10 Tiny Slices of Girl In Czechland

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This elephant is not Communism: he's a very obvious fact no-one wants to discuss in case it makes others feel uncomfortable. Wait a minute...

After my previous Very Serious Post About the C word, I’ve decided to regale you all with something a little more lighthearted.

Cue one of those list posts that allegedly herald the death of  journalism. (A thought – can’t I manage to write anything without dousing it in irony?)

Are you ready for ten bite-sized slices of Girl In Czechland? The answer can only be ano!

1. Say it with flowers – or should that be cacti?

We all know there are plenty of pubs in Czechland. Is it just me or are there an inordinate amount of florists too? Is that because of the market for modest bouquets created by all those name days?

And why exactly does that florists near Vodičkova have so many cacti in the window? Are the Czechs spiky enough already without seeking any extra assistance from the plant kingdom?

2. Do you speak Czechlish at home too?

Every couple has their own language but international partnerships are practically guaranteed to generate their own vocabulary – a sort of bastardised form of both languages. In our household, for example, we’re quite fond of having a restík followed perhaps by a snakiček.

3. Tram ride musings

During my tram ride to work yesterday I found myself wondering: “Do people stare more here or is it just my imagination?”

I’ve come to no firm conclusion on this except that my imagination tends towards the overactive.

4. The (rather smelly) elephant in the room

The body odour issues, however, are definitely not in my imagination. In fact, that potent, stomach churning B.O stench that too often offends my nostils is the rather smelly elephant in the room* – or rather on the tram. What’s going on? It’s not even summer anymore! I think I’d rather hold my nose than bring that particular issue on the blog anytime soon even if Czechman complains about it too.

Erm, hang on a minute…

5. Some Profound Thoughts about the Blogosphere

I’ve decided  that blogging is about collecting ephemera – the flotsam and jetsom of the ordinary – and preserving it for posterity.

Whether posterity actually wants it or not is another matter.

6. Clean your teeth with The Bartered Bride

As you know, Czechman and I have quarreled over my love of kitsch homeware items. There’s a mug in the window of a nearby bric-a-brac store adorned with scenes from Prodaná nevesta – Smetana’s The Bartered Bride. I’m severely tempted to splash out on it to keep our toothbrushes in but fear it will end up smashed to pieces by the Taste Police.

Here it is in all its, erm, glory. That Bartered Bride mug.

7. Shabby chic forever

I wonder if it’s really worth buying Mlada Fronta Dnes if all I’m going to do is look at the pictures in the Doma (aka Home) magazine? Still, it is a tiny step towards integration. And anyway, even flicking through the photos can give you a valuable insight into Czech culture. Or not.

This week’s feature on a certain Petra Pikkelová’s fancy-looking chalupa left me wondering – how many Czechs actually bother to buy anything new for their cottages and weekend houses? Isn’t that the dumping ground for a family’s tatty furniture and slightly less modern electrical appliances?

The poshest chalupa in Czechland?


Jane Seymour

8. Jane Seymour is Švejk

I stumbled across this scrawled sentence fragment in my notebook the other day: “Jane Seymour is Švejk”.

What on earth could I have meant by this?  What could Henry VIII’s supposedly meek and mild third wife have in common with that wily Czech anti-hero Švejk?

For those of you less obsessed with Tudor history than myself, Jane Seymour is often seen as a pliant doormat in contrast to the feisty but doomed Anne Boleyn. What if Jane Seymour’s submissiveness was all an act designed to manipulate her way to the throne? What if that milksop Jane was really švejking it?

This comparison makes sense in my world. Sort of.

And here's that wily Czech anti-hero Švejk. The similarity is obvious, no?

9. Bring On The Winter

Call me perverse but I’m actually looking forward to winter. Mulled wine on Old Town Square. Those yummy little Christmas biscuits. Proper weather.  Watching the snow fall – from the window of a spoilt and western coffee serving establishment naturally. I might even try downhill skiing. Killer icicles?  Bring it on!

10. Never Blog About What You Had For Lunch

For lunch today, Anglo-French-Czech fusion food: francouzské brambory topped with grated Cheddar cheese. Most agreeable.



A panoramic shot of Old Town Square where I'll soon be sipping mulled wine in the snow

*”Elephant in the room” is an idiom which refers to an obvious truth which being ignored or remains unexpressed. As far as I am aware, live elephants are not currently permitted on Prague’s public transport system.


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26 Responses to 10 Tiny Slices of Girl In Czechland

  1. Ginge

    I find these bite-sized chunks of GIC extremely agreeable after a long day at work (that’s not to say I don’t enjoy the long posts as well) 🙂

    I have tried to out-stare the Czechs on trams many, many times but usually end up resorting to tongue pulling or going cross-eyed on purpose.

    I was also marvelling at the sheer number of florists, too- in one of the streets by Synkac there are 4 florists between 2 tram stops. A lot of them have got those weird Autmnal flower arrangments with dried-up corn cobs in them. They make me hungry on my way to work.

    And today for lunch I had the pikanti syrovy pomazanka.. so maybe I am the bad thing you smelt on the tram?

    Another great post, GIC

  2. Jana

    The Bartered Bride mug – we have a set of 6 at home. It’s my mother’s collection. :o) I took pictures for you. Enjoy!

  3. Jana

    The Bartered Bride mug – we have a set of 6 at home. It’s my mother’s collection. :o) I took pictures for you. Enjoy!

  4. Mike in Bohemia

    Nice fun article GIC 🙂

    We have some Czechlish too: Houskas, Rolhiks, chaticek (little chat), panelaks …..

    Yes, people stare here excessively. I do it now too, so much fun 🙂
    Men also pee wherever the call comes, I do “””””””””””””””””””””

    No BO problem in Northern Bohemia. Praguers are different 🙂
    We specialize in mustaches frozen up with snot in winter 🙂 Much better 🙂

    Keep the irony 🙂

    BW, Mike

  5. Sarka

    Buy that mug 🙂 It’s cute. Don’t use it for toothbrushes though, that would be too cruel. Better would be sipping hot tee with lemon and honey from it during long winter evenings.

    Do Czechs really smell so much? During summer – probably – but even in cold autumn and winter? Actually, I don’t smell it now, maybe my nose is too used to it.

    If I had chalupa, I would have old furniture there – because of thriftiness, beacuse it would match the old appearance and folksiness of the chalupa and chalupa is a place of rest, peace and quite, comfort and modesty – which again goes together well with the old furniture.

  6. Eva

    Nice post, as usual. Like reading about something I am so fundamentally part of.
    But every country has their own “oddities” – e.g. here, in Brussels, where I am living now, are heaps of hairdresser´s everywhere. Don´t ask me why. I would also never believe that bureaucracy can have a shape Kafka used to describe in detail. He probably ment Belgium when writing his Le Château… Nevertheless, when officials or service providers are sending you somewhere, they do it with charm, smile and always use the word “Madam” 🙂 So you cannot be even crossed with them…

  7. Michael

    Great post, nice of you to explain the idiomatic expression “Elephant in the room.”

  8. Miss Lupescu

    Enjoyed this post!

    One of our family words is “tepláky culture”. It’s been around since our son went to his first school camp and the to-take list required 5! pairs of (outdoor!) tepláky for a week of camp. Only then did it occur to me that the kids in the park didn’t wear jeans ..

  9. #13

    Nice post as ever, Ms. Czechlandová! 🙂

    2. “Restík” is actually a common expression for “backlog” (if that’s what you call it — my dictionary says you call it so :)). This one is pretty old but nowadays, especially on the interwebs, you can see a lot of Americanisms transformed into a somewhat Czech word. 🙂

    But don’t call your blog “blogísek” like the 12-year-olds, haha. 🙂

    3. Probably true. A lot of people say so. I haven’t noticed that, though.

    8. Why do you call Švejk an anti-hero? 🙂 And be careful what you’re going to say — the Czechs love their Švejk. 🙂

  10. Richardinprague

    Hello Girl!
    Lovely blog again, thanks. Less serious than your previous one, which I think drew more comment than ever before 🙂
    Czechlish? Maybe a little. We talk about “tomato omacka”. My nickname is “Fluffy” (don’t ask!), so my wife calls me “Fluffinko” or “Fluffinecko” – I really enjoy playing with all these Czech diminuatives. This morning I passed a “Stejkarna” … that’s a horrible word! But any language is supposed to be living, and therefore will naturally evolve. With the Nguyen’s being in the top ten names in the Czech census, it can’t be long before “Czechnamese” starts to appear – perhaps it does already!?

    Tram musings? As I live near the terminus of one of the tram routes at Divoka Sarka, it is not unusual to notice people who have fallen asleep, suddenly wake and start blundering around and trying to work out where they are and how to get to where they want to be – especially in the mornings and late evenings! The BO thing – no, haven’t really noticed that. Maybe I’ve been here too long!

    We DO have a chalupa, and you are right, old furniture tends to end up there. My wife has even taken to having new cupboards made by our neighbourhood ridiculously cheap carpenter, then painting them with “washed out” paint to make them look old.

    Buy the mug, but I agree you shouldn’t use it for your toothbrush! My little oddity is a small collection of those funny mugs from Karlovy Vary which have a hole in the handle so you can drink the water while you are walking around! (again – don’t ask!)

    “Christmas cookies”. I am waiting for the day when my wife will start buying crushed nuts, which will be the signal that we will be making the Christmas cookies that weekend. It really is a shared job. My wife will make the dough, and I will be pressing it into those little metal moulds which go in the oven for just the right length of time before they are tipped out into icing sugar and popped into a tin. This work is usually accompanied by a cup or two of svarak (mulled wine) to help things along 🙂
    Having struggled through all this at home, when I go to the Christmas market, it’s the Tredelnik I head for (rolled dough wrapped around a stick and grilled, then covered with sugar and/or cinnamon) – with more svarak, or “kinderpunsch” if I’m driving.

    Today’s lunch will be at the university. The choice is between “Špekové knedlíky s moravským zelím” (soft dumplings with bits of onion and bacon inside, with “cabbage surprise”), or for the veggies “Zázvorové sojové boby” (ginger flavoured lumps of soya with ?????). Mmmmm – I can hardly wait!

    Enjoy your weekend, Girl!

  11. Ginge

    Yes; sod the thriftiness… buy the mug!

  12. Like your blog 🙂
    in my family, we say “to go spinky spinky” meaning to go sleep 🙂

  13. Oh I would love to see Czech, and Prague, and Old Town Square in the winter time. I’ve managed August and March now, but seeing as the next time I may be able to be back will be May-August, I’ll just have to hold out for sometime far off.

    I haven’t commented before, but I love following your blog; it both encourages the part of me that considers moving to Czech in the future, and keeps me realistic about what it would be like.

  14. Great post as usual GIC – as for irony, it’s just your style 🙂

    With regard to point 3, I often have to restrain myself from staring at many Czech young ladies, (& frequently not-so-young ladies), when so much cleavage &/or thigh is frequently on view!!!!!

    • richardinprague

      You might also mention having to discretely avert one’s gaze from the ladies’ legs ahead of you as you travel up the long steep escalators at the metro. They seem to go on, and on, and – oh!
      (Hradcanska is very good!)

  15. Richard – The escalators at Náměstí míru and Jiřího z Poděbrad are even longer than those at Hradčanská. But I recognise the issue to which you allude 🙂 But I did wonder whether your comment about going, ‘on, and on’, referred just to the escalators?

    • Richardinprague

      Of course I was referring to more than the escalators, Ricky! 🙂

      Incidentally, for the pedants, I have been told that Nam. Miru is the deepest station with the longest escalators in the Prague metro system.

      All the best – Richard2+?

      • girlinczechland

        Hello Ricky and Richard,

        All I can say is that you are a pair of cheeky chaps!


      • Krakatice

        Wow! After almost three years of irregular, yet complex reading of your blog the penny finally dropped – chaplaincz (aka Ricky) and Richardinprague are actually two persons! Somehow, I have considered you guys for all these years to be one person (not paying to much attention as it seems;-) Let me apologize for it:-)

      • girlinczechland

        Hello Kratatice,

        Yes, I can confirm as far as I know, Ricky and Richard are two separate entities, both on and offline! It’s nice both to have regular commenters and a mythology around them! Indeed, perhaps it’s them rather than myself who are the main stars of this blog 😉


  16. mag

    I was wondering myself what is up with the florists? There’s even one on Andel open 24/7, I mean, really? 😉

  17. Miles

    About those cacti, well, they are pretty popular kind of flower here. It could probably be attributed back to Alberto Vojtěch Frič, a rather famous Czech writer, traveler and botanist of early 20th century – a proper Indiana Jones of botanics – whose semi-autobiographic adventure novels led countless boys and girls in 50s and 60s to start collecting cacti. And so it became a Czech tradition (even though today’s kids probably do not even know Frič anymore). The fact that cacti don’t require too much care probably helped a bit, as well. The worse you abuse them, the more they bloom. 🙂
    Check on Frič here: http://cs.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alberto_Vojtěch_Frič

    With bodily odors in winter, the cause is multifold. First, please remember that not everyone smelly in Prague trams is Czech. Especially foreign construction workers are infamous for showering no more often than once a week (which is not really their fault, as they usually live in hostels with shared showers). Second, lots of people only have one autumn/winter coat, and they usually end up wearing it daily from October to March (ew). Third, homeless people often coopt trams for temporary homes once temperature falls below 15 degrees, and needless to say, they wash even less than those poor construction workers. And fourth, many people often do wash in the evening before going to bed, but they don’t realize how many nasty bodily byproducts are secreted by their skin in sleep, even though they don’t feel sweaty at all. Which, combined with Austro-Hungarian worktimes you mention in your next post, is a killer. Hardly anybody can be bothered to take a shower before leaving their home at 5:30-6:30 AM (usually without any form of breakfast), especially since they “showered only yesterday”.
    So yea, I admit, we’re filthy pigs. But we’re adorable regardless, right? 🙂

    As for those “posh chalupas”… yes, there ARE people who buy brand new furniture for their weekend home. It’s usually the very same kind of people that name their kids Lola or Zoe. There’s a nice French word for them: a parvenu. 😉

    Also, totally grab that mug. While it admittedly was a kitsch once, these days it could be considered an antique. It’s junk, yes, but it’s an antique junk. And repurposing antiques, that is always a good thing to do.

  18. Miroslav

    Just a quick note, when you said Jane Seymour, I first thought of this lady.

    Not that it makes any more sence that Dr Quinn, Medecine Woman is Švejk.

  19. This is in response to the comment above by Kratatice and GIC’s reply. Unfortunately, there isn’t a reply button to click on, directly under that thread.

    I can confirm that chaplain.cz, (the online pseudonym I use when commenting on blogs), off & online aka Ricky Yates, as in http://rickyyates.com/ , is a different person from Richardinprague. Richard & I have met once in the flesh which should confirm this fact as I’m sure I wasn’t looking in a mirror at the time of our meeting 🙂

    What Richard & I have in common is that we are both male, British, & live in Prague. But he is a university lecturer & has a Czech ‘other half’ whilst I am an Anglican priest & am married to a German. Sorry GIC for taking over your blog in order to provide this important clarification 😉

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