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Silvestr 2013

I am really missing Prague tonight. Here in FL it's almost midnight, but in Prague, it's been 2013 for nearly 6 hours. There are some half-hearted fireworks near our flat, but nothing like the blow-out in Prague. Now we have the Times Square celebration on TV. It's nice, but cannot compare to the lovely Old Town Square of Prague.

We're bringing out the champagne in Lake Mary, and I am looking forward to returning to Prague in February 2013.

Reverse culture shock

I simply must write this--it's so strange--I am having culture shock in my own native land.

We've been in the US for 18 days, and I am just now realizing that I have been shocked. Here are some symptoms:

1. mood swings: I was elated to get here, mostly because we took it slow and easy with 4 days in Dublin between Prague and Orlando, and I didn't get sick. Even the plane ride over the ocean was pleasant and bearable. But within a few days, I was distraught over the amount of money we are spending to live in Florida and the necessity to have a car, which costs a fortune to rent.

2. small vs huge: I like Prague because it's compact, intimate and orderly (the very reasons my husband does not like Prague--he feels closed in). Florida seems sprawling, full of strangers and wildly chaotic.

3. shopping: Prague has a limited selection of stuff to buy. Sometimes I really hate that, as you can't find what you want. Florida has tons and tons of stuff, for sale in enormous sto…

Off to the USA

We've  had two wonderful years in Prague so far, but now need to take a short break in the USA. So I am giving this blog a rest till January 2013!

dog days of July and August

This has been one hot summer in Prague, and I see from the news that it's been hot in lots of other places as well. The phrase "dog days of summer" keeps running through my mind. But what does it mean?


To find out, I turned to wikipedia, the source that you can't rely on. We all know that wikipedia is open to any and all people who want to contribute, not just experts, so for scholarly research, it's not good enough. But, as my son points out, wikipedia may be the most objective resource available, just because of its wide diversity of viewpoints. Sort of like "good opinions drive out bad opinions."

anyway...I looked up "dog days" and here is the copyright free info I found:

"The Romans referred to the dog days as diēs caniculārēs and associated the hot weather with the star Sirius. They considered Sirius to be the "Dog Star" because it is the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major (Large Dog)... The Romans sacrificed …

hey, Google, I am not Czech!

Many Internet sites have some kind of built-in system for figuring out where you're logging in from, and tailoring the site to fit that address. For example, booking.com, one of my favorites for getting an overview of hotel rooms available and prices, comes up in Czech, with CZK (Czech koruna) as the default money. But I can easily change it to English (British or American!) and get the amount in CZK, US dollars, British pounds or Euros--or anything else I want, for that matter. And if I want to read the hotel descriptions in English, but get prices in CZK, I can do that--no problem.

But Google is more stubborn. Whenever I log on to Google, it goes to the Czech default. This is in spite of my choosing English umpteen million times--I still have to it again, every time. Just to be playful, it sometimes comes up in English, but when I start to search, it goes to Czech. Umph.

Now, after two years of living here, I can manage enough Czech to look for a hotel room, or a restaurant, or…

Transportation woes

I tutor in various parts of Prague, and have developed a basic knowledge of the Metro and trams that serve the city (I'm not an expert like Stephanie, but I usually manage). But I am discovering that the transportation system has its quirks, and that summertime brings out the quirks in a big way.

For example, every week I go to Prague 6 to tutor two young Korean girls. I live in Prague 2, on the other side of the river. There are two basic ways to get to the girls' home: Tram 22, switch to Tram 20, or Metro A to Device and Tram 20 or 26 to their stop. However, they are extending Metro A and are diggin up the tram tracks, so one day, when I was on Tram 20, it suddenly went to Podbaba instead of Sidliste Cerveny Vrch. How did I know this was happening? An unintelligible voice came over the loudspeaker, saying in rapid Czech, "XX..???&&&Podbaba...$$$//" From this, I guessed that they were changing something, as Tram 20 does NOT go to Podbaba. Ever. So I ask…

Just under the surface

Prague is an old city, even by European standards. The Celts (those ubiquitous European nomads--you can't travel around Europe without tripping over a Celtic settelement) inhabited the Vltava River valley many centuries ago. Slavs wandered in from the East in the 6th century, were overrun by Germanic tribes, and so on...you can get a good overview of these times on Wikipedia, which is not very reliable, but in this case, that doesn't matter, as all this is prehistory anyway! Prehistory means it wasn't written down, so it's an educated guess based on artifacts and logical deductions to fill the hstorical gaps.

Prague as a "modern" city started life about 11 centuries ago as a fortified settlement high on a bluff overlooking the Vltava River, a Central European trade route. There was first a wooden palisade surrounding wooden buildings--sort of a "wild West" on the Vltava. It all burned down, as wooden bulidings are wont to do when you heat with open…

Prague through the year, told by trees

Prague has a personality for every season. One way to trace the change of seasons is through the trees. Autumn is gorgeous, with crisp, dry air and flaming leaves.

Winter is grey, gloomy and wet--misty rain and clouds, with occasional snow. The BBC weather services calls this "white sky." On rare days, the sky is blue with some wispy white clouds. It's definitely stay-indoors weather.

Spring is like spring everywhere-- volatile, flirtatious and extreme. It's hard to know how to dress for the day, but an umbrella is always good.

Summer, though, is something else. The city gets mellow, revealing its true character of a collection of villages surrounding the King's palaces. You only have to look around to see that medieval Prague still lives, just under the metropolitan surface.
In summer, people throw off their clothes (sometimes literally), dance, sing and make merry into the night. Czechs love "the nature" and get out of town on any excuse, to climb ro…

spring, people and the weather

Spring began here officially in March, and it's a classic spring for Prague. One day is warm, sunny and so full of promise that you feel like a teenager.

People are suddenly everywhere--the trams are packed with tourists and city dwellers, the streets resound with foreign languages, the fashionistas come out of their winter coats and show the world their bright, tight clothes.


The weather does its flirty, maddening best to catch you off-guard. A sunny morning turns into a chilly, rainy afternoon--and where's your umbrella? A cool, brisk morning gets you to bundle up, and the afternoon sun beating down makes you strip off your coat, hat, scarf, gloves, and so on.

Prague is an emotional city, as Slavs are emotionally volatile. As my Polish boss told me, "Polish people only feel happy on sunny, warm days. Otherwise they are gloomy, like the weather." So spring is a time of ups and downs, smiles and frowns, and sudden changes.

Spring and a few observations on public transportation in Prague

Transition time again. Today it's rather mild, a bit windy and the sky is white.

This seems to be our Spring pattern in Prague. It's not easy to know what to wear if you're going out for the day, as the morning might necessitate your winter coat, which may make you feel all sweaty and burdened by the afternoon. When you travel by foot and/or public transportation (for which you wait outdoors) rather than by nice, cocoon-like car, you really pay attention to the weather!


I've been traveling on the bus/tram Metro system quite a bit the past few weeks, and I've been impressed with a few repeated sights:

1. the blank public-transportation-stare-at-nothing. Entering a tram car, you see a bunch of people who apparently have been flash-frozen. Their faces reveal nothing. Eyes stare straight ahead, dull and opaque. Mouths are set in a grim line. They are like the three monkeys: see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil. Young people usually are plugged into Ipods or readin…

winter blahs

Here in Prague, the weather has moderated, and the sidewalks are dry. It's a bit sunny, but mostly what BBC news calls "white sky"--not a grey overcast, but a pearly white. Anyway, not blue.

The Czech Republic consists of a very large central basin, surrounded by the medium-sized mountains that define the Czech borders.


This topography helps explain why the Bohemian and Moravian kingdoms have had a continuous existence for well over a millenium. The mountains formed a natural castle defense system against incursions by belligerent neighbors.

It also helps to explain the weather, which is not what I'm accustomed to!

1. It's colder and snowier all around Prague, even to the south. Those surrounding mountains have snow when we have rain, or no precipitation. So any trip away from Prague has to be planned with this in mind. I have a tough time to remember that, counterintuitively, south is colder, not warmer.

2. Weather seems to get stuck in an endless loop. In the…