Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Králova řeč

Last night Natalie and I went to see Králova řec, The King's Speech, at the Mahen Theatre.  This is my favourite theatre in Brno.  It's simply gorgeous.

This was a milestone because it was my first actual play in Brno.  Every other show has either been a concert, an opera or a ballet.  

Králova řeč is based on the successful 2010 film about King George VI and his struggle to overcome his stutter.  The performance was excellent.  My first play, entirely in Czech...WOW!  Fortunately we both knew the story and Nat was able to read the English subtitles displayed above the stage.  

I did pretty well with only Czech.  I didn't understand everything but enough that I probably would have done alright even if I wasn't familiar with the theme.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Vila Stiassni

Vila Stiassni is a functionalist villa in Písarky district, about a 10-15 minute walk from my flat.  

Alfred Stiassný

Alfred Stiassný was a prominent textile manufacturer in Brno.  He and his wife, Hermine, owned a number of villas and tenement houses in the city when they commissioned architect Ernst Wiesner to design their new home.  Construction took two years and it was completed in 1929.  

The vila is two floor building in the shape of an L.  The house is divided in that the living area is in the right wing and all of the service facilities are in the left wing.

The vila is quite impressive.  While the outside architecture is functionalist and has a modest charm to it, the inside is much different.  It feels more classic with dark wood paneling and marble fireplaces.

I think that this is my new favourite villa in Brno.  Maybe it's just because that I've been to Vila Tugendhat so many times before.  Tugendat is more modern while this one seems more like someone's actual home.

The family was sporty so the sloping garden had a tennis court and a swimming pool.

Alfred, his wife, and daughter only got to live in the vila for 9 years.  They were Jewish so in 1938 they emigrated to London and then via Brazil to Southern California where they eventually became American citizens.

The Gestapo confiscated the villa on 30 November 1939 and the Nazis used it during the war.  In 1945 the Russians took it over and they destroyed some of the original furniture and tapestries.

In 1952 the villa came under the Regional National Committee.  Until the 1990s it was used as a "government villa" to accommodate high profile visitors to the city.  President Edward Beneš lived here for a short time.  Other notable visitors include Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and Cuban President Fidel Castro.

In 1982 the building was listed as a cultural monument.  From 1990 to 2005 it was rented out as a hotel for VIP guests attending conferences or social events.  Since 2009 it is managed by the National Monuments Institute.  The villa was completely renovated in 2014 and is now open to the public.

The 60-minute tour in Czech is 210 Kč ($9) or you can just wander around the gardens outside for 30 kč ($1.50).  The tour is worth it.

I also found out that there is a 2,5 hour walking tour of my neighbourhood, the Masaryk quarter, on the first and last Sunday of the month.  It's only 150 Kč but it is entirely in Czech.  Not sure how much I'll understand on a 2,5 architectural walk but I'll have to eventually give it a try.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

2019 Travel and 2020 Public Holidays

In 2019 I was fortunate enough to visit 20 countries.  Happy New Year to everyone I met along the way.

Šťastný nový rok! Frohes neues Jahr! Godt nytår! Head uut aastat! Yangi yilingiz bilan! С новым годом! Guten Rutsch! Bliadhna Mhath Ùr! Felice anno nuovo! Selamat tahun Baru! Gott nytt år! Athbhliain faoi mhaise daoibh! ¡Feliz año nuevo! Laimingų Naujųjų metų! Laimīgu Jauno gadu! 新年快樂! புத்தாண்டு வாழ்த்துக்கள்! 新年快乐!

2020 is a leap-year, with 1 January falling on a Wednesday, which means that we will get 11 public holidays.  11 of 13 public holidays is the most public holidays that can be because if public holidays fall on a weekend you lose them.

With the way that the days fall we will have six long weekends.  I've already got a number of trips already planned including a February trip to Geneva to visit Natalie.  In May I'm headed to the USA for a few weeks to see my niece graduate high school.  It's going to be a busy travel year with trips to Slovakia, North Macedonia, Sweden, Finland, the Åland Islands, Ukraine, Hungary, Romania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Austria, Germany, France, Russia, Latvia, Moldova, Poland, Vietnam, and Cambodia.


Friday, December 27, 2019

More Christmas Fun

After Christmas we had a couple of days to hang out and relax in Berlin.  Nat and I went in to the city to do a bit of sightseeing.  

The godparents at the cathedral

We hung out at Alexanderplatz, went over to Nikolaiviertel for a Feuerzangenbowle, and had some hot mulled wine and snacks at the Christmas Market  at Gendarmenmarkt.  

It also meant watching Drei Haselnüsse für Aschenbrödel a couple of days in a row.  In Czechland it's Popelka.  It's a cute film but only for Tünde am I watching this two days in a row.

There's ice skating next to the beach in Friedrichshagen.  The last time I was on ice skates was 27 years ago, in Germany, with my girlfriend.  Clearly a long time ago.  I'm proud that I didn't do too bad.  I didn't fall and before we left I was skating backwards and doing turns.

Of course I managed to squeeze in a stop at my favourite Döner Kebab shop at Bölcherstraße.

Tonight we took the whole Berlin family out to dinner at a Creole place.  It was delicious but who would have thought that there would be creole spot here.

Tomorrow morning Nat and I are catching an early train to Brno so I'll have a house guest for a couple of days.  It will be nice to have the Kiwi back in Brno.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Christmas 2019

Veselé Vánoce!  Frohe Weihnachten!  Merry Christmas and PF 2020.  I'm back in Friedrichshagen for another Berlin Christmas.

It's been a fun couple of days in Germany.  Of course we had to visit the Christmas Market at Gendarmenmarkt and go to Nikolaiviertel for the traditional Feuerzangenbowle.

For the first time in Berlin there was a gay Christmas market at Nollendorfplatz.  

It was in Schöneberg which is the city's gay neighbourhood.  The market was very small, and there was a lot of pink, but it was interesting.  

On the 24th we attended the Christmas service at the local Evangelical church where the children put on performance of Drei Engel auf dem Dach - Three Angels on the Roof

Then it was back to Claudia's parents' place in Rahnsdorf for dinner.  

Not long afterwards we had a visit from der Weihnachtsmann who showed up with a bag full of presents.

Natalie has been in Switzerland working with the Red Cross.  She caught a sleeper train last night and got here this morning.  Yeah for our favourite Kiwi making it here for Christmas.

This afternoon I FaceTimed my family in California and got to watch my niece and nephew open the care packages I mailed back in November. 

We've got a couple of more days in Berlin and then Nat and I will go to Brno to spend New Year's in Czechland.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Czech Citizenship Exam: International Background

Here are the 10 study questions for the Czech Citizenship exam from section 23: International Background. 

1.  What is the name of the international military organisation that ensures the security of the Czech Republic?


2.  The Czech Republic is a member of the European Union.  Which of these cities is the seat of the main institutions of the European Union?


3.  In 2004, the countries of the so-called Visegrad Group joined the European Union.  Which four states make up this group?

Czechia, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland.

4.  Which city is the seat of the European Court of Human Rights?


5.  In 2007, Czechia joined the Schengen area.  To which of the following countries can a Czech citizen travel without border control?

To Germany.

6.  Mrs. Novotná is a citizen of the Czech Republic and travels with her family on holiday to Slovakia.  Slovakia, like the Czech Republic, is a member of the Schengen area.  What documents will she need?

Passport or identity card.

7.  In 2004, the Czech Republic joined the European Union.  What can a Czech citizen do since then?

Work and do business in the countries of the European Union.

8.  The European Commission is the executive body of the European Union and manages its policy.  How many representatives does Czechia have in the European Commission?


9.  The Czech Republic is a member of NATO.  Which city is the seat of this organisation?  


10.  To which of the following countries can a Czech citizen not travel to with only an identity card?

To Russia.

Czech Citizenship Exam: Socioeconomic Background

Here are the 10 study questions for the Czech Citizenship exam from section 22:  Socioeconomic Background.

1.  In which region is the Temelín nuclear power plant?

In the South Bohemia Region.

2.  Which of these cities connects the D1 motorway?

Prague and Brno.

3.  What is the name of the famous Czech company that makes pianos?


4.  Traditional brands of trucks are manufactured in Kopřivnice.  What is this brand called?


5.  Which brewery produces Pilsner Urquell beer?

Plzeňský Prazdroj.

6. Hops are an important raw material for beer production.  Where are hops grown?

Around the town of Žatec.

7.  Which of these materials is mined in the Czech Republic?

Brown coal.

8.  Which power plants produce the most electricity in the Czech Republic?


9.  Which brand of cars is manufactured in Mladá Boleslav?


10.  The traditional Czech brand is Becherovka.  In which city is this alcoholic beverage produced?

In Karlovy Vary.

Czech Citizenship Exam: Sociocultural Background

Here are the 10 study questions for the Czech Citizenship exam from section 21: Sociocultural Background. 

1.  Approximately how many inhabitants does the Czech Republic have?

10,6 million.

2.  A national minority is a group of citizens of the Czech Republic who declare themselves to be of a nationality than than Czech.  Who is the largest national minority in the Czech Republic.


3.  The Haná cultural region is an important agricultural area and is known for its folk customs.  Which regional city is the centre of the Haná cultural region?


4.  Public service radio is a radio service which provides a service to the public.  Its duties are defined by law.  Which of these radio stations in public?

Český rozhlas - Czech Radio

5.  How many inhabitants does the capital city of Prague have?

Approximately 1 300 000.

6.  In which of these regions of the Czech Republic is currently the highest percentage of unemployed?

In the Moravia-Silesian Region.

7.  Which religion is most widespread in the Czech Republic?


8.  In which city in the Czech Republic, after Prague, has the largest population?


9.  Which statement corresponds to the position of women in Czech society?

Women have the same rights as men.

10.  What is the name of the largest city in Moravia?


*Slovaks have been the largest national minority in Czechland.  Recently Ukrainians outnumbered Slovaks but for the exam the answer is still "Slovaks."