Tag Archives: the bartered bride

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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Five Czech tunes you must hear before you die

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If music be the food of love, play on!

Those are the words of Shakespeare. Who wasn’t Czech. As far as we know.

I digress. Again.

You want to get to know Czech culture better but haven’t yet mastered those seven cases well enough to tackle Klíma in the original. Why not try taking an aural journey through Czechland’s rich musical heritage instead? From opera to pop, Czech composers and songwriters have come up with some top tunes over the centuries. Sample five of them below and ensure that you do not go to the grave completely ignorant of Czech musical achievements.

1. Overture to The Bartered Bride, Bedrich Smetana

I’m no opera buff but I have become a big fan of Smetana’s The Bartered Bride. I’ve even started singing bits in the shower – much to the amusement of Czechman.

I think most of us have some secret theme music that they imagine would kick off the big budget Hollywood film of their lives. The overture of The Bartered Bride is the tune I’d make them play as the credit rolled. It’s my secret happy ending music. It makes me want to fling my arms out and pirorette in a circle. I don’t actually do that too often: I may damage something or fall over and end up back in hospital.

2. Modliba pro Martu, Marta Kubišová

A minor Anglo-Czech domestic dispute

“You’re not writing about Marta Kubišová are you?”

“Why not?”

“Because you don’t know anything about her! If you’re going to talk about Modliba pro Martu you have to explain that it became a sort of unoffical national protest song after the Russians overran Prague in 1968.”

“I was thinking of saying she’s a sort of Czech Dusty Springfield. Only without the beehive.”

3. Tepláky, Nightwork

Shakespeare, opera, the Soviet invasion…

This is all getting a bit serious. Time to lighten the tone.

This song by Nightwork pays tribute to what is arguably the favourite Czech item of clothing: tepláky (aka jogging bottoms or if you’re American, sweatpants). If you don’t whip off your work clothes as soon as you get in the door then immediately change into your comfy teplaky then slob out in front of the TV with your sliced cheese and rohliky, I regret to inform you that you are yet to become truly Czech.

You don’t need to understand the lyrics to find the video funny but the chorus always makes me titter. Tepláková souprava/kule dej si doprava: Jogging bottoms on, move your balls to the right.

4. Lítací, Lenka Dusilova

I can’t pretend I really know what this song is about. Running it through Google Translate hasn’t helped much either. Still, as it seems the most repeated lyric is ‘najnajnajnajnaaaaaa’ which I’m guessing is something like ‘ladidadidaaaaaa’ in English, at least I shouldn’t have too many problems joining in.

I listened to Mezi světy, the album this tune is taken from, while I was in hospital. It reminded me of what Jarvis Cocker said when he went to visit his old school recently: that pop music is no longer so central to our lives. Instead, it’s turned into something inoffensive and soothing you have on in the background like a scented candle. Still, when you’re lying in intensive care, soothing and inoffensive is what you need. Lenka hit the spot for me then for which I’m grateful.

5. Mám jizvu na rtu, Jaromír Nohavica

According to the Czech Musical Dictionary of Persons and Personalities, Jaromír Nohavica is “exceptionally talented, marked by his intelligence, erudition, sensitivity, and industriousness.” He’s also a bit of a controversial figure: it seems that he may have been an informer during Communism despite being critical of the regime in his music.

Whatever the truth of the matter, he is still responsible for penning and performing lots of songs I like, including this one.

Tell me all about your favourite Czech tunes – modern or classical, funny or serious – in the comments section. And next time I may even get around to that erudite and serious post on Communism. Or not.


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