Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Glad I Already Passed!

I'm so glad that I already have my Czech permanent residency.  Apparently the government plans to make it a wee more difficult beginning next year.

It looks like there will be a required eight-hour course covering every day situations in Czechland plus Czech culture and politics.  The language exam will be more difficult too.  Currently one only has to know 900 words and phrases but beginning next year it will go up to 2000.

Each year about 15,000 people apply for permanent residency in Czechland.  I wonder if this extra requirements will decrease the numbers at all.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Veveří Picnic

Yesterday we had a picnic team building get together with my project office team.  We met up at the dam and did a 5 km (3.2 mile) hike up to Veveří Castle.

Then it was picnic time!  What a great day.  The weather was perfect and it's not everyday that you can just go on a two hour hike up to a castle and have a picnic out in an open field.  This is for sure one of the benefits of living in Czechland.

Saturday, April 25, 2015


It's getting to be Eurovision time and it's a very big deal over here in Euroland.  The annual Eurovision Song Contest is one of the longest-running TV programs in the world.  It's also one of the most watched non-sporting events with international viewers ranging from 100-600 million.  Next month is the 60th anniversary so here's how it works.

Each country submits an original song that is performed on live television.  The song may be in any language (but English and French tend to always win).  There are two semi-final rounds and the final.  After each night of performances callers vote for their favorite songs.  But here's the catch.  Voters in each country may not vote for their own song.  You have to vote for your favorite song from another country.

Countries give 12 points for the favorite song, then 10 points to the second favorite then 8points down to 1 point for the next eight best songs.  The song with the most points wins and the winning country gets to host the following year's competition.  Each country gets an equal number of points to distribute regardless of size.  So tiny Luxembourg has just as many points to give out as Russia does.

France, Germany, Spain, the UK, and Italy are known as the Big Five.  They automatically make it to the final event.  I believe it has something to do with these countries being the top financial contributors.  Just as in European sporting events Israel also competes.  And to commemorate the 60th anniversary next month Australia will compete as a guest entry, with an automatic berth to the finals.  I'm pretty sure that for Australia it's a one-time thing unless they happen to win.  

Winning Eurovision is a matter of national pride.  It does help the performers but it normally doesn't result in any performer making it big.  The two big notable exceptions are ABBA, who won in 1974 for Sweden, and Céline Dion, who won in 1988 for Switzerland.

Ireland holds the record for the most wins with seven.  Sweden, France, Luxembourg and the UK all have five wins.  The UK has the most 2nd place finishes coming in as runner up 15 times.

Czechoslovakia never competed in Eurovision.  While Slovakia entered in 1994 the Czechs didn't enter until 2007.  Czechland competed in 2007, 2008 and 2009, without ever making it to the finals.  This year the Czechs are back so maybe the fourth time will be the charm.

Here's the Czech entry for next month's contest.  The song, in English, is Hope Never Dies by Marta Jandová and Václav Noid Bárta.

 ©Eurovision Song Contest

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Ladislav Pešek

Ladislav Pešek was a famous Czechoslovak film actor.  He was born in Brno in 1906.  Back when Brno was still part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  He passed away in 1986 at the age of 79.

His real name was Ladislav Pech.  Although his parents were actors, and that he took to the stage at four years of age, his parents wanted him to pursue a solid profession.  He graduated from a two year commercial school but he still ended up at the Brno Conservatory.  He performed on stage with his parents so he took his mother's maiden name so that he would not be confused with his father.

When he was 23 he received an offer to join the National Theatre in Prague where he performed for nearly 50 years.  Between 1931 and 1984 he performed in more than 90 films and television shows.  His memoirs were published in 1977.

He was born on my street in Brno.  The house that he was born at has a plaque commemorating him.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Austrian German

On the differences between the USA and the UK, Oscar Wilde once said "We have really everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language."  Well the same thing applies to German.

Standard German, Hochdeutsch, is what people learn in school.  This is High German and it is understood throughout Europe.  However within Germany there are lots of very distinct dialects most notably Berlinerisch, Bayerisch, Hamburgerisch, Hessisch, Pfälzisch, Saarländisch, Sächisch, Schwäbisch.  There are more but these are the big ones.  Most are mutually intelligible with the differences occurring in pronunciation, spelling, word usage, and grammar.  

In Switzerland, and in Liechtenstein, there is Swiss German - Schwyzerdütsch.  Most Germans can't understand Swiss German.  On German television, it's normal to show German subtitles during interviews with Swiss German speakers. 

Living near the Austrian border I hear Austrian German which is another dialect.  Austria too has a few different dialects but the one I mostly run in to is Wienerisch, the German spoken in Vienna.  To me Viennese accent sounds "stretched out" and spoken from the back of the throat.  Vowels are lengthened a bit, especially at the end of a sentence, while word endings get "clipped".  It sounds nice but I can't fake a Vienna accent. 

Plus there's some vocabulary differences...

For "Good day" Germans say Guten Tag.  In Austria it is Grüß Gott.
"Hello" in German is Hallo.  In Wien it is Servus.
Germans say Ich liebe dich for "I love you".  In Vienna it is I steh auf di.
"In the morning" is am morgen except in Austria where it is in der Früh.
A German bread roll is das Brötchen but an Austrian one is die Semmel.
Ein bißchen is "a little bit" in Germany.  In Wien it is a bissl.
In Germany you can get an Aprikose, Kartoffel or Pilz ("apricot, potato or mushroom").  In Wien you will get Marille, Erdapfel or Schwammerl.

Here's a short video I found out on YouTube that gives some examples of the differences between German German and Austrian German.

©Easy Languages

Friday, April 17, 2015

Charity Tree Photo Auction

One of my mates organized the first charity auction held at IBM in Brno last week to support the Tree of the Year competition.  Each year in Czechland a tree is picked as tree of the year.  Money goes in to protecting historic trees across the country. 

Photographer Petr Francán donated 22 framed pictures which had been exhibited in galleries across the country since 2004.  I was "volunteered" by my mate Martin to help out as the auctioneer.  I've been to a number of charity auctions in the past so I just tried to remember how things went.  As it was for charity I didn't want to screw it up.  It turned out to be fun and 19 of the 22 pictures were sold and we raised 29.900 Kč (~$1,235) which will be donated to the 2016 Tree of the Year.

Some of the IBM managers bought pictures and have hung them up at work for their teams to enjoy.  I had a couple of proxy bidders in the audience who purchased two for my local team.

The first picture was of a 200 year old tree in Josefov, South Moravia.  In the late 1970s the local farm land was being collectivized by the communist government and 700 trees were cut down.  One of the local farmers managed to obtain a certificate stating that this tree was protected so that it wouldn't be cut down.  The workers assigned to cut down the trees didn't know that this one was exempt and tried to pull down the tree with a tractor.  Fortunately the tree had strong roots because it beat the tractor.  The rope traces are still visible on the trunk.  Pretty cool...tree beats collectivization.

The second photo my team picked out was that of a 75 year old pear tree from Central Bohemia.  The tree was planted in 1940 in Lidice.  It is special because it is the only tree to survive the Nazi annihilation of the village on 10 June 1942.  On this day German troops leveled the village to the ground even pulling out all of the trees so that no one would know where Lidice once was. While blowing up the church rubble fell on the pear tree.  The German soldiers assumed that the tree buried in the rubble was destroyed and they let it be.  Fortunately the tree was saved and replanted it near by.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Easter 2015

Today was Easter Monday which is a holiday here in Czechland.  I didn't go out a hit women on the street with stick in exchange for a shot, as is tradition here.  I was happy just to have a day off and relax.  Overall the day was nice and quiet. 

The only downside was that it snowed a bit this morning.  Another white Easter!  Luckily though it didn't last for too long.

Tünde's egg
The best part was that I did receive an Easter egg from Tünde, my god daughter.  Well a paper egg that she made in preschool.  I have just the spot for it on my refrigerator.