Sunday, November 30, 2014

Obřany Textile Factory

The old 1922 factory
Earlier today, Nat and I were in Brno's Obřany district and came across this old textile factory.  After a bit of research here's what I found out about it.

Ernst Eduard Essler bought a mill in 1900 but the factory burned down in 1913.  A new textile plant was built and in 1915, the firm was passed down to Ernst's son Adolf.  In 1917, the factory's hydroelectric power supplied the local village with electricity and public lighting.

In 1922, a new four-story factory was built and by the 1930's it employed 600 people.  When the Germans invaded, the factory was seized as Jewish property and Adolf Essler was deported to a concentration camp.  After the war, the communists claimed Essler was a collaborator and the factory was confiscated and then nationalized.  Essler managed to emigrate to Austria in 1949. 

Over the years, the textile factory changed names a few times.  Operations closed in 1992 and the building has remained unused since then. 


So yesterday was the 6th annual Brno Thanksgiving celebration.  After six years I think it's time to start calling it "Czechsgiving".  

Uncle Chris babysitting so parents can eat
But what a difference six years makes.  It used to be that after the party many of us would check out the Christmas market before ending up in a pub or nightclub.  

Now Thanksgiving looks more like a day care center.  This year we had five kids, and one is on the way for next year. 

Turkey and pumpkin soup

Unlike previous years, there was no adventure when it came to getting the turkey.  This year Tomáš one of the birds from his farm.  It made things so much easier.  

Besides the turkey, ham, and pumpkin soup, we had all of the traditional side dishes such as cornbread dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, glazed carrots, cornbread muffins, cranberry sauce, corn casserole, macaroni and cheese, sweet potatoes with marshmallow, green bean casserole, broccoli and rice casserole, deviled eggs, pecan pie, pumpkin pie, and red velvet cake.

Of course, much of this would be very difficult to pull off if it weren't for the very generous care packages I get from home.  Thanks Mom & Dad!  Thanks Steven & Michal!  At some point I really do need to covert all of my recipes to metric.  It would keep me from having to look at my temperature cheat sheet all of the time.  It would also make it much easier when people here ask for specific recipes.

Another successful Thanksgiving/Czechsgiving celebration.  Of course it's not complete without the group photo.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


Czechs drink the most beer per capita in the world.  Therefore it is important to know the rules when it comes to drinking.

For "cheers" you say na zdraví which means "to your health" and it is very, very important that you look at each person in the eye as you clink glasses.   

Be sure to never, ever cross your glass with someone else when you are clinking glasses.  Across Europe it is thought that doing so will bring seven years of bad sex. 

After you have clinked glasses with everyone then you can take a drink.  This goes for beer, wine or spirits.

In Moravia, the same rules apply for wine or shots but not beer.  Here after you have finished looking everyone in the eye and have clinked glasses, then you tap your beer mug on the table (or your beer coaster) before your first sip. 

If someone is drinking a nonalcoholic beverage then they do not participate in the cheers.  However in the USA, everyone cheers, even if it is with a glass of water or a cola.

Since living in Europe, I find that I say "cheers" quite often and it has nothing to do with drinking.  In British English people also say "cheers" for "thanks" and "good bye".

With so many friends here from all over, plus all of my travels, I've learned how to say "cheers" in many languages.

Czech - Na zdraví
Slovak - Na zdravie
Polish - Na zdrowie
Hungarian - Egészségedre
French - Santé
Dutch - Proost
Italian -  Salute / Cin cin (Chin chin)
Bulgarian - Наздраве (Naz-dra-vey)
Irish - Sláinte (Slawn-ch) 
Russian - Будем здоровы (Budem zdorovi)
Hebrew - לְחַיִּים (L’chaim) 
Greek - γεια μας (Yamas)
Catalan - Salut
Spanish - Salud
Portuguese - Saúde
Turkish - Şerefe
Estonian - Terviseks
Finish - Kippis
Icelandic - Skál
Danish, Norwegian and Swedish - Skål
Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian - Živjeli
Romanian - Noroc (No-rock)
German -  Prost / Zum wohl
Romanians love to cheers with Germans and Austrians because in Romanian "prost" means "idiot".

Monday, November 17, 2014

25th Anniversary of the Velvet Revolution

Happy Struggle for Freedom and Democracy Day!!  Today is the 25th anniversary of the start of the Velvet Revolution that toppled the communist regime which ruled Czechoslovakia for more than 40 years.

On 17.11.1989 thousands of people came out to peacefully protest the Communist regime of General Secretary Miloš Jakeš. 

Velvet Revolution memorial in Prague

Samolové Revoluce, the Velvet Revolution, lasted a week.  The peaceful movement allowed Czechoslovakia to transition to a parliamentary republic.

Google's homepage doodle in Czechland and Slovakia today depicted the jingling of keys which was a symbol of the Velvet Revolution which signified the unlocking of closed doors.

Update:  30th Anniversary of the Velvet Revolution

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Berousek Circus

Last night we went to see the Berousek Circus which put on a show in Brno.  The circus was founded in 1918 and over the years has traveled to more than 40 countries. 

The circus was quite small.  There were no lions, tigers or bears but all of the kids seemed to have a good time.   

Here's a short clip of the acrobats that I shot with my mobile.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Banana Juice

After 5½ years in Czechland I finally tried banana juice today.  I wasn't missing out on anything.

There are lots of different kinds of juice at the market but I've never understood banana juice.  How on earth are you supposed to juice a banana?  With the high starch content I would think it impossible. 

I'm sure that it wasn't 100% banana juice.  It had to have been blended with other juices but I wasn't curious enough to explore it further.  It tasted kind of like a very watered down banana milkshake.  I'll stick to the multivitamin juice.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Back from Vienna

At Parliament
We spent the last few days in Vienna showing Steven's mom all around the city.  We hit all of the big highlights such as Schönbrunn, Stephansdom and Peterskirche.

At Belvedere Palace

We didn't get to see the Rathaus because the city is getting ready for the Christmas market.  Vienna has markets all over the city but the big one at the Rathaus opens early, on the 15th.  Steven and his mom missed seeing the market by a few days. 

At Aïda
We, for sure, made time to visit Aïda for coffee and cake.

They are now on their way to Salzburg for a couple of days before going to Munich, and then back to Atlanta.

It was so much fun getting to spend time with them!

Sunday, November 9, 2014


As I get older I am amazed at how fast time flies by.  Five years ago I wrote about the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.  Now it's five years later and it is the 25th anniversary of the Mauerfall (the fall of the wall).

Twenty five years ago I was in the U.S. Air Force.  The Cold War was still on.  Back then, military linguists learned how to speak critical East European languages such as German, Czech and Polish.  Russian is the only Cold War language that is still taught to the military.  Now I'm working for IBM in Czech Republic.  Who would have thought that possible 25 years ago? 

Very little of the Berlin Wall still exists.  What's left is mostly for tourists which I find kind of sad.  I understand that Berlin wants to move past its divided history.  However, the Mauerfall can still be an inspiration to those people living under oppressive regimes.

©CBS Evening News
Update: The 30th anniversary.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Another Tour Group

Steven and Elizabeth
Steven called me about three weeks ago and said that he wanted to bring his mom to Europe and wanted to know if I would be up for some Atlanta guests.  Game on!  Of course my best friend and his mom are welcome anytime.

Visiting Prague Cathedral
It's funny that my family spent more than a year planning their European vacation.  Steven called and we sorted everything out in about a week.

On Charles Bridge, touch the plaque to insure a return visit
This is Elizabeth's first time in Europe.  We've hit all of the Prague highlights and it's been a great trip so far.

We even found the best Mexican restaurant I've ever been to in Euroland.  It was awesome!

One of the best things ever for an expat is receiving a care package from home.  Well I'm here to tell you that hand delivered care packages are so much better than getting them in the mail.  Steven and his mom went out of the their way to spoil me by bringing me all kinds of great goodies from Atlanta.  

Tomorrow we head to Brno for a couple of days and then it is on to Vienna.  I'm becoming quite the experienced tour guide.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Czechs Receive Bronze Stars

On Sunday, two Czech soldiers serving in Afghanistan were awarded Bronze Stars.  The Bronze Star medal is the 4th highest individual honor in the U.S. military.  It is awarded for acts of heroism, acts of merit, or for meritorious service in a combat zone.

Bronze Star
Warrant officer David Lavička and Jiří Pazděra, commander of a military company that has guarded Bagram allied base for six months, were presented the medals in Afghanistan by U.S. Major General Stephen Townsend. 

Platoon commanders and deputy commanders  were given Army Commendation Medals while other soldiers received Army Achievement Medals.

The 150-member Czech unit is tasked to guard the area surrounding Bagram Airfield in order to prevent rocket attacks and to gain intelligence information.  Over the past three months the Czechs have brought down the number of attacks down and eliminated rebel targets.