Day 12 - Podebrady ... and new friends!

Trip Start Jul 21, 2010
Trip End Aug 26, 2010

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Flag of Czech Republic  , Bohemia,
Friday, August 6, 2010

Wow. Its just before midnight as I'm writing this ... and I'm wide awake (which is saying something given how much walking / exploring / drinking / eating / working I've done today ... and the general pace of our trip thusfar!). Probably because of what the owner of the tea shop in Podebrady chose to serve me when I asked for his opinion of their best offering ... some rich, milky tea brewed with mystery leaves from Cambodia ... just AFTER serving it to me he mentioned it would keep me up for 2 nights, 1 if I was lucky ... because it held the potency of 25 cups of coffee. Awesome.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Today, we woke up, ... and after a nice breakfast made by the lovely Janice, a very brisk walk to the train station to catch an 11am train to Podebrady where we were greeted by friends of our family. Back in the USA, nearly ... I'm gunna guess about 15 years ago, ... the Mojzis family immegrated to Sacramento. Their teenage son Tomas and I became friends as we went to church together (and he went to high school with Janice). ... He was married three years ago to Misha ... and at their wedding, we had the opportunity to meet her parents (albeit, very briefly). When I was planning our trip to the Czech Republic I asked Tomas if he had any suggestions as to who we ought to reconnect with ... and kapow! ... here we are ... heading to visit Misha's folks. Got it?  :)

We arrive in Podebrady after a pleasant hour long ride on the train. Its raining cats and dogs when we get there ... but outside are Ivan and Jana waiting for us with big smiles. Jana teaches English professionally, while Ivan manages property, sells real estate, and does several other trades (mechanic, plumbing, etc). You get the idea quite quickly that he is not only very handy ... but also a good businessman. He also has a very pleasant way about him. Listening, engaging, and ready to share a smile ... even through the language barrier (their English/Czech situation is kinda like the English/Spanish situation with Janice and I. I can understand tons, but am hesitant to practice speaking it because she is so dang good at it!) Jana is equally enjoyable and very easy to speak to, both technically and ... yeah, just the type of person you can sit and chat away without effort. .... They greet us with a handful of umbrellas (turns out to be the perfect number to fill our shortage) and we have a watery walk to their home about 20 minutes away from the train station.

Our walk takes us down the boulevard that goes along the main park ... right in the center of town. Podebrady is a "spa town" ... but not quite what we'd think of in US terms. Yes, they have massage and relaxation centers, ... but the bulk of the clientele are heart disease patients. Men and women just out of surgery in need of recovery come to the city for followup services and relaxation. Massage, long quite walks around the park, etc . Its a great idea ... and they do it well. This is, hands down, the prettiest part of Czech Republic we've seen yet. ... I haven't written much about it yet, but Prague has been disappointing in a way. Sooooo many tourists and shops geared for them (us!), and sooooo much graffiti. From a hill, with a sunset, ... absolutely beatiful. But for living, ... to be here in the center of the old town, not so great. I'd much prefer the well kept streets and park of Podebrady any day.

Up two flights of stairs to their beautiful flat ... only the second Czech home we've been in, this being the first modern home. Very nicely decorated and kept ... welcoming, clean, and smells AMAZING. ... Soon they lead us to their dining room and we sit down and are served an amazing meal of Chicken Paprikash, potato dumplings, and salad ... all homemade. Pivo and Czech wine accompaniement of course. Nothing spared. We are treated like ROYALTY!!! ... I am drooling over myself as I have three servings. The kids have seconds. We are happy as can be. ... Then, downstairs to the building next door ... and we find the basement has been professionally converted in to an Art Cafe. ... Smells equally wonderful inside, and we are treated by Ivan and Jana to Cafe Latte's and Kolachkes ... so much food we are about to burst! I think I ate like, 15 of the kolachkes. ... ....

As we feast, we talk. And learn LOTS about communism and its affect on the Czech people, cities, and culture. Ivan has recently had this land returned to his family via the post-velvet revolution restitution process. Essentially, when communist soviet forces governed the Czech Republic, they took over ALL private land. Nobody owned homes or land, the government did. And it all went to crap. After the revolution, the land and properties were given back. In this case, in horrible condition. Ivan and his family have re-built them ... turning one building in to beautiful homes (where they live now and Tomas and Misha are returning to live in) ... and next door the cafe downstairs and above it a ... crap, can't remember the name of it. Its not a hotel or hostel ... basically a hotel with no services. Grrr. I will remember tomorrow. ... AhA! I remember! ... A "pension" ... yes, the Podebrady Pension. . .... Ivan also showed us photos of the communist condition of a building he renovated, down by town square ... and after we are done with our lattes and kilochke feast, we head there to take a closer look.

Now, its stopped raining and the city comes alive a bit. More people walking around. The visibility increases and we can see the full beauty of the park we walked around earlier. Its great. Even prettier as we can see the flowers and statues more fully.

We arrive at the reconstructed building in the town center that Ivan has worked on for many years. Upstairs is his office, and below is a cellar that has been dug out ... a 16th Century (I believe thats what he said) cellar ... that now houses a really amazing, warm, friendly tea house. We sit down and for several hours drink tea and talk culture and business and family. Its a wonderful rest ... and we feel very comfortable with Ivan and Jana. ... at the tea house, the kids get special kids tea (simon LOVED it and bought some to take home, ... I agree it was THE BOMB) and juice, and we each order seperate tea, which is brought to us piping hot in our own teapots. All excellent. My tea, a little extra special as he tells me the story of his private crops in Cambodia ... and that its as strong as 25 cups of coffee. Which, I think, I've already written about. You see, now its 12:15 and I've been skyping as I'm writing this ... and still have energy. Argh!!! Damn you Podebrady Tea Man!!!!! You, with your milky, chai tasting, sweet cambodia tea leaf having, keep me up all night tea serving self!!!

After tea, Ivan and Jana leave us to enjoy the city for an hour ... and we do a tiny bit of shopping ... (I stop to use the WC twice ... SOOOOO much tea, pivo, coffee!!!) ... and then back to their home where we have the great experience of video chatting with Tomas via Skype! Its great! Sitting there in what will soon be their home (only weeks from now) ... and laughing about all the great food, drinks, fun we are having in their city. ... Tomas asks us if Ivan and Jana have told us how lucky we are that our Grandpa Al didn't return to Czechoslovakia after the war. ... Apparently, the communist regime was so paranoid about revolution that most returning war heroes were eventually thrown in to mining operations as prisoners ... and died there. How horrible is that? ... ... Its great talking to Tomas. Its been too long. Life has a way of sometimes seperating people, and talking with him is a great memory of our friendship that we shared when we were younger.

So then ... ... MORE FOOD!!! Jana tells us that lunch was Misha's recommendation, and that for dinner we will have Tomas' favorite. A pork shnitzel of sorts with special Czech mustard (Samuel LOVED the mustard! and all of us the food!) ... and homemade potato salad ... and fresh veggies. As we sat down, I apologized that I wouldn't be able to eat much because I had eaten too much earlier. ... Then promptly ate two plate fulls. .... SO much pain in my belly!!! TOO much food! SO worth it!

Today was, no doubt, the most food I've eaten on the trip. Drooool. Fooooooood.

Goodbyes to our new friends Ivan and Jana. and back to our apartment in Prague.

This marks the third time that our kids have asked, "Will we ever see them again Momma?" ... after making new friends. ... Its a hard thing to meet such wonderful people, and then be half way across the world.

Oh. And tonight only, thanks to Mr Energy Tea Man, I will attempt to put grin inducing witty comments on our photos. (er, done just now, not that witty or funny actually. doh!)

Thank you Ivan and Jana! Thank you Podebrady! We love you!!!!!
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Deborah on

How nice to hear about Misha's family. They seem wonderful! We just love Tomas. Give hugs and kisses to Sammy and Ella from us!

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