Ahoj od Ceska Republika

Trip Start Apr 30, 2008
Trip End Apr 17, 2009

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

We've both wanted to visit the Czech Republic for many years. Prague is as beautiful and impressive as advertised. It's also terribly crowded with tourists (Candy thought there were less tourists in places like London, Paris, and Venice). While the people of Prague are prepared for tourism, they hadn't seen anything quite like us; we continued to speak Spanish to whomever we met. We really got some baffling looks...

We spent a few days exploring the city and researching our day trips outside of Prague and our next leg to Wolfsburg, Germany. In addition to our lingering Spanish, we had trouble with the pronunciation of words in central Europe. For example, we have not encountered a language where two syllables in a word can be stressed and the letter "W" (among others) still eludes us (we nearly received tickets to WURZBURG Germany instead of WOLFSBURG).

The pubs in Prague are wonderful. When we went a kilometer or so from the tourist areas, we really enjoyed ourselves. Candy got to try the Czech version of goulash (somewhat different from the Hungarian version and nothing like the versions our mothers make) while Ray had his first (and second) Pilsner. On another occasion, the pub we visited played old-time country music--but with the lyrics in Czech. Many times we'd recognize the tune, but not be able to place it. You'd be surprised how hard it is to identify "Old Susanna" amongst all the "sz", "ch", and "v" sounds.

Ray definitely wanted to go to Plzen (Pilsen in German) to see the Pilsen Urquell brewery. We plan to upload a video so that you can hear about the importance of Plzen in the history of brewing. Believe it or not, this was Ray's first visit to a brewery.  In Plzen we able to enjoy beer and sausages in a beer garden in the town square with locals--instead of tourists. Even more important to Ray than the exploring the world of Czech beer was renewing his friendship with Martin and Simona (and meeting their 3 children). Ray hadn't seen Martin and Simona in eight years. Even though our lives are really different from when we were starting out our careers (and without three kids), Ray was so pleased at how easily we picked up the relationship where we left off.

Their home (and garden) in Ricany (our second contest of our travel blog could be how many "z" sounds are in this suburb's name) is a wonderful example of modern, functional design. If we ever decide to abandon our love of old houses, we would borrow many of Martin's ideas. Martin and Simona's home cooked meals were also a wonderful break from our typical travelers' meals. And, Martin helped Ray continue to explore an amazing variety of Czech beers (Preston and Mark--the bar is set at 17 different types for your trip!).

We visited a park near their home where Ray, Martin, and Emma swam in the spring fed swimming hole. In the lakeside pub, Martin made sure Ray was able to try yet another type of sausage with beer--this time pickled sausage. Martin took Candy and Ray on several hikes in the northern portion of the Czech Republic. We first hiked through and climbed 50 meter sandstone pillars at Prachovske Skaly. Then we went to the castle ruins at Hrad Trosky on top of an old volcano. We finished the day in Drabske Svetncky, a natural forest where the Czech version of Robin Hood had his hideout. Beer was also consumed. The Czech Republic has interesting drinking and driving laws. There is a 0.0 limit for the driver. However, passengers in the car are free to drink alcohol as they please.

Now for a quick fashion update from Europe. Capri pants are all the rage--for the men. It may be a Rafael Nadal thing. Also, European men have taking to wearing American style swimming trunks to beach instead of speedos. Ray's hemlines were either too long or too short for the current fashion.

Ray was able to cook for the first time in quite some time in Prague. There don't seem to be many foods that can be typically called uniquely American. With the wonderful summer produce, Ray decided to make Chicken Fajitas. Candy had Ray made them again in Germany, so we may need a new travel map with all the countries where we made fajitas.

Tune in soon to hear about sausages, beer, Nadja's wedding (and lots of German wedding traditions), and Candy's new Audi.

Candy and Ray
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