Sunday, January 30, 2011

Telling Time

If you want to know what time it is over here then all you have to ask is Kolik je hodin?

The answer is not always so simple. The Czech case system has lots of rules when it comes to numbers, so the answer to "what time is it?", isn't an easy one.

The Czech word for hour or "o'clock" is hodina. It is 1 o'clock is Je jedna hodina.

Hodina is a feminine noun and the numbers 2, 3 and 4 require the nominative plural form. This changes hodina to hodiny. It is 2 o'clock is Jsou dvě hodiny. (Literally...they are 2 hours)

The numbers 5 and higher all require the plural genitive case so hodina becomes hodin. It is 5 o'clock is Je pět hodin. ( is five of hours)

Hang on now because that was the easy part. Things get trickier when it comes to quarter and half hours. In English, we think of the current hour. In Czech, you think of the upcoming hour.

In English, 5:15 is "a quarter past five". But in Czech it is čtvrt na šest (quarter towards six).

In English, 5:45 is "a quarter to six". But in Czech it is třičtvrtě na šest (three quarters towards six).

In American English, 5:30 is "five thirty" or "half past five".

In British English, it is "half five".

In Czech, it is půl šesté, (half six - half "towards" six). Another tricky point...when you use půl, the following number gets treated like an adjective so šest (6) becomes šesté (6-ish).

Numbers can be read off individually so you can say 5:25 as "pět dvacet pět". However, it gets real dang messy if you want to speak proper Czech.

The correct way to say 5:25 is za pět minut půl šesté (in five minutes half towards six).

10:35 can be said two different ways. Either půl jedenácté a pět minut (half towards 11 and 5 minutes) or za deset minut třičtvrtě na jedenáct (in 10 minutes, three quarters towards 11).

1:51 is třičtvrtě na dvě a šest minut (three quarters towards two and six minutes). It's like a secret code or something.

Czechs use the 24-hour clock. I've noticed that things get simpler after 13:00 (1 pm). People seem to just read the numbers off. I've never heard anyone say "half towards 18:00" for 5:30 pm. One would simply say "half towards 6".

I swear that calculus was easier to learn than telling time in Czech. It is rather humbling to get one's butt kicked by a clock. Sometimes I think it would be easier to just wear a digital watch so that I could just hold up my watch when I get asked what time it is. And as long as my watch is running, or if my mobile is handy, then I don't ever have to ask what time it is anyway.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Olomouc Basilica

Bazilika Navštívení Panny Marie na Svatém Kopečku is the Church of the Visitation of the Virgin Mary that sits on Olomouc's Svatý Kopeček (Holy Hill). It is a Baroque church built from 1669 to 1679.

In 1995, Pope John Paul II visited here and its status was elevated to that of minor basilica.

An Olomouc wine trader, by the name of Jan Andrysk, promised that if he ever became rich he would build a church dedicated to the Virgin Mary. He did become rich but apparently he forgot about his promise.

The story goes that the Virgin Mary appeared to him in his dreams. One day he was stuck in a snowstorm and it calmed down as soon as he found himself at the top of the hill. He then realized that it was the same place he had seen in his dreams so he kept his promise and built the church on the very spot overlooking the town. There is a nice view overlooking Olomouc.

A few years ago, the basilica underwent three years of restoration work on the presbytery, dome and chapel.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Travel Expo

With all of my recent travels, I haven't had a chance to write about Brno and the Czech Republic. I've been here for six months now and I haven't seen much of this country, except for that long weekend in Prague with Steven and Michael. So one of my goals this year is to actually see more of this country.

Fortunately this weekend, at the exhibition center, there was the 20th International Travel Trade Fair and the 19th International Fair of Regional Tourism. For only 80 Kč ($4.40) you had access to almost 1,100 exhibitors.

To be honest, the travel fair portion was kind of a let down. The goal was to get some ideas for trips around ČR. And the travel fair seemed to just have information about Hungary, Croatia, Italy, Africa, South America, or package tours to the Grand Canyon. Not really what I was looking for.
However, the regional tourism section was cool. There were plenty of booths for all of the different areas in Czech, plus Slovakia and Poland. There were people in traditional costumes and even some live music.

The vast majority of brochures were only available in Czech. I know, I know...I need to learn more Czech. But I did manage to pick up a few, in either English or German, for some places that look like cool places to visit. Now to start planning out the year...

Friday, January 21, 2011

Olomouc's Stinky Cheese

Olomoucké tvarůžky is the famous, or infamous, stinky Czech cheese. It has been produced in the town of Loštice, in the Olomouc region, since 1876. It is a gummy, yellowish cheese that is incredibly pungent. That's probably because it is aged under hunks of meat. It has no preservatives and, at only 0.6%, is very low in fat. The usual way to eat tvarůžky is on bread with butter and onions. I like it but it really is an acquired taste. Fried tvarůžky doesn't have quite as bad a smell. I've also had melted tvarůžky wrapped in a potato pancake which is quite tasty. In July 2010, the EU granted Olomoucké tvarůžky with Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status. So only cheese from Loštice has the right to be called Olomoucké tvarůžky.

In the Olomouc Visitor's Center there is even a tvarůžky vending machine. I just had to get a picture of it.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Hamlet in Olomouc

I was invited to see Hamlet in Olomouc. My first reaction was...thanks...but my Czech is no where near to the point where I could manage Hamlet in Czech. Then I found out it was Hamlet...the ballet. Cool!!

The ballet was held in the city center at Moravské divadlo (the Moravian Theater). The theater is very small but quite nice.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect from Macbeth as a ballet but the performance was great. Shakespeare's story of murder and intrigue, in Scotland, was really well done. I think that people would enjoy the performance even if they were not familiar with the original story.

Monday, January 17, 2011

St. Michael's Church

Kostel svatého Michala (St. Michael's Church) is a baroque Catholic church in Olomouc. It was originally constructed in the 13th century and reconstructed in 1707. Around the church are columns with the Statues of the Painful Rosary. They were built around 1735 and moved to St. Michael's around 1904. There is a Dominican monastery adjacent to the church.

The exterior is a bit plain but the interior is incredibly beautiful.

Down in the crypt of the adjoining seminary is a small prayer area and a fresh water spring.

There is a great view of the town from the top or the bell tower. The Nazis seized and melted down the original bell towers during WWII. They have finally been replaced over the last few years.
The St. Jan Sarkander bell was the first bell replaced and it is the smallest. It was dedicated in 2007 and weighs 600 kg (~1,320 lbs). It cost 400 000 Kč (~$17,925).

The second bell was also replaced in 2007. It is dedicated to St. Zdislava - the Patron Saint of Families. It weighs 800 kg (~1,760 lbs) and cost 600 000 Kč (~$26,900).

The third bell is dedicated to St. Michael - the Archangel. It was replaced in 2008. It is 1.918 kg (~4,220 lbs) and it cost 1 115 000 Kč ($51,530).

The fourth and largest bell is dedicated to the Virgin Mary - the Protectress of the Unborn. It was dedicated in 2009. It weighs 2.720 kg (~5,984 lbs) and cost 1 600 000 Kč (~$71,670).

The nice thing is that you can tour the church, the bell tower, and the crypt all for free.

Friday, January 14, 2011

New Year Provisions

I swear that I have the best friends ever. Steven & Michael sent me a Christmas/New Year's box of provisions. Thanks boys!!! They mailed it Friday, January 7th and it arrived today on the 14th. It must have just made it out of Atlanta before the snow hit. Atlanta has had a record amount of snow so I figured that my box would be stuck out somewhere at the ATL airport. This is the fastest that I've received something from the USA.

Quite the contrast to the holiday cards I mailed home. I mailed cards out December 11th. Mail between the ČR and the USA normally takes 7 - 10 days. With the holidays I figured people would get their cards sometime between Christmas and New Year's. Oh but no. People got their cards around January 8th, some even later. But at least they got them. I guess this year I need to mail cards out by November 1st.

Anyway...Steven has gotten really good at boxing things up. I could not believe just how much stuff he was able to pack. I received some fuses, a few guide books, cologne, an assortment of face wash, Jif Extra Crunchy peanut butter, hazelnut coffee creamer, Degree deodorant/anti-perspirant, black beans, a blank GSU journal, Splenda sugar packets and a new Coach leather passport cover. They even sent me over a pound of jelly beans for me to take in to work. I swear these Czechs at IBM have gotten addicted to jelly beans. I may have to ration these out in order to make them last. Just saying...they do take up a lot of room in a small box.

Monday, January 10, 2011


Carmen is my favorite opera. Written by Georges Bizet, the story takes place around 1820 in Seville, Spain. Carmen is a beautiful Gypsy with a fiery temper. She pursues a soldier until he falls in love with her but then she leaves him for another man. The soldier because so jealous that he kills her in the end. The story may sound a little harsh but the music is just incredible.

Claudia knew that Carmen is my favorite and, for Christmas, surprised me with a ticket. Yeah!! The opera was yesterday. We met some friends at Janáčkovo divadlo (Janáček Theater) for drinks before the show. This performance had a lot of energy and the music was great.

The operas in Brno are pretty good and people normally come from as far as Vienna because the performances are good and much cheaper than in Austria. . The only drawback is that the subtitles are only in Czech. So if an opera is in French or Italian, with Czech subtitles, then you had better research the story before you go.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

New Year's 2011

Silvestr is what Czechs call New Year's Eve. That's because it's the feast day for St. Sylvester (Pope Sylvester I) who died on December 31, 335.

New Year's Eve has never really been my favorite time to go out. There's just way too much drinking. Don't get me wrong...I'm not against having a cocktail and Lord knows I've had a few wild & crazy times in my day. But New Year's always seems like the night when normally, sane people all decide to overdo it at the same time. Plus, this is the night when people who normally don't drink and drive...all of a sudden think that they know how to. That's one good thing about the ČR...they don't play around when it comes to drinking and driving. Here the blood alcohol content (BAC) level is 0.00 whereas in the USA it is 0.08. I think the Czechs have the right idea on this one. I'm fine to just stay at home on Silvestr. But my friends all thought that was the craziest thing they had ever heard. So I went over to Katka¨s and Robert's place to hang out with friends and play games. It was my first time ever playing Taboo entirely in German.

Robert is German and one of the old customs in Germany is Bleigießen. You melt lead, in a spoon, over a candle. You then pour the molten metal into a bowl of cold water. As soon as it hits the water the metal solidifies into odd shapes. The shape of the metal is supposed to tell one's future.

For example, if it looks like a tree then your abilities will grow. And if it looks like a rock then a lot of work is waiting for you. Mine kind of looks like a guy in a gondola which means that I will have an adventure. So we'll see what this new year brings.

On January 1st there was a fireworks show at Špilberk Castle which I was able to watch from my balcony.