Archive | August, 2011

A Czech Birthday Party/Wedding!

27 Aug

This one goes back to April… hey, better late than never! Also, it’s an awesome story about Czech culture and something I’m sure I will never experience again.

Julie and I in Pilzen at the Pilsner Urquell factory

My friend Julie (we met in Spain when I first moved in Sept 2009, I had just visited her in February) was visiting the Czech Republic for her spring break. Like most places I’m used to, Spain’s spring break is around Easter and NOT in the middle of February like Czech so she was visiting in the middle of April. By that point Jess and I had become good friends with Roman (featured in this post). We had met his parents when they invited us over to their house for a dinner of rabbit and stuffing!

In April we were invited to Roman’s dad’s birthday party, it happened to be during the same weekend that Julie was visiting so we brought her along. Everything started off nicely, there was a birthday toast to start the party. And so we drank some champagne. Then we ate–DELICIOUS goulash, cheese, melon and prosciutto, bread, veggies, I could go on… And we kept drinking: champagne and Pilsner Urquell, of course! Then something curious happened…

Julie,me, Lada (Roman's dad and the birthday boy) and Jess

In the Czech Republic there is a tradition that when a couple gets married, after the wedding and during the reception some people “kidnap” the bride and take her to a bar. These people (usually friends of the bride or at least people who know her somewhat) drink with her at the bar until the groom finds them and “rescues” her by paying the bar tab.

So during the birthday party Roman and his cousin went to “kidnap” the bride from a wedding that the cousin had just been at earlier that day. It turned out the bride was Australian and was marrying a guy from Karlovy Vary. Since she was Australian she obviously spoke English and so did a bunch of her friends. So that made the party a lot more interesting for us (don’t get me wrong, Roman’s family is very nice, but there’s only so much conversation you can have with people when you don’t speak each other’s languages). And because she was being “kidnapped” we had to drink with her at the bar. The bride was insistent that she drink only the good, clear liquor so we took a lot of shots of Becherovka and Slivovice (plum brandy stuff) with her.

wedding shots! courtesy of the groom!

The groom had to call one of the bride’s friends and ask for directions to where she was because we were out a hotel/restaurant that was in the middle of nowhere (only like 20 minutes from the city but it seemed like it was in the middle of nowhere). He arrived to pay the tab and rescue her and, of course, because Karlovy Vary is a “sleeping village” the groom had at one time dated the bartender at the restaurant!

We finished off the evening by eating more food (beef tartar has never tasted so delicious to me and probably never will again) and pints of Pilsner Urquell (no more Becherovka for me, thank you very much). The party wrapped up around 10:30/11, but considering that we started eating and drinking at 4pm that wasn’t a bad showing.

the Americans with the Australian bride!

Overall, it was one of the coolest experiences I had all year and something I will remember forever.

Also, I learned there was some truth in the bride’s declaration that the clear, strong liquor was the best to drink: I woke up the next morning just a little tired but not hung over, Julie and I even made a day trip to Pilzen. Hezky!

Brat and Buda

25 Aug

In April around Easter, during what is Semana Santa in Spain, two of my friends Suzanne and Julie were visiting. I had a rare long weekend off and was determined to make the most of it. So we took off for a day in Prague, a day in Bratislava, Slovakia, and  two days in Budapest, Hungary. It was awesome! One of the more interesting trips I’ve taken and very chill (somehow it was relaxing even though we were moving around every day or so). I won’t write too much, mostly just share some pics. I will say though that Bratislava really impressed me. I didn’t have many expectations for the small city, especially compared to Budapest, which I had heard several good things about. But when we arrived we found a very charming city with an enchanting old town area and a lively and classy new area along the Danube. I wish we had had more time there, but I’m glad I at least got to see it.

me and Julie on the Charles Bridge

Suz and I while walking up to the Prague Castle

in front of the Bratislava Opera House

DELICIOUS Slovakian dumplings (similar to perogis)

old and new bridges over the Danube in Bratislava

fancy cocktails along the Danube at an outdoor cafe

Budapest, parliament building behind us

in front of the Budapest Opera House

Like I said above, it was an awesome trip. We saw some cool new places, lounged in the famous baths in Budapest, and sampled some tasty, tasty Slovakian and Hungarian food. And most importantly I had the chance to make new memories with old friends.

la la

Catching Up!

23 Aug

So I’ve been home from the Czech Republic for 2 months, but haven’t had time (or energy) to wrap up the blog. There were still a bunch of stories I wanted to share, so I’m gonna do my best to get them out this week, and even though they’re not timely hopefully they’re still interesting!

CR vs Spain: Booze

23 Aug

Editorial note: this post was started at the end of May, just never finished it. So here you go…
This category is too hard to make a blanket judgement so it’s gotta be broken down into subcategories.

Let’s start with BEER

VERSUS

In Spain it’s rare to find a place that serves a beer larger than 0.2 liters. In Czech Republic it’s rare to find a place that serves beer smaller than 0.5 liters. The Czechs drink more beer on average (per person) than any other country in the world. You know what? I’m actually going to stop typing. You can watch the video below, believe me when I say Spain couldn’t/wouldn’t make the same claims, and understand why Czech Republic gets the point for this category.

I should also mention that beer is mega-cheap here. You can get half a liter of draft Pilsner Urquell for the equivalent of less than $2.00!! And that’s with a weak exchange rate. I will throw in an extra point for affordability. So CR gets 2 points out of this category.

Next subcategory: WINE

Although you just watched a video about the Czech Republic titled “Beer Nation,” the country does tout a large wine region in Moravia, in the south of the country. In May Jess and I went with our friends Renata and Vitek to a wine tasting weekend in Boretice, a small, small, small village in Moravia.

vineyards in Boretice

Part of our weekend included a wine festival in Cejkovice, a larger town well known for its wineries, where we sampled some delicious pinot grigios, chardonnays, blends, and regional varieties.

I would say the whites we sampled were on par with the whites from the Condado de Huelva, the wine-producing region in Huelva, Spain. But Czech definitely produces more white varieties (and therefore more tasty whites) than does Huelva (or probably Spain in general) so they get a point there. Bringing the booze total to 3:0.

But having said that, Spain dominates in the red category. Even Czech people will say that the whites are good but the reds are just so-so. I didn’t even drink a lot of red wine while in Spain, but the riojas and tempranillas I have had are fuller than the Czech reds I tried… giving Spain one point and bringing the total to 3:1.

Next subcategory: LIQUOR

VERSUS

This category is hard since I didn’t drink a lot of liquor in either place. So I will admit this point is based solely on my limited experience with the various liquors in each place and may not be a comprehensive rating. The Czechs are really into herbal and fruit brandies (see here and here for two of the most popular alcohols in CR). And on top of the general Czech penchant for herbal liquors, Becherovka, the national herbal liquor, is made in KV, so we were in the mecca of it, so to speak. As far as liquors go, it’s okay, kinda spicy and reminds me of goldschlagger. But it’s definitely, definitely not as tasty as caramel vodka, which was the drink of choice in Spain. Caramel vodka is good on its own, but double delicious when mixed with coke (or triply delicious when mixed with coke AND vanilla ice cream – mmmm). So, yes, the point in the liquor category goes to Spain.

Booze total: CR 3, Spain 2

Grand total: Spain 7, CR 5