27 December 2010

Looking back on a Canadian holiday

About this time last year I was returning from an adventure with our northern neighbors in CANADA! The  torch for the Vancouver Winter Olympics was passing through Toronto the night I arrived.
It was a reunion of sorts with my dear friend Clara M. who I met during my 6 month séjour in France. I met her wonderful family and boyfriend whom I felt as if I had met before from so many shared anecdotes. We sat on the chesterfield, sang songs, ate the most delicious Canadian cuisine (poutine, flapjacks with maple syrup and back bacon), and Clara taught me how to knit. We cooked and baked like we did together practically every night in France. I even witnessed a spaghetti noodle adorn the wooden beam in the kitchen.
We cross country skied over the river and through the snowy woods and sacrificed the tip top of a tree to wear beautiful ornaments in the living room. We cuddled next to the wood burning stove which gave off the smell that most reminds me of Christmas. Much of what I've written does not make sense, but it does to me and this is how I look back very fondly on my time in Canada.

23 December 2010

Photo of the Week- Happy Holidays from Prague!

The Christmas Markets are closing up shop. Who wants to work on Christmas?! It's been a magical Christmas season in Prague. Happy Holidays to my readers!

The video below does an amazing job of capturing the mood of Prague at Christmas time. Watch and enjoy:

22 December 2010

Bathing in Beer: The Ultimate Relaxation

Maybe you've heard that the Czech Republic has the highest beer consumption per capita in the world. After living here for 5 months I can vouch that it is indeed true. Czechs love beer. They love it so much that they bathe in it.

Since I'm here for the culture why not do as the Czechs do! So I journeyed 3 hours by train to the western most region of Bohemia to Chodová Planá home of the Chodovar Brewery. When the tag line for a company is "Your beer wellness land" you know it's going to be good.

The Pravé pivní lázně or Original Beer Spa is one of their specialties. Picture this:  warm mineral water mixed with beer and beer ingredients- hops, yeast, and barley. And what could be better than bathing in beer? Bathing in beer and drinking a beer! Take it from me, this is one hangover cure that you need to experience to believe!

14 December 2010

Kold in Kraków

How should I describe Kraków, Poland? On the particular weekend of our visit it was COLD. A cold that burns your face and calls for a double layer of socks, pants, and scarves. Snow swirling in the atmosphere enveloped the city in an eerie haze, concealing the tip tops of Corpus Christi Church and the Wawel Castle. About every 20 minutes we popped into Ciasteczka z Krakowa, which became our favorite café, to thaw out and caffeine up.

Despite the snow and cold, people were out and about as on a beautiful spring day. Older women and men stood behind Polish bagel stands all day looking unfazed, and rather preserved.  The Christmas market was bustling with tourists and AMAZING FOOD- pierogi, potatoes, kielbasa, hot wine, and other warm Polish staples.

We spend a lot of time in the Kazimierz area, or the Krakow Jewish Quarter. There's something cool to see in every alleyway and square. It seemed to be a great place to find Polish nightlife. The ambiance and people found here reminded me of the Kreuzberg neighborhood in Berlin- young, chic, and willingly changing with the times. Pubs are around ever corner and Polish wódka or VODKA is a promising way to forget about the cold. I don't usually like vodka but I really enjoyed the famous honey vodka... and the herb vodka... and the mint vodka...

Moving right along. RELIGION was much more present than in Prague, even though both were communist for a time. Pope John Paul II, the first and only Slavic pope, has had a big influence especially in the southern region near his hometown. I willingly payed 6zl ($2) to take a peek inside what I think is the most beautiful church I've ever seen: St. Mary's Basilica. The inside isn't the usual concrete drab, it's an explosion of blue, red, and gold. At the time we went there might have even been more people praying than there were touring.

The Polish are serious about religion. There is a famous salt mine nearby where miners built an underground cathedral. Everything in the cathedral is made of (black) salt right down to the chandelier. This is somewhere I'd like to visit if I return in a warmer month. Yes, in the spring I would definitely consider returning for a longer visit in Poland to soak up a bit more culture in this large country bordering the CR to the north.

12 December 2010

Photo of the Week- Foggy lens

Going in and out of the cold weather in Poland gave me and my camera quite the chill. The lens of my camera fogged up inside a dim bar and captured the ambiance perfectly.

Marlowe's Time to Shine

Last summer I hung out a lot with Lala's dog, Marlowe. She often became the subject of my aimless photoshoots but to be fair she liked the attention. Maybe you remember my efforts to make her famous. I sent in her photo to two dog-loving websites- hipsterpuppies and Oscar Blues Brewery. First her Old Chub photo made it to the OB website. And finally this week, Marlowe has stolen many hipster hearts on the hipsterpuppies blog. As Marlowe's manager I must admit that I'm not thrilled with the caption, but I can't complain because she's on hipsterpuppies!

I do realize she's a dog but getting photo time one of my favorite blogs deserves some attention!

06 December 2010

Photo of the Week: 'Tis the xmas market season

The season is in full throttle and I've never experienced anything quite like it. Christmas markets galore! All over central Europe the markets are hopping even after the sun goes down. Despite the Christian connotation of the Christmas holidays, the markets are just as prominent in the Czech Republic where there is a large atheist population. People swarm the outdoor stalls buying traditional holiday gifts or for something to warm their stomaches like hot chocolate, coffee, grog, or hot/mulled wine. Food is also easy and cheap to come by. The potatoes roasting next to grilled sausages and steaming pot of sauerkraut seem to sell themselves. Whatever your motive, the markets are well worth a stroll just to rub shoulders with locals or tourists alike and soak in the holiday season.

Snow like whoa

It's been snowing in Prague just about non-stop for about a week. The campus seems to always have a fresh layer of snow on top, keeping the dirty snow from scratching the White Christmas soundtrack that plays over and over in my head. At the moment I think the snow brightens the mood on a campus of the boxy, communist-era architecture. But ask me again as I grow tired of the bleak winter weather and I might think the opposite.

What about winter here, you wonder? Well salting is uncommon. Instead you will likely slide on the ice then shake your fist at the person who thought that spreading gravel on the ground would help with traction. My snowy winter experiences in Colorado and Missouri have not really prepared me for a Central European winter, especially when it comes to the cold. A weekend in Poland was a lesson in winterology where it was between 0 and 10 degrees fahrenheit day and night. Not good tourist weather! And the snow keeps falling. I'm thankful for public transportation and the fact that I don't have to deal with this.