. It's not pictured, but this year we hung a fat bunch of Czech mistletoe; it's sold on every corner right now in Prague. It doesn't have the connotation with kissing that it does in the U.S., though.

My excellent Czech teacher Š. recently taught me the Czech Christmas carol "Veselé Vánoční Hody," which means "Happy Christmas Feast." There is a lot of antiquated Czech language in it, though, so it was a challenge to translate.

Of course we've been doing the Christmas market circuit in Prague, which is sizeable. Old Town Square is of course merry, but choked with tourists.

My personal favourite is the one at Náměstí Míru in Prague 2, which we saw at night.

However, we attended a new one this year, which was only on for one weekend - the Charity Advent Market at the Maltese Palace in Prague 1. 

We haven't watched it yet, but this year we're going to view the whole Tři oříšky pro Popelku, a famous Czech Christmas movie about a princess - and here it is on Youtube with English subtitles.

And finally, we've done a lot of Christmas-y celebrating, from attending a Duchess and the Kittens concert where a band of roving Santas collecting money for charity showed up, to helping friends pick out a tree at the farmer's market, to attending my staff holiday party, where I had kids write notes to teachers and then made them into a paper chain and strung them around the room.


For information about Czech Christmas customs, click HERE. I don't think I'll be sprinkling fish scales around the house, though...

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Eastward in August

If I told you there was a place with an incredible art scene, savory food and balmy late summer temps, what bits of the world would come to mind?

...(thinking time)...

I'm guessing you didn't name Poland.

My oil-employed uncle has waxed poetic about Poland for years - The kindest people! The most beautiful architecture! - but I had to see it to believe it. Thus, in mid-August, right before school started, my friend Art Teacher and I took a whirlwind "girl trip" by Student Agency bus through Wroclaw, Torun, Gdansk and Warsaw - and they ended up being some of the best cities I've visited in Europe. It's completely accessible from Prague; if you live in this vicinity, high-tail it Polonia!

Wroclaw - The 2016 European Capital of Culture: 

1 day

Aside from having a gobsmackingly beautiful center the whole place was bedazzled with iron dwarves and wondrous art. We spent most of our time in the ornate Old Town, but wandered over to the Neon Side Gallery for some grit and pierogi. Exhibitions seemed to pop out of the woodwork, like one on 1930s history in the St. Elizabeth Church courtyard or the "Matrimony under Communism" collection at the Pan Tadeusz Museum. I don't think we could've seen more than what we squeezed into 8 hours, and my feet proved it; I had to by a new pair of (leopard print) canvas shoes when the sole started flapping off my boot.

Torun - The birthplace of Copernicus and peddler of gingerbread: 

1 day

This was our quietest stop on the journey, likely because we stuffed ourselves silly at the Manekin creperie and then followed it up with gingerbread and a swing through a wodka bar. We sort of launched our overindulged selves into the cozy streets and let the breeze guide our wandering, which led us to vintage shops, a small Jewish Quarter, the Medieval city walls, the Vistula River and... more gingerbread. 


 Gdansk - Europe's best-kept secret, in my opinion: 

2 days

This port city stole my heart with its dazzling Old Town architecture, maritime vibe and bold street art. Everything about this leg of the trip was idyllic, from our Air Bnb host leaving us fresh eggs from her hens in the morning to being swallowed by a raucously joyous St. Dominic's Fair. I'm kicking myself as I write this for not scheduling more time in this Baltic beauty and am trying to recollect the dozens of things we squashed into two days of touring. Here were my favorites, at least:
- St. Peter and Paul's Church, which had been reduced to rubble in WWII
- Cafe Jozef K (named after Kafka's creation) for a hot drink
- The vibrant murals on Communist concrete flats in the Zaspa neighborhood
- Visiting an exhibition at the Academy of Fine Arts
- Strolling along the lovely Motlawa riverwalk
- The Polish Post Office, where postal workers held off invading German SS troups
- Lunching and perusing amber on Mariacka Street


Warsaw - A gorgeous and gritty phoenix: 

2 days

The Old Town was systematically obliterated in WWII and we read about its reconstruction at the Historical Museum of Warsaw. It's quaint now, albeit expectedly touristy. We popped into a few churches and dined on our first Polish steak tartar, then accidentally wandered into the glass-and-steel modern part, which may as well have been any American city. 
The next morning brought us to the city's remnants of the horrific Warsaw ghetto - and we found it unsettling that there wasn't more done to commemorate the atrocities that occurred there against the Jewish population. Perhaps we missed something? Then it was on to the massive Palace of Culture and Science, the Soviet Union's gift to the Polish people. It's not a typical tourist stop, but it should be; it's an Art Deco monument full of museums and cafes, a cinema, offices and even a swimming pool. 

Thanks to my dear friend Art Teacher (below) for being a superb travel crony and BW for holding down the fort in Prague so I could traipse East for a while.

Feeling like I have a:

“W zdrowym ciele, zdrowy duch”
Healthy soul in a healthy body

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.