Showing posts with label restaurants. Show all posts
Showing posts with label restaurants. Show all posts

Friday, May 28, 2010

Shakespeare's "Romeo & Juliet" Under the Stars at Letní Scéna

As soon as I read that the Prague Shakespeare Festival was going to put on "Romeo and Juliet" under the stars in the medieval open-air Vyšehrad theatre called Letní Scéna, I knew I had to go! "Romeo and Juliet" is, of course, the most romantic play in the English language and Vyšehrad, overlooking the Vltava River, is one of the most romantic places in a city overflowing with romantic places. It was such an inspired idea. And ladies, you don't always need a man in tow to appreciate the romance of the setting! Romance is a state of mind.

I forgot to take a picture of my date, Black Girl in Prague, who was her usual fabulous self.  I waited to meet her at the Vyšehrad Metro Terrace.  Since I forgot to eat before I came, I slipped into the little Thai restaurant there so I would have some food in my stomach.  Who wants their hunger to interrupt the balcony scene? Not me.  I expected no greatness from any restaurant situated within a metro station.  Indeed, the opposite.  After all, the customers are in a hurry, there is graffiti everywhere outside, what could possibly be aesthetically-pleasing about the experience? I even let the waiter pick my food out because I was too lazy to make a choice myself.  OK, so I was wrong. Greatness can reside in a metro restaurant.

Kaeng pet kai, rice, and green tea
at Yam Yam Thai Restaurant.
The open-air theatre
at Vyšehrad.
Can't you picture
all the people and performances
that have taken place here
over hundreds and hundreds of years?

We were lucky to grab one of the seats with a back rest.
Can you find me in the audience?

Prague theater director
Gordon Trufitt and his wife Eva
sat across the aisle.

I used to see my Prague blogging buddy
everywhere in Prague.
This was my first time meeting
Grant Podelco and his fiancee Daisy
 with young Emma.
It was a pleasure!
Grant gave me great blogging tips during intermission.
He writes two blogs: Gusto and Grant's Prague Bike Blog.

Mercutio was played by Guy Roberts.
Guy is the Founder, President and Artistic Director
and he was sooo good in his role as Mercutio.
David Fisher played the Nurse.
You know when you watch someone act
and you can just tell how much fun their having?
David Fisher almost stole the show
with his hilariously bawdy portrayal
of Juliet's Nurse.
Wow, could he project his voice too!
Romeo and Juliet
were played by
Kendrick Ong and
Lenka Fisherová-Novaková
Juliet had wonderful enthusiasm
and Romeo was appropriately dreamy.
We had great seats for
enjoying the ensemble on stage.

I loved the sword fights!

Letní Scéna (Open Air Theatre) was perfect
for balcony scenes.
Thanks so much to Guy Roberts and his artistic company at the Prague Shakespeare Festival for putting on an enchanting evening of theater.  It can't be easy in this funding environment. I for one, appreciated the opportunity to enjoy your gifts!  Prague Shakespeare Festival will put on the play "As You Like It" May 12-22, 2011 in this same theatre next year.  I'm impressed with the ambition for next year: ten days of performances!

Related Posts:

Prague Playwriting Contest Shows Off Three Finalists

Wonderful English Language Theater in Prague

Friday, January 29, 2010

What Flavor Do You Associate with the Czech Republic?

Quick.  What flavor or spice do you associate with India? The clock is ticking...oh you didn't need any extra time, did you? Most people answer "curry." What's flavor do you associate with Japan? The clock is ticking...everyone may not answer this one the same way. I would say "wasabi."

What flavor would you associate with the Czech and Slovak Republics? Before arriving in Prague, I would have drawn a blank.  Today I would say: "honey."

Do you like honey? Let me tell you about two fabulous Czech specialties that are delicious!

The first product is an alcoholic beverage.  It's mead! How can an American learning about other cultures resist a beverage with such a long and storied European history and medieval name.  It sounds like something one should be served at a Renaissance Fair along with a big fat turkey leg.  Mead is wine made out of three ingredients: honey, water, and yeast. If you want to call it by it's Czech and Slovak name, it's marketed as 'medovina.'

I discovered the joys of medovina one night when I had arrived at a friend's flat, cold and shivering, and my friend offered me a cup of warm medovina to take the chill off. I sat down with a deliciously warm, yummy glass of medovina and fell in love with the taste.

I wish I had noticed the brand name at the time (it came in a clear bottle) because ever since then, I've been tasting different brands of medovina to try and reproduce that exact memory of deliciousness. It's easy to find medovina that is sickly sweet and needs to be watered down.  This wine tasted like a gently sweet, low-viscosity form of honey. Try it. If the first brand is too sweet, give another brand a try.  Mulled mead (doesn't that sound medieval?) is available at Christmas time.  It has additional spices and fruit flavors added.

Are you more of a show-stopping dessert type? I'm not as much.  But I remember one of my fellow teacher's reaction to Medovnik, an exquisite honey cake served everywhere in Prague for dessert.  She was in utter rhapsody! She loved it so much she tried to make it at home.  "Don't bother," she reported after her attempt. "It's not for amateurs.  It's w-a-y-y-y too much work." So I guess she's back to turning heads in cafes with those moans of ecstasy as she consumes her medovnik.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Prague, One Pint at a Time

One of the easiest things to do in the Czech Republic is become a beer snob. It even happened to me - somebody who previously had a beer every couple of years. The New York Times' Evan Rail celebrates the variety of craft beer available throughout Prague in this article readable by clicking on my title. My only question for Evan is shouldn't it read "Prague, one half-liter at a time?"

Monday, August 3, 2009

Pavel's Prague, Part III: Tonino Lamborghini

Pavel entering Tonino Lamborghini,
his favorite cafe

Pavel Pisan, an accomplished ballet dancer with the Prague National Ballet, has been taking us, that's you and me gentle blog reader, to his three favorite cafes in Prague, saving the best for last. We had first visited Cafe Emporio, and then the Grand Orient Cafe. Did you enjoy them?

Tonino Lamborghini is Pavel's very favorite cafe. I was surprised the first time I went with him because it didn't seem very Czech to me with it's ultramodern vibe and sleek styling - more Italian, like it's name. The exotic appeals to people all over the world, doesn't it?

The cafe has originally been called Pasta Caffe, and changed it's name to Tonino Lamborghini, when it became part of the very successful Ambiente restaurant group.

Pavel loves coming here because "of the excellent service. The first time I came in here, I felt it was the right place. The staff helped me. They knew when to talk to me, and when to leave me alone. Besides, it has the best espresso in town, simply THE BEST. In eight years of coming here, I've had bad service only once. I think that's a good record." He also appreciated the excellent venilation, "even the smoking section air seems healthy."

Pavel's two favorite entrees here are "al pesto di basilico and con pollo e limone all Ambiente." And don't forget dessert. The "tiramisu is great!"

Tonino Lamborghini
is known for it's pasta

The cafe doesn't hurry you.
You're free to enjoy your time here
with reading material already supplied.

That porch is also the smoking section.

Pavel Pisan,
always with a smile of pure sunshine

I didn't take as many pictures here because I was too busy enjoying Pavel. He told me about the legendary beauty of his mother and his favorite opera stars. Our conversation was over the tiniest cups of esspresso accompanied by the tiniest little yummy cookies that came with it. I loved the "just right" serving sizing for walking away guilt free.

Pavel adores American opera diva Jesse Norman, " a goddess!" He waxed rhapsodic about Czech mezzo soprano Yvona Skarova. "99% of the time she was singing, I was in the audience. The first time she sent me a stage present with her calling card I screamed." He also enthused about Jiri Solzenko, an operatic bass singer with "perfect technique and amazing acting. He's perfect in both comedies and tragedies." What a compliment it must be to hear the appreciation of a fellow artist who has these same acting gifts. When I saw Pavel dance, he played Paris in Romeo and Juliet. You wouldn't believe how evil he could make his face look!

"It doesn't matter where you are in Prague," Pavel said, "Prague makes you happy." He continued, "I'm not a big fan of walking. I don't need it. But when I walk across the bridge by the National Theatre or across the Charles Bridge, the views are just gorgeous."

Thank you Pavel for sharing your favorite spots in Prague. Prague makes me happy too!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Pavel's Prague, Part I: Cafe Emporio

The number of inspiring cafes in Prague is literally overwhelming. I would love to see them all because they are as different in personality as people are. Some you come back to again and again because slipping into the booth is like being embraced with a familiar hug by someone who cares for you.

I love everything about the European coffee experience: from the strength of it's flavor and smell, the exquisitely foamed and expertly presented cappuccino, to the comfort of settling down with a friend in an interesting spot to enjoy caffeine and each other's company.

I have found wonderful places through friends. Among my favorites are the Cafe Imperial, the Cafe Louvre, Cafe Tobruk on St. Peter's Square, and 7th heaven around the corner from the Cafe Savoy (try the warm goat cheese toasts). I asked a friend with impeccable taste, Pavel Pisan, the ballet dancer, to show me his favorite cafe spots in Prague.

One of my very favorite things about Prague is that high culture is everywhere. I love high culture and believe that I know it fairly well. It's a whole higher level of appreciation and awareness though when you are a creator of it.

Pavel had previously shared with me tickets to see "Romeo and Juliet." I may know the story and the music. Pavel knows each of the characters, their moves, their presentation, how one should inhabit each personality. It's a level of knowledge I love listening too and learning from because it's beyond my aficionado status. I learn from Pavel every time I'm with him. And it's not just ballet. It's Czech culture, opera, and acting. I could go on and on.

Me and Pavel at Cafe Emporio that day

When my American girlfriends and I first met Pavel, we were a bit awestruck by his beauty. But then one of my cheeky friends nicknamed him 'David' reducing us to a fit of giggles and starting endless rounds of teasing this wonderful man who spreads sunshine wherever he goes. Pavel's smile is electric. His exuberance is part of his entrance. It grabs your attention and never lets go. Everyone looks up when Pavel enters a room because his joyful spirit emanates outward and lifts the mood of everyone present.

Pavel loves to use cafes for a moment of solitary relaxation - to enjoy the paper or a great meal. To think and people watch over a cup of espresso. He had three favorite cafes he thought I should see.

We decided to meet at Cafe Emporio
at Jindrisska 3 in Prague 1.

It's just off the intersection of
Vaclavska Namesti and Jindrisska.

Is there a better sight than a friends' big smile
through the window?

Behind the white leather banquette seating
was this intriguing wall of
chocolate color and eggshells

And an ultra-hip mural that predated the bar

Other cafe goers under the
metal strip chandelier
hanging from the second floor

Up on the second floor -
a view of the mod chair seating and wall.

Pavel says, "The eggshell wall has been refreshed. It used to have feathers amidst the eggshells. I was sensitive to the dust because I'm allergic. They redid the wall which is great because it keeps people excited to come."

A larger view of the mural
on the second floor

Pavel continued, "When I came here in 1995, this wasn't a cafe but the mosaic was here. They kept it. It's originally from the '60s." Does anyone know who the artist is? I would love to know more about it.

Later, I came back to this place when I was walking home with my flatmate from going to see a movie at Kino Svetozor. It's this wonderful art house cinema palace with movies from all over the world, a bar with tables to meet your friends before the movie, and a convenient location on Jindrisska just on the other side of Vaclavska Namesti from Cafe Emporio. I literally thought life can not get any more perfect than to go to an art cinema house in the middle of Prague, and walk on cobblestones four blocks to our apartment, with a contented nightcap at this magnificent spot on the way home. Life in Prague is so fabulous.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Five Environmental Ideas I Admire from the Czech Republic

Sometimes when you go abroad, it's the little things that bring delight. Here are five environmental ideas that probably exist in other countries but I saw them first in the Czech Republic. I find them admirable, how about you?

#1 In America, retail establishments sell aluminum foil, plastic trash bags, and cling wrap on a roll. Then that roll is put inside a long rectangular box as additional packaging.

Once you have the initial box, why is it necessary to keep buying it? Why not just put the next purchased roll in the first box so it doesn't have to be manufactured and paid for again? I saw these foil rolls sold "boxless" in the Czech Republic and thought this was a great idea.

#2This toilet paper roll is from my neighborhood kavarna, or coffee shop. The user pulls out individual sheets of toilet paper much the way one pulls out an individual tissue from a Klennex box. When you pull an individual tissue out of a tissue box, do you say to yourself, "why am I being rationed?" No, you get just what you need. Same idea here. It has the additional benefit of not creating a bunch of torn scraps of paper all over the floor.

#3 This picture is from a restaurant on Wenceslas Square. All over the Czech Republic there are bright and shiny new bathrooms because there has been so much remodeling after 50 years of communism.

As you can see, the user has a choice to use more water or less depending on the need of the moment. I haven't seen a single toilet like this in America. Maybe I don't get out enough, you tell me.

#4 The most wonderful transportation system I have personally experienced is in Prague. It's an absolute marvel. For $22 a month, I could travel all over the city on trams, buses, and the metro. It's completely stress-free. In a city of 1.3 million, I could go home for lunch frequently. I rarely had to wait more than five minutes for a ride (maybe 10 minutes on a Sunday morning) I love it so much I want to devote much more blog space to it than what I am doing here.

Not only does a great public transport system save gas because people share a vehicle rather than drive individual ones, it also saves the air. Four-story buildings line a typical Prague street. Mobile pollution devices (otherwise known as cars) choke the air with exhaust that doesn't move on.

#5 This vehicle is called a "trike" and is manufactured in China. It's a perfect size for urban living. It seems safer than a motor scooter because there's more frame surrounding the driver. I don't know how much gas it saves, but I'm sure it's substantial.

What do you think are some of the best environmental ideas in Europe that America should copy? What have you seen design-wise that inspires you?

Friday, March 27, 2009

An Evening with the Hari Krishnas


This is my flatmate, Marcello, age 35. He's a theoretical physicist from Italy specializing in gravity. More importantly, as a flatmate, he's a good guy.

We had heard about the half-price nightly specials at Govinda, the restaurant near our flat run by the Hari Krishnas. We decided to check it out.

The Hari Krishna bakery
next door to the restaurant

Govinda does a nice lunch business.

Every night from 5:30-6:00 p.m.
they offer what's left on the menu
for half price.

You can click on my title
to go to their web page.

The smell of incense
wafts out from the gift shop.

It's a good thing we arrived at 5:25
because every single table filled up quickly.

Diners go up to the counter to pick up their food.
We didn't have to select what to eat.
This was a good thing, because we had no idea
what it was. After we started eating it became clear.

Our plate of food cost $2. That's probably with the Czech Value Added Tax of 20% added in. I ordered strawberry lassi (yogurt drink) and Marcello ordered freshly-squeezed carrot juice which added another $2 each to our meals. We had lentil soup, raita with beets (that's the refreshing pink yogurt salad), sweet tomato chutney (I could taste cinnamon), rice and a tasty amalgamation of broccoli, carrots, potatoes and possibly zucchini to go with the rice. It was good and filling.

You don't have to sit at a table.
These three Hari Krishna ladies enjoyed
the lower tables with floor cushions.

The clay on their noses
is from the Ganges River.
They wear it to signify that
they recognize their bodies as
spiritual temples
not just physical
flesh and blood.

A Hari Krishna lady had confided in me
weeks before in the bakery that the best thing
about these outfits is they hide
every possible figure flaw.

Inside the gift shop and cultural center

When I was a kid, the Hari Krishna movement seemed very threatening. During the 70s, a common fear of American parents was that their young adult children would run off and join the Hari Krishnas or the Moonies, two religious movements considered cults at that time. Anytime you went to an American airport in those days, flyers had to avoid aggressive supporters of a Libertarian guy named Lyndon LaRouche and orange-bedecked Hari Krishnas that would encircle you with what seemed like wild drumming and chanting.

This encounter, so far, hadn't been anything like that. After dinner, Marcello had to head out to English class. I had time to pop into the gift shop and cultural center. Lo and behold, a program was about to begin. Being an empty nester, I didn't have to be somewhere at a certain time. I could be spontaneous and stay! And having no fear at this age in life that I would "run off and join the Hari Krishnas" staying to learn more about their life seemed more interesting than threatening.

Every Wednesday night, after the restaurant closes at 6 p.m., the Hari Krishnas hold a congregational chant. Tonight was going to be even more informative, because a young man who graduated from a Hari Krishna all-male secondary school in India was going to give a slide presentation on the school. I was lucky to sit down next to a very nice young woman named Christine who offered to translate and explain everything to me.

I love singing. It's 100% non-cynical. I have done solitary meditation but this was going to be my first group meditation or chanting. The room was standing room only with approximately 70 people in it wearing a mixture of saris, regular Western casual clothes, and even one suit and tie. Many people came straight from work.

The chant was led by three men. The chant leader played the harmonium, another man and Christine rhythmically clanged finger cymbals, and the young man who would the evening's speaker played a drum that reminded me of a conga drum.

It was beautiful. The entire room focused on the chant and it truly was like a transcendental spiritual vibration could be felt. The number of people, the rhythm, the sounds of the drums, keyboards, and clanging cymbals all added up to a sum greater than it's parts. The leader later told me that doing it together is what helps prevent boredom and mind flicker (what the Buddhists call "monkey mind.")

Before the program began

I wish I had taken a picture of the young man who shared his slides that night. He emanated a deep spiritual nature. It's not easily described. I just know it when I feel it. He was 20 years old. Hari Krishnas from all over the world send their children to this school with a Krishna curriculum. It didn't occur to my skeptical Western mind until the next day to ask if the school was accredited by an outside agency, but I did ask where the girl's school was (1 km away), how many teachers and students were native to India and how many weren't.

The speaker's English was "native" because so many Americans and Aussies attend the school. He said the boys were raised with austerity and taught to be celibate until age 25. If they reach 25 without breaking their celibacy, they have a good chance of making it as a good "householder." He said "you only have to look out in society to see what happens when the boy doesn't keep this celibacy. He will never keep it and he will likely be part of regular society's 50% divorce rate."

I had asked Christine why there were so many men there that night and she told me the Hari Krishna movement is about 2/3 male. She has no idea why. We giggled about the odds.

The young man didn't have pictures of the girl's school. He said it was not as austere as the boy's school since girls are more tenderhearted and needed to be raised with more opulence (who can disagree with that???).

When he asked who in the audience would like to send their children to his school, about 5-10 people raised their hand. I didn't feel an ounce of proselytizing that night. The people in the audience seemed like regular people.

Christine, a gifted translator,
and poised young Czech woman.

Thank you, Christine, for sharing
your faith with me!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Come and Join us for Coffee

The invitation read..."we meet weekly at a different historic Prague cafe. This week we're meeting at the Cafe Imperial. I think you'll enjoy it's over-the-top decor..."

If there is something I love about Prague it is this wonderful coffeehouse culture leftover from the days of the Austro-Hungarian empire. It turned out the Cafe Imperial was in my new neighborhood. This was my first chance to see something where I'd be living when I moved into my new flat.

I can not pretend that
I am not stunned by beauty;
the Cafe Imperial is jaw-droppingly beautiful
the exquisite ceiling mosaics

A larger view of the setting
and ceramic tile

I ordered Algerian coffee,
something new to me.

It promised eggnog on the bottom.
"This won't be eggnog as you know it, but eggnog liquor.
It's even better."

"Better than eggnog, is that possible?"
"It is. You'll see."
It is.

Filip and Tomas made the whole experience fantastic.
They could give customer service lessons all over Prague.

The cafe Imperial is not just a coffeehouse,
but a restaurant.
I may have to go back just to try
the roasted pigeon.

The art deco mosaics go back to 1914.
The entire restaurant is newly restored.

Inspiring elegance in the bathrooms

The restaurant was decked out for Christmas
with these wonderful citrus and straw decorations.

Did you know that an orange slice
could be so elegant?

Through these gorgeous doors
is the Hotel Imperial -
just as exquisite.

You might also enjoy:

Art Deco Elegance in Old Town Prague

Travel Sites Catalog All Traveling Sites Expat Women—Helping Women Living Overseas International Affairs Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory expat Czech Republic website counter blog abroadWho links to me? Greenty blog