Monthly Archives: July 2011

5 things to do in Prague when it rains

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Prague is a gob-smackingly beautiful city. One of the best things to do as a visitor is simply wander around the centre, lose yourself in the maze of cobbled streets and admire the many pretty buildings.

The one potential problem with this plan?

The weather.

A typical July in Prague, I am reliably informed, is scorching hot. Not this year. Frankly I am surprised that there is any water left in the sky given the recent relentless downpours.  And then there were the terrifying storms last week which left people screaming while running for cover to dodge the lighting bolts which rained down along with the, erm, rain.

So, should you find yourself on holiday in Prague (or you’re Prague based but entertaining visitors from Blighty) and find the weather to be almost as inhospitable as a Czech checkout lady, here are some ideas for some ways to explore the city while staying dry.

1. Go to the pub.

No trip to Prague would be complete without paying a visit to a local hostelry and sampling authentic Czech beer.  And then there’s the grub. Dumplings are tasty but somehow it doesn’t feel right to scoff down that kind of stomach lining, hearty fare when it’s sweltering hot outside. Use the poor weather as an excuse: indulge yourself with food that would give the health police a heart attack!  If you’re a knedliky virgin, I recommend you try them at lunchtime: it will be cheaper (most pubs have a special low-price menu in the middle of the day) and your digestive system will be better prepared to deal with the onslaught of stodge.

2. If you’re teetotal, try a tea house.

Inclement weather is a good excuse to explore another Czech phenomenon: the tea house or čajovná.  Don’t expect little old ladies serving scones with clotted cream though. Tea houses were established after Communism as an alternative to the smoke-filled Czech pub. They’re a place where people can get together and hang out over a hot beverage without having to face a hangover the next day. You choose from a vast menu of teas from Lapsang Souchong to first flush darjeeling. Don’t ask for milk though. Or coffee.

3. The Cinema, Czech Style.

Yes, I know you have cinemas back home.  But can you sit in a deck chair? Or a vintage car? Bio Oko is a twenty-minute tram ride from tourist-tastic central Prague, but more than merits a visit. And you’ll be supporting independent cinema too: hurrah! Don’t panic: all English language films are in the original version and many others are subtitled. Check out their program here.

4. Take an Underground Tour

If it’s raining above ground, why not take an underground tour? Lots of tourists pay the 100kc to climb (or take the lift) to the top of the tower in the Old Town Hall on Staroměstské náměstí (aka Old Town Square).  Few bother to pay an extra 50kc to go on a tour of the rest of the building as part of which you’re led through a maze of underground chambers and passageways, some of which are 9 metres below the square itself. You’ll be shown chambers where medieval prisoners were starved to death and the Nazis locked up their opponents. Is it worrying that I find this stuff fascinating?

5. Do what you were going to do anyway, but wearing a waterproof.

If you’re English, you’re more than used to the weather conspiring to ruin your holiday plans.  Do what you would do at home if you were on a sightseeing trip and the heavens suddenly opened.  Keep calm, don your kagoule, and carry on.


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5 posts Girl in Czechland should have written (but didn’t quite get around to)

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Has Girl in Czechland bared more than her soul this time?

I’ve finally done it.

Bared all at a česky nudist beach (despite the inclement weather)?  Dipped a rohlík into a yogurt and called that my dinner?

No, I’m afraid it’s far worse than that.

I’ve joined Twitter.

The eagle-eyed amongst you will have already spotted my first few tweets which now adorn the top right of the blog.  Feel free to retweet, follow or ignore my musings as you see fit.

In an attempt to compensate for my recent lengthy silence, here are some posts I nearly wrote this year – but didn’t – in a condensed form. You could call them my first tentative steps in the realm of micro-blogging (but of course they all exceed 140 characters).

1. The Hairy Hell’s Angel Who Left Me Speechless (and with a Sore Behind)

Don't mess with my Daddy. Especially if it's Easter.

We are at the village for the weekend.  Not an unusual occurence.  I am walking down the stairs in the Village People’s panelak on my way out to do the usual Grandma visiting.

A bearded Hell’s Angel with a basket and a beer belly is coming up the stairs. I’ve never met him before in my life.  We pass – but not before he has whacked me on the behind with the big wooden stick he’s brandishing, saying by way of explanation, ‘Zasloužíš si to!’ – you deserve it.

It’s Easter. We’re in Czechland.  Hitting ladies with wooden sticks will not get you arrested: in fact, it’s a key Czech male rite of passage.

2. Vaclav Havel Has Only Got One Lung

I’m feeling a little down in the dumps. Worn out.  Blue.  I ring Czechman at work for some cheering up.

‘But I’m so tired,’ I moan. ‘For no reason,’ I wail.

‘It’s the weather,’ replies Czechman. ‘It’s so strange – one minute it’s hot, the next there’s a storm. Even Vaclav Havel is tired I heard.’

‘Isn’t that because he’s only got one lung?’

3. Pani Hitlerová, Yoga Teacher 

In another (misguided?) attempt at integration, I begin attending yoga classes. In Czech.  I’ve done a fair amount of yoga in my time so figure that if I don’t understand what’s going on, I can just copy everyone else.  The flaw in my plan is that I’ve forgotten how much time you spend in a yoga class with your head between your legs and your backside in the air. This makes it rather difficult to see what’s going on around you.

I’m doing my very best downward dog in just this  the position when the teacher  – let’s call her Pani Hitlerová –  heads over and starts shouting instructions at me. ‘Dlaně od sebe!’

I try moving my feet a bit further down the mat.  Nope, that’s not what she meant.

‘Dlaně od sebe!‘ she yells again.

‘Rozumíte mi?’ I hear her asking somewhere above my head.

I hate admitting that I don’t understand but perhaps the time has come. ‘Ne,’ I reply.

Actions do indeed speak louder than words. Pani Hitlerlová responds by kicking my hands apart.

And I thought yoga was a non-contact sport.  Not in Czechland it seems.

I’ll never forget the word ‘dlaně‘ though.  It means ‘palms’.

4. Another Czech word I wish I’d known (but now will never forget)

It’s Saturday morning.  The sun is shining outside but I’m wandering around Tesco looking for the one item I specifically came in to find. I need to ask for help. The problem is, it’s a toilet brush. Which I’m not sure how to say.

I consider stopping a Tesco employee, saying the word ‘zachod’ (toilet) which I do know and then miming a frantic scrubbing action.

I text Czechman instead to save embarrassment.  And it’s ‘štěka na záchod‘ in case you ever find yourself in the same situation.

5. Cue Applause

A piece of advice for those of you planning a trip to the theatre here in Prague – and no, I’m not going to tell you to leave the jeans and trainers at home, because I hope that would be obvious.

When the curtain falls at the end, remember to clap. A lot. Until your hands turn red.

Try it now.  If your broadband connection is really good, perhaps I’ll hear you.


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Girl not in Czechland: My Big Fat Greek Holiday

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Votsalakia beach, Samos

Hello. Or should I say ‘Kalimera’. That means ‘Good morning’ by the way. As for the rest of the language, it’s all Greek to me.*

So I’m back after an extended break some of which I spent abroad. On a foreign holiday! How very spoilt and western! Or perhaps not, as today’s Dnes informs me that 600,000 Czechs now visit Italy every year. Gone are the days when buying all your kids an ice-cream anywhere beyond the borders of Czechland would mean having to spend the rest of the year eating stale rohlíky.

Even on a Greek island, it’s not unusual to find a taverna menu in Cesky these days. Don’t believe me? As usual, I’ve documented the evidence.

No, this menu isn't sitting outside a restaurant in Prague but the Greek island of Samos...

It did take some arm-twisting to get to agree to head for foreign shores but when I told him that it was simply his duty to help prevent the impending Greek economic collapse by spending his disposable cash in their fine country, he relented.

I’m joking, of course. He agreed because it was cheap. I’m not complaining: mustn’t go spending all that tax rebate at once.

I loved Samos.

We had a great time. The beaches were beautiful – if a little windswept – but we didn’t spend all our time lying on the sand. The Czechs are an active bunch so of course I was made to pack hiking boots as well as flipflops. I was not exactly delighted to be woken up at 5.30am to set off up a mountain before the sun became too scorchingly hot but I was glad I’d made the effort when we arrived at the town of Marathokampos. There was something magical about having the chance to explore the chaotic winding streets with only the local population of cats for company.  Here’s the view I was rewarded with:

Marathokampos, Samos

We didn’t spend all our time off the beaten track: what package holiday would be complete withoutgoing on at least one excursion?

The first stop of the coach tour of the island we’d opted for was at a pottery studio. There a bearded Greek chap showed off his skill with wet clay for the amusement of the assembled crowd of tourists. So far, so predicable. Czechman, however, was entranced. I had to practically drag him out of the souvenir shop where I caught him eyeing up vases costing 50 euro (ouch!) but not before he made one purchase.

We are now the proud owners of not one, but two, Cups of Pythagoras.

What, you may ask, is the difference between an ordinary cup and the Cup of Pythagoras you see here below? Apparently, the Greek mathematician invented this object to teach his students the spirit of fairness – or alternatively, to stop them getting too drunk in his lectures. How does this remarkable drinking vessel achieve these lofty goals? Fill it beyond a certain point and the entire contents pour out of a hole in the bottom.

Czechman's favourite souvenir

Now call me stupid but a cup with a hole in the bottom seems to be about as much use as a one-legged man in an arse-kicking competition. However, it was so cute to watch the normally super-sensible Czechman be keen to buy tourist tacky souvenirs that I happily let him hand over the euros.  What the hell.  Now that we’ve bought a flat, who knows when we’ll get to go on a foreign holiday again?

Yes that’s right: Czechman and I are taking our first tentative steps on the property ladder. Expect to hear more about that soon. And although I won’t be jetting off anywhere soon, I do have something ‘jet’ related in the pipeline.  Watch this space…

Fresh figs, apricots and thick greek yogurt - the perfect holiday breakfast...

A donkey. They have quite a lot of these on Samos.

(*This is a simply hilarious joke which relies on you knowing the English idiom ‘It’s all Greek to me’ which means ‘I don’t understand this at all.’ Apparently the Czech equivalent is something about Spanish villages.)


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