Where Do Zombies Like to Go Swimming? Girl in Czechland returns…

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Last night I went to the pub. For the Prague Bloggers Rally. Now this event, organised by Mr Prague Pig, brings together bloggers based in the Czech capital who write in English for a chat over a few alcoholic beverages.

You could argue, with some justification, that I didn’t deserve to be there at all. Given that my last post was in December 2013.

“Either post tomorrow or take it down from the server,” a pub companion advised me. I decided to listen.

So here I am.

What have I been up to during my long absence? Well, still enjoying life in Czechland with Czechman. As for example, in the photo at the top of the post.

Where could it be? I hear you ask. Marbella? The Costa del Sol? Perhaps a sunny beach in Croatia? No, no, and no. This is a beach in the Czech Republic.

I see the puzzled expression on your face. I know that the last time you looked at a map of Europe, the Czech Repubic was a landlocked country. That means no sea — and therefore no beaches.

That’s where you’re wrong. You see, while Czechland might not have any coastline, it still has sandy stretches by water thanks to certain lakes like the one in the picture.

If you weren’t able to tell which country I was in, the picture below should leave you in no doubt:

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Why not follow a healthy, invigorating swim in the lake with a tasty sausage or a domácí langoš?

Of course you’re going to. Because this is Czechland.

Ever the rebelka, I had an ice-cream instead.

It might seem like I’m poking fun at the whole concept so let me make myself clear: I had fun on our day out to the Czech beach. I have to thank the Czech Republic for introducing me to the delights of outdoor swimming. This lake, near Pardubice, was pretty clean. There’s something refreshing and exotic for an English lady about gliding through the water with only sky above you especially on a hot day in July. I recommend it.

For the truly adventurous though, there are nudist beaches. Girl in Czechland has not quite managed to work up the courage to test out that experience — although Czechman says he would be willing to give it a try so long as it was just him and hundred hot girls. Ach jo.

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In case you’re wondering where zombies like to go for a dip, the answer is obvious…

THE DEAD SEA!

Hilarious, eh?

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Christmas time, Czech style: St Nicolas and some Tasmanian Devils

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A rather camera shy St Nicholas and his fetching assistants snapped by Ms Girlova on the streets of Prague.

Greetings readers! It’s December and Christmas time is fast approaching. I do enjoy the build-up to Christmas in Czechland (even if I’m not the biggest fan of the menu on the big day — carp is just a bit too fishy in my view to be a feast).

I remember being a child and looking forward to Chrimbletide so much I thought I might explode. In England, advent — the seemingly endless twenty four days beforehand — can be a bit boring for a small person. Okay, there’s are those little chocolates to be retrieved from behind the doors of the calendar every day, Christmas cards to write out and swap at school, the tree to decorate, but otherwise, not much happens until the 25th.

If you’re a Czech child, the Christmas antics start a little earlier. December 5th (yes, that’s today people) is St Nicolas Day on which St Nicolas (aka Mikuláš), accompanied by an angel and a devil, roam the streets giving out gifts to the little ones who’ve behaved themselves all year.

So far, so good. What happens if you have been just a bit too naughty?

Why, the devil drags you off to hell, of course!

These fluffy beasties are tasmanian devils. They might bite you if you poke them but they won't drag you to hell. Copyright Zooki (creative commons license).

These fluffy beasties are tasmanian devils. They might bite you if you poke them but they won’t drag you to hell. Copyright Zooki (creative commons license).

You have to hand it to the Czechs. They know how to instil discipline in children. It’s no good just bribing the little blighters with the promise of prezzies if they’re good; you need to have the big menacing stick of burning in hellfire for eternity if you play up* once too often.

St Nicolas is a busy chap on December 5th as you can imagine. He doesn’t just wander the streets but also visits children in their homes (by prior arrangement with their parents, naturally). Czechman will be reprising his starring role as Mikulas this year, accompanied by a couple of mates, including a particularly dashing male angel who looks worrying good in tights.

Of course, sadly, I can’t provide you with photo evidence of Czechman and co in action.

Instead the photo at the top is of some random strangers I managed to snap on my way home from Christmas shopping today — for Czechman’s niece. What a lovely girlfriend I am.

And let’s not forget  the true essence of this time of year: wanton consumerism. Here are some free gifts that I was given in the street as a St Nicolas Day treat from various companies. No doubt they hope that if I try their shower gel, instant coffee and cup-a-soups, I’m destined to pop them in my basket on my next trip to the supermarket.

Here are those super-duper free gifts! Who said Christmas was more exciting when you were a kid?

Here are those super-duper free gifts! Who said Christmas was more exciting when you were a kid?

That’s all for now. I hope to bring you more stocking filler sized posts in the run-up to Christmas — which I’ll be spending in England. Watch this (cyber) space!

Probably a bit late to respond to this particular ad, but who knows, perhaps they'll need someone next year?

Probably a bit late to respond to this particular ad, but who knows, perhaps they’ll need someone next year?

* ‘Play up’ is one of those tricky phrasal verbs Czech readers — ‘to play’ is of course, innocent kiddie behaviour, but ‘to play up’ means to misbehave. For example, ‘Stop playing me up or you’ll get a smack’ is one particular phrase which my father regularly used when discipling me. Was I frequently very naughty or was he just frequently hungover? Only those present at the time can say…

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Pies and Prejudice: Girl in Czechland hits Manchester

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A signpost in Manchester. The blogpost gets more exciting than this, I promise.

I have a confession to make. Ever since my sister’s wedding, I’ve been feeling a bit homesick.

It’s easy enough to buy real English muffins, some Cadbury’s chocolate or an overpriced copy of the Guardian here in Prague these days should I feel the need to. However, I think the fact that I really might spend the rest of my life in a foreign country — albeit a rather nice one — has finally sunk in, with the result that I crave the company of family and friends in England more than before.

Fortunately for me, the nice people at jet2 came to the rescue by offering me a free flight home in exchange for a post about my adventures — so here it is.

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What are all these taxi drivers waiting outside the airport? Crying their eyes out because Girl In Czechland refuses to give them any business! Ha!

Reason Not To Take A Taxi to the Airport #2194

After Taxigate, I went to the airport on public transport.

The bus was super-crowded and I had to stand but I focused on the fact that I was saving at least 400 CZK. I spotted a woman on board with a huge carrier bag rather than a suitcase. It was obvious she’d been sleeping rough. Most likely she was only heading to the  terminal to spend the day somewhere warm. When we all got off, I dithered, then decided to chase after to give her some stravenky (luncheon vouchers).

The motto of this story? Don’t bother with taxis — you might miss the chance to do a good deed. Even Czechman approved.

jet2′s safety announcer is Northern!

I recently interviewed David Cerny, the infamous Czech artist responsible for “>that floating obscene hand gesture. He was sweary and hungover.  Between expletives, he remarked on my “very British English. You know, like someone on the BBC.”

This might sound like a compliment. Except it’s not. I don’t speak English like a typical BBC news presenter. I sound Northern. I say ‘bath’ rather than ‘barrrth’. My Salford-born mother might have said that we were ‘upper working class’ but she’d disown me if I started trying to ‘sound posh’.

Anyway, the safety announcements on planes are usually made by BBC sounding types. Not on jet2. The voice asking you to stow any hand luggage in the overhead lockers is Northern! In fact, it was Dave Spikey who shot to fame on the cult British comedy series, Phoenix Nights.

Thanks Jet2 — I felt one step closer to home, even before take-off!

Me-time in Manchester

What did I do when I actually made it to Manchester?

Not a lot really.

I had grand plans. A day trip to Liverpool to visit the Tate and the Beatles museum. Some retail therapy in the massive Arndale Shopping Centre. Exploring Manchester’s hip and happening Northern Quarter.

Ok, I admit it. Most of the time I sat on my friend’s sofa, watching bad British TV, drinking tea and eating cake. Here’s the photo evidence:

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Tea + Cake = Heaven.

I did make it out on a few occasions. There was Sunday lunch with my parents — who paid, naturally. I took the tram to Piccadilly Gardens, popped in a couple of shops, then decided my break was supposed to be just that — a break — not an exhausting shopathon. I did have a bit of a wander around the Northern Quarter. I can report it does have some rather nice shops and cafes.

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A very nice knitting shop with lots of squigey yarns made of real wool rather than nasty acrylic.

I did take advantage of the generous 22kg baggage allowance by stocking up on a few hard to get bits and pieces: lots of British magazines, some special toiletries and paracetamol (a complete bargain at only 16p a packet). However, the main point of the trip wasn’t retail therapy. I wanted to spend some extra time with family and friends face-to-face, not tons of cash. The fact that my visit happened to coincide with one of the worst storms in Britain for decades made staying indoors all the more appealing.

Check out the grey sky — and the cotton mill converted into fancy apartments, one of many in the city:

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One Final Plug for jet2 — and a Question

I was pleasantly surprised by the generous amount of legroom on those Jet2 flights — which I’m also happy to report, both ran on time.

Commercial break over.

Czech readers, I have a question. On the plane journey home, I read Stuart Maconie’s very funny book, “Pies and Prejudice: In Search of the North”. He’s from Wigan. You might not find that fact particually amusing but if you’re from the South, the very mention of the word ‘Wigan’ would make you chortle. Loudly. It’s something to do with the fact that they’re fond of pies, apparently.

Is it possible in the Czech Republic to make people laugh just by telling them where you’re from? Enlighten me in the Comments section.

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Image by davey_flex (Creative Commons).

This post was sponsored by jet2 who very kindly offered me a free flight home to Blighty in exchange for a bit of publicity. However, all my opinions remain as ever, my own. Just in case you were wondering.

 

 

 

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A pig in the park in Prague (and a dodgy funfare ride)

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Sometimes it’s a struggle to find inspiration for a new blog post — and then sometimes, an idea is handed to you on a plate.

I was out for a spoilt and western coffee with a fellow Angličanka in Holešovice the other day — we went to Coffee Beans which, by the way, is a rather nice place if you happen to be in the area — when en route we spotted the porky looking chap you see in the picture. Yes, a rather svelte young lady was taking her pet pig for a walk. In a park in the middle of Prague. And presumably a Number 2.

You couldn’t make it up.

I was cameraless so I got my coffee companion to take a sneaky snapshot on her phone. I wanted to point and laugh but I suppose the poor old pig (or sow  — I’m a city girl and therefore no expert on such things) gets pointed and laughed at on a regular basis, which can’t be good for his self-esteem.

We slink away towards our lattes and slices of cake, giggling. “Zabijačka!” I exclaim.

“Shh,” my friend replies. “He might hear you.”

For those of you who don’t already know, a zabijačka is a traditional Czech pig killing, a little bit like a hog roast except that every single bit of the animal imaginable is cooked up as part of a huge feast comprised of goulash, soups, all kinds of pates, and some delightful bits of pork suspended in jelly.

This list is by no means exclusive.

I have been present at a zabijačka, held, ironically enough in a health spa (not the actual pig killing part as I’m too squeamish) but thought it was best not to ask too many questions about exactly what I was eating.

If you click here, you can see a Czech TV documentary about this delightful ritual.

While we’re on the subject of pigs in Prague, let me attempt to smoothly link to Praguepig.com, a blog whose mission is to introduce the delights of Czech tabloid culture to the Anglophone world. Praguepig features pictures of Czech shop signs which unwittingly sound rude to English ears, introduces key Czech cultural figures such as Iveta Bartošová to ignorant English-speakers and, most importantly of all, track down the most ridiculously expensive beer in Prague.

Go and have a peek when you  from Girl in Czechland; click on the image below and you’ll be taken to the succinct Praguepig.com explanation of just why it’s so disturbing and highly inappropriate for young children to sit on.

I laughed so hard I spat out my Marks and Spencer tea all over the screen.

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A Tale of Two (Czech) Taxi Drivers

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A taxi driver having some issues with his cab outside Prague Airport. Perhaps it’s a Skoda.

Všude dobře, doma nejlépe,” as the Czech proverb goes, or if you prefer the English equivalent saying, “There’s no place like home.”

The difficulty I faced yesterday was getting there from Prague airport after my recent sojurn in a Spanish village. More on the quirks of the Spanish Village People vs. their Czech counterparts another time.

I would like to stress that getting from Prague airport to the centre of town by public transport is a straightforward business. The only reason I wanted to take a taxi is that I could feel a migraine coming on. Or perhaps, if I’m being brutally honest, I was feeling lazy. The wheels on my suitcase are less wheely than they ought to be and I was frankly sick of dragging it around.

I made my way to the taxi rank with my rather heavy suitcase. A waiting driver leapt out of his vehicle and eagerly seized it.

Part of me was tempted just to sink into the comfy backseat and speed off towards Czechman and the tasty leftovers which remained from his Mamka’s weekend visit — she ironed our sheets too because apparently she was bored — but I knew better than to give into that temptation.

—How much will it be to Holesovice? I ask in Czech, just to be sure that he knows this Angličanka has been here before.

—I don’t know. It depends on the traffic.

I push our taxi driver friend for a figure. —So approximately?

—700 or 800 CZK.

Seven hundred crowns! Gasp! That’s a lot of nice lunches or spoilt and western coffees — not to mention good old fashioned half litres of lovely Czech beer.

It’s time to be assertive.

—I’ll pay 500 CZK but that’s it.

The response is lots of angry handwaving. I snatch back my suitcase and storm off to the bus stop in disgust while Airport Taxi Driver shouts “TRAFFIC! TRAFFIC!” at me in English.

It turns out that there is indeed a lot of traffic on the road. The bus is packed with returning Czech holidaymakers, assorted tourists and all their huge suitcases. It takes far longer than usual to get to Dejvicka; even munching on several digestive biscuits does little to boost my morale. I can’t cope with getting on the metro, then getting off and hauling my not very wheely suitcase up the steps onto a tram — the handle has fallen off which makes this operation still more challenging — then off again.

I decide to compromise. I’ll take a taxi from Vítězné náměstí, which ought to be a reasonable 150CZK. Or at least it was that time last year when I got drunk, took the wrong tram then had to quickly find an alternative means of transport to get home.

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My taxi drivers weren’t quite this crazy. Or good looking.

Taxi Driver Number 2 — and it will soon become apparent that he is indeed a bit of a Number 2* — spots that I’m English. After a preliminary attempt to talk to me in my native language, the rest of this conversation took place in Czech. It could be therefore that I’ve missed some of its important nuances but the general gist went something like this:

—Ah London. I’ve been there. I didn’t really like it much though. Too many different people from different places, you know? I understand it’s because of your colonial history but it’s really not for me. Of course it’s good to travel, to see different things, experience different cultures, but everyone belongs somewhere. To me, for example, it’s strange that the children of those Vietnamese people have Czech passports. I mean, it’s really weird and not right in my opinion.

Arrgh! I’m stuck in an enclosed space with Politically Incorrect Cab Driver! Of course I don’t agree with any of this — and how could I, given that I’ve chosen to live outside the country of origin — but I’m tired and weak and unwilling to fight back.

I hate these situations because if you remain silent, as I did on this occasion, the person you’re talking to just assumes you agree with them. Which is of course A Bad Thing. However, I was in no mood to start a fight. I must have used up all my assertiveness for the day snatching my suitcase back from Taxi Driver Number 1.

Taxi drivers. Perhaps they’re the same the world over. If they’re not trying to rip you off, they’re forcing you to listen to their racist diatribes.

Czechman, playing devil’s advocate as always, claims that Number 2′s views aren’t exactly racist. Whatever. No-one’s going to be offering the bloke a job at the United Nations any time soon, that’s for sure.

And he charged me 211CZK, which I think is a bit steep. Perhaps I’m becoming more Czech by the minute.

I didn’t tip him. As if to show just how affronted he was by that fact, he counted each coin out into my hand individually.

All of this makes travelling from Prague Airport via good old public transport seem even more appealing.

Mamka’s leftovers were good though. As was the fantastic blueberry cake ( or buchta) you see below. Like I said at the beginning, “Všude dobře, doma nejlépe“.

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Czechman’s Mamka homebaking. The photo doesn’t do it justice.

*’a Number 2′ is kiddle slang (in British English at least) for the brown and smelly stuff we all produce. For example, a mother might say to a child, ‘Did you do a Number 2 today? if she was interested in his or her bowel movements. See how educational this blog can be, beloved Czech readers?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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