Sunday, September 29, 2013

Going to Be a Godfather

WOW!!  I got some big news today.  I got blown away today when I was asked to be Tünde's godfather. Natalie is going to be her godmother.

Now we just have to figure out how the baptism will work.  It will be primarily in Hungarian and German, with a bit of English thrown in.

Teaching Tünde the peace sign

Now to figure out if there is a traditional German or Hungarian godchild gift.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Brno Bicycle Fest

My friend Jitka isn't one for camping so she didn't join us last week for the "real" Czech experience.  So yesterday, she took me to a bicycle event at the Velodrome.

Me on a high bike
It was sponsored by one of the local cycling associations.  Several people set records, in different age groups, such as 100 miles on a high bicycle, 1 km on a mini-bike, 10 miles on a wooden bicycle, etc.

Fun, but difficult, to ride

Part of the fun was playing around with all of the trick bikes.

Jitka on a mini-bike

Ride by jumping up and down

VERY difficult to ride!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


BESIP is the Czech Road Safety Department.  It's a part of the Ministry of Transport and is responsible for road safety.

It was recently announced that they will distribute an English-language leaflet to acquaint foreigners with the local traffic rules.  Apparently there is a rising number of road accidents caused by foreigners.

Czech toll road network
The funny thing is that the foreigners with the highest number of accidents here are Slovaks.  Followed by Ukrainians and then Germans.  Not quite sure why they decided to print the leaflets in English but OK.  Besides, aren't the traffic rules in Slovakia pretty dang close to the rules here in Czechland?

The leaflets will be available at gas stations, hotels and on the BESIP website.  Here's a link to the rules.  I really wish I had this when I was taking driving lessons and studying for my Czech driver's license

Sunday, September 15, 2013

"Real" Czech Experience

With me taking a new position, a few of my manager colleagues surprised me with a little adventure.  Rather than just do the normal farewell drinks thing at a pub, I was taken out for a "real" Czech experience - something called 'tramping'.

Tramping is the Czech tradition of wandering the countryside with everything needed in a backpack.  We just call it camping in the USA but tramping is never done in a commercial camp site with such things as electricity and running water.   

I was told to show up at a particular train station on Saturday.  I was told that I needed to bring good hiking boots, extra socks and a sweater, a sleeping bag, alcohol, and meat to grill.  Other recommended items included a knife, a flashlight and a toothbrush.

We took a local train about 40 minutes from Brno and then about 30 minutes to Martin's family's chata.  The closest village was Řikonín.  Population: 35.  So small that there isn't even a pub.

A chata is a simple cottage next to a forest or river.  Most are built from scratch, without water or electricity, and are a great getaway.  They became popular back in the 1920s.  

During communism, it wasn't possible for Czechs to travel outside of the country so second homes in the country offered an escape from apartment life in the city.  Per capita, Czechs have the highest number of weekend houses in Europe.

Playing lumberjack
Once we arrived we got to work setting things up.  The first things to do were to get water from the nearby stream and to start chopping fire wood.

David chopping veggies

We played pétanque.  This was a bit of a challenge in the woods but still good fun.  

Martina grilling pork steaks
After we got the fire going we grilled pork steaks and špekáčky (sausages).  Of course there was plenty of beer and wine too.  After it got dark we moved inside and played cards and continued drinking.

Martin enjoying his steak
Luckily there was more than enough fire wood to keep the stove heater going through the night because it got cold.

This morning we packed everything up and made our way back to town.  I really enjoyed my first "real" Czech experience.  Thanks everyone!!  It was a lot of fun and I'm ready to do it again.

Friday, September 13, 2013


Flour is very different between the USA and ČR.

In the USA, flour is sold by its intended use: all-purpose flour, cake flour, bread flour, etc.

Over here, flour is sold according to how coarsely it has been ground.  Wheat flour is the most common type of flour but there are several textures.

For pastry flour you need to look for Hladká mouka výběrová.

Hladká mouka, "smooth flour" is the equivalent to all-purpose flour.  It's used for thickening soups and sauces, as well as, for pie crusts, Czech pancakes, and Christmas cookies.

Polohrubá mouka, "semi-course" is the equivalent of high gluten flour.  Czechs use it for making coffee cake and Christmas or Easter sweet breads.

Hrubá mouka is "course" flour and is the equivalent of first clear flour.  Czechs use this as the main ingredient for bread dumplings or noodles.  It can also be used in some cake recipes.

Pšeničná Krupice is the coarsest flour.  Very similar to semolina; white whole wheat.  It's normally used to make dumplings.

To make self-rising flour you combine 150g (1 cup) of flour, ½ teaspoon of baking powder and ½ teaspoon of baking soda (bicarbonate soda).  The baking powder is sold in 12g or 20g sachets in the market.  The only place to buy baking soda is at a pharmacy.

American Bisquick
This is all way to complicated for me.  I love my Bisquick.  It's a boxed mix of flour, salt, baking powder and shortening.  I've received a few care packages which has kept me from having to deal with the Czech flour situation.

British Bisquick

Bisquick isn't available here but it is available in the UK.  Nat normally grabs me a couple of boxes every time she's back there for work.  The UK Bisquick comes in a different box but it's more or less the same.  Except that the American version is bright white while the UK version has a beige tint to it.

Here's a recipe I found online for fake Bisquick.  Combine 1 cup of flour, 1½ teaspoons of baking powder, ½ teaspoon of salt and 1 tablespoon of oil or melted butter.

EDIT:  Natalie found 100g sachets of baking soda at Tesco

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Czech School of Atlanta

Atlanta is getting its very own Czech school.  Who would've thought!?!

The Czech School of Atlanta will begin offering Saturday courses on September 14th.  With approximately 700 to 1,000 Czech families in Atlanta (again, who knew?), the goal is to teach kids Czech language, history and cultural heritage.

Classes will be offered at the Sandy Springs Middle Charter School and initially to children between 2 and 12.  The goal is to eventually offer courses for older kids and adult language courses.

Attending the opening festivities will be George Novák, the Atlanta-based honorary consul general of the Czech Republic.  I never even knew that Atlanta had an honorary Czech consul.  Had I known that in advance, I bet I could have met someone in the ATL that could have given me some inside knowledge about Brno before I began this adventure.  Oh well, live and learn I guess. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Altes Fischerdorf Rahnsdorf, Germany

Bottle time with Tünde
Claudia, Norbert and Tünde just happened to be in Berlin this past weekend.  So on Saturday morning, after the Pet Shop Boys concert, I took the train out to her parent's place in Rahnsdorf to spend the rest of the weekend. 

A few of Claudia's friends from Berlin also stopped by to see the baby.  It was nice and relaxing just to hang out with everyone. 

On Sunday afternoon, we took a 20 minute walk over to Altes Fischerdorf Rahnsdorf which is Rahnsdorf's old fishing village. 

The old fishing village is off one of the main roads.  The first fishermen were here in the Middle Ages. 

In the center of the village is the town's oldest church.  Construction on the Evangelical church began in 1886 and it was consecrated in 1888.  This was the church where Claudia was baptized at.

The village is on the Müggelsee.  It is a very popular spot in the summer.

It's also a great place to come for some freshly smoked fish. 

This is also home to Berlin's only "muscle powered" ferry across the water.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

2013 Berlin Music Festival

I've been wanting to see the Pet Shop Boys, live in concert, for over 25 years.  It's just never worked out before.  They came to town when I was out of town.  They came to Atlanta one week after I moved to Europe.  They played at Brandenburg Gate, in Berlin, last year for New Year's Eve.  Of course, I was the manager on-duty in Brno last year so that wasn't going to happen.  Dang it!

Luckily, Claudia let me know that they were going to perform at this year's Berlin Music Festival.  A one-day pass was only €50 ($68).  Since the ticket was so cheap, and they were part of this festival, I figured that they would play three or four songs only.  At least I would finally get to see them. 

The festival took place at Templehof Airport.  Templehof was the airport used by the U.S. during the Berlin Airlift.  It's no longer a functioning commercial airport.  Using the arrivals/departures board to display the program was a nice touch.

The Pet Shop Boys are an English duo known for their electronic pop style.  They have sold over 50 million records worldwide.  The Guinness Book of Records has them listed as the most successful duo in UK music history.  I've been a big fan ever since they released their first song, West End Girls, back in 1985.

I was so wrong about the three or four songs only thing.  This was a right proper show and it was amazing.  Absolutely brilliant!!  These boys put on one heck of a performance.  Since there was no seating I was able to work my way right up to the front.  Now I can't wait to see them again.  Here's a short video I took of last night's show.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Team Building Boat Ride

Tonight one of the guys at work organized a team building boat ride.  We met up at the Brno dam to take a boat ride over to Veveří Castle and back.

The giant anchor commemorates the Pope's visit back in 2009.

It was basically a booze cruise with everyone drinking beer and wine as we cruised the lake.  Once it got dark, people went down below and jammed out with the DJ.

It was a fun evening.  Afterwards several people decided to keep the party going and went out afterwards.  I passed because I'm off to bed.

I have a 5 AM bus to Berlin.  Then it's on to the Berlin Music FestivalAfter 25 years I'm finally going to see the Pet Shop Boys in concert!!!

I've been wanting to see them forever.  Here's the video from their first single, West End Girls, realeased way back in 1985.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Olomouc Fountains

Olomouc is well known for its six Baroque fountains.  I've been to Olomouc lots of times but it's always been in winter so this was the first time I've actually seen them with water. 

Legend has it that Olomouc was founded by Julius Caesar.  This isn't true but it does explain why the Caesar Fountain is the largest in the city.  The fountain was built in 1725.

The Hercules Fountain was created in 1687 - 1688.  It depicts Hercules, dressed in lion skins, killing the Hydra.

The Jupiter Fountain was built in 1707.  Originally there was a statue of St. Florin in the basin.  In 1735, it was replaced by the statue of the Roman god.

The Triton Fountain is at Náměstí Republiky.  This fountain was built in 1709 and was moved to its present location in 1880.

The Neptune Fountain was completed in 1863.  This is the oldest fountain in the city.

The Mercury Fountain is considered the most artistic of the fountains.  It dates back to 1727.

In 2002, the modern Arion Fountain with a turtle and dolphin was added to the city's collection.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Marshal Radecký

Yesterday, a few of us drove to Olomouc for the day.  Krasimir and Eric had never been before so we planned to check out the usual sights - the UNESCO Holy Trinity Column, the astronomical clock, St. Wenceslas Cathedral, the bells at St. Michael's Church, the fountains, and even the stinky cheese vending machine at the tourist office.

What we didn't know is that this weekend was the 12th annual jubilee celebrating Marshal Radecký.  Jan Josef Václav Antonín František Karel, Count Radecký (1766 - 1858) was a Czech nobleman and an Austrian General.  He served in the military of the Hapsburg Empire for over 70 years.

The festivities included military bands from Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria and the Netherlands.   

In honor of his victory in a key battle during the First Italian War of Independence, a march was composed in 1848 by Johann Strauß Sr.  The Radetzky March is quite popular.  I had heard it before but never knew who it was originally written for.

Here's a clip I found on YouTube of the Vienna Philharmonic performing the piece during its 2012 New Year's concert.  The performance was shown on Czech TV so you can hear Czech spoken before the show.