Saturday, October 31, 2009

Brněnská přehrada

The other day I met another American over here. Phillip is from Virginia and teaches English at Mendal University of Agriculture and Forestry. On the 28th, I went with him and his friend Lukáš to Brněnská přehrada (Brno reservoir).

Lake Brno is a 10 km long water reserve and you can take the tram to get there.

The lake is currently drained in order to clean it up.

However, in the summer there are lots of places for swimming and sunbathing. Plus there are cycling and walking trails around it. It was a nice day to just go walk around. Especially since we all had the day off.

The guys even had me try langoše. It's a Hungarian treat. Basically it is fried dough that is brushed with garlic butter, cheese and sweet ketchup. It doesn't sound like a good combination but it was really good.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Day of Establishment of the Independent Czechoslovak Republic

October 28th is the Day of Establishment of the Independent Czechoslovak Republic. This is not to be confused with Czech Statehood Day.

In 1918, after WWI and the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire...Bohemia, Moravia, part of Silesia and Slovakia, formed Czechoslovakia

In 1939, a major portion of the country was annexed by Nazi Germany. Czechoslovakia became an independent country again, after the end of WWII, and stayed that way until the end of 1992. Then the Velvet Divorce occurred and on 1 January 1993, the nation split in to the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic.

So today celebrates the founding of Czechoslovakia, even though that country no longer exists. What's interesting to me is that it isn't a holiday over in Slovakia, so Janelle and Marcus had to work today.

Update 2022: Social media post from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Mahenovo divadlo

The Mahen Theater is located at Malinovského náměstí (Malinovsky Square) on Rooseveltova 17. It's kind of cool that that the theater is on a street named after U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt.

The theatre was opened on November 14, 1882. Originally, the Deutsches Stadttheater (German City Theatre) was the German opera house. After WWI it became Divadlo na Hradbách (Theatre On the Wall) when it passed hands to the new Czechoslovak state. The first dramatic advisor was Jíří Mahen, a Czech writer and playwright, and it was named after him in 1965.

Mahenovo divadlo was the first theater on the European continent to be fully equipped with electric lighting. While Edison didn't make it to the installation he did visit the theater 25 years later, in 1911. 

One of Edison's bulbs and a decorative copper case is on display next to the main staircase. The theater has been proclaimed as one of the National Technical Monuments of the Czech Republic.

The theatre is really beautiful. The architectural style of building exterior is neo-Renaissance while the interior is neo-Baroque. I can't wait to see what it looks like at night during a performance of some kind.

There are some more pictures of the theater already posted on Flickr.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

First Care Package

Yeah!!! Yesterday I received my first care package from the U.S. Steven & Michael mailed me a box of goodies last Saturday and I received it on Friday morning. I'm surprised it got here so fast.

I swear that yesterday felt like Christmas because my boys hooked me up...yams, vanilla extract, grits, jello, Sriracha hot sauce, dried cilantro, Luzianne iced tea bags, Jamaican chicken soup mix, Hidden Valley ranch packets, Italian dressing, French onion soup mix, Knorr spinach dip mix, chili seasoning, sloppy joe seasoning, taco seasoning, bouillon cubes, packets for fajita marinade, gravy mixes, hollandaise sauce...

They also sent me Mach 3 razor blades and Degree. The razor blades I can get here but they are tragically expensive compared to the U.S. And to be honest I have not yet tried Czech deodorant. I've been told that it isn't that great. A stick of deodorant runs around $5 but I haven't seen any deodorant/anti-persperant together in one stick. Here I think you buy either deodorant or anti-persperant.

It's a good thing that Mom is also sending some yams because I am going to have a full flat for Thanksgiving. Steven & Michael are coming from Atlanta, plus the Bratislava crew and a couple of folks from IBM here. And since I remember what it was like being in the military overseas during the holidays, I also invited some of the Marine guards from the embassy in Bratislava. So far the mix is going to be American, German, Slovak, French, Spanish and Serbian. I can't believe that it's only about five weeks away.

Pizza Hut

We have McDonald's and KFC here in Brno and so far I have yet to go to either one. I'm saving them for when I absolutely need an American "fix." However, Marcus found a Pizza Hut in Bratislava so we went last weekend. Who knew I would get so excited about a Pizza Hut?!?

The pizza over here is not that great. The crust tends to be very thin and there's hardly any sauce on it. It tastes kind of like cardboard. People here normally squirt sweet ketchup or tartar sauce on it. And I have yet to see parmesan cheese or crushed red pepper on pizza here either.

Last Saturday was going to be a day of sightseeing in Bratislava but we eneded up looking for a flat for Marcus. We decided that while sightseeing could wait until next time, we still had to cross the bridge to Petržalka and visit the Pizza Hut located in a Tesco.

We started off with a caesar salad that looked really good. Until we took a bite and discovered that they didn't use caesar was sour cream. Not the best thing I've had here in Eastern Europe. However, the pizza was awesome!!! It's probably a good thing we don't have one of these in Brno because I would be there at least once a week. But what I would not give for a Papa John's Pizza over here...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

No Means "Yes"

It’s a big challenge anytime you move to another country; having to learn a new language and figure out a different culture. But it can be really confusing here when no means “yes”.

The Czech word for “no" is ne and the word for "yes” is ano. However, ano often gets shortened to either no or jo (pronounced "yo"). When I ask a question in Czech and the other person responds with no, I have to think…are they saying “yes” or are they trying to answer in English and actually mean “no”. It can be quite confusing at times!!!

Here’s another one that gets me –
The expression fakt jo means “really?” or “is that right?” But when Czechs say it you don’t hear the “t” so it sounds like “f*** you”.

I was floored the first time I heard this said at work. Especially, since it was from this really sweet girl to her manager. It took me a couple of minutes to figure this one out.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Numbers are different over here. I’m not even talking about the metric system with its Celsius, kilos, grams, liters, deciliters, hectares, meters, etc. That will be another post. I mean the numbers themselves and how they are used are different.

Americans write the number “one” as a single line but then you can’t tell it from a lower case “L”. In Europe, a “1” has a long “flag” and it often looks like an inverted V.

The number “seven” has a line in the middle and sometimes has a crooked top line.

The number “nine” often looks like a lower case “G”.

No one here, except me I think, uses the pound sign “#” for number here.

Here decimals are commas and commas are decimals. In the U.S., “one and one-half” is written “1.50”. Here it is written as “1,50”.

When you count with your fingers, you start with your thumb.
If you hold up your index finger then people think you mean “two”. For “3” you hold up your thumb, index finger and middle finger. If you do it U.S.-style, with your thumb touching your pinky finger, then people here think you mean “4”.
The 24-hour clock is used in all official timetables. Sometimes a colon is used and sometimes a period is used. So you will see either 17:00 or 17.00 written for 5 o’clock p.m.

In Europe, dates are written as day then month; not month then day. Periods are used more often then slashes to separate the fields. So Christmas is 25.12.09 instead of 12/25/09.

Telephone numbers in Europe are just crazy! Every country has its own format. For example, here in Czech Republic the country code is +420, then you have a nine digit telephone number. But in some countries the telephone number is 5 digits and in some countries they have 13-digit numbers.

You dial “00” first to make an international call. Some countries have an extra zero in the number that you don’t need to dial when calling from another country. I don’t understand why the “extra zero” is there. I had to call a French mobile phone the other day so I had to remove the extra zero. However, the call still would not go through until I dialed “+” before the 00. I still don’t get how “+” is a number.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Villa Tugendhat

Dore, a family friend of Claudia's, drove from Germany this past weekend for a visit. So on Saturday I joined them on a tour of Villa Tugendhat.

Tugendhat is the first monument of modern architecture in the Czech Republic and only the fourth in the world to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. The land was a wedding present for Greta and Fritz Tugendhut and was completed in 1928 . The family only lived there for about 10 years before they fled from the Nazis.

The architect was Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. And the cool thing was that Dore had met him when she was a student in Germany. It really is a small world.
The villa is set out on three floors the top one is a reception area with the bedrooms. The main floor is the next one down. It is a large open plan room divided only by two non structural walls. One of these walls is made of Onyx. And one of the huge windows is motorized and retracts. Hard to believe that this was around in the 30's.
To put things in perspective, back then a normal house cost 50,000 Kč and a villa cost 250,000 Kč. However, this place cost between 6 - 8 million Kč.

You must have a reservation, even if it is for only one person, in order to take the tour. We were not able to get in to the German language tour so we had to take the Czech tour. But it was still pretty interesting.

After that we had lunch and later met up with Olga, a Czech woman who used to live in Germany, that Claudia met before. The four of us walked around the city center and checked out the different architectual styles. It was cool having our own architect with us to explain different things. Later that night we had dinner at this medieval basement restaurant near Česká.

It was a fun weekend. More pictures are already up on Flickr.

Update: Villa Tugendhat closed on January 1 for renovation. It will open again in 2014 at a cost of +140M Kč (€5.3M+).
Update:  Villa Tugendhat reopened on March 6, 2012. It was closed for 2 years and ended up costing €5.9M (+$7.4 million).

Friday, October 9, 2009

Household Goods

On Wednesday my household goods showed up. It took about 2.5 months for my stuff to go from Atlanta to Miami, then on a boat to the UK where it had to clear customs, before moving on to Prague and finally to Brno.

The agency said that the driver would be at my flat between 8 am and 4 pm...that's worse than waiting for the cable TV folks back home.

At 2 pm I called the agency in Prague and they said the driver would be here in 30 minutes. But 30 minutes later the driver called and said it would take another 30 minutes. And of course the driver they sent could not speak English. Fortunately though he spoke enough German for us to understand each other.

While he had the delviery van double parked on my one-way street, he helped unload my 22 boxes as I ran them all upstairs. My flat is on the 5th floor (a U.S. 6th) but the elevator only goes to the 4th floor, so I had to haul my boxes up 1 flight of stairs.

I had this day in the back of my mind when I was looking for flats. Going up and down a single flight of stairs is fine. But there was no way I was going to move in to a 3rd or 4th floor flat without a lift.

Getting to open all of my boxes was kind of like Christmas! I've got all of my cold weather clothes and just in time for my first Czech winter. But now I've got to go to Tesco to buy some more hangers. And eventually to Ikea for a dresser.

Saturday, October 3, 2009


My laundry hassles are finally over. My flat had a washer/dryer combo unit when I moved in. But the dryer never worked. Basically, when you used the dryer the machine would add water and in the end I was left with hot, wet clothes. Boiled clothes are no fun.

My landlords had a repairman come out. He said it was fixed but it still did the same thing. So they came back and took the machine away only to find out that a special part was needed and it would take a couple of weeks. So they brought the machine back so I could at least wash clothes. But the guy hooked the thing up wrong and the it leaked water out all over the floor. So they came back to fix the leak. But that just caused it to leak in a differnt place. This went on three or four times. When the part arrived, they came to fix the machine a final time. My landlords were very appologetic about the whole thing and even brought me a couple of bottles of wine. Guess what? The dryer still didn't work and there was another leak. They finally gave up and on Friday they delivered a brand new unit. And it works!!!

There are only two laundromats in Brno. And having a dryer over here is very rare since they are expensive to run because they use a lot of energy. Everyone just has a washer and it's either in the kitchen or the bathroom. You then have to use a drying rack or hang clothes up on a clothesline out on the balcony.

In the U.S. there is no way you would not have a dryer. But I have gotten used to using my drying rack. I get a lot of sun on my balcony so it doesn't take clothes long to dry. Not quite sure how that's going to work in the winter but we'll see. And since it doesn't use electricity I can save energy, lower my utilities, etc.

Everyone says that your clothes last longer here because dryers break down the fabric. Which does makes sense. I've noticed that even with fabric softener, air drying makes your clothes a little "crunchy". But a quick run of the iron and it's all good. However, I am happy to now have a working dryer. The other cool thing is that the digital display on the machine is now set to English. Yeah!!