Monthly Archives: March 2013

99 words about Prague, Ms Girlova style

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charles bridge postcard

charles bridge postcard reverse

 

Cobblestones.  Clocks on every lamppost. Trams.  Thick snow or strong sunshine. The Castle is really a cathedral. Spires. Gruff-faced folk demand the right change. Ankle-snapping dogs – never on a lead. Crazy coloured panelaks the size of Lego bricks. Endless escalator rides underground. The Vltava (sounds like vulva). General Žižka sits astride his horse surveying Bohemia with one good eye. Soot-covered saints on Charles Bridge. Segways. Smoky pubs. A tea room in the sky. Secondhand shops full of English fashions. A giant red metronome swings where Stalin once stood. The devil’s in the detail – but so is the delight.

Those were my ninety nine words about Prague.

They were inspired by the regular column in Czech national newspaper, Hospodářské Noviny.

Ever since I wrote my first blog post featuring a man being surprised by a sausage, I’ve made it my mission to see Prague from a sideways perspective.

However, writing about this super famous tourist hotspot of a city means negotiating a cliché ridden minefield.

How to describe the Golden City without gilding the lily?

Now you’ve read my attempt at capturing Czechland’s capital in just ninety-nine words, I’d like to read yours. Leave your own verbal picture postcard in the comments section: entries in English or Czech most welcome. I might even rustle up a special prize for my favourite.

prague castle postcard

 

 

 

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Death to Dishonesty: 3 ways Czechs Reject the Fakery of Modern Life

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Czechs are a disarmingly honest bunch. As I’ve mentioned many times before, they don’t sugarcoat things for you. Don’t ask if that dress makes your bum look big or whether you look a bit tired today unless what you’re after is the truth rather than a morale boosting fib.

I may poke fun at being called spoilt and western by Czechman but I’m still impressed by the many ways in which Czechs see through the fakery of modern life. Here are some of them.

Jak se řekne ‘The Property Ladder’?

Of course buying your own flat/house/cowshed to live in is better than chucking money away on rent – if you can afford it of course. What Czechs have so far avoided doing is getting sucked into the whole concept of ‘The Property Ladder’.

1-wedding-barn-cow-shed

Look, we’ve made it onto the property ladder!

As a young twenty something in England, you have it drilled into you by the grown-ups that you should save up as much cash as possible for a deposit on a shoebox flat somewhere so that you can ‘get on the property ladder.’ The implication is, if you don’t get your foot on the first rung a.s.a.p, you’ll never get to climb up to the top of the pile and own a flash pad that Victoria Beckham/The Duchess of Cambridge/Karel Gott might be envious of.

Because the idea is, in the UK at least, that once you’ve bought your first home (with the bank’s money no doubt) that you won’t stay in it for long. Oh no. Once your income increases the idea is that you take one step up the property ladder and buy somewhere with more bedrooms/a garden/in a nicer area.

In Czechland, however, if you’re fortunate enough to become your own landlord, the expectation is that you’ll stay in that home until the day you die. Which may go some way to explaining why Czechman insisted we look at so many flats before signing on the dotted line. Anyway, this might sound a boring and unambitious way to live – until you remember that it was artificially inflated housing prices (in the US admittedly) that caused the current worldwide economic downturn. You don’t catch many Czechs saddling themselves with a ridiculously huge mortgage to keep up with the Joneses or the Novaks.

Stupid cupid: Czechs say no to fake anniversaries

You’ll be aware no doubt that February 14th is Valentines Day. While it would be nice if Czechman at least attempted to do something romantic on this date, I do secretly admire his reasons for not doing so. He rather convincingly argues that it’s all just commercial nonsense imposed on the Czechs after the Revolution as another way to tap into the post-Communist emerging market.

Back in England, we’re suckers. These days on Mother’s Day we’re not expected to splash out on presents and cards but Kindles and I-Pads too. And then there’s Father’s Day to think about too. Google confirms a Grandparents Day also exists. Don’t get me wrong: our nearest and dearest deserve recognition for all the support they’ve given us over the years but creating these artificial anniversaries just seems like a cynical way for the capitalist machine to rinse more cash out of us.

Spoil your mum: but how much?

Czechs wouldn’t fall for this nonsense. I do hope that I get a kiss under the blossom from Czechman on May 1st though: that will only cost him his dignity.

Hands off our Becherovka: Booze = national identity

Drink Becherovka! Or not...

Drink Becherovka! Or not…

I’m probably going to get into trouble with this last one but hey, sometimes it’s fun to court controversy.

I don’t really like Becherovka. Yes, I know that this particular form of alcohol is as much a part of Czech national identity as that world famous beer, Pilsner. It’s been explained to me that it’s made from a secret family recipe and that it can cure every kind of ailment from a tickly cough to an itchy leg. Still, the way the Czechs hang onto it is perhaps another sign that they refuse to compromise their national identity, in the same way that a recent advertising campaign for Irish whiskey associates a rejection of all that’s dishonest in the modern world with the authenticity of their tipple.

Death to Dishonesty – drink Becherovka! Would it work? If it’s good enough for the Irish…

death to dishonesty

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From Tears to Triumph: Girl In Czechland Hits the Ski Slopes

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bridget_ski_1280-434446480

Another English lady fails to get to grips with the slopes…

So I survived. Just.

Like a Hollywood epic, the much anticipated and long dreaded ski trip had plenty of ups and downs or to be more precise, tears, tantrums, a turning point – and finally, triumph.

DAY 1: Tiny Towels

We arrive at the pension. It has the tiniest towels I’ve ever seen. There’s no complimentary soap. Before anyone accuses me of being spoilt and western, Czechman notices these two facts first.

DAY 2: My Debut

As predicted, things do not go well. Unflattering comparisons are made to Bridget Jones’ performance en piste in that cinematic masterpiece, Bridget Jones 2.

I fall over.  A lot – and lack the upper body strength to get up again unaided. There’s nothing more ungainly than watching a grown woman floundering around in the snow like a carp out of water – with skis and attached.

Unfortunately my sufferings do not end once I get off the slopes. I realize while putting on my normal footwear that I have twisted my ankle. I’m told that this is impossible to do this in ski boots. Once Czechman realizes that my self-diagnosis is correct, I’m accused of injuring myself on purpose to avoid further humiliation – sorry skiing. I hobble back to the pension, squealing with pain every five steps, in somewhat low spirits.

DAY 3: Sports Injury

Czechman goes off to The Big Slope which has one of those proper ski lifts that you actually sit down in. I’d love to have a go on one but you’re only allowed on if you’re wearing skis, which thanks to my sports injury – the first one of my entire life – I won’t be doing any time soon.

I manage a bit of swimming in the pool at the pension then hang out in the jacuzzi or ‘whirlpool’ as they say in Czechlish. Whirling on your own proves to be a bit boring. I go back to our room and attempt to do the crossword at the back of Žena a život. There’s one clue I can definitely complete with some confidence.

Kočka (anglický), three letters…

fluffy cat in snow

No animals were harmed in the taking of this photograph

CAT!!!

I may not be able to ski but I am a Czech speaking genius. Sort of.

DAY 4: Defeat?

Ankle not swollen but still painful. Being in the mountains surrounded by skiers and snowboarders in a hotel run by two international ski champions with ski trophies lining the bar makes me feel like a bit of a prat.

I consider heading back to Prague and leaving Czechman to piste it up alone.

Perhaps I would have done but

a)    I discovered a café with the best hot chocolate in the world

b)    I couldn’t manage to read the bus timetable properly without adult (i.e Czechman’s) assistance.

DAY 5: The Turning Point

Using a potent combination of bribery (hot chocolate, fruit dumplings) and emotional blackmail (“but isn’t it nice when partners have a shared interest?” Umm, yes, but does it have to involve the risk of physical injury?) Czechman persuades me to get back on those skis.

Getting to the top of the kiddie slope is by no means easy. I have to place a rapidly moving pole with a disc attached to the end between my legs and hang on for dear life. I manage to do so successfully and even remember to release it in time so I don’t end up on the ground.

I also master the snow plough or gliding wedge: that’s the technical term for pointing my skis towards each other to make a big V shape. I can even stop by means of an oblouček to the right. I still fall over sometimes but progress has been made.

There were moments when you might even have said I was enjoying myself. Don’t tell Czechman though or he’ll drag me back to the mountains faster than you can say waterproof insulated trousers …

Bridget Jones demonstrates the snow plough. Sort of.

Bridget Jones demonstrates the snow plough. Sort of.

 

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