Made in Czechoslovakia: The Village People visit Prague

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Czechman's dad is the one in the middle.

The Village People came to Prague last weekend.  They have only been to Czechland’s capital a handful of times in their lives so it’s always a bit of an event. You can tell it’s a big deal because it’s the only time I’ve ever seen Czechman’s mum wearing eyeshadow.

It’s thanks to the Village People that at 9am on a Saturday found myself anxiously scrubbing my fridge just in case its level of cleanliness didn’t come up to Czech Mum Standards.

The fridge did receive covert inspection later so it’s a good job I did wipe out all the crumbs and give the salad drawer a rinse.

The Village People arrived bright and early (but after I’d finished the fridge fortunately) and of course, they came loaded down with supplies. Here’s a list of what they managed to transport with them on the bus:

  • One large box of homemade cake containing approximately twenty portions
  • Thirty eggs – no need for us to make the trip over the border to Germany to stock up
  • Four sachet of instant coffee (in our house, tea rules – see below)
  • One canister of squirty cream to accompany the cake at afternoon svačina time
  • Birthday and name day gifts for Czechman and myself – all practical of course, including an egg white separator and  a collection of assorted spatulas
The highlight of the visit was lunch. I showed off my culinary skills and my new fancy kitchen appliance – a slow cooker – by preparing lamb stew with mashed potato complete with real English gravy.
Czechman’s mum sounded skeptical when I told her I’d bought a slow cooker.  Surely you want to cook things more quickly not slowly? Isn’t that why they invented microwaves? And is it really safe to leave it switched on all day while you go out to work?
The main advantage of a slow cooker is that it can make any tough old bit of meat mouthwateringly tender. And when you don’t really understand which bit of prepackaged pig or cow it is you’re throwing in your basket at the supermarket because you’re in a foreign land, it’s essential.
The lamb stew was a hit.  The Village People didn’t really embrace the gravy though. Instead of pouring copious quantities to their mashed potato they suspiciously applied a miniscule amount with a teaspoon.  I thought Czech cuisine was all about drowning things in unctuous sauces?

Czechman’s mum essentially invited herself as she was keen to see how the renovations are coming along in our flat. We now have new lights in the kitchen, hall and toilet (yes, I gave that a good scrub too) which both Czechman and his parents are very excited about.

When it comes to interior design, Czechman and I have different views. Czechman likes modern. I do too but I prefer to spice up contemporary with a little retro to stop our home becoming some soulless Ikea showroom.  On my recent visit to England, instead of splashing out on countless new clothes as usual, I combed the bric-a-brac sections of charity shops and filled up my hand luggage with my booty. Amongst my finds were a selection of mugs celebrating Charles and Diana’s wedding and the Silver Jubilee. At a mere 50p (15kč) each, how could I resist?

The mug in the centre is my personal favourite though.

That slogan is my new mantra.

Czechman wasn’t happy about my purchases in England. “But we already have mugs,” he wailed while I unpacked. “And anyway, you don’t even like the Royal Family.”

However, this low-key moaning was nothing compared to his reaction when I pulled out this set of charming side plates, again purchased for a mere 50p each:

Ježíš Maria! Why have you bought these? They are exactly like the ones my Grandma has!”
“But look on the back here,” I reply. “It says they were made in Czechoslovakia. I’ve done a good deed. I’ve brought them back to their homeland.”

“Don’t you think there’s a reason we sent them out of the country in the first place?” Czechman responds.

Retro, kitsch, vintage, shabby chic – call it what you will but it’s all the rage back in England at the moment in the world of homeware. Czechman cannot embrace this style concept. He claims that just as Picasso had his blue period, I’m having my Grandma period – and that I’ll get over it soon.

We’ll see.




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25 Responses to Made in Czechoslovakia: The Village People visit Prague

  1. Meky

    Ježíš Maria 🙂 – my Grandma has the same plates! they used to be in everyone’s kitchens… and that’s probably the reason why we don’t want them anymore – for you it’s a unique piece of charming design, for us it’s a piece of uniform – we have the same reason to dislike these plates as you dislike Ikea 🙂

    great article though – btw do the Village People know about their title in your blog?

  2. Hi GIC – Great post as always. You had me chuckling as I read it! I was wondering the same thing as Meky – Do the ‘Village People’ know that you write about them?

    • girlinczechland

      Hello Chaplain and Meky,
      To answer your main query, no, Czechman’s parents don’t know about the blog or their 70s pop music moniker. Even Czechman’s sister doesn’t really understand what a blog is – Czechman was trying to explain to her about my (very minor) cyberfame but she didn’t get it at all.
      I never write anything about them I wouldn’t want them to read (well, apart from the bit about Czechman’s mum inviting herself – but even she’d have to agree that’s what happened!) And I did write a whole post in honour of Czech Super Mums so hopefully even if they did read what I write they wouldn’t find anything to be offended by *crosses fingers*
      Anyway, hope that answers your question! I won’t be able to sleep now while I worry about offending them!

  3. Sarka

    I like the plates very much 🙂

    • girlinczechland

      Thanks! And they said Made in Czechoslovakia on them – I just had to bring them home, even if I did have to buy a new suitcase to do so 😉

  4. W0404

    Hello GIC,
    I have been reading your blog for a few days and I have to say I like your sense of humor you display here. Cool enough 🙂

    And of course, it’s really interesting to see us Czechs from a different point of view.

    Your story about falling in love with a Czech guy, moving to the Czech Rep., teaching English here, visting her boyfriend’s parents in a village somewhere in Central Bohemia etc. etc. reminds me my English teacher Rebecca from 90′. She was only nineghteen, pretty, open-minded and a great teacher. She really was a talented one. And she loved pivo a bramboráky a lot 🙂

    PS: Sorry for my broken English.

    • girlinczechland

      Hello there,
      Now listen. The next person who comments on here and then writes some apologetic comment about their level at the end will get a cyberslap from me. Be warned!
      Seriously, I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog – it’s really flattering that I manage to strike the right note with Czechs. Hurrah for cyberspace!

  5. A question about ‘charidee’ shops…I hoard loads of ‘junk’ from them here in London. What is the equivalant in Prague? Are prices marked? How would I know I’m not getting ripped off, if I don’t speak the lingo? Thanks…hopefully!

    • Bazar. You’d have to get outside the centre, and you’d probably encounter people who don’t speak English (my guess). Prices are marked, as far as I know, so if that’s the case, you should be safe even without the language. I don’t go there very often, I go to “second hand”s, which are specifically selling clothes, and “antikvariát”s, which are selling second-hand books.

  6. Honza

    Yeah, those plates. My grandma has them too.

    • girlinczechland

      I think what you meant to write Honza was ‘Wow, those plates! My grandma has them – there’s so very chic…”

  7. plch

    my own Czechman doesn’t understand it either: why did I rescue a (very beautiful) armchair about to be reduced to a mass of broken pieces of wood? it’s the same chair everyone had back on the days, it’s just old, can’t we just buy another poang? (just like everyone else)
    >>>I present myself, a long time reader also living in Praha 7, I’m Italian and I love Czech words devoid of vowels (see my nick).
    Since you seem interested in all things passe’, have you tried the cukrarna in front of Veletrnzi Palac? time seems to have stopped there (and their cakes are very traditional, very Czech and very good)

    • girlinczechland

      Hello pich,

      It seems strange given the Czech addiction to thrift. Surely they should be all in favour of saving the cash you might spend on a Poang (ok, it’s a design classic, but still, as you rightly point out, these days everyone has one)? I’m planning to write a post soon on a bedside cabinet I rescued from a skip and intend to tart up with a lick of paint but which is currently residing in our hall – and will no doubt stay there until we have another rainy spell.
      I know the Cukrarna you mean – it certainly does look retro from the outside – and now you’ve reassured me that it’s worth exploring, I’ll definitely be treating myself to some old-school coffee and cake there soon!

      • plch

        I hope you’ll enjoy the retro experience 🙂
        on my side I’m looking forward to reading about your cabinet renovation: you are so lucky, I looked everywhere for some old bedside cabinets but I never found something that wasn’t completely decrepit (with ‘strange’ stains) or absolutely ugly.

    • Pavel

      Response you are loking for some retro below.
      Czech ostalgia

    • I guess I’m young enough to appreciate some of the things everyone had back in the day… some of them really need just a paint job or a new cover, and if our house wasn’t already full of furniture, I would have rescued some pieces from the dump… Some are, admittedly, really, truly, nothing but junk.

      And let me tell you I love your moniker. Coming from a fellow rodent, with an almost vowelless name. Svišť zdraví plšíka!

  8. Katka

    My favorite passtime is to go to antique shops and look for anything made in Czechoslovakia. The difference here is that the Czechs in America actually find it quite interesting when I find something. 🙂

  9. Pavel

    This rose pattern ! I like it, because as czech children I get addiction on it. The same roses was everywhere on every kind of porcelain.
    In Socialist Republic we have all one of five kind of záclona, one of ten mutations of interior walls (ask czechman for “obývací stěna” or link Obývací stěna) and we all were raised on dumplings on porcelain roses.

  10. Michal

    Excellent post,
    We (czechs) are currently undergoing the period of IKEAization and standardization-i totally hate it. Don’t worry in 10 years we will get to the period of bric-brac and vintage when the prices of retro stuff will sky-rocked. At that period you will already have perfect retro house:)


    • girlinczechland

      Hello Michal,
      While I like quite a lot of the furniture Ikea make, I think it’s a shame that they don’t really seem to have any serious competitor here in Czechland. Bauhaus, Kika and the others don’t seem to offer anything which even remotely deserves the adjective ‘stylish’ and any ‘designer’ furniture brands are way too expensive. Where are the shops catering for the middle market?

      • Lenka

        Well and that´s it. That´s exactly the point and the reason why so many people go to IKEA. Because there ain´t anything else what isn´t expensive, ugly or both.

  11. Katerina

    Hi GIC,

    I found your web thanks to Modní peklo about an hour ago and have to read all you’ve written! 🙂 It’s great!
    This year I have already spent 4 months abroad (Germany, UK, Denmark) and now I realize how much I miss Czechland! Every country is different and suprises me on different places, but in Czechland I don’t have to worry to blow my food when it’s hot (as I was not allowed in UK in the family I was in..) or have a problem to get from a village to a town with a bus (as here in Denmark).. Spending some time away gave me the opportunity to appreciate my home more. I guess it’s not for everyone to move to different country, learn and accustom new culture.. 🙂 But I think you’re doing great job and I’m glad you like Czechland.
    This article was amazing, especially this part – “Don’t you think there’s a reason we sent them out of the country in the first place?” Czechman responds. – made me laught really hard! 😀 I completely understand your Czechman. I’m big fan of retro, but some stuff is just better to stay in past.. 🙂

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