Monday, October 31, 2011

Devil in the Wee City

Ustek had a wee widdle synagogue.

It was small for political reasons that are not so wee and cute but there is not ample time to explain them here.

[Rather artsy photo of the interior]

Ustek had some funky homes called "The Birdhouses" which were built by Italian trainworkers. (Maybe for political reasons again, but who can say really?)

[See how they're all stacked and whatnot? That's what I call funky.]

Ustek also had a Devil's Museum. I have no idea why such a museum exists. Perhaps it displays art and folklore related to devil's throughout the years? Sounds delightfully educational, the Hermione in me said. 

NO. This was not educational nor delightful. One couldn't even use the word "museum" for it really. It was more like an elaborate, drawn-out, shoddy "performance" with furry costumes and no English subtitles.

The opening act starred an aging artist who enjoyed carving devils out of wood. (Trust me, the man passed a wooden baby devil around for all of us to examine.)

[Actually, I bet some of his work is in this very photo...]

Aging Artist beat on a drum theatrically and shouted in Czech (understandably so, we Americans were very much outnumbered) while holding up different devil decorations: tall ones, fat ones, moving ones, etc.

The audience chuckled a bit; maybe one or two of the children were frightened, but their faces showed no sign of it. Aging Artist ignored the chuckles and kept a straight face. Best actor in the museum award goes to him.

[This one was a robot, just like at Chuck E. Cheese.]

Naturally, he made Hannah the volunteer, as everyone present thought it was HILARIOUS that we didn't speak Czech. This guy did know "hello" and "elbow" in English, but otherwise no dice. 

Next we crossed the road and headed into a cave for act two. 

This cave used to be a place to store hops for brewing beer, but today it contains sweaty teenagers dressed up like sooty-faced devils. 

A short time into the... er, show, Lenka turned to us. 

They're drunk, she whispered. 

Yes, I was in a cave with drunk sweaty teenagers dressed up as sooty-faced devils. 

Drunk and bad at acting. Though that was the last picture I took, this museum went on and on. We kept going into different rooms of the cave where they tried to scare us in new ways, still speaking in Czech mind you. When we got to the furthest point in the cave two new actors were introduced. Lovely. One was even a leading lady. By the time the devilish teens were making each and every person in the audience turn a crank for some unknown reason, we'd had it. We left the cave to get pizza.

One of the German guys was left behind though. He informed us that the show ended with the devils having a volunteer go in a cage and making the children sing a song before they would let the person out. 

Yep. The pizza was better.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Relovice: A Word That Contains No "R" Sound Whatsoever

It all started with a train ride.

There were compartments and everything. I felt like Harry Potter... Okay, let's face it, I felt like Hermione. And not even because she's a girl, but because she's a nerdy, overachieving, school-lover like myself. (If only my boyfriend Brian would stop dreaming he's Harry Potter and become Ron, we'd be set!)

We were traveling to Relovice in north Bohemia (still in the Czech Republic, in case you were wondering). There were 5 groups who all went on extremely different trips. Julia, Hannah and I ended up at some really old, beautiful art/community center owned by a woman named Lenka.

That's right, it was actually so pretty that I decided to break out the panorama setting on my camera once again. (Panorama would look so much nicer spelled with all a's. Panarama? Am I right? Maybe it started out as Pan-o-rama. Yep, that would explain it.)

When we arrived there was an outdoor feast and some cherry vodka shots waiting for us. (Apparently shots are the perfect way to welcome guests in the Czech countryside). We begun our tour that night, but I didn't take pictures until our second tour the next morning.

This place was pretty much your ideal, picturesque farmhouse that was once crumbling due to economic issues  in the former Sudetenland and is now well-kept and green. You know what I mean, right? No? Okay, photos ahead.

There was a pond:

There were dogs:

There were oodles of flowers and baths of sunshine:


And we were welcomed with shots and a European feast. What more could a girl ask for?
Our tour guide for the day was Jan, a man who inexplicably wore a scarf around his waist (Perhaps he has cold hips?). Not that I could complain, he let us go up on the roof and everything. (Where we climbed is to the left of that UTOPIA sign in the previous picture.)

He showed us a bunch of art from their last symposium, “Under the Rug.” Actually, he kept saying “Under the Carpet” but I know he was aiming for “rug” because things we don’t want to talk about are “swept under the rug,” not the carpet! I took pictures of my favorite pieces.

[Seriously, he translated all of the words and the only one I can remember is “angst,” which is both first and last. I’m sure the others were things like “hatred,” “repression,” etc. Just think of unpleasant words that one might spell with nails.]

[This guy took the symposium’s theme literally.]
One woman made a giant drawing and hung it from the opening in what used to be part of the brewery. It was once a room where they stored great barrels of beer and only a tiny amount of light got through the ceiling. The walls are so thick that there is a noticeable temperature difference when you walk in. Anyway, this had to do with ancestors, but I can’ t remember the title.

After our tour was almost done, Julia pointed to a window right above the place we were sleeping and asked what was up there. Jan led us up to the largest attic I’ve ever been in.

[Through that hole, it just KEEPS GOING.]

That afternoon, the farm’s owner Lenka drove us to the town her mother lives in: LitomeĊ™ice. They were having a Vinobrany. This means wine festival, people. 

During autumn a wine leftover called burcak (burr-check) goes on sale. It has pulp but is also really fruity, like alcoholic juice. I promise I didn’t get really drunk.

Lenka dropped us off and drove away to her mother’s house. She told us to meet her by the “tall thin thing with benches around it” at 6:30. She couldn’t think of the word in English but assured us it was not “steeple,” “tower,” “antenna,” or “pole.” (Note that we were constantly playing Catchphrase and Pictionary during this trip.) She also gave us strict instructions to take a picture of the "king" for her. What king? Apparently there was a parade, but we failed pitifully on the picture aspect. 

[Best I can give you is a sliver of the knights' outfits through a hat stand.]

Just to make Brian proud, I took a picture of our food AND drink. 

[Burcak tastes AND looks like grape juice.]

[So much delicious greasiness: the brown thing is fried cheese]

After pausing for a moment to ponder that caption as a cookbook title, you would be happy to hear that we did not have to make it through the whole fair without seeing that band that comes to every fair on earth. You know the band: it's made up of middle aged men playing classic rock cover songs and wearing old black band t-shirts from college. 
That's right. We got to hear Pink Floyd's "Just Another Brick in the VALL" and everthing. 

[Audience = fucking loving it]

This fair also had quote-unquote traditional things, like baskets and braided cheese and these cute cookies that say family names on them.

 [That there in that here pic is Lenka, our hostess.]

She showed us a pleasing view of Litomerice too!

That night we met some young German men that Lenka was somehow friends with, tried the local beer, and learned that for a small town, Litomerice has a damn good fireworks show. 

Later we met Lenka's mom, in her underwear. That was new. We slept at Lenka's mom's house and the next day went on a day trip to a wee town called Ustek.

What else happened on this trip? Pretty much everything. But I will save you the exhaustion by splitting it up. Coming tomorrow: "Devil in the Wee City."

Sunday, October 2, 2011

My Prague Cottage

For some reason during week three there was a lull in my normally overactive picture-taking. Needless to say, I have not written a full length novel for you today.

One nice day, I shot a pic of the main square (namesti, if you will) of Roztocky. I was trying to go to the Post Office, which had sadly closed ten minutes ago.

After taking this, I decided to try and get a close-up of that couple on the bench to illustrate how strangely okay PDA is here... but unfortunately they were just cuddling and not making out or anything else these gutsy CR couples do.

Roztocky has an abundance of cute little shops, my favorite of which is "Dog Pet," though I have not yet ventured inside.

I also took a photo of the cottage I live in! OMG, motherfuckers!
That's okay to put this on the internet, right? No one knows exactly where it is. Wink.

Do you like the green and brown striped fence? Me too.

Oh! And don't let me forget my deaf and blind dog pet, Homer.

He doesn't really sleep on my bed this much, he only very rarely ponders it when Jarmila is gone.

Which leads me to... drumroll, trumpet blast... my BED! As they would say on every episode ever of MTV Cribs, "This is where the magic happens."

[And by "magic" I mean Homer slept there once.]

I have a pleasant view through the window every morning. Lets just say, there are flowers. Ready for it?
I've also begun wearing air-dried clothes. So Prague. I know. 

Yep. That's my underwear and I am not ashamed. Also, we often see a pretty white cat in our backyard named Angie. Today I got her to let me pet her and found out she has one green eye and one blue eye. I didn't take a picture though... we don't know each other well enough yet. 

Let's see... what else to say? Jarmila has grandkids, as evidenced by her refrigerator. (Side note: I met some of these aforementioned kids on Skype the other day.)

The girl on the fridge is one of Jarmila's daughters. The English words are courtesy yours truly. 

I close with a picture of Naomi. She said, "I feel like such a bad-ass hipster right now, someone needs to take a picture!" 

Don't worry, she's not usually a hipster, it's just that she happened to be borrowing a guitar, wearing a scarf, AND smoking a cigarette she had rolled herself. The stars aligned.