Apr 24, 15:55 (Filed under: Advice )
Brno is, with its population of approximately 367 000 of inhabitants, the second biggest city in the Czech Republic. It is the unofficial capital of Moravia, there are important universities, the seat of the Czech highest court, and there is a lot to see for tourists. Lets have a brief look what.
There is the old castle Spilberk in the city center, close to the main train station. Spilberk was founded by the Czech king Premysl Otakar II. in the middle of 13th century. Czech kings used it from time to time, in 1337 the castle became the home of Blanka of Valois, the first wife of the famous king Charles IV., after she was forced to leave Prague. Soon after that, the castle became the resident place of Charles´ IV. brother Jan Jindrich and later his son Jost, who were quite poverfull rulers of Moravia. Castle was later used also as a prison. In 1783 here Josef II. a civil prison for the most dangerous criminals, which was later used also for “political” prisoners. Also Nazis used Spilberk as a prison for Czech patriots, but most of them were later transported to concentration camps. After war, the castle was shortly used as a basement of Czechoslovakia army, but they left the place in 1959, and since then, there is a museum. In the Spilberk court are in summer often organized numerous shows, as theatre or swordsmen fights. The castle is a nice place for a family trip, you can visit the interiors and museum exhibitions as well as to go for a walk to the beautiful park around it.
Another places of interests are Saint Paul and Peter cathedral on Petrov Hill, probably the oldest church in Brno, founded in 12th century, now built mainly in late gothic style or the old Brno city hall, also late gothic. The worth of seeing is also Svobody Square with the baroque style plaque column from late 17th century. Square is sometimes filled with (Easter, Christmas and other holidays) markets.
Outside of the city center, there are the Zoo and the reservoir, both are ideal to visit when the weather is nice. And there is also villa Tugendhat, which is a very famous piece of modernist architecture by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, one of the most important functionalist architects. Luxurious villa was built for a wealthy Jewish Tugendhat family in 1930, who had to leave it soon because of the World War II.
Those are “highlights” of Brno, but there are obviously other things to see, as Moravian Gallery with rich collections of Art, various churches, parks and so on.
There is quite good public transport between Brno and Prague. You can go by bus, and there are few companies among those you can choose. The travel by bus takes about 2 and half hours. But bus goes on D1 highway, where are quite often car accidents, so sometimes you may get stuck here and arrive later. And if you decide to drive on your own, it is necessary to drive carefully. Another option is to take a train, that is more expensive, but also more comfortable. Fast train is in Brno in 2 hours and 42 minutes, special train Pendolino then even in 2 hours 26 minutes.
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Mar 26, 15:53 (Filed under: Advice )
Women always want to look great and they want to attract their husbands, boyfriends and other males. Men also want to attract their beloved girlfriends and wives. There was a great opportunity for everyone to come to the spring exhibition of World of Beauty and Spa. This event took place from February 29 to March 1, 2008 at Vystaviste Holesovice in Praha 7. The visitors could indulge into trends for the coming spring season in make-up, cosmetics, nail art and nail design as well as hair styles. And there were much more surprises waiting for the visitors! The Vystaviste hall was divided into left and right wing where different stands were situated. The left wing was devoted to hair and nail cosmetics. The right wing offered a variety of cosmetic products, displays of tanning facilities and feet care cosmetics. One of the highlights of the exhibition was the Wellness and Spa project.
The main stage was devoted to various presentations of top designers, professional hair stylists and great make-up artists. Well-known hair stylists from countries such as Italy and Switzerland were creating the haircuts and combings of model’s hair. They were very successful with their hairstyling acts, and they deserved the applause from the audience. Fashion show of Art Deco Style by Pavel Krivanek was a great success. His models of clothing were unusual and inspirative especially for rock style lovers. Make-up artists also had the opportunity to show their sense for creativity and mix of various colors. They could participate in the junior’s contest of make-up art. They demonstrated their fresh and spring make-up creations on models’ faces.
Wellness and Spa centers presented different types of aromatherapies and massages. We could see the examples of Hawaiian, Thai, flask massages as well as Champi massage of head. Let’s have closer at these specific types of massages. Flask massage is the ancient Chinese technique for massage of shoulders and neck. Hawaiian massage constitutes of tender and continuous techniques from Hawaiian islands. Champi massage of head is traditional Indic massage with anti-stress aromatherapy.
The exhibition displayed various trends for wellness, spa, make-up, hairstyles and nail arts. It was exciting to see all that. However, I was a bit disappointed with the overall design of the stands and the main stage. The exhibitors could spend more time preparing their stands and the main stage in order to make the appearance more professional and sophisticated.
If you missed the opportunity to visit this beauty exhibition, don’t worry, there will be the Autumn World of Beauty and Spa on September 19 to September 20, 2008.
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Aug 14, 17:49 (Filed under: Advice )
Lately I wrote an article What to drink in the Czech Republic?, now, lets have a look at food – what is considered to be traditional Czech food? If you ask some Czech person, the most probable answer you will get is “vepro-knedlo-zelo“ (a shortcut for veprove – knedliky – zeli, in English pork – dumplings – sauerkraut). This meal is pretty heavy and fatty, but many people find it really tasty and it perfectly goes with delicious Czech beer.
In general, meals that are considered to be a part of traditional Czech cuisine usually do not suit well for a healthy diet. But it does not mean that Czechs do not eat healthy food, or you would not get it in local restaurants. There are even many old-times recipes for meals considered to be healthy, which are still used today. But among all those “traditional meals“ those fatty and heavy are the most popular.
Beside “vepro-knedlo-zelo“, there is “gulas“ (goulash) for example. It is usually made of pork of beef, served most often with dumplings (but instead of them can be used potatoes or just a piece of bread). And again, the best drink to be drunk with “gulas“ is of course beer.
Then, there is “pecena kachna“ (roast duck), which is best to be served with dumplings and sauerkraut, and obviously with beer. Another popular Czech meal is “svickova na smetane“ (beef meat with gravy, topped with cream, slice of lemon and cranberry jam; see the picture). And if you want to try something without meat – there is “smazeny syr“ (fried cheese, served mostly with boiled potatoes or chips).
In most of pubs, you can also get one of two Czech specialties popular as “something small with beer“ – one of those cold meals is “nakladaný hermelin“ (camembert in oil), the other one is called “utopenec“ (which translated into English means “a drowned man“, it is sausage in pickle with onion), both of these are served just with slices of bread.
And from sweet dishes – very popular are “ovocne knedliky“ (fruit dumpling, can be filled with strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, apricots, apples…) or “palacinky“ (pancakes, as filling can be used chocolate, fruits, ice-cream, topped with cream).
Traditional Czech cuisine offers a wide range meals, this was just a brief overview, but I am sure, that those who are interested will easily find out more.
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Aug 9, 22:06 (Filed under: Advice )
Maybe it has happened to you lately that you wanted to get from Podoli or Branik to Andel for some shopping, or other way round from Smichov to Vysehrad, and you needed to cross the river, but you found out that there is a traffic lockout, especially trams. Or even worse, have you recently jumped on o tram that took you to a different destination? This could have easily happened as there are many lockouts these days, and who has time to read the information boards at the stations. Fortunately, there is always some kind of alternate or reserve transport ready.
To be specific, at Palackeho Namesti, the bridge is being repaired, but city transport ship is ready and waiting. It serves as a shuttle in areas of Prague 4 and 5, the stops are called Lihovar (Smichov area) and Veslarsky Ostrov (at Podoli swimming area) and it is sailing every half an hour from 6 to 22. You must have (or buy at the spot) a valid 20 CZK transport ticket, or any prepaid ticket. The ship is labelled as P-3. If you’re around this area, it might be worth trying, it ends on October 28.
Other interesting and more recreational route connects Sarecke udoli and Podhori. Perfect if you are in Dejvice and you want to get to Troja (the Zoo, the Botanical garden). It’s not only more interesting, it’s even the fastest way.
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Aug 6, 17:45 (Filed under: Advice )
The answer to the question what to drink in the Czech Republic is obvious: beer, beer and beer. In the Czech Republic you can get beer everywhere, it is cheap (a glass of beer is often even cheaper then a glass of mineral water or juice), and there are many brands – Pilsner (Plzeſ), Staropramen, Gambrinus, Budweiser to name just the most famous ones.
The fact is that Czechs have the highest consumption of beer per capita in the world. And the Czech Sociological Institute made about three years ago, in September 2004, an interesting research – Czechs were asked what do they think about beer. More then 90% said that they considered beer as a national drink and beer is one of the things Czechs can be proud of. But on the other hand, about 67% also said that drinking too much of beer is one of bad characteristic of Czechs in general.
Well, if you are in the Czech Republic, you should definitely taste Czech beer. But beer, although most famous around the world, is not the only alcoholic drink, which is typical for that country. There are also Becherovka and Slivovice. Becherovka is often used as “a typical present from Czech“; it is liquor made of forty types of herbs since 19th century. Becherovka can be drunk on its own, but is also often used for cocktails, form which Beton is the most popular one (Beton means Cement in English, it is made from 4 cl of Becherovka, 1 cl of Lemon Juice and 20 cl of Tonic). Slivovice is a plum brandy. The best one is home made, and it is popular especially in Moravia. But Slivovice is pretty strong, so not everyone will like it. Then there are also drinks very similar as Slivovice but made from different kinds of fruits – as meruſkovice (apricot brandy) or hruškovice (peer brandy).
The Czech Republic is not famous for vine, but some of vines from the south of Moravia are not that bad – you can try for example red vines Frankovka or Svatovavřinecké (Saint Laurent) or white Müller Thurgau.
And if you do not drink alcoholic drinks, but you still would like to try something typical Czech, then you can try Kofola – a coke made since 1960s.
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These after-Easter warm and sunny days are provoking us to spend more time outside than inside. Let me share with you where I spent a part of one bright sunny afternoon. It was at one of the islands on Vltava river, Slovansky Ostrov, the one that is the closest to the National Theatre. Besides building Zofin, a playground for children, or the cheapest boat rental, there is also a pleasant outside cafe. This is an enjoyable place for sitting, it offers very nice view of Charles Bridge and the castle behind (the view that might be faintly familiar from many Prague postcards), or Strelecky ostrov on the other side.
To visit this place, I would walk there from the centre, but you can take a tram to stop Narodni Divadlo, and cross the bridge to the island. The prices there were adequate for the location (35 CZK for a big glass of Pilsen).
Not long time ago, I went to Strelecky ostrov with a friend. We bought a beer at a supermarket and sat at a bench and discussed the hot news as we haven’t seen each other for a while. In maybe one hour, three people stopped by to bother us. It was begging for money, announcement of doomsday coming (in English!), and one rather aggressive interference (the guy even tried to touch us!). This last one was really annoying. So that is another advantage of the cafe at Slovansky ostrov (i don’t really remember its name), having more privacy and a chance to enjoy it more.
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If you went during these days into the centre of Prague, you couldn’t have missed them. The 2007 Easter Markets, which started on March 26, and will last until April 15, take place at the Old Town Square, and Wenceslas square. The both are very similar to each other, and they offer almost identical commodities. Namely, Easter stalls offer a large selection of handcrafted goods, metal and wooden, candles, puppets, painted Easter eggs, etc.
What I didn’t expect were couple of sheep, a goat, and rabbits, they were quite tame, it was easy to feed them, and stinky, of course. About these eggs, you can have your text painted on it! Also, there is a good offer of traditional food and drinks. During Passion Week, a special Easter menu will be offered. That is roast rack of lamb, spinach pancakes, parsley filling, or mead. When the Easter comes, singing and dancing take place on a stage at the Old Town Square. The stalls are open from 9 to 19, but the food is often served until midnight.
Yesterday I went for a shopping and I run into another Easter markets, at Andel (Smichov area). They were offering similar stuff, the cultural program is different, though. Now I strongly expect, there are Easter markets in different parts of Prague, too. Does anyone know where?
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I have already talked about typical souvenirs from the Czech Republic relating to food and drinks. There are, however, other fields that may interest you more than good meal.
Let’s start with something that has a long tradition in the Czech Republic. Great example is Czech crystal glass, porcelain and Christmas bowls, all hand made for centuries long. The Czech Republic is famous for its glass and crystal. The best known trademark is Bohemia Crystal. The only problem is that you have to be very careful when transporting it to wherever you want! Czech porcelain is either blue-and-white, which the so called “onion” style, or pink.
For ladies especially, great souvenir from the Czech Republic is Czech jewelry. It is often made with garnets since garnet is a national gem. Just be careful about their authenticity. If the shop or shop assistants don’t make a good impression on you, there might be a chance they are selling artificial garnets. To name some reputable shops – Cesky Granat in Celetna 4, or Granat Turnov in Dlouha 30, both not far from the Old Town Square.
If you don’t insist on having jewelry with garnets, you can find yourself in favorite Czech jewelry from Jablonex. Jablonex is No. 1 when talking about beads. Seed beads have been exported under the Jablonex brand to more than 80 countries on five continents! If you select these you can be sure to have the original Czech souvenir!
Let’s move again our attention to a different field. The Czech Republic gave the world several great classical music composers such as Bedrich Smetana, Antonin Dvorak, Leos Janacek, or Bohuslav Martinu, to name the most famous ones. In Prague, you may therefore want to browse the music selection in the CD shops.
When talking about art, you will be able to find popular Art Nouveau Alfons Mucha reproductions as well as contemporary art like Jan Saudek. You can never go wrong by buying some book about Prague or Czech Republic, whether about history, cuisine, sights, or some prose from Czech writers know far behind Czech borders like Franz Kafka, Jan Neruda, Karel Capek, or Jaroslav Hasek and his popular Svejk.
Favorite are also Czech puppets and marionettes or other hand-made wooden toys. They, again, have a long tradition in the Czech Republic. That is why they make wonderful Czech souvenirs.
I could be talking like this for hours and hours. For example, I haven’t said a word about hand-made lace, which is another traditional souvenir coming from the Czech Republic. For some, great gift can be a T-Shirt with name of famous Czech sportsman like Pavel Nedved, Tomas Rosicky, Milan Baros (when talking about soccer), or Jaromir Jagr (ice hockey). Well, I’d better stop right here.
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Jan 31, 17:56 (Filed under: Advice )
Do you wonder about what to buy your friends and family or yourself to keep as a reminder of your experiences from your stay in Prague? Do you want to give them something typically Czech? But what is typical for Prague or Czech Republic?
If you take a walk through the center of Prague, you might get few tips, but you can also jump into false conclusion. You can see many things being sold as Czech souvenirs in seriously looking souvenir shops that are everything but Czech! For example those big furry hats or those wooden dolls that have many smaller once in their inside. Those are Russian souvenirs, not Czech! But uninformed tourists buy them convinced that they will bring home a great souvenir from the Czech Republic.
So what is a typical souvenir from the Czech Republic?
The Czech Republic is well known for its beer. Czech beer actually is one of the leading attractions that makes tourist visit the country. So it is only logical that any Czech beer is the best gift, especially for beer lovers. If you decide to purchase couple bottles, don’t forget to buy the typical half liter beer mug as well. It will be a certain success. The Czech Budweiser will be surely welcomed.
Another typical alcoholic drink from the Czech Republic is Becherovka, a special liqueur made according to the traditional receipt that is being kept secret for over 200 years!! Only two persons at the factory know the whole recipe. The truth is that formerly it was taken as stomach drops to improve digestion. However, in view of the delicious taste of this “medicine,” it is no wonder that patients did not follow the prescribed dosage and gradually created the tradition of Becherovka as an aperitif served in small shots. Today, Bechorovka is served either ice cold, or as part of mixed drinks. The most famous one is with tonic water, called Beton.
What concerns food, you can’t really travel with typical Czech dumplings or special bread since this food doesn’t last very long. Favorite food souvenir is therefore Spa Wafers Kolonada. Those Spa Wafers are being baked according to formulation proved over 150 years, and the formulation has not almost changed up to now! Thanks to unique production which includes manually covering with mixture of hazelnuts, vanilla, cinnamon and sugar, Kolonada wafers are among the traditional Czech specialties.
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It’s been a long time that I visited any bar or pub downtown in Prague. Today, however, we had a small reunion with friends from Kosice in Slovakia, a town where I was born. It was Tuesday. We arrived in town at around midnight and it was a little hard to think of a place with normal mix of people at that time.
We were at Namesti Republiky at the moment. The square, where this new Palladium shopping centre is being built. By the way, they opened information point to the public. Roxy. It crossed my mind. Do you know Roxy? Have you been to Roxy? How do you like Roxy? Everyone is always talking about it. Well, ok, time to go to Roxy / NoD club.
The place is located in the street Dlouha 33. Only a few minutes walk from the Prague Old Town square. The setting is cool, because it’s a former movie-theatre and dancing hall, it really makes the club look prominent. The setting, the sound and the lights are the only things that impressed me there, though. To me, more important are people inside. And this time I had a bad impression straight-off when we entered the club. Not only it was half-empty, but more, no one was dancing, everyone looked bored, waiting for something that was obviously not coming. Then one junkie came to my friend and gave her a special offer to buy his stuff. We left right away. Roxy is much better on Mondays, when it’s usually full and the entrance is free as well.
On the way to the Old Town Square, we tried several places which where either closed for the day or totally empty. One to mention is a music club called La Fabrique at Uhelny Trh 2. There is also a restaurant and it’s opened daily until very late. Again, I know it was Tuesday, but I was disappointed. There were some people inside, some of them were even having fun, but frankly, the place was dead. The prices for drinks were sky high and most of people were aged thirty plus.
Still not giving up, we tried Batalion Hard Rock Cafe just around the corner at Musket. This bar is opened non-stop. We stayed there for an hour sipping Becherovka mixed with tonic and thinking back on adventures we had done together and talking about others that were not present :-). This time, we didn’t even bother checking the place more closely. We rather didn’t because we knew we would have been dashed again. We left and went to catch a night tram home, which we missed. Instead of waiting, we decided to walk. As we were passing Rudolfinum, the seat of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, at that time, I’d rather be at any of their concerts.
If I can make any conclusion, then it must be that Tuesday is really a bad day to hit the town.
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My girlfriend and I discovered a new wine bar, called National House of Wines. We had actually no intention going anywhere, we were only walking around, wandering through these small streets in historical centre of Prague. After we crossed Charles Bridge, and passed McDonald’s, we saw a banner asking us to come and taste wines. We blindly followed it and we were very positively surprised when we entered and took seats. Well, it was not so blind, because it was starting to rain anyway.
We sat in the summer garden, roofed on the sides with a hole in the middle, this hole surrounded by plants. This is very clever because as it was raining lightly at that time, one could hear the drops falling on the roof, dripping down the pipe and into the drain in the middle, and it created glamorous atmosphere. My delight increased when I heard that they were playing Moby’s album Play.
Then the waiter came, actually, he was a sommelier, and he was very polite. I know that tourists sometimes complain about the service in restaurants, shops, etc., but this guy was a professional. We ordered two glasses of white late harvest, and we let the waiter choose one for us. The choice of wines by glass was big (over 40 different Czech wines), and it was quite comfortable to let the expert pick one for you. Plus, the offer of wines in bottles was huge (four hundred Moravian wines).
Prices were another positive surprise. Our Chardonnay 2005 late harvest cost 23 CZK per dl, but early harvest quality wines can be bought for as low as 14 CZK. Draught beer Gambrinus and a bottle of mineral water were sold for 25 CZK each, which for Lesser Town part of the town is cheap. There is also a choice of cheeses, bread and sandwiches.
As we read in the handout, National House of Wines offers wine tasting programs (starting at 199 CZK for 3 white and 3 red wines), where one tastes wines from their collection, commenting it and/or receiving a comment from a sommelier, but for this program, a reservation is needed. This wine bar is opened daily from the noon until ten pm, but we sat there until nearly eleven and waiter didn’t say a word. I excused us for staying late when leaving but he said it was not a problem at all. The place can be found near Charles Bridge at Mala Strana /Lesser Town/, street Mostecka 19.
Enjoy your tasting!
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The time has come when my faculty organizes a gala concert of classical music, and I would like to invite you there. And the information is:
Charles University in Prague, Faculty of Mathematics and Physics
Tuesday, October 31, 19:30
The Great Hall of Karolinum, Ovocny trh, Prague 1
Concert of the part of W.A.Mozart’s ( String Quartet in B major, KV458 “The Hunt” – Allegro vivace assai, Menueto. Moderato, Adagio, Allegro assai), and A.Dvorak’s ( Quartet in F major, op. 96 “American” – Allegro, ma non troppo, Lento, Molto vivace, Vivace, ma non troppo) work
The print of the following pdf document is a valid two persons ticket !!
I’m sorry it’s last minute, but I got this info today, so I wanted to share it, I hope someone has time and mood to come, and that he or she will drop a comment later, I know I will be there..
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As I wrote earlier couple of times about photo exhibitions in Prague, now, I would like to link to it again. If those exhibitions interested someone, every two weeks, on Wednesdays, there are sessions called Evening with photographers, which are open to general public.
This is a good chance to meet leading Czech photographers and discuss their pictures and style, thus, finding some inspiration for yourself. During the meeting, these guys speak about how and why some photos came into existence. There is an open discussion about photography at the end.
The session is free to enter, but one should sign in two weeks before it takes place. To sign in, you can use the direct link (in Czech only :-( ). The name and address is Institut Digitalni Fotografie, Halkova 2 (near metro C station I.P. Pavlova). This institute also offers variety of public photography courses.
Program for the next weeks include:
- 10/18/2006 Vlastimil Kula
- 11/1/2006 Bohumil Eichler
- 11/15/2006 George Ksandr
- 11/29/2006 Mirek Hoza
- 12/13/2006 Jan Saudek
I realize that most (not all) of these lectures are in Czech, but I suppose these photographers speak English, so the discussion at the and may be interesting.
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As in many many towns around the world (90 towns in 40 countries), people in Prague are also in the position to visit World Press Photo 2006 exhibition, which is still open until October 1. A large collection of professional photography is ready to remind us the key events that happened throughout the year.
The exhibition is opened daily from 10 to 18 in Karolinum, Ovocny trh 3 (Next to the Estates Theatre) and the entrance is 90 CZK for adults, 50 CZK for students (these discounts are one of the things why I enjoy being a student).
Czech photographer Michal Novotny has achieved big success, being third in category daily life, for his series of photographs about blind people in Liberia (I liked the first one that showed part of the old African man’s face with a blind eye). Canadian Finbarr O’Reilly is the author of the winning picture, which shows fingers of a kid touching his mother’s lips. The chairman of the jury described the winning image as: “...This image has everything – beauty, horror and despair. It is simple, elegant and moving.”
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