‘What do you call a Škoda with twin exhausts?’ (and some tomatoes)

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Those of you who follow my Facebook page will be aware that there’s been a big purchase recently at Girl in Czechland Towers. After four years of living in Prague, we finally have wheels!

And the brand of the car in question? A Rolls Royce? An Aston Martin? An equally iconic British retro brand of motor car with a more modest price tag — a Mini, say?

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Of course not. If you live in Czechland, there’s only one brand of automobile for you — a Škoda.

I can still remember telling Škoda jokes in the primary school playground. Sorry Czechland. Anyway, here’s one that comes to mind:

‘What do you call a Škoda with twin exhausts?’

‘A wheelbarrow.’

Hilarious, eh?

It turns out that being chauffered around in a Škoda is actually rather fabulous. It even has a name: modrý blesk, aka blue flash. I must buy some fluffy dice to hang up above the dashboard just to make sure it has enough personality.

An exact replica of our Skoda

An exact replica of our Skoda

Owning a car has meant more weekend trips to The Village People: I won’t miss struggling back to Prague on public transport lugging sacks of home grown potatoes, plastic tupperware containers full of buchta, leftover dumplings, and of course boxes of three dozen organic eggs. Having our own wheels means that we can load up with even more of these home produced goodies.

This September Czechman and I have spent some of this year’s last remaining sunny days sitting in the Village People’s zahrádka – a sort of allotment or smallholding where they grow their own vegetables. There’s a chata there — a word that’s tricky to translate into English, because the words ‘cottage’ or ‘summer house’ conjure up images in the spoilt and Western imagination that are far grander than the humble reality of the Czech second home which often has two rooms and no running water.

Anyway, a picture is worth a thousand words:

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‘Ahoj Mamko,’ I hear Czechman intone into his mobile as I wander around with my camera. I am supposed to be watering the plants. ‘Yes we’re here at the zahrádka. Ms Girlova is taking pictures of apples.’

Here they are:

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Being in the zahrádka made me think of Jamie Oliver.

In case you’re not familiar with the global brand that is Jamie, he’s a British chef who, amongst his many media projects, had a TV series called ‘Jamie at Home’ in which you saw Mr Oliver larking about in a smallholding rather like the Village People’s zahrádka.

The point of the series was to encourage lazy British supermarket frequenting city dwellers to get up off their sofas and out into the great outdoors where they could grow their own courgettes and then deep fry the flowers to serve up at a first course to their mates at their next dinner party.

What makes me laugh is the fact that what Jamie Oliver is presenting as an aspirational lifestyle for the well-off British middle classes, ordinary Czechs have been doing for decades or even centuries.

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Some Village People tomatoes on the vine. They made a super tasty salad.

Of course growing your own is a good thing. In a sense it doesn’t really matter whether people decide to cultivate a few tomatoes because it’s what their family have done for generations or because they’ve seen Jamie doing it on the telly. That Mothership Tomato Salad with Balsamic dressing I whipped up thanks to Mr Oliver’s recipe was damn tasty.

However, I’ve noticed that Jamie Oliver’s cookery books are available in Czech – which is fine, of course. Why not give the Czech nation a chance to learn how to serve up something other than goulash and dumplings? Having said that, I think it would be more than a little ironic if you let Jamie Oliver sell your own lifestyle back to you.

Češi, don’t let a silly British chef tell you how to live! Be proud (and perhaps even a little smug) that you are already a nation of cottagers, cultivators and gardeners!

29 Comments

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29 Responses to ‘What do you call a Škoda with twin exhausts?’ (and some tomatoes)

  1. Richardinprague

    Hi GIC!

    As a Brit, I would describe a “Zahradka” with a “Chata” as being similar to having an allotment with a beach hut on it (minus the beach, that is!). Non-Brits will have to work out what “an allotment” is, not to mention the uniquely British “Beach hut”.

    Are you allowed to drive “Modry blesk”, or are you the co-pilot in charge of navigation and cabin comfort level?

    Hesky den!

    Richard
    in Prague+?

    • girlinczechland

      Hello Richard,

      Unfortunately I´ve never managed to pass my driving test so I am defintely only the co-pilot. My navigation skills have also been found sorely lacking which has caused the odd argument. Ach jo. I suppose weĺl soon have the route to the Village memorized — or perhaps we should invest in spoilt and western sat-nav to prevent further disputes!

      GIC

  2. Love to spend my AM coffee reading your fun posts. Love the car. We visited some 7 countries while staying in Germany with my son a few weeks back. (Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Belgium,Luxembourg, France,Germany,) Our intentions are to learn more of the Czech area and visit that side of Germany in a year or so. My family heritage is from Prague. I would love to spend my retirement there just sight seeing in all of the areas. Enjoyed the people, scenery, food, and the style of living. Enjoy your new ride! Weather is turning fall-ish here, and I love it.

    • girlinczechland

      Hello Sylvia (great name btw),

      Thanks so much for your lovely comment. Czechland is a great place to explore and has much to offer besides Praguehaving a car makes it that bit more accessible. Czechman dreams of us doing a a month long road trip aournd the border regions which I´m sure would make for fantastic blog material. In the meantime theyĺl be more daytrips to all kinds of exciting and quirky places — watch this space!

      GIC

  3. Mark

    A great read as usual and I can’t tell you how enjoyable your blog is. Please don’t keep us waiting too long till the next one.

    Right, now a few Skoda jokes :-)

    *Why do Skoda’s have heated rear windows?
    To keep your hands warm when you’re pushing them.

    *What’s a Skoda drivers ambition?
    To get a speeding ticket.

    *Skoda driver in Halfords: “Have you got a radio for my Skoda?”
    Halfords staff member says: “Yes, this one?”
    Skoda driver says: “OK, sounds like a fair swap to me”

    *What’s the difference between a Skoda and a Jehovah’s Witness?
    You can shut the door on a Jehovah’s Witness.

    *What do you call a Skoda driver who say’s he has a speeding ticket?
    A dreamer.

    *What do you call a Skoda with a sunroof?
    A skip

    *What is the difference between a golf ball and a Skoda?
    You can drive a golf ball 200 yards

    *How do you make a Skoda look good?
    Park it between two Ladas

    *How do you make a Skoda disappear?
    Apply Rust Remover

    *What do you call a Skoda on a hill?
    A miracle

    The actual truth is everyone I know who has owned a Skoda reckons they’re decent cars. No offence Skoda lovers :-)

    • girlinczechland

      Hello Mark,

      Totally love your comment — thanks so much for sharing these jokes, I can tell you how much they made me laugh!

      My favourite is the one about the Jehovah´s Witness – Iǘe already been told off for slamming the precious door too hard!

      GIC

      • Mike in Bohemia

        I borrowed a Skoda Estelle for 3 months when I first arrived in CZ. The neighbours expected us to be from the US thru inaccurate gossip and expected to be impressed. For those 3 month every morning they saw me noisily reving the guts out of the engine (the only way for the underpowered engine to work in winter) and filling the road with suffocating toxic smoke :-)

    • Mike in Bohemia

      Brilliant jokes :-)

  4. Hi GIC,

    I entirely agree with you regarding the advantage of owning a car in Czechland. Whilst public transport here is wonderful, a car does allow you to carry things far more easily & makes getting out into ‘the nature’ so much more convenient.

    Likewise, your plea to Czech people, not to ‘ let Jamie Oliver sell your own lifestyle back to you’, rings very true. There is a tendency by Czech publishers, to translate & publish any book that is successful in the English-speaking market, rather than encourage a Czech author to write a similar one that would be more relevant culturally.

    I see from your reply to the comment of Richard, that Czechman suffers like I do, of having an other-half who cannot drive. This always means that when we’re travelling somewhere in the car, beer & wine are off my menu :-( Please pass my sympathies to Czechman. However, I do encourage you to resist the temptation of buying a sat-nav. I steadfastly refuse to have one, not least because of the experience of travelling here with someone who does. It instructed him to drive along a cul-de-sac and then down the steps at the end!

    • Richardinprague

      Ha ha, Richard!

      I agree with your comment about Satnavs – you have to know where you are going first, then have the courage to ignore the advice from the Satnav!

      Occasionally the system I have gets the road priorities wrong – telling you to “bear right”, when you should “stop and then turn right”. My wife used it to get to Austria last weekend, and ended up being guided along an unpaved forest track!

      All the best!

      • Richard – I’m Ricky, NOT Richard :-) If you must be formal then it’s Warwick. However, your wife’s experience of ending up on a forest track because of following a sat-nav reminds me of a very similar recent experience of a visiting British couple, who ended up in the forests of Western Bohemia when trying to drive from Dresden to Prague following their sat-nav.

      • girlinczechland

        Hello Ricky-not-Richard,

        These tales of sat-nav related misfortune are frankly a bit scary! Still, I fear that they might be more reliable than my own gender-stereotypically poor map reading skills. Ach jo. We have a day trip pencilled in this weekend so I’ll let you all know how that goes!

        GIC

  5. While I own a satnav I only use it when I want to get from A to B and don’t have time to care what’s in between. Driving through countryside with satnav is a sin, you miss so many nice places and what’s even more important, you miss on the adventure of getting lost, which is for me by and far the greatest thing that can happen to a traveler.

    Keep the posts coming, it has been a rather dry summer GIC-wise and I have missed you!

  6. Mike in Bohemia

    ” you are already a nation of cottagers”

    No rude comment from me. I am trying to be good today :-)

  7. Nowt wrong with a Skoda. My Hubby won’t drive anything else and we have errr……several in various states of repair on the drive, as well as the Felicia which we both drive.
    Would love a Chata – though we live in the sticks with a so called veg patch, though no time to deal with it! My tomatoes don’t look as good as those either.
    Hettie

    • girlinczechland

      Hello Hettie,

      There is indeed nothing wrong with a 21st century Skoda! As I said, I’m very glad I’ll no longer have to brave the long busy journey to and from the Village weighed down with all Mamka’s goodies.

      Good luck with your tomatoes!

      GIC

  8. Sarka

    Nice chata. I think the hobby of gardening and growing vegetables and fruit by members of the middle class or higher stages of society comes back at least to the time of the First Republic with intellectuals gardening in their free time and some even writing about it – Karel Čapek – Zahradníkův rok (1929). Though, Germans (apart from Prussians) before wars in 19th and 20 th century were known as peaceful orchardists, cultivators and lovers of culture. So we definitely weren’t first or the biggest lovers of gardening in this area. But most of us, even I, really like it :)

    Sorry for this historical digression :) I’m becoming professionally deformed when it comes to spreading information :)

    • girlinczechland

      Hello Sarka,

      No need to apologise — I love a good digression as you may have noticed from my posts! I didn’t realise gardening was popular amongst the intellectual elite during the First Republic so thanaks for sharing :)

      GIC

  9. Sarka

    Oh, and are we really able to spot part of the never-seen-before Czechman in one of the photos??

    • girlinczechland

      Hello again Sarka,

      You are indeed eagle eyed! Czechman will remain ever elusive but you might be able to sneak a peek of his blue T-shirt in the photo: my lips are sealed…

      GIC

  10. Katherine

    Describing Czech people as a nation of cottagers had made me laugh out loud! I hope you were not referring to cottaging, as practiced in the UK. (ehm.. Simple google search of the term reveals the meaning of this English past time)

    • girlinczechland

      Hello Katherine,

      The ‘cottaging’ joke is one that, alas, I’ve made before — but I’m very glad to hear that it still managed to raise a chortle.

      GIC

  11. Hii,
    I’m writing this only to tell you I read the last 3 pages of your blog – I had it open in a tab for months haha.
    Such a nice way to discover stuff about Praha and its inhabitants. It’s a pleasure to read from you, in a nice and fun style.

    Cutting to the chase: I’m also in love wit the ceský culture. I’m brazilian, but never really went there. This love started growing in 2006 – talk about World Cup! Since then I had a chance of studying the strange lang. with a Cermaková teacher down here in Porto Alegre.

    I do hope of travelling there sometime, it would be a dream come true. I’m looking forward the next 2 and final matches of the ceský football team. I would gladly meet some of these nice people in my country!

    Cheers.
    Gustavo G

    • girlinczechland

      Hello Gustavo,

      Thanks for stopping by! I find it really touching that you’ve fallen in love with Czechland, despite never having been here. No doubt you’ve thought of this already but I’m pretty sure that if you want to meet Czechs hanging out in Brazil that you’d be able to meet up with some via the Couchsurfing website.

      Fingers crossed though that one day you get to see the Czech Republic with your own eyes: the beer is exquisite!

      GIC

  12. Yo, one more thing before leaving: you could upload pics in some max resolution, not straight out of the cam. Its heavy to load sometimes. Just a tip.

    • girlinczechland

      Hi again Gustavo,

      Yes, you’re right — Czechman has already pointed this out to me so in future I’ll try to upload them in a lower resolution. Thanks!

      GIC

  13. OOOOOOOUUUcchh about the Skoda thang: I’d love if VW sold them in BR, but they don’t! Not a chance!
    I really like the overall design of them, especially Fabia and that sedan. I also love snapping them between bike races photos, Skoda does a good job supporting that bloody sport.
    Believe, our average VW in BR is totally sub-par, Skoda here would be called “premium” for sure. No kidding!

    Have a nice day.

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