Friday, April 7, 2023

Charles University

Today is the 675th anniversary since the founding of Charles University in Prague back in 1348.

Univerzita Karlova was founded by Emperor Charles IV, and it is the oldest, and largest, university in Czechland.  It was modelled after the universities in Bologna and Paris.  It was the 31st university in Europe and the first in Central Europe.

There were four faculties when the university opened: theology, law, medicine, and arts.  Today there are more than 51.000 students studying in 17 different faculties.

While universities in Brno are well regarded, Charles University is the only Czech university to rank among the top 250 universities worldwide, amongst the top 1,5% of 17.000 universities worldwide.

Here's a short English-language video about Charles University that I found on YouTube.

©Univerzita Karlova

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Czech National Bank

Česká národní banka, (ČNB), is Czechland's central bank it supervises the country's financial market.  It's primary objective is price stability by setting monetary policy, it issues the koruna, manages the payments and transfers between banks, and oversees the banking sector, capital markets, pension funds, the insurance industry, and foreign exchanges.  It holds reserves of more than $62,5 million and tries to stabilise inflation to around 2% per year.  The headquarters are in Prague.

The Austro-Hungarian Bank was the central bank of the Habsburg Empire in the 19th and 20th centuries.  Czechoslovakia didn't have a central bank for the first six years of independence.  The country's ministry of finance was responsible for all central banking functions.

Národní banka Československa was the central bank from 1926 to 1939 during the First Republic.  From 1939 to 1945, during the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, there was the Národní banka pro Čechy a Moravu v Praze.

The national bank was re-established after WWII and in 1950 it was renamed to Státní banka Československá.

Following the Velvet Divorce, the State Bank of Czechoslovakia was replaced on 1 January 1993 by the Czech National Bank.

Slovakia has the National Bank of Slovakia (NBS).

Here's a short video, in Czech, about the ČNB that I found on YouTube.

©Česká národní banka

So this January was the 30th anniversary of the Czech National Bank (and Slovakia's too).  

To commemorate both the 30th anniversary of the ČNB and the Czech currency, the bank is issuing a special 1000 Kč banknote.  

Here's a short video about the commemorative bank note.

©Česká národní banka

Monday, April 3, 2023

New Washing Machine

Old washer

Last week my washing machine stopped working.  A repairman come over for a service call and for 500 Kč ($22) I got confirmation that it's officially broken.  

Service call invoice

I thought that the washing machine came with my flat but I found out that it didn't.  The previous tenant purchased the washing machine but left in the flat when he moved back to Norway.  So, (1) I had a washing machine that doesn't work, (2) it was out of warranty, and (3) I needed a new washing machine before  I have a flat full of houseguests in a few days.

I entertained the thought of replacing the old washer with an integrated washer and dryer combo.  My old flat had a washer/dryer combo but I really only used the dryer once a week for bed linens.

Yes, having a dryer would be nice once in a while, but after having gotten by without one for the past eight years it just didn't seem necessary.  

In the end I went with another Whirlpool machine for 11.000 Kč ($475) and it comes with a ten-year warranty.  

I suppose I can take it with me if I move out.  More importantly, I can catch up on a week's worth of laundry before the girls show up.

Sunday, April 2, 2023

Weekend in Strážnice, CZ

We spent this weekend in Strážnice, visiting Kája's dad and sister.  

Just a quiet home visit and a walk around the town.  Nice and relaxing.  Just what I needed before this next crazy week begins.  

Claudia, Tünde, and Nat are all coming for a visit but before that, I need to replace my washing machine which died a few days ago.  So getting a new washing machine is the priority before everyone comes to stay for about a week.

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Emil Boček, R.I.P.

General Emil Boček turned 100 years old on 25. January.  He was a Brno native and the last remaining airman of Czechoslovak Royal Air Force.  On 25. March he passed away.

When he was 16, he illegally escaped the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia and he joined the Czechoslovak foreign army in France.  Later he became one of the youngest recruited in to the RAF.

He was an aircraft mechanic in the 312th Fighter Squadron.  From 1944, he served as a fighter pilot in B Squadron of the Czechoslovak 310th Fighter Squadron.  He was credited with 26 operational flights, flying almost 74 hours. 

Although he was a hero and fought in the resistance, the Communists frowned that he was a member of the non-communist resistance and he left he military in 1946.

He had owned a car repair shop in Brno but he had to give up ownership when Czechoslovakia nationalised private property following the 1948 coup.  He continued to work at the shop and was never persecuted by the state.

The general was awarded the Order of the White Lion of Military Group, 3rd class in 2010.  In 2017 he was awarded the Order of the White Lion of the First Class Military Group for extraordinary services to the defence and security of the state and excellent combat activities.

Following his passing, Prime Minister Fiala said that "General Boček was fighting for our country to be democratic, free and independent."  

Here are two short videos, in Czech, that I found out on YouTube.

©TV Nova


Update April 2023:  Here's a video from the funeral, showing military honours, that I found on YouTube.

©Petr Komůrka

Saturday, March 25, 2023

2023 World Happiness Report

This year's World Happiness Report is in and just like last year Europe continues to be the happiest place to be with Israel and New Zealand being the only non-European countries to crack the top 10.

Finland came in first place for the sixth year in row.  This year's top ten countries are the same as last year.

The five Nordic / Scandinavian countries all placed in the top seven with Finland #1, Denmark #2, Iceland #3, Sweden #6, and Norway #7.

The BeNeLux countries did well again too.  The Netherlands came in at #5, Luxembourg was #9, and Belgium was #17.

Czechland again was the highest ranked of the Visegrád countries.  Half of Central Europe placed in the top 20.

Switzerland #8, Austria #11, Germany #16, Czechland #18, Slovenia #22, Slovakia #29, Poland #39, and Hungary #51.

Czechland kept its #18 place from last year.  The USA moved up to #15 from #16.
This year Lithuania #20 cracked the top 20; bumping France from #20 to #21.
Here's a short CBS News video I found out on YouTube.

©CBS News

Given Russia's invasion of Ukraine, it's no wonder that neither country ranks as happy.  Russia came in at #70 and Ukraine ranked #92.

Я за Україну. Я за Україною. Слава Україні  Stojím za Ukrajinou!  I stand with Ukraine. 🇺🇦

Tuesday, March 21, 2023


On Saturday, I got to experience another first.  Kája surprised me with tickets to Kleopatra, my first Czech language musical.  

Saturday's performance featured Kamila Nývltová in the lead role as Cleopatra and Daniel Hůlka as Caesar.

I didn't understand everything because it was entirely in Czech but it was still an excellent show and I enjoyed it.

I found this video, back from 2010, out on YouTube os scenes from the musical with Kamila Nývltová as Cleopatra.  


Türkiye Trip Summary 2023

We had a great week in Türkiye and Kuşadasi was the perfect home base for adventures.

We started right off with an airport adventure.  We flew to from Vienna to Istanbul, went through immigration, and caught our connecting flight to Kuşadasi.  

We were the last two passengers waiting for our bags but they didn't show up.  Someone from the airport had to take us from the domestic arrivals to the international arrivals terminal where our bags were waiting because they hadn't gone through customs in Istanbul.  At least we had our bags.

Throughout the week we took a number of day trips.  Our first was to Şirince which is known as Türkiye's Tuscany.

On we visited the House of the Virgin Mary and toured Ephesus.  My first visit to one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Another day, we went with Mesut to Izmir for the day.  

On the way back we stopped by a traditional carpet factory.  Unfortunately, none of them were magic flying carpets.

Our trip to Pamukkale was fantastic.  

Especially the paragliding.  

I'm still not comfortable at all with heights but this was absolutely brilliant.  I'm so ready to do it again.

One of the best things about visiting Türkiye is the food.  

Lots of meat, plus Turkish Delight, baklava, and copious amounts of tea and Turkish coffee.

While in Türkiye, I wanted to visit a hamam for a Turkish bath but we never managed to fit it into our schedule.  However, we did find time for a traditional shave and wax.

There was a lot to see and do in Kuşadasi.  Thanks to Atlas Obscura we found a few off the beaten path sights nearby such the train museum, Cave of the Seven Sleepers and the Cave of Zeus.

I can see coming back here again for another visit.  Highly recommended.

Monday, March 20, 2023

Kuşadasi, Türkiye

Kuşadasi is a beach resort on the west coast of Türkiye, about 95 km (59 miles) south of Izmir.  With a population of almost 114.000 people it is the 117th biggest city in the country.  However, during the tourist season, which kicks off in about another week, the population reaches almost 2 million people.

Big cruises ships arrive daily with many tourists opting for a tour of Ephesus.  Others come to enjoy the 25 km (15,5 miles) miles of beach along the Aegean.

Kuşadasi is old and many of the locals refer to the town as Ada.  The earliest settlements in the area date back to around 3000 BC.  Over the centuries it has been part of the Persian Empire, the Roman Empire, and the Byzantine Empire.  In 1413, it became part of the Ottoman Empire.  After WWI, it was controlled by Greece until it became part of Türkiye in 1922.  In 1923, the local Greek population was exchanged for Turks as part of the population exchange under the Lausanne Treaty.

Güvercinada, "Pigeon Island" is an island connected to the city by a 350 metre (1.150 foot) causeway.

The island has a castle which was built back in the 1770s.  In 2020 the castle became a tentative UNESCO World Heritage Site

Near the harbour is the Öküz Mehmed Pasha Caravanserai that was built from 1615 - 1618.  It was a safe place for merchants to stay with their goods and later as a customshouse.  In 1968 it opened as a hotel and in 2022 the last hotel owner ceased operations.

Kale Kapisi, the Castel Gate, was part of the city walls built in the 17th century.  The upper floor was once used as a police station but there is now some kind of micro miniature art centre.

The Kaleiçi Mosque is the old town mosque, in the middle of the bazaar area that was built back in 1618.

The clock tower was built in 1996.

The Ibramaki Art Gallery originally opened as a hospital at the end of the 19th century.  In 2009, the local municipality restored the building and turned it into a gallery.

The old cemetery has graves from the 1700-1800's.

More than 400 homes of the Tepe neighbourhood are being revitalised under the city's "Let's Colour" programme with homes pained in various shades of pink, yellow, blue, orange, green and purple.

At the port, there are daily 1,5 hour ferries between Kuşadasi and the Greek island Samos.  We wanted to check it out but the ferries only run from April to October.

About 30 km (19 miles) south of the city is the Dilek Peninsula-Büyük Menderes Delta National Park.  There are dense forests, hiking trails, and beach, plus wild boars running around.

It was still just a wee bit too cold to lie out on the sand but it felt good to at least be at the beach.

Near the national park is the Cave of Zeus.  

There is a 10 metre (33 feet) deep pool that is off limits to swim in.  Legend has it that this is where Zeus would take refuge whenever his brother Poseidon would whip up a deadly storm.

Another story goes that Zeus would slip away here, from Mount Olympus and his wife Hera, to swim with local girls.

Yedi Uyurlar Mağarası is the Cave of the Seven Sleepers.  The story is that in 250 AD, the Roman Emperor ordered everyone to perform a sacrifice to dedicate themselves to the empire and to the Roman gods, or be executed.  Seven Christians refused and hid in the cave.  Romans found the young men asleep in the cave and sealed them in.  

One day a farmer opened the cave and found the men asleep.  When they awoke, they pooled their money to buy food but when they tried to pay they discovered their money was over 150 years old.  The cave, located outside of Ephesus was excited in the 1920s and found a number of Christian games from the 5th and 6th centuries.  

The Çamlik Railway Museum is home to one of the largest largest collection of steam locomotives, with more than 30, from 1891 to 1951.  The outdoor museum isn't well known but thanks to Atlas Obscura we went to have a look at it was well worth the visit.

We really enjoyed our week in Kuşadasi.  It's definitely worth a visit with lots of places to explore.  I wish the weather would have been just a little warmer but I'm quite glad that we managed to visit before all of the tourists rush in.

Here's a short Rick Steves video I found out on YouTube.

©Rick Steves