Showing posts with label Prague transport. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Prague transport. Show all posts

Saturday, July 16, 2011

My 7 Links Blog Project

Thanks to Miss Footloose (aka Karen van der Zee) I've been invited to participate in the My 7 Links project organized by Tripbase, the wonderful organization that has recognized both our blogs with Expat Blog of the Year awards.

In this post, I am sharing 7 of my old posts you might not have discovered yet, at the end I list five other bloggers I've nominated to do the same.

My Most Beautiful Post - This is from one spectacular afternoon overlooking the Vltava River in Prague with my friend Sher. If you know nothing about Prague, this will help you understand why people fall in love with it. A Springtime Stroll Around Letna Park

My Most Popular Post - I'm deeply committed to doing what I can as an individual consumer and citizen to prevent climate change.  So I decided to sell my car and live without it.  Then one day I realized I had survived just fine without it for quite awhile. Starting My Third Year Without A Car

My Most Controversial Post -Looking back, I can't say I write very controversial posts. This one might not be the kindest one I've ever written, and I did try to put the behavior I was describing into historical  context. Little Corruptions

My Most Helpful Post - The American lifestyle has a cost structure that feels unsustainable to me. In this post, I try to help Americas imagine a lower cost structure. The Czech Republic is the same size as South Carolina.  Imagine if you were able to travel around a state the size of South Carolina for $400 a year.  How the Czech Government Delighted Me As A Consumer

The Post Whose Success Surprised Me The Most - Who knew a visit to a gift shop would generate such discussion? My post The Swedish Tourist Attraction That Did Not Attract Me ended up featured on the Displaced Nation Blog where ABC News Royal Correspondent Jane Green and I debated the idea of monarchy. 

A Post I feel Didn't Get the Attention It Deserved - Is it my idea? Or my blog post? What do I need, pictures? I only received two commented on this post, and I still like my idea.  Why not give the opposite of a Nobel Prize to countries that could use, well, an intervention?
Does the World Need the Opposite of a Nobel Peace Prize?

A Post I am Most Proud Of - In 2009, I was struck how my Czech friends felt their opinions were ignored on a proposed American missile system that was slated for installation in their country.  I wrote a blog post asking President Obama to come to the Czech Republic and either sell them on it or announce it would end.

He came, gave an amazing speech, and won the Nobel Prize. And the anti-missile system moved away from the Czech Republic. What a win/win.  All because of my blog post!

I hope you're smiling here. I don't actually believe President Obama came to Prague because of my blog post. But I was contacted by the BBC to provide commentary about his speech (didn't happen due to logistics) because their producers had been reading my blog.

I do feel I showed my Czech friends, feeling their way through their new democracy, that taking action makes you feel better rather than being paralyzed.  They marveled that I felt I could effect positive change.  They didn't (which is exactly what politicians want you to think cause then you'll leave everything to them).
Dear President Obama, Please Come to the Czech Republic

I live for comments so tell me what you think!

Here are the links to five blogs I've nominated to join the project:

Adventures in the Czech Republic

Black Girl in Prague

Blogging Gelle

Ricky Yates

Senior Dogs Abroad

Monday, December 6, 2010

Starting My Third Year Without a Car

It never occurred to me that I could live without a car until I decided to become an ''Empty Nest Expat.'' Such is the constant brainwashing of Americans that the American dream must include a car.  Had I known how fantastic it is to not own a vehicle, I wish I could have given it up much sooner.

I sold my beloved Saturn red coupe the month before I left to go overseas.  A Saturn was the perfect car for a woman to own because it was possible to buy the car without negotiation and to pay for three years of maintenance up front. Saturn's innovation was pricing the product visiably so buyers didn't feel that it was a contest with the car salesman to see who could 'best' the other in deciding on a price.

As a Saturn car owner, all I had to do was drive the car into the dealership every 3,000 miles to get the oil changed.  My favorable opinion must not have been universally held because the Saturn brand went bankrupt a year after I sold my car. Even loving the car as I had, I didn't appreciate how much nicer life is without one.

Moving to Prague, I was able to enjoy a very simple, cost-effective transportation system at the low cost price of $22 a month.  This enabled me to have a wonderful quality of life because I could easily go home for lunch from most places in the city and I didn't have to devote any of my time to gassing up, car washes, or getting my vehicle maintained. I also didn't have to devote my time to being stuck in traffic because public transportation always had a dedicated lane, metro tube, or tram track.  Better yet, I no longer needed to earn the money necessary to own a car.  This opened up more free time.

I have lived in two subsequent cities since then: Madison, Wisconsin in the United States and Istanbul, Turkey.  In both places, public transportation works just fine and a car is superfluous.  I never want to go back to spending money on something I don't actually value!

When I get in a car now as a passenger (a very rare occurrence) I'm always struck by the stress that the driver is experiencing.  I am thrilled to give up that need for control and have the freedom and lack of stress created by leaving the driving to others.

I would never have learned this without moving to another culture because my own consumer culture constantly reinforces that I should own a car.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Food and Views at the Prague Food Festival

On the tram
heading up to Prague Castle
from Malastranská

Last night was the start of the Prague Food Festival, taking place this weekend at Prague Castle. Elsie Pells, a Cape Wine Master from South Africa and Karen Parker, an Australian expat from Adelaide and I went out to enjoy the view and the food.

 Karen and Elsie entering the festival
set up in the Prague Castle Gardens

Karen and Elsie
are both very active members in the
International Women's Association of Prague

Just looking at the beautiful scene
we knew we were in for a wonderful evening.
Beautifully carved watermelons on display.

I was fascinated by these
suckling pigs on a spit

American food writers always say that Americans
are so far removed from the real source of their food.
I took a moment to take in the reality of this rotisserie pig
complete with his juicy eye sockets and seam up his belly.
I can see why meat gets sold in sterile packages.
It is a lot easier to face!

The castle gardens look over
all of Prague.

 I love this picture of Elsie.
She was our wine master
suggesting vintages for the evening.

Elsie is proud to represent a new
South African wine on the Czech scene
called Phant (short for Elephant).

Wouldn't a bottle of Phant
be a perfect hostess gift or
wine to serve during South Africa's
coming-out party - the World Cup?

This was my food selection:
salmon on wasabi potatoes.

The ladies had a beef burger
with fois gras tucked into the burger.
Our selections were from
the Kampa Group booth.

The light became golden as the sunset
slowly spread through the clouds
on part of Prague.
 The sun stopped short of the House of Tyn
But you can see the spires on the Old Town Church
with the Zizkov TV tower in the distance.

A rainbow appeared
over the incredible view of the city.
Pinch me.  I'm in Prague.
I'm at the Castle.
This is one of my last evenings in Prague.
I feel so privileged to get to see this.

We stayed until the festival closed.  It was sparsely attended the first night, probably due to the iffy weather.  We watched the full moon play with the clouds, finally it rose from behind it's cover and as large and as golden as a charger plate, it came out in full glory for our admiration.  What a setting! We slowly walked down the cobblestones stairs of Prague Castle, savoring every moment of aesthetic pleasure, and went home.

Related posts: Who Will Be the Czech "Jamie Oliver"?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Couchsurfing Hike to Český ráj

 Striking rock formations
dominate the forest
Who can resist an invitation to Český ráj (Czech paradise)? Not me. Just the name alone says "visit!" Last Sunday, the Bohemian hiking group on got out town for a day in paradise.
Jan Hus was a Protestant reformer
who lived 100 years before Martin Luther.
He was burned at the stake.
Memorials to him appear everywhere
in the Czech Republic.
Even deep in the forest.
Liability lawyers have not yet
discovered the Czech Republic.
Sssh...keep the secret.
Enrico from Ecuador
enjoys the climb.

A beautiful young woman from Nepal.

Chillin' at the top
of some beautiful rocks. 
Czech Paradise indeed.
The view from the forest.

Cameron, our hike organizer and leader
He's an Eagle Scout: "always prepared."

 Look who else was on the trail:
a German knight.

Coming out of the forest, we crossed this gorgeous field.
I felt like I was in the Wizard of Oz' poppy fields.
It was that magical.
The bright yellow crop is rapeseed.
It gets processed and renamed: canola oil.

Me, amidst the rapeseed.

Ana from Mexico playing.

I think I did a great job
on this photo of Natalia.
She took the majority of these photos,
except for this one.

Our goal - 14th century castle ruins

One view from the top of the tower

Half our group:
we had 22 people from all over the world.

Waiting for the bus to take us to the train
to take us back to Prague 2.5 hours away.
Our round trip tickets costs $7.50 each.
Add in a hearty Czech dinner and beer .
An entire day of hiking for $12.50.
Yep, Paradise!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Track Trip To Kutna Hora

It was February of last year, and my friend Nhan needed a break - a road trip out of town.  Only this was the Czech Republic and why take a road when you can take a train on the densest railway network in all of Europe?  We threw around ideas of where would be a good place to go.  Wanting to save places that would look best in Spring and Summer, I suggested Kutna Hora cause going to see a pile of bones is the same in February or July.  No amount of spring flowers will change the view.

We got into our train compartment and marveled at what a relaxing way this was to travel.  Nhan originally hails from Orlando. He remarked how wonderful it would be to have a train like this for day trips from the city to the beach.  Instead, after a day of unwinding, a Florida beachgoer has to experience the stress of the traffic back into town. We would get to chat the whole way to Kutna Hora with nary a thought about traffic, gas tanks, or directions. The cost round-trip was less than $5 for each person.

Being the dear friends they are, Gulnara and Nhan greeted me with a box of chocolates, even though I had lost, yes, lost the Christmas present they gave me before I even opened it.  Did I say they were dear friends? Simply the best.

Gulnara and me in the deserted Square at Kutna Hora

It was one c-o-l-d day the day we decided to go.  I think we were three of 12 tourists in the whole town. We definitely did not have to fight off the crowds to go visit what was our first UNESCO Heritage site that we visited simply because it was a UNESCO Heritage site.  We decided to save the Bone Church, the reason everyone comes to Kutna Hora, for the end of the day.

The Alchemist's Shop

Immediately we spotted a beautiful building with tourist information and a purported alchemist's shop.  I would like to say we were all filled with a burning desire to learn how to turn ordinary objects into gold, but mostly we were just freezing our tushes off and needed someplace, anyplace, with heat!

 Investigating Alchemy

There were all sorts of mysterious mad scientist apparatus and giant bellows and a tunnel that lead who knows where.  All of it food for the imagination of a young person raised on tales of King Midas. But what Kutna Hora is known for besides the Bone Church, is the real wealth, not pretend wealth that came out of this town.

Kutna Hora was the center of a mining operation that created coinage that was traded so widely you could call it unintentional medieval Euros. We began walking toward the famous Church of St. Barbara's (named after the patron saint of miners and anyone working with explosives) that had been built with all of this fantastic wealth that Kutna Hora produced.

The Walkway to St. Barbara's

The walkway to St. Barbara's was so romantic -- or it would have been if it wasn't 0 degrees centigrade.  Along the way were numerous statues of  saints and people in various states of torment, along with the beautiful paving and stonework that Czechs do so well.

Over the stone fence to the left, there was a magnificent view of Kutna Hora, the town, and the surrounding countryside. There are around 21,000 people in Kutna Hora today but at one time Kutna Hora rivaled Prague for economic dominance of Bohemia. The mines have played out, however, a new source of wealth has been found: growing tobacco for Phillip Morris.

 Gulnara and Nhan
with St. Josef's Church
in the background

As we walked toward St. Barbara's Church, I was fascinated by the competing church St. Josef's, easily seen from this walk way and the spectacular St. Barbara's.  I marveled at what politics would motivate the building of a smaller, less ornate church when there's a perfectly magnificent church already started in town in the 1300s.  Maybe it's like American churches that divide and divide into smaller and smaller congregations over minute theological questions, I don't know. Or maybe the townspeople viewed St. Barbara's as a money pit. It didn't get finished until 1905.  It was fun to think about.

 Approaching the flying buttresses
of St. Barbara's Church

I ask you gentle readers, especially my male readers, you know what flying buttresses are as an architectural detail, don't you? Simply because it's so much fun to say "flying buttresses," right? Can you say the same for knowing what crenelated stoneworks are? Sounds like a detail on a petticoat, doesn't it? I was just wondering if my theory that you know what flying buttresses are proves correct.  The inner 8-year-old in all of us loves to say "flying buttresses!"

 One of many beautiful baroque altars
and stained glass windows within the church

The beautiful Gothic
arches and ceiling
within the Church
After thoroughly exploring the unheated church we headed back toward the center for a long leisurely lunch of Czech specialties, mead and beer.  There were more interesting sites along the way to our next stop.

For example, they don't make
water towers like this back home.
 Two wild and crazy Czechs
from back in the day.

Many European communities
have one of these:
a Plague Column
to commemorate and give thanks for the end
of the Bubonic Plague's rampage.

We were all excited when we saw this truck
because we thought we were going to get to say hi
to American military overseas.
It was three Czechs moving carpet.

The Italian Court
Our next stop was the Italian court, a former royal residence and mint. We took a tour that showcased some of the coins and manufacturing operations of those times.  I remember being impressed with medieval loss prevention techniques.  Nobody was sneaking home with any coin molds in their lunch pail.

The keys our guide used to enter
the doors at the Italian Court.
Good thing she had them.

 She was so nervous
giving her first tour in English
she accidentally locked up a few tourists
on our tour.

Luckily Gulnara asked,
"Hey, where did the Germans go?"
Otherwise they might still
be locked up in the tower.

The drop-dead gorgeous chapel
in the Italian Court.
 Every wall was achingly beautiful.

Oh, the Bone Church.
We ran out of time. Never saw it.
Ice cream and good conversation
got in the way. 

I hope I come back this way again.
I'll do the Bone Church and the Silver Mines time.

You might enjoy these other train-related posts:

Monday, January 25, 2010

Communist Art in the Prague Metro

Andel Metro Stop

When I first arrived in Prague, I would get off at the Andel Metro Stop every morning to go to class.  The Andel station is beautiful, firstly, because it's all done in different shades of pink and cream marble. The colors gave it warmth and femininity.

 Bronze reliefs
mounted in the walls

Nothing made me appreciate the leap I made more than seeing the Communist art embedded in walls of the Andel station in Smichov.  I liked being in a place where the ideology was different than mine, the history was different than mine, the aesthetics were different than mine.  That's the whole point of travel, isn't it? To challenge our thinking! And maybe, to be a little scared, to push ourselves into experiencing new things.

I hope Czechs never remove this art from the station. Originally, the whole station had been designed by Soviet architects.  Andel (Angel) used to be named in honor of Moskevska (Moscow). The Soviets built this station and one back home in Moscow they named in honor of Prague. The Czech couldn't change the name of the station fast enough after the Velvet Revolution.

Czechs don't appreciate these period pieces now.  Americans do.  It's Orwellian art. I felt the privilege it was to get to see it.  Czechs are just grateful not to be living it anymore.

 All of the art in the Andel Station
celebrates the "friendship" between
the Czech and Soviet peoples.

 Mir - the Russian word for Peace

 My name for this:
"The Happy Cosmonauts"

No Art Represented My Image of Communism
More Than This
-Everything For the Glory of the State!

There's a gorgeous city
out there waiting to be explored.

I'm glad I made the leap.

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