Saturday, January 12, 2019

Another New EU Rule

As of two days ago, there's a new EU rule in place that I'm very happy about.

Banks can now only charge as much for cross-border payments as they charge for domestic payments.  Yeah lower fees!


If your bank charges you €1 every time you withdraw money in your home country (outside of your bank's network), then they can't charge you any more than that when you make a withdrawal in any other EU country.  This includes transfers between bank accounts in different EU countries.

Brexit still hasn't happened so this applies to the UK as well.  Once, if ever, the Brexit does happen then here's another thing that will need to be worked out.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

ASEAN

ASEAN is the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.  It's a regional block made up of ten countries, something like the Southeast Asian version of the European Union.

Originally formed, by five countries, in 1961 as the Association of Southeast Asia, the group was intended as an alliance against communism.  Over the years it has developed into a powerful economic area.

The member nations are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.  Although not members, Papua New Guinea and Timor Leste both have observer status.

ASEAN is diverse.  There are 10 official languages but English is the working language.  Indonesia is the world's largest Muslim country while over 95% of Thailand is Buddhist and over 80% of the Philippines is Roman Catholic.

If ASEAN were a single country then it would be the world's 7th-largest economy.  By 2050 it is projected to be the world's 4th-largest economy.  ASEAN is home to more than 600 million people making it the world's 3rd-largest market.

In 2006, it received observer status at the UN General Assembly.  There's talk one day of having a single currency. like the Euro, but that's way down the road.

Here's a short video from 2016 that I found out on YouTube.
©Test Tube News

Thursday, January 3, 2019

2019 Minimum Wage Increase

As of the 1 January 2019, the minimum wage in Czechland increases to 13.350 Kč ($577 or €524) per month.

For 2018 the minimum wage was 12.200 Kč so now people will earn the equivalent of an extra $48 or €44 per month.

This isn't a lot of money but it's more than the 8000 Kč it was when I moved here in 2009.

Something like 4% of the workforce here receives minimum wage.

Czech minimum wage is among the lowest in the EU only ahead of Lithuania, Romania, and Bulgaria.

There's still very low unemployment here and competition is tough.  I'm surprised that the minimum wage wasn't raised even more.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

2019 Public Holiday

In Czechland, if a public holiday falls on a weekend then you're out of luck.  The holiday doesn't move to Monday or Friday like it does it other countries.  2019 is one of those years where we will lose out because three public holiday fall during a weekend.  Dang it!

However there are a few long weekends to look forward to and we will get three days off for Christmas.  Now to sit down with the calendar and plan out a few trips so that I maximise my holiday time.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Dublin NYE

Happy New Year!  Last night was the Dublin New Year's Festival down at the River Liffey by the Custom House.

It's cool because there were three different shows.  At 6 pm there was a family friendly music and light show.  At 7 pm there was a "midnight matinee" countdown so that all of the kids could celebrate New Years.  It's brilliant because it also works for us old people that don't want to have to stay awake until midnight.

At 8 pm there was a countdown concert with live performances by Walking on Cars, Ash, Aimee, and Lisa McHugh.

Then at 11:30 pm there was another light show leading up to the midnight countdown.  We got out of there early and went to dinner.  New Year's has never been my favourite holiday.  Places are so crowded and there are way too many drunk people out.  I'd much rather have an early dinner and stay in so this was perfect.  I got to see the fireworks and was home in my pyjamas by midnight.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

PF 2019

PF 2019!  Štástný nový rok!!

Happy New Year!  I can't believe that another year has gone by so fast.  This really has been a whopper of year with so many things to be thankful for.

I was fortunate enough to visit 20 countries this year.

Happy New Year! Šťastný nový rok! Tau Hou hated! Guten Rutsch! Szczęśliwego Nowego Roku! Srečno novo leto! Frohes or Jahr! Gelukkige Nuwe Jaar! Sretna Nova godina! שנה טובה! Happy New Year! ಹೊಸ ವರ್ಷದ ಶುಭಾಶಯ! С новым годом! Happy New Year! Срећна Нова година! नया साल मुबारक हो! З Новим роком! Nyakhomtsha! سنة جديدة سعيدة! 恭 贺新禧!

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Christmas 2018

I'm in Berlin for Christmas this year.  Like last year, we went to see the Christmas service at the local Evangelical church.

Later we had dinner and then der Weihnachtsmann showed up with a bag full of presents.





I must say that I enjoy the Weihnachtsmann way more when I'm not the one wearing the outfit.  But at least this way Tünde doesn't realise that I'm not there when he shows up.  She's a clever little thing.

Sometimes technology is a good thing.  I love that whilst I'm in Berlin I still got to watch my niece and nephew open their Christmas presents in California.

To my ultra-international team at work...Merry Christmas! Veselé Vánoce! Veselé Vianoce! Wesołych Świąt! Весела Коледа! Sretan Božić! Hyvää joulua! Joyeux Noël! Gëzuar Krishtlindjet! Fröhliche Weihnachten! मेरी क्रिसमस! Craciun Fericit! С Рождеством! Vesel božič! Linksmų Kalėdų! கிறிஸ்துமஸ் வாழ்த்துக்கள்! Boldog Karácsonyt! Nollaig Shona! ¡Feliz Navidad! Gelukkig Kerstfeest! Срећан Божић! Buon Natale! ಮೆರ್ರಿ ಕ್ರಿಸ್ಮಸ್! З Різдвом Христовим! Geseënde Kersfees! Feliz Natal! Nollaig Chridheil! عيد ميلاد مجيد!

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Feuerzangenbowle

It's Christmas time in Berlin and today we went out to Nikolaiviertel for Feuerzangenbowle.  Nikolaiviertel dates back to 1237 and it is the oldest residential quarter in Berlin.

The quarter was completely destroyed during the war and East Germany pretty much left it as a shambles for many years.  It was finally restored in time for the city's 750th anniversary in 1987.  All of the shops, taverns, and courtyards were rebuilt according to historical records and it is now a popular place to visit.

Feuerzangenbowle translates to "fire-tongs punch" and it is a traditional German drink normally served at Christmas and New Year's.  It became popular after following the release of a 1944 film comedy called Die Feuerzangenbowle.






Basically, there is a loaf of sugar that has been soaked in rum.  It sits on top of a smaller burner, kind of like a fondue set, and the whole thing is set on fire.  The sugar drips in to mulled wine (heated red wine flavoured with cinnamon sticks, orange peel, cloves and star anise).  It's similar to svaržák or glühwein but with a bit of a kick.

The stand in Nikolaiviertel has a video clip of the movie running on a loop.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

The Canary Islands, Spain

I'm already need some warm weather and in March it's off to Gran Canaria for a week.  Over the past almost ten years I've wanted to visit but it's just never worked out.  So I'm excited to finally go.  Here's a bit of geography about where I'm headed.

There are four archipelagos in the North Atlantic Ocean between Europe and North Africa.  Collectively they are called Macaronesia.  They are the Azores, Madeira including the Selvagens Islands, the Canary Islands, and Cape Verde.

Cape Verde is an independent country and is part of Africa.  The Azores and Madeira belong to Portugal and the Canary Islands are part of Spain.

The Canary Islands, Las Islas Canarias, are an autonomous part of Spain.  The islands are actually closer to Africa than they are to Europe.  They are only 100 km (62 miles) off the coast of Morocco.  Since the Canary Islands are a part of Spain they are in the EU and a part of Schengen.

There are seven main islands and each has its own capital.
They are Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro.
There are also several smaller islands including La Graciosa, Alegranza, Isla de Lobos, Montaña Clara, Roque del Oeste and Roque del Este.

The Canary Islands are a little bigger than Delaware and home to almost 2.13 million people.  Most people live on Tenerife and Gran Canaria which are home to the two capital cities - Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.

The islands were discovered by Ancient Greek and Roman sailors.  In 1495 they came under Spanish rule.  During the Spanish Empire, the islands were the main stopover for Spanish ships on their way to the Americas.  They gained autonomy in 1982.

The Canary Islands have long hot summers and relatively warm winters making them a major tourist destination.  They get almost 12 million tourists a year which is about 32% of its GDP.  I can't wait to be one of those tourists because I'm in serious need of some beach time.  Let's see how my Spanish holds up but with so many German and British tourists I'm sure that I'll get by.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Louskáček 2018


This is my 1500th blog post!  I still don't seem to be running out of material.

Yesterday was our annual Christmas tradition to go see Louskáček.  We missed it last year because the Janáček Theatre was still closed for renovations and the performance was washed out in Berlin.


The Janáček Theatre is the biggest theatre in Czechland.  It was built in 1965 and was the largest and best-equipped theatre in Czechoslovakia.  It then cost almost 100 million Czechoslovak Crowns but I have no idea how much that translates to today.


It is primarily used for ballet and opera and besides Louskáček, I've seen a few over the years.  The theatre has been closed for over a year for renovations that cost more than 750 million Kč (~ €29 million / $34 million).

The performing arts in Brno really are top drawer.  Every time there's a performance at Janáčkovo you'll see Austrian tour buses lined up because so many people from Vienna come up for shows that are way less expensive than in Austria.

The renovations look great.  I believe that there is still some ongoing projects behind the scenes which should complete by April 2020.

After the show it was time to stop by the Christmas Market to see the tree.  This was a brief stop because the market was so packed with people and because it was just so dang cold.