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.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Five-sense Saturday: New nephew edition

The shift from Spring to Summer was packed with enough things to knock our senses right out. Here are some of our oblíbené (favorites):


...Don Giovanni, Mozart's masterpiece, at the Estates Theatre. I'm not one to run the opera - and this one is 3 hours long - but I enjoyed it with girlfriends. The costumes and visuals were stunning; they very much complemented the music.

-from Narodni Divadlo

...a very charismatic (and very pregnant) gal belting out Edith Piaf at Prague's annual French Market. She had a simply incredible voice.


...a lavender crepe from the Dejvické farmers' market. It's laced with lavender syrup, sprinkled with crushed lavender and topped with lavender merengue. 

...the stellar steak tartar at Lokal Stromovka, a Czech chain perched on the edge of our favorite park. BW swears it's the best in Prague. Like all good Czechs, you eat it piled on a piece of fried bread that's been rubbed with a garlic bulb.


...lots of musty vintage things on board the floating flea market parked at Naplavka on Saturday mornings. No purchases this time, but I did once score an epic leather fanny pack.

...the many bonfires of Čarodějnice, the holiday that burns the winter witches (i.e. piles of wood) to usher in Spring every April 30. On Kampa Island, the burnings were accompanied by fire-dancers.


...a generous helping of hail - I'm glad we don't have a car here in Prague, because I imagine dealing with car insurance would've been a nightmare. awful lot of Prague pavement with the pup; we are usually back in the U.S. in the summertime, but not this year. This has given us the chance to play Magellan and explore many corners of the city we love.


... The new Viggo Mortensen film "Captain Fantastic" at our favorite movie theatre, the retro Bio Oko - it allows dogs. And has beach chairs. And if you're lucky, you'll run into a block party outside, like the one below.

...our brand-new nephew! Ok, so it has been over FaceTime, but we are thankful for this mode of communication and have logged many sessions trying to get the little guy from Tacoma, WA, to smile. We are so thrilled about this little man and the health and happiness of his mom and dad, too. Definitely the best part of this year :) 

Sunday, July 31, 2016

In like with Liberec

Happy summertime, all! It's been a while since the last blog post; life has been nutty with moving flats, wrapping up the school year in JULY and some other major life events that I'll write about another time. Plus my 5-year old Asus notebook finally took a dump and it is a pain to blog on touch-screen electronics. (First-world problems, for sure.)

We recently ticked another Czech municipality off the "to visit" list, running off to Liberec for just one night. Our thoughts on the country's fifth-largest city, just a hair off the German and Polish borders?

Pros: Loads of family-oriented attractions; some beautiful old villas; good public transit

Cons: A lackluster town center at night; possibly a skinhead presence

We "trained" it to Liberec, as the pup isn't allowed on major inter-city bus lines. This meant an extra hour of travel and some train transfers, but, hey, who's counting?

Liberec's town square greeted us with a picture-worthy municipal building, flanked by some Easter Island-esque public art.

On the one night we were there the center wasn't as appealing - the riff raff came out and it just looked a bit gritty. Not unsafe, though.

We admittedly didn't visit Liberec's many commercial attractions, like iQlandia Science Centre, DinoPark, the zoo and Babylon Aquapark. Rather, we enjoyed wandering around and finding this mirrored memorial to victims of Communism...

and this cardboard art...

and the Harcov Přehrada (dam), a stone quarry built in 1904 for local fishing and flood protection. It was dotted with sunbathers, kayakers, swimmers and sand volleyball players.

One morning, we visited the delightful Oblastní galerie (Regional Gallery), which used to be the city bathhouse; one of my colleagues remembers swimming there as a child.

It had two compelling temporary exhibitions that really piqued our interest: "Punk in Architecture," peppered with David Bowie lyrics, and "Mossbots," paintings by a famous Czech video game designer. My favorite piece, however, was one from the permanent exhibition of Stromovka Park, which we live near in Prague.

In the afternoon, we trekked to the bottom of Ještěd Mountain and then took a cable car to the top, where a prized building sits like a pointy hat. 

The structure, a national cultural monument, contains a restaurant, hotel, viewing deck and radio/TV transmission equipment.

We sat on the overlook below it, eating hot dogs and drinking in the massive views of Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic. It was a steep descent back down to the city.

We both agreed families with kids would be attracted to Liberec and its many things to do, from robotic dinosaurs to waterslides. As a kidless couple, we're glad we didn't book a long holiday there. We liked it, though, and think a revisit may be in order someday.