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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

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CR vs Spain: Music

27 May

This category is so uneven I’m tempted to spot Czech Republic five points before I begin. They would still end up being crushed…

You may recall in January I touched upon the inequality in fashion between Spain and the Czech Republic. The same can be said about the music. My friend Julie, whom I know from teaching in Spain last year, came to visit earlier this spring. Her take on the situation here in the Czech Republic seemed to sum it all up: “It feels like they are 10 years behind in music and 15 years behind in fashion.” Music from the 90s is super popular here (for example, I’ve heard The Offspring on the radio numerous times). Music from the 70s and 80s is also popular, as in you hear it when you go out to bars popular.

At the two main going out bars (they’re not exactly “discos”/clubs) you will occasionally hear new music like Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Black-Eyed Peas, etc. But as soon as they get going and attract a crowd on the dance floor they immediately put on a random Czech song or “Time of My Life” from Dirty Dancing. I think a monkey pushing random buttons on a computer would be a better DJ than the ones they have in KV. Here are some examples of the unawesomeness of every Friday and Saturday night in KV…

Literally every single time we have been out in KV we have heard the Grease megamix. I love Grease as much as anyone, but really every night?!?!?

 

ABBA is also still hugely popular here. This one in particular we hear all the time:

 

Like I said they do sometimes play recent music. One of the more popular new songs from the fall was “Barbara Streisand.” Yes, those are the only two words in the song.

I won’t waste time elaborating on the music scene in Spain. All you have to know is that I never once heard Grease or ABBA out at the bars. Case closed. Spain 1, Czech Rep 0.
Total score: Spain 5, Czech Republic 2.

CR vs Spain: Holidays

10 May

Speaking of Easter and Burning Witches in the Czech Republic, May 1 was also just a holiday: Labor Day (this is celebrated in many countries around the world). But you wouldn’t know it because since it fell on a Sunday no one gets a day off. May 8 was also a holiday, celebrating the liberation of the country by the USSR in 1945. This holiday also fell on a Sunday this year, so again no weekdays were given off to recognize the day. This is typical in the Czech Republic. And when a holiday falls on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, you get only that one day off, no days before or after to make a long weekend.

This is precisely the opposite of how holidays are recognized in Spain. If the holiday falls on the weekend, you are given off either Friday or Monday. And if the holiday falls on Wednesday, you typically have off Monday and Tuesday as well. They call this a “puente,” which means “bridge”. Looking back at my calendar from last year I had no fewer than five puentes throughout the school year. Here in Czech Republic I’ve had two. (In both places I had the almost the same amount of time off around Christmas, except I got a few more days off in January in Spain, and one week of Spring break.)

You could make the argument that Spain is too excessive in its puentes, that occasionally having just one day off in the middle of the week wouldn’t be so bad. But given the choice of living in a country that is liberal with holidays versus a country that is stingy with them, I definitely would chose the former. It gives people more things to look forward to. Students are a little less crazy and in general people are happier (though I suspect that has a lot to do with other factors, not just holidays, though I don’t think more holidays could hurt).

Spain is also awesome because they still recognize tons of Catholic holidays even though the number of practicing Catholics in the country has declined in the days since Franco’s reign ended. Under Communism in the Czech Republic religion was suppressed so much so that now there are really no religious holidays that are celebrated. As I mentioned in my post about Easter, it is not a religious holiday here. It’s only about spring and painting eggs and boys hitting girls with their sticks. Which again is the polar opposite of Spain, who dedicates an entire week to remembering the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Religious beliefs aside, Spain is the clear winner in the holiday category, and I look forward to spending another year there next year (more on that later!). This brings the grand total of CR 2, Spain 4.

CR vs Spain: Shopping!!

19 Jan

Based on the fashion you see people wear on the street everyday, it would seem that Spain is a clear winner in this category. People in Spain were always dressed nicely all the time, and if you read my blog last year you may recall I learned the hard way (i.e., garnered a LOT of stares) that it’s not acceptable to wear sweats or gym clothes in the street. It also seemed like people in Huelva were shopping all the time; you would see people walking around downtown everyday with bags from Zara, Mango, Blanco, Stradivarius, Bershka, Marypaz, Corte Ingles… and here in KV, not so much. We don’t have nearly a sliver of the amount of affordable, cute clothing stores here as they do in Huelva. And the most conspicuous bags you see in the street are tourists stocking up on oplatky, the yummy spa wafers and token KV souvenirs.

Most of the stores in downtown KV are boutique shops geared toward 50-year-old Russian women.  They are expensive and sell either a lot of fur or a lot of jewelry. And even the non-hideous stores are expensive. There is an H&M, but it’s in a mall about 2km from downtown and it requires taking a bus (or a long walk). (This is probably a good thing since it means I spend almost no money on shopping.)

So in terms of options and affordability Spain gets 1 point.

BUT, and, like Sir Mix-a-Lot, this is a big but, stores are open here all day AND on Sunday! If I want to go shopping between 2 and 5pm on a weekday, I can. No siesta hours!! And if I want to get groceries on Sunday, I can get them. I’ve almost forgotten how inconvenient it could be to try and shop in Spain.

So for having normal (for me) operating hours, Czech Republic gets 1 point. Leaving the shopping category in a 1-1 draw, and bringing the grand total to Spain 3, Czech Republic 2.

CR vs Spain: Buses

20 Nov

I’m incredibly happy to report that the country in which I’m currently living has far superior bus transportation than Spain. In case you missed it, last year I harbored a strong hatred for the DAMAS bus company that operates in southern Spain. The passengers were crazy and the drivers and people in the ticket booths were often unfriendly. Those things I could deal with for cheap and pretty reliable transportation out of Huelva. But then one night I got dropped off on the side of the road in the dark because I didn’t know that the buses had different routes through the same small town (read the full story here) and from then on it was full-on hatred.

So I suppose it wouldn’t take much to top the bus service in Huelva, but the buses here in the Czech Republic are so much better it’s ridiculous. We use a bus company called Student Agency to get to/from Prague. I actually pay less to get from Karlovy Vary to Prague (two hours and change) than I did to get from Huelva to Sevilla (one hour). Once you convert the amount in Czech crowns to Euros it’s 5.25 euros for KV-Prague versus 8 euros for Huelva-Sevilla. So the first advantage here is that the service is cheap.

Then on top of the cheap price the service on the bus is super nice. I would equate the Student Agency bus lines to riding in an airplane. I’m not exaggerating. In fact, I think it’s nicer than flying with RyanAir or EasyJet. When you enter the bus (after showing your ticket to the bus attendant, the additional person on the bus that hands stuff out during the ride) there is calming classical music playing. And the seats are comfy leather chairs. Then the bus attendant comes around and offers newspapers to read. Of course they are all in Czech so I can’t enjoy that perk since my Czech vocabulary is roughly 30 words, with 20 of them being the numbers 1-20.

The bus is equipped with a bunch of flat screen TVs that fold down from the ceiling. They play ads for the first few minutes of the ride, then they show movies, usually American movies. The bus attendant comes around and offers headphones you can plug into the seat console. You can chose what channel you want to listen to the movie on, because they have the audio in English! (As well as in Czech.) So far I’ve gotten to enjoy “Must Love Dogs,” “The Good German” with George Clooney, and episodes of “Friends.” I’ve also suffered through “The Lake House” with Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves, but I took a nice nap in the middle of that one so it wasn’t too bad.

inside the Student Agency bus

I’m sure you’re already thinking, “Wow, Joanna, this sounds like a really nice bus. Can it get any better?” And the answer, amazingly, is YES!! Once the movie starts, the attendant comes around and offers you complimentary coffee, hot chocolate, or tea! And it’s tasty! Granted the cups are small, but it’s a free drink so you can’t complain at all. They also sell snacks, soft drinks, and beer.

So far there’s been a lack of crazy passengers on the Student Agency buses, but give it time and I’m sure they will emerge. On the plus side, I’ll be able to put on my headphones and watch a move in English. Toma!! (Spanish phrase for “yesss!!!” – one of my favorites from last year.)

The clear, clear, clear winner in this category is the Czech Republic, bringing the total to Spain 2, Czech Republic 1.

CR vs Spain: Elevators

30 Oct

Last year in Huelva I had what I thought was a small elevator in our apartment building. It could fit three people comfortably, and maybe four if you didn’t mind being really close to one another. Here is the only photographic evidence I could find of that elevator (don’t mind my tongue):

me, Mike, and Kyle in the elevator after a late night at Moulin Rouge bar in Huelva

I know the photo is a little weird because of the reflection. So what you’re actually seeing is Kyle taking a self photo but in the mirror you can see me and Mike. But at least this elevator had a mirror so it seemed a larger than it was. It was also helpful for last-minute hair adjustments as I was on my way out to work every morning.

The interior of the elevator was fairly standard: wood-paneled walls and silver interior doors that slid open when you reach your destination floor. These things would seem to be typical of any elevator… except for the one in my apartment building in KV.

When you open the door to the elevator in our building you are greeted with carpeting. On all walls–and the ceiling!! There is carpeting everywhere, except for the floor. It’s teeny tiny, you have to squish to fit three people in it. And there’s no mirror.But the absolute weirdest part about it is that there is no interior door. Nothing silver that slides shut once you’re inside and have pushed your button. No creepy gate that you pull closed so you have some barrier to keep you in. Nothing. So while you’re riding up (or down) you can literally see and touch the door to every floor and the walls between each floor (which are disgustingly dirty, by the way). So it’s kinda like riding in a glass elevator except not as big, cool, clean, or intentional.

the view going up from inside the elevator

So the clear winner in this match up is Spain, which brings the overall tally to Spain 2, CR 0.

Spoiler alert: CR will be drawing the competition closer in some future categories.

Kebab Comparison: Spain 1, CR 0

27 Sep

I decided to start a category where I will rate things in the Czech Republic as compared to the same things in Spain.

Today’s challenge: Doner Kebab
Sidenote: Doner Kebab is not a “kebab” like most Americans would think of it (chunks of meat and veggies on a stick). Please see wikipedia’s Doner Kebab entry for further details.

Competitors:
Representing Spain we have “Welcome Doner Kebab” on Pablo Rada (a main street) in Huelva. It was my go-to kebab place last year.
And in the Czech Republic’s corner we have “Doner Kebab” on Dr. Davida Becherova street in the city center of Karlovy Vary.

Winner: “Welcome Doner Kebab” of Huelva. It is such a clear winner it’s unbelievable. For starters their sauces and toppings are better, fresher with a little more spice/taste to them. Also, they stay open later than 9pm (may not be a fair measure since Spanish people eat dinner later than do Czech people). I have eaten at the kebab place in Karlovy Vary twice and each experience was sub-par. The last time I got there shortly before they closed so they didn’t have most of the items on the menu available and no fries! What’s a doner kebab without the fries?? Terrible, that’s what. Also, my kebab wrap was cold by the time I got home and ate it (approximately 5 minutes later). I will probably give the Karlovy Vary kebab place one more chance (especially because we don’t have a refrigerator in our apartment yet), but I will definitely be longing for “Welcome Doner Kebab” while I’m eating it…