A Travellerspoint blog

Daily Life

(Snow today!)

snow

Daily Life

- Opening the skylight windows
"Good morning, Prague! Prague? Where are you?" In these cooling days, mist covers the city in the early hours, only lifting a bit as the day progresses to reveal the spires of St. Vitus Cathedral in the Prague Castle.

- The tintinnabulation
We stop to listen: Two sets of bells, two different repetitive patterns ring from the church a few blocks away. The two patterns are of different lengths and tempi. So they start together, but the patterns phase such that the beginning of each lands at different moments in relation to the other. At first, they seem like a jumble of bells, but upon listening closer, the distinctions become clear. Stopping whatever we are doing to listen is now a habit.
Passing the cube church - five or so blocks away - I am treated to another set of bells. They ring at 7 a.m.: A beautiful way to start my day.

- Walking on art
From our building at Chvalova 3, I turn right, starting my brisk pace up the short hill and to Namesti Jiriho z Podebrad, the square where the cube church looms and the nearest metro is. If I can break out of thoughts about the day's work, I can see patterns of white and gray cubed stones. Each cube measures 1.5 x 2.5 x 2.5 inches. Each has smooth cuts on 4 sides and the wide 2 are chipped to provide rough surfaces. These small stones are laid, one beside the other, over and over again, by hand. They cover most all of the sidewalks. When approaching the artists, I hear them first: the tap-tap-tap of the small hammers is unforgettable. Aside two mounds, one of stones and one of sand, there are older men, pads under their knees, laying each stone with care. The younger men, one or two, are perhaps apprentices.
This artwork has been paved over in places. Breaks in the pavement reveal the white, grey and sometimes red stones.
In some busy areas, the stones are polished.
Walking throughout Prague, I see various patterns. In front of some restaurants and other well-known places, their name is spelled in the stone. On some streets, in turning lanes, the cobble stones are white arrows, and not painted on the gray ones.

- A smile in the morning
In the early morning rush hour, there are people at the metro entrances and exits, handing out the daily news. Each has a different version, and people grab the one(s) they prefer when passing by. Everyone, from young to old, reads these on the metro. I feel like I stick out, since I do not have a paper. For awhile, I got the one with the SuDoKu on the back, but found it hard to play while standing on a moving train, so I gave up. But that doesn't stop me from a cheerful "Dobry den!" to the woman at the entrance. She always returns it with a huge smile. A good way to start the day.

- The pro
I am now a pro at getting on and off the metro escalators. These vary in length, from long to longer, with one so long it's hard to see the end. The moving railings seem to move faster than the moving stairs, making the ride interesting if I don't move my hand (going down is very interesting). Being now a commuter, however, I walk down the escalators.

Note: When running up the escalator, do not get stuck behind a person who is walking up (who has the sense to never run up such lengths). The fast pace suddenly grinds to a near halt and the legs rebel against the brain, against the fact of being late to a class. The muscles burn and the lungs burn (this is the "no pain no gain" method of learning: if you don't experience the pain, you will not gain the wisdom to never do such a stupid thing to your body).

By the way, I made it to the class on time, but couldn't start on time due to lack of breath.

- Weight-loss program
Not only did I become a traveling English teacher, but I also joined the advanced weight-loss program This is not included in the contract, but a added "bonus". When I am not teaching, planning lessons, sleeping or eating, I am walking: up stairs, up hills, between metro lines...and I do not mosey. Nope. Power walkers, step aside. You who aren't commuters and can't flow, keep to the right. This is the speed of commuters.

I have also experimented with the city buzz here: while waiting for the next train, I walk along the platform, one foot just in front of the other, as slowly as I can without losing balance. This must be an odd sight - a spot of slow-motion surrounded by the fast. A good meditation. (I have also practiced salsa steps and other funny foot patterns.)

- The Tower Flat
Exercise program free with every visit!
137 steps (5 European flights, 6 American) at least once a day, not including the 10 steps up to the guest bungalow.

Posted by Iancela 18:08 Archived in Czech Republic Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Food

some observations

Here, the tasty salmon is from Norway.

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AmoresPerros (Czech-Mex)

Across the street from our apt. building is a Mexican restaurant. They serve "tortila chips" - a plate that comes with tortilla chips and three "sauces": sour cream, melted nacho cheese stuff, and barbeque sauce.

Kidney beans are used in the burritos.

This is a typical Czech-Mex restaurant in the Zizkov District down the street from Palac Acropolis, a well-known performance venue.

Not only Czech-Mex but also other delicious foods are on the menu.

Patio dining.

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More traditional foods

Looking at a recipe book here and talking to natives, I have learned that many of the traditional foods are meat, potato and dumpling based. Fried foods. Rich foods. Good winter foods. There are fresh fruits and vegies (lots of cabbage) here now, of course - along with the meat, etc. There is a small, round red berry that I want to try, but haven't yet. I see people on the metro with baskets of them. Beautiful.

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Other:

Eggs
- they are found on the shelf next to the mustard
- cartons of six or ten
- our 'fridge accommodates 7 eggs in the little egg holder place in the door.

Pubs/non-tourist cafes (23 Kc = 1 USD)
- 1/2 liter beer costs 20 Kc
- 1/4 liter sparkling water costs 21 Kc
- I've seen waitresses heft three mugs of beer in one hand...
- Rohlik is 20 Kc, and is a short, bagette-like white bread. This one came covered with baked, melted cheese with a slice of baked bacon on each end.. I ordered this not knowing what it was... I liked it!
- At one cafe, Thollem ordered a Bernard, and when a small glass of yellow, thick liquid appear, he realized the waitress misunderstood his "Pivo Bernard, prosim" request. We had a good laugh as I drank the delicious banana juice... Imagine Thollem ordering banana juice!

Zbraslav
Considered a suburb of Prague, it was its own town, and still retains that feeling.
I ordered the following to give my vignette readers an idea of one traditional Czech dish. (Oops - I failed to write the name):
- three slices of well-done beef
- three round slices of dumpling (off-white, spongy. Think sliced matzo balls)
- all in a homemade tomato sauce
I ate a good portion of it, but decided, since I am not a meat eater, I couldn't truly judge the quality of the meat, and thus, stopped eating.
- Note: I will not pay for another meal with meat just for the sake of my readers. I will, however, eat anything a host/ess serves me in their home. I might not ask for seconds, though.

Posted by Iancela 19:18 Archived in Czech Republic Tagged food Comments (0)

The Fisherman and the Swan

The Vltava River

semi-overcast

The backdrop: the 'Dancing Building', known also as 'The Fred and Ginger Building' (or vice versa) or 'the second bombing'.*

The act: I walked along the Vltava River three times a week to the 'dancing building' , a popular sight to see for any visitor. From the metro, I crossed the street to walk along the river. My usual brisk pace slowed to a stroll (my alarm went off earlier on such days). I looked down, locating the fisherman that sat on the cobbled path. I was also treated to a beautiful white swan gliding elegantly (how else do they move?). I heard clapping. He had stood up and was trying to get the ever-approaching bird away from his fishing area. It continued its elegant gliding, and he added a hiss to the clapping. The pest was non-plussed. Turning, he searched for something to throw. I silently wished him luck, as the cobbles were absolutely clean (like most sidewalks in Prague*). He managed to find a pebble, and chucked it near the nuisence. It slowly turned around, as if it had just decided on its own to glide elegantly in a different direction. The fisherman sat down, took up his rod and was silent.

The silence: As I waited for my client on the fourth floor of this famous building, I looked out one of the large windows wrapping around Ginger's body: the steel grey waters, the Prague Castle with its St. Vitas Cathdral up on the right hill, the mini-Eiffel Tower on the left hill; below, the car-clogged streets between traditional old buildings in traffic. During an evening lesson, I spied two men wrapped in burgandy with straps of ochre. They looked up and snapped a photo. I had smiled and waved, but they wouldn't see me in their memento. My smile was still there as they walked toward the famous Charles Bridge.

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  • The Californian architect Frank O. Gehry and his Czech co-architect Vladimir Milunic have designed an impressive building to fill a space left empty in the centre of Prague after World War II bombing. It is a 'dancing building' and was named "Ginger & Fred" in an allusion to the American film icons. The building is part of the tradition of deconstructive architecture (also known as catastrophe architecture): Gehry's postmodern signature is undeniably visible - and stands in marked contrast to the building's historic setting. It is thus perceived by many people to be an alien element, a Californian eye-sore in one of the few central-European cities not reduced to rubble and ashes at the end of World War II. Some say "Ginger & Fred" repeats the destruction of the cityscape on this site, where American bombs (accidentally) destroyed a building at the end of the war. Thus the name, 'the second bombing'. ('Google' for more info. and photos.)

Posted by Iancela 19:03 Archived in Czech Republic Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Chvalova 3

Praha 3

This is an old building owned by two retired dancers for the national ballet. On top of teaching dance, they manage this building of rented flats. The flat on the sixth floor is the best one to look out to the center of Prague and the St. Vitus Cathdral in the Prague Castle. This was our tower flat from June to November, 2006.

The neighborhood, Zizkov, was known as the blue collar area and is very authentic. We lived near the TV Tower, a sci-fi experience built in the days of communism when it was thought that this city would be the hub of the 21st century. It served as the landmark I used to orientate myself when 'misplaced' in the city. Don't miss the giant babies crawling up the sides and the small, old Jewish cemetery at the foot of it.

It is known to be the district with the most pubs, hosting the street that has 56+ pubs, Borivojova. The challenge is to drink one beer in every pub in one day. To this day, that challenge has not been met.

Metro: Jiriho z Podebrad (green line)

Posted by Iancela 19:12 Archived in Czech Republic Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

The Vltava at Night

a dance

The Vltava River dances in a dark, gray gown with sparkling stripes of diamonds, amber and emeralds . It wears a white corsage that floats from one arm to the other as she moves within the border of the cobble-checked floor. The music? A familiar one: rhythms of wheels over tracks, tram sparks, bells and brakes, bird songs... The name? The Dopler Effect.

Posted by Iancela 19:14 Archived in Czech Republic Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

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