As the top of the hour nears in Prague, crowds gather in front of the Astronomical Clock on Staroměstské náměstí (Old Town Square) and wait for the show to begin — all in a ritual that’s happened almost daily for six hundred years of the clock’s life.
The first attention goes to the twelve apostles that emerge from the little window at the top. They go around in a circle as if to bless the hour. One level down in the zodiac section of the clock the skeleton rings the bell to measure our lifetime, indicating that we have one less hour of life. Around the skeleton, other figures representing the sins of vanity, greed and extravagance shake their heads, a humorous indication that they are not ready to go, ready to die.
But our personal favorite part of the Prague astronomical clock show occurs at the very end. Continue Reading »
While we lived in Prague, we were simultaneously awed by its beauty and frustrated by the rapacious tourism development that had swamped its old town. Recently, I’ve read a few blog posts from travelers disappointed by their visits to Prague because of the city’s tourist schlock. Yes, there’s a fair heap of it. But, there are also ways to avoid it.
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We have been in Prague – our previous home – for a little over a week now. We’ve noticed our friends’ questions regarding our journey and current state huddling around certain themes.
Although we can’t succinctly recreate online the atmosphere of a Pilsner beer-driven discussion in a Czech pub, we can attempt to answer these questions with astounding brevity in case you’re also curious. [Twitter’s limit is 140 characters.]
1a. How do you stay sane while being together 24 hours a day? (Politically Correct Version)
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As scheduled, we are flying to Europe today from China.
Asia has been our home for almost 18 months. Now that we’ve become accustomed to dumplings, noodle soup and Nescafe with condensed milk for breakfast, we depart with mixed emotions (well, our emotions towards Nescafe are clear: we are very happy to leave it behind). We also leave behind the richness of Asia’s chaotic streets for a different European pace punctuated with cafes and medieval stone architecture. Continue Reading »
We’re here in Beijing, China and the only things going up more rapidly than new buildings are Christmas trees (mostly fake, of course). Last night, we became nostalgic while strolling past another giant shopping center Christmas tree, this one shielded by a roof that houses the world’s largest LED video screen (250 meters long by 30 meters wide).
Though the proliferation of Christmas decorations in Beijing is remarkable, their presence just doesn’t capture the holiday spirit like a European Christmas market would. So, we offer a walk down European Christmas Market memory lane and our “Best of” European Christmas Markets list. Continue Reading »
When we first moved to Prague in 2001, ethnic restaurants were relatively expensive; the selection was slim and value low. In response, we sought out odd spice shops and developed new skills in cooking Italian, Indian, Thai and Mexican. As with the availability of ingredients, the number of ethnic restaurants in Prague has grown substantially over the last few years. We’ve even been introduced to some new cuisines like Afghan and Georgian. Continue Reading »
When we first moved to Prague at the end of 2001, fresh goods like celery and limes were luxury food items with out-sized price tags whose whereabouts were restricted to an imported food shop called Fruits de France.
In the last five years, however, the landscape for finding fruits, non-root vegetables, spices, herbs and imported goods in Prague has evolved rapidly. Prague still doesn’t have a good central food market or a “fresh market” culture like Vienna or Munich, but the Vietnamese community has managed to fill some of the void by opening endless fruit and vegetable shops. Although it’s still difficult to assemble a sophisticated, full-course meal with one stop, if you know where to look you can find almost anything you need. Continue Reading »
Wondering where the real Vietnamese food is in Prague? Are fresh herbs and Asian goods your thing?
Where did you get those bags of frozen tiger shrimp? Where do you get your fresh Thai basil and long beans? Where did you get all those fresh herbs for your Vietnamese summer rolls?
If we had a nickel (a Czech koruna, perhaps?) for every time we’d been asked these questions, we’d have enough money to buy a vote in the Czech parliament. Continue Reading »