Saturday, November 30, 2019

11th Annual Czechsgiving

It's hard to believe that last year was the 10th Czechsgiving here in Brno.  It's even harder to believe that today was the 11th.  It's a lot of work cooking for three days but it's always worth it.

This year's turkey was 11 kg (24 lb).

With Tünde being a little older this year she wanted to help cook so I had a sous-chef.  

It was another very successful event and everyone had a good time.  Way too much food but that's the name of the game.

It was great to get everyone together.  Now I've got plenty of leftovers so I won't have to cook for week.  

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

5th Annual Art From the Heart Auction

Five years ago was the first "Art From the Heart" charity auction at IBM and I had been volunteered to be the auctioneer.  

Today was the 5th auction and the designated auctioneer was unable to do it so I was asked to fill in at the last minute.

It was a lot of fun and we raised over 40.000 Kč (about $1,720) for a children's oncology charity.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Holiday Care Packages

Today I shipped care packages to my niece and nephew in California.  I always pick up something for each of them during all of my adventures and ship them over as Christmas presents.  I send them to my sister and she puts everything in to gift bags.  

The boxes are filled with Advent calendars, t-shirts, lots of candy, and whatever knick-knacks I can find.  Sometimes it's a bit difficult because as they grow their sizes and interests change.  It will be so much easier when they're older and I can just send them shot glasses.  I'm sure my sister would kill me for that.

I dropped off the boxes at the post office today and had to fill out customs declarations for each.  It's about 1500 Kč ($65) to ship them and the boxes should arrive in three or four weeks.  

Friday, November 22, 2019

Thanksgiving Supplies Delivery

Today I received some supplies for next week's Thanksgiving.  

I can't believe that it will be my 11th Thanksgiving here in Brno.

The Candy Store offers free delivery in Brno for orders over 500 Kč (~$22). The only catch is that you have to pay in cash on delivery.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

30th Anniversary of the Velvet Revolution

Last week was the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall which helped kick off the end of communism in Eastern Europe.  

Today is the Struggle for Freedom and Democracy Day and it is the 30th anniversary of the start of the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia

The Velvet Revolution began on this day 30 years ago when police violently quelled a student protest in Prague.  Six weeks later Václav Havel was elected president and finally ended over four decades of communist one-party rule.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Meeting My Cousin

Who does't fly to Italy for lunch?  Well that's what I did this weekend.  So what had happened was...

My aunt wrote me a message that her granddaughter, so my 2nd cousin, whom I've never met, is studying in Florence.  We got in contact on Facebook and planned to meet yesterday in Milan.  

I had a 7:15 flight from Vienna to Bergamo and then an hour bus ride to Milan.  I booked a B&B so I dropped off my backpack, had a short nap and then headed out to meet Azalea.

I took her to lunch and we traded some family stories.  Afterwards we walked around the city a bit before she had to catch her train back.  I don't have any contact with that side of the family so I wasn't quite sure how this would end up.  I'm glad that I did it for my aunt and Azalea really is a sweet girl.  She's only got a couple of weeks left in Italy before she goes back home to California so I'm glad that I did this.

Although I wasn't so happy this morning.  I had to leave before 3 am to catch a bus to the main station, then another bus back to Bergamo for my 6:40 Ryanair flight.  I hate Ryanair, and the middle of night travelling wasn't ideal, but at least it was a direct flight to the Brno Airport and I was back home in my flat by 9:30 this morning.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

10 Year Challenge

One of the big trends that's been going on is the 10 year challenge.  It's basically people  comparing  photos of themselves in 2009 and in 2019.  The photos are then posted on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  I didn't really feel like posting that but here's my take on the 10 year challenge.

Here's my comparison of the the countries I had been to in 2009 vs 2019.  By June 2009, right before I started this whole expat adventure, I had been to 18 countries in my life.  It may not look like that many on the map but lots of the Caribbean countries are small and aren't so visible on the map.

In 2019 I've been to 89 countries.  Wow!  One of the things that I love about living in Central Europe is that it is pretty easy to travel around.  It took me seven years to visit every country in Europe at least once.  

I won't ever be one of those world travellers that makes it to every country in the world but there are still quite a few that are still on my bucket list.  There are also many places still to visit in countries that I've already been to.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Mauerfall 30

It's hard to believe that the Berlin Wall fell almost thirty years ago.  Next week is the 30th anniversary of Mauerfall.  It seems like just yesterday that I wrote about the 20th and 25th anniversaries and now the 30th is fast approaching. 

The Tränenpalast, known as the Palace of Tears, was the Berlin Friedrichstrße station which was the border crossing point for East Germans to go to West Berlin.  

There was a separate border point for West Germans and other nationalities to enter East Germany.  It was in operation from 1962 to 1989.  In 2011 it reopened as a museum.

It's a great museum and entry is free.  Well worth checking out.

Here's a short video I found out on YouTube about the museum.


Update:  Here's a DW video I that talks a bit more about the 30th anniversary and some of the challenges in Germany since reunification.

©DW News

Saturday, November 2, 2019

The German-Russian Museum, Berlin

The German-Russian Museum is in Karlshorst, Berlin.  The museum is located at the site where German armed forces unconditionally surrendered on 8 May 1945 which ended WWII in Europe.

The building was the German military's engineering training facility.  After the surrender, it was the used from 1945 to 1949 as the headquarters of the Soviet Military Administration in Germany.

In 1967, on the 50th anniversary of the October Revolution, it became the Museum of the Soviet Armed Forces in Germany.  In 1986 it was renamed the Museum of the Unconditional Surrender of Fascist Germany in the Great Patriotic War.  When it first opened it could only be visited by the Soviet soldiers who were stationed in East Germany.  Later it was opened to the general public.  The museum lasted until 1994 when the final Russian soldiers left a reunified Germany.

In 1995, on the 50th anniversary of the end of WW2 in Europe, it opened as the German-Russian Museum which is a bi-national institution supported by both Germany and Russia.  

Entrance to the museum is free and over 40.000 people visit each year.  The collection is interesting.  

The highlight is the surrender room where the Act of Surrender was signed in 1945.

There's a Soviet T34 tank on a pedestal outside.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Friedrichshagen, Berlin, Germany

Friedrichshagen is a small southeast suburb of Berlin.  I believe the population is somewhere around 18.000 people.  It's only about a 30 minute ride on the S-Bahn from the Hauptbahnhof.  

It borders Köpenick and Rahnsdorf.  To the north is part of the Berlin city forest and on the west is the Müggelsee, Berlin's biggest lake.  There's a spot on the water where you can enjoy the beach in the summer and ice skate during the winter.

Friedrichshagen was founded in 1753 by King Frederick II of Prussia.  Until 1920 it was an autonomous Prussian municipality when it was merged with Berlin.  From 1949 to 1990 it was part of East Berlin.  

During the 19th century it was a popular destination because it was peaceful and close to nature.  Eventually it became a colony of villas popular with poets and artists.

Bölcherstrasße is the main street with lots of shops and restaurants.  It's also home to my favourite spot in Berlin for Döner Kebab.

There are two things that always lets me know know when I'm in what used to be East Berlin.  

First are the trams.  For some reason, back when the city was divided, West Berlin didn't have trams and they still don't.  

Second, are the beloved Ampelmännchen.