Monday, March 17, 2008

Back in Canadia

Yes it's true, I've left the beauty that is Prague and Europe and have returned to the great white north. I hope to follow soon with some updates.

Stay tuned!


Tuesday, November 27, 2007


It may or may not come as such a surprise to you that I drink beer...depending on which side of the Atlantic you met me. Before leaving Canada I'd never drank a whole one in my life, not that I hadn't tried, I just couldn't down a Budweiser for the life of me. Fast forward to Prague and I even impressed myself with my ability to finish off a whole pint after several attempts. Don't start "ass"uming that I'm a boozer or anything like though.

Beer culture (who would have thought the two words could go side by side) is part of life in Prague. After a couple months of being here its not hard to imagine why. The original Budweiser comes from the Czech Republic as does the original Pilsner. More importantly however is the price of beer where you can get yourself a pint of original Czech brew for average of 30czk or $1.50 for us Canadians. What's even more is that's the same price as getting a 0.3l bottle of water or a soft drink (it's very rare to be able to ask for tap water for free). So as logic would have it, most people opt for the Pivo; lunch, dinner, night out and for the professionals, even breakfast. I've seen it many a time walking by a local pub in the morning. Most importantly is the fact that the stuff actually tastes good, its a lot lighter than Canadian beer and doesn't leave you feeling like you've eaten a loaf of bread afterwards.

I rest my case...

Side note; for all you future Prague visitors, don't ever and I mean ever pay 90 czk for a beer at the Old Town Square or other tourist trap. I'm sure the beer ancestors would roll over in their graves when hearing of that inflated price. Max 45czk.

As I am not a subject matter expert, I will suggest you check out my friend Jenny (and friends) comprehensive Beer Blog Dobre Pivo.

Na Zdravi!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Pa Pa Papageno

This is just one of the songs that was left stuck in my head after attending the opera of The Magic Flute. While my opera voice leaves much to be desired, the folks performing here in Prague know what they are doing. Be it opera, theatre, or ballet, Divadlos (or theatres) can be spotted just about everywhere you turn. I'd say the Calgary equivalent would be your local 7-Eleven. The arts scene is booming here and on any given night, you can catch a performance for a very affordable price. Take for instance the National Theatre here (Narodni Divadlo), absolutely stunning theatre, with world famous performance, offers seats in the top section of the theatre for 80 czk which is $4 dollars. Naturally you don't have the best view, but if you're catching an opera for instance, then the sounds is just as good as anywhere else in the theatre.

I've tried to catch a bunch of performances while I've been here and every time I enter one of the breath taking theatres, I'm blown away. My favorite show was Swan Lake which I caught at the National Opera House here. Everything from the dancing, to the costumes, to the music was very well done and left me dreaming of becoming a ballerina one day.

It's great seeing people in their best evening gowns or top hats, out for the ballet on a weeknight. Although I've also witnessed some rather strange outfits including a lady with a dead animal wrapped around her shoulder. If you look hard at the picture below, you can spot her in the background. This is definitely one aspect of life in Prague that I wish I had taken advantage of more while it has been so available to me.

Estates Theatre; first performing arts theatre in Prague

State Opera

Swan Lake

Every theatre has to have a fancy chandelier: this one at the National Theatre

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Those 10 inch squares

First on the list of Life in Praha: Cobblestones! Those 10 inch squares covering a major part of Prague streets and wreaking havoc to the heels of unsuspecting tourists who opt for "non functional" footwear. I admit it, first I was charmed by them. Then I learned how unforgiving they can be if you don't pay attention while walking, that for a brief moment I almost despised them. Over time however, I've regained my appreciations for these beautiful rocks that have been here for centuries and learned to walk with my eyes firmly placed on the ground in front.

Here's an example of just how prominent they are: Last week there was an attempted Neo Nazi march in Prague which was met with a lot of police opposition and major media hoopla. Nothing really significant happened but the one of the articles I read after the event put a smile on my face and made me think "only in Prague." Apparently one of the scuffles included some left-wing extremists who attacked police with cobble stones of all things! Because throwing regular rocks is for the rest of us common folk.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Life in Praha

The other night I finally had an evening to myself and time to just relax, read my book and reminisce about the wonderful life I've led for the last year and amazing memories I now have. The one memory that will remain constant even after others begin to fade is my love of Prague; its narrow, cobblestone roads, the countless spires, rich cultural scene, and beer aplenty. I'm getting all sentimental becuase my time here is slowling ticking away making me take a couple extra seconds each day to marvel at my surroundings. This includes all of the people I've met here, who have become another family to me and I know that it will be incredibly difficult to part with them.

So in the next couple weeks, as I unproductively wind down my time at work (sorry boss) I hope to pay tribute to this city, the people and my life in Prague by sharing some of my favorite things about being here. I can only hope I will feel the same sense of inspiration on my next journey.

Friday, October 12, 2007


After 10 months, my old roommate Miriam and I meet up once again, this time on her turf. I had planned to visit Miriam ever since she left me in Slovakia. In the short time that we lived together, we went through a lot and handled the emotions together as if we had known each other for a lot longer. Miriam moved back to Barcelona in December and found herself a really interesting and challenging job which I am ubber jealous of, but at the same time very happy for her.

I got to take another week off from work (I know!) and first headed to England for Alex's cousins wedding then to visit his grandparents in Bournemouth. In my third visit to England in this last year, I was met with the same rainy, drab weather that really makes me question how people can live there. Luckily the sun came out on Saturday for the wedding but it was still pretty chilly especially when you're in a dress and high heels. I realize the sensible thing to do would have been to wear a jacket, but I'm a girl in a pretty dress, shoes that scream voila, and not willing to ruin the ensemble with a jacket. Plan B: drink lots of champagne in the garden before the reception. The wedding and reception was beautiful and the evening was capped of with fireworks behind the marquee after dinner. It was totally different from any Croatian wedding I've been to but I still really enjoyed myself and got down and boogied with the English.

I shipped Alex back to Prague after Bournemouth and headed to Barcelona to meet Miriam and my roommate from Prague, Alice, who was also there at the time (not by coincidence). I was so glad to have Miriam pick me up from Girona airport because I completely didn't notice that the flight was going there. All I was focused on was how freaking cheap it was at 1 pence! On our first night, I got to meet Miriam's mom, whom I'd heard a lot about and she exceeded my expectations with generosity. We had a yummy meal then headed close to a popular street, La Ramba, for Sangria!! Miriam took us to a couple great places and we took in the delights of Spain.
I can honestly say that for the first time this past year, I did nothing in terms of preparation for this trip other than book my flight and make sure that Miriam would be there. I let her be a tour guide for the whole time we were there and she filled the shoes. I've also never walked so much in my life and thought my legs might fall off by the third day (I know I've thought this before but really this was a new level). My favorite part of Barcelona, apart from all of the Guadi buildings and architecture, was the vibrancy of the city itself and how much there is to do and see and eat and drink, not to mention the beautiful weather (+25 in October is alright with me). Its a very lively place. I took so much pleasure in eating tapas, paella by the beach, drinking sangria and cava than I did in all the other touristy stuff. Alice and I both kept saying that we really wanna live there!

The girls and I went through most of the major sights and I'd say that my favorite place was Puebla Espana or Spanish Village. It's this compound with architectural styles from different parts of Spain and has cute little shops and restaurants scattered about. This really made me want to see more of southern due time. I was very impressed by Sagrada Familia, the Gaudi church which is still very much under construction, something I was surprised by cuz clearly I didn't do my readings. I also really enjoyed the musical fountain close to where the Olympic ground are, especially after they played this famous Croatian song and synchronized the fountains to it; Miriam told them I was coming. I was kinda disappointed by the Picasso museum as I thought it would be a lot bigger and once again the paintings did not have English translations by them.
Alice and I at Casa Battlo: One of Gaudi's famous buildings
Inside Spanish Village
Sagrada Familia

Alice left on Saturday to go back to Prague and Miriam and I decided to go shopping for a few hours. I loved the clothes there but didn't have enough time to poke around every shop. In the afternoon, she took me to Sitges, a small beach town close to Barcelona which was really charming. I realized that I am immediately happy and peaceful when I am near water and dipped my toes in the Mediterranean once again. That night we celebrated Miriam's 25th birthday and I realized that I'm getting too old to stay out till 6 in the morning (ha that sounds like an R. Kelly song).
Miriam and I in SitgesStepping into the Mediterranean; realizing the water is a little chilly this time of year
Overall it was a great trip with a little bit of everything. As my time in Europe draws to a close, I'm starting to appreciate all of the people and places I see a lot more because I don't know when I will have a chance to see them again. This is especially the case with Miriam and we were both sad to have to say goodbye but I am holding onto the faith that life works in mysterious ways and we will meet again in the future.

On another note, I am sad to report that I have exhausted all of my holiday time from my job and now am forced to quit to continue with my travels! I love Europe for their HR policies and the mandatory 4 week holidays. Most firms even offer 5! Canada, you must reform.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Krakow, Poland

About a month ago. we headed back to Poland once again with our Polish connection Lukasz, this time visiting Krakow and the surrounding area. After another death defying drive courtesy of Luksaz, we made it. On our first night there we headed out to the Old Town Square which happens to be the biggest in Europe. It put Prague's Old Town square to shame because it was about 5 times the size.

On Saturday morning Alex and I headed off to sight see and our first stop was Wavel Hill where the castle is. There is a lot to see up there but we only did a tour through the Cathedral where we visited a famous bell that is very old and only rung on very special occasions as well as the royal tombs including King Kazimierz's (I love saying that name). I really liked the area around the castle, there is a lot of flowers and greenery and definitely felt more relaxed than Prague Castle.
We made our way back into the Old Town to meet Lukasz and Magda and enjoy a proper Polish lunch. Then we spent the rest of the afternoon strolling around the Square. On a whim we walked into St. Mary's church and it turned out to be probably the most beautiful Catholic church I've ever been to....well minus St. Peters.

St. Mary's Church

The night scene in Krakow is pretty good based on what I saw. It's a big University town so that helps but then they also cater to tourists a lot, especially the Brits. I'm not gonna mention what time I saw some drunken people walking around. We wanted to see something more unconventional so after a couple drinks in the square we headed to the Jewish district where there are lots of smaller pubs and bars around. There was definitely a different crowd there and we had a good time just having a few drinks and chatting.

Krakow used to be home to many Jews and has an interesting Jewish district. Again I found myself comparing it to the Jewish District in Prague but they are nothing alike apart from the fact that both have synagogues. The one in Krakow is a lot less polished and some parts literally look like the ghetto. You can almost imagine what life would have looked like on those streets when the tanks rolled in.

Walking around the Jewish Ghetto

Since we had the time, we headed to Wieliczka salt mine (another UNESCO site) situated just outside of Krakow. This place has been around for about 900 years, hard to believe really, has about 200 km of passages, and the worlds biggest museum of mining, underground of course. After a 64 meter climb down winding stairs we got to the oldest part of the salt mine. Literally everything around us was made of salt, we even tested the walls by licking them; I'm ashamed to admit. The most impressive part is the Chapel of Saint Kinga, adorned with beautiful chandeliers, statues and very high ceilings.

On our final day in Poland, we made a trip to Auschwitz. I knew that it would be difficult to see first hand all of the remains of what was once a horrible place of destruction, but I also felt that it was important to go. Needless to say, I felt somber as soon as I walked through that barbed wire fence into Auschwitz 1. I'm not gonna go through the details of everything I saw, but it certainly opened my eyes to a lot that I was completely unaware of before. After seeing Auschwitz 1 which is the sort of administrative center of the whole operation and has the brick buildings, we then headed to Auschwitz 2 or Birkenau. This is the camp that appears in all of the movies about Auschwitz and has the big watch tower with the railway down the center and hundreds of wooden housing. Most of the exterminations happened at Birkenau and you get a real sense of what conditions must have been like as they've tried to keep it in its original form. I learned a lot that day and it was a very humbling experience that I will remember for a while to come.

What all Polish People look like :)

The famous bell inside cathedral on Wavel Hill; I'm very proud of myself for not having a panic attack in all that. Alex and I by the river.

Puff the Magic Dragon.... Just kiddin; Dragon at the bottom of the Castle at Wavel Hill. You can send him a text message and he writes back right before he blows fire. Genius Marketing!