Archive for September, 2008

The Czechs were cheated out of another holiday from work today (and so was I!); it’s the Feast of St. Wenceslas, Václav in Czech, the prince of the Přemyslid dynasty who was killed by his brother, Boleslav. Since Václav is the symbol of Czech statehood, today is the "Day of Czech Statehood" (and it’s under that name that September 28 is a bank holiday).

2:27 pm

Little Brother’s Visit, Days 1 and 2: The Orientation

Arrival and First Day

So, Little Brother arrived on Wednesday the 17th for a one-week visit: his first overseas flight! (Way to go, Little Brother! Yay!). I went out to Prague Airport to meet him. As is typical in our family, he couldn’t sleep on the flight over, so he was dead on his feet. I had already told him, though, that I was going to make sure that he stayed up until at least 7, if not 8, PM to help him adjust more quickly to the time difference.

By the time we left the metro at Náměstí Míru, though, the adrenalin of his new surroundings was starting to kick in, and he was fascinated by the architecture.

As luck would have it, there was a vacant room in the flat where I’m living, and my landlord agreed to let LB have it for the week (Thanks, Jarda!). One of our first stops, after we had gotten him settled into his room, was the local Albert’s to pick up some of the basic necessities (Coke and beer mainly). LB was particularly taken with the sight of Budvar Super Strong, Budvar being, of course, the real Budweiser:

The concept of bacon-flavored Lays also caught his attention, and he had to get a bag of chips as well:

Lays also comes in a roasted chicken with thyme flavor in France, I told him. (For some reason, neither flavor can be found on the Frito-Lay website; I’m not sure what to make of that.)

After our shopping trip and walking around the neighborhood, we came back to the flat and sat up talking and watching xXx, which, since it’s largely set in Prague, seemed like a good way to introduce LB to the city.

Second Day: The Walking Tour

The next morning, LB was up by about 10:30 and at about noon we set off on a walking tour of central Prague. Our first stop was the National Museum, at the top of Václavské Náměstí. Because of the current exhibition commemorating the 40th anniversary of Prague Spring, there is a Russian tank parked in front of the Museum. Needless to say, that caught LB’s attention.

We moved on down the Square, pausing to admire the equestrian statue of King Václav. I also took LB into the Lucerna so that he could get a look at the inverted statue of Václav. Wandering in and out of a few stores on the way, we meandered on down to Staroměstské náměstí, stopping briefly at the Sex Machines Museum ("the first museum in the world devoted to sexual gadgets").

From Staroměstské náměstí, we wandered down Pařižká, the high-end shopping district. From there, on to the Rudolfinum to stroll down the bank of the Vltava to cross Karlův Most (the Charles Bridge).

Crossing the bridge, we paused to listen to a Dixieland Jazz Band play; a little ways down, a violinist was playing Dvořak.

Arriving in Malá Strana, we stopped to visit Vrtbovská zahrada (Vrtba Garden). We walked in on the preparation for a wedding, but they didn’t try to keep us out, so we were able to wander through the garden and admire the view from the top.
The lowest terrace:

One of the fountains:

LB on the second terrace:

We also made a brief detour by Panny Marie Vítězné (Our Lady Victorious; home of the statue of the Infant of Prague). My goal in Malá Strana, though, was the Lanova Draha (funicula) up Petřin Hill to get to the Observation Tower (Prague’s answer to the Eiffel Tower). There is no elevator in the Observation Tower: just 299 stairs, so we decided not to climb up the Tower to admire the view.

From Petřin Hill, we hiked more or less cross-country to Hradčany, which is a lot harder than it appears from just looking at a map. But once there, we were able to wander through the castle complex and visit St. Vitus Cathedral.

By this time, we had been walking for about five hours, so it was time to head down the hill to catch the tram home. After dinner (tomato soup and pizza at Matylda), we went home to rest up for a planned Friday trip to Karlštejn.

8:51 am

Week in Frantiskovy Lazne

After my birthday weekend in Mariánské Lázně, I was curious about what the real spa experience was supposed to be like. And I was also in the mood to get out of Prague for a little while. So, I booked myself a one-week stay in Františkovy Lázně. Of the three main spa towns in that district, Františkovy Lázně is the least well-known (and the smallest); Karlovy Vary is the best-known, with Mariánské Lázně coming in between.

It’s a very pretty town, with extensive parks:

There’s even a "miniature golf course":

This is the first miniature golf course I’ve seen in the Czech Republic.

One of the parks has a bandstand which was host to a (free) afternoon concert:

The official color scheme of Františkovy Lázně, or at least the spa district, is yellow and white. It’s very stylish, but it starts to get a little boring after a while. I forget which hotel this was:

The Catholic church, which was also home to a very nice concert one evening:

The colonnade, with its attendant sphinxes:

And where is it written that all Czech spa towns must have a colonnade?
The Božena Němcová Theater does not follow the yellow and white rule. Though it’s not readily apparent from this shot, the theater is actually pale green and white:

I was staying at the Hotel Imperial:

It’s not as big as the picture makes it look: it’s only a few dozen rooms, but it is, for Františkovy Lázně, very grand. English was in short supply, although the clerks at the front desk managed to get by pretty well, and the doctor spoke surprisingly good English. (On my last visit, she asked what I did for a living. When I said that I’m an English teacher, she exclaimed that that was why I spoke so slowly and carefully and was so easy to understand. She was touchingly grateful that I was so easy to communicate with. It made me wonder what her experience with other English speakers had been like.)

As at Mariánské Lázně, the treatments were very clinical: the treatments rooms feature lots of white paint and tile and bright lights, and the attendants are all in white uniforms. It’s not at all like the muted and tranquil environment that I usually associate with days spas in California.

The treatments I had were pretty ordinary: baths and massages and one mud wrap. The one treatment that I found novel was the "underwater massage". In this one, the attendant uses a high-pressure hose to do the massaging. Kind of like an hand-held shower massage, but dialed up about a hundred-fold!

It was a relaxed week, though. I walked a lot and caught up on some reading. (The limited Internet service coupled with a problem with my computer’s power supply kept me largely offline for the week.)

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