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A short time to be with you, a long time to be gone

December 12, 2007

I leave the Czech Republic in less than 48 hours.

I’m finished with finals and we put up the last issue of praguewanderer.com last night (check it out!).

Now it’s time for Christmas shopping! I just hope it doesn’t rain like it has been for the past few days.

Other things I’d like to do before going home:

Tag the Lennon Wall

Have one last smazeny syr (This probably won’t happen, but my cholesterol level is thanking me, I’m sure.)

Have one last meal at Bohemia Bagel (Scrambled eggs deluxe…mmm)

Go to the Mucha Museum

… and, of course, drink one last time legally (for the next 7 months at least)

The sun sets over Prague

December 9, 2007

The other evening I was out wandering about and saw this from Old Town looking out at the Prague Castle. I’m going to miss wandering about and just happening upon some of the most achingly beautiful sights in the world.

Here is the rest of my pictures from this moment.

St. Nicholas’s Day in Prague

December 6, 2007

I fondly remember celebrating St. Nicholas’s Day as a child at church. One of the older men in the congregation would dress up in the traditional bishop’s robes of St. Nicholas and pass out gigantic, soft gingerbread cookies to us.

The Czechs also celebrate St. Nicholas’s Day, or Mikulas in Czech, but they do it with a sinister twist.

Around 5 o’clock this evening groups of three dressed like St. Nicholas, a devil and an angel set out into the night to judge the children of the Czech Republic and decide which ones have been naughty or nice. The ones who behave get candy while the bad ones get shoved into the devil’s sack to be “taken to hell”.

Most of this revelry was centered around the Old Town Square Christmas Market which was jam-packed with Czechs and tourists alike wearing glowing devil horns or angel wings.

While the children aren’t literally taken to hell, they do get literally put in a burlap sack and dragged around the square. Terrifying, right? Some Czechs defend this tradition by saying it “builds character”. I suppose this is true.

This was simultaneously one of the funniest and most terrifying things I have ever witnessed as parents stood back and had a good laugh as their children were mentally scarred.

It made me think of all of those Santa Clauses in malls across America having to deal with screaming, crying children. If American children are scared of a jolly man there to give them gifts, they probably would have peed their pants if they saw these devils gallivanting around Prague tonight who threw explosive rocks and yelled in children’s faces all in the name of a good laugh.

While I did see many crying children here, there were also quite a few who looked like they were enjoying it. They must have been the well-behaved ones who had nothing to fear.

I saw at least five of these trifectas wandering the square and several more on the metro on my way home. A majority of them were teens. I can imagine that they were just trying to retaliate for being tormented as a small child.

A week and a day

December 5, 2007

So there is a week and one day left in my program.

Woah, but mostly woe.

Instead of studying for finals I decided to take a walk today in between classes. After Molly and I left Bohemia Bagel we wandered through the Old Town Square Christmas Market which is quite possibly the best place in the world (petting zoo, large tree, rings of dough doused in cinnamon sugar, mulled wine, sausage, etc.).

Then I just kept walking and walking and walking.

I passed the Dancing Building near the river, crossed the bridge, walked up the other side of in Male Strana and then climbed to the top of Petrin Hill. Even though I’ve been there before the view still caught me off guard. All of Prague is visible from this point. Within one glance you can see the Namesti Miru church, the Zizkov TV Tower, Charles Bridge, the Old Town Square church, and Prague Castle to just name a few things. I took my time to absorb it all knowing that I probably wouldn’t be back there anytime soon.

It started to rain softly. Everything reminded me of this photo by Czech photographer Josef Sudek.

While I should have returned to class I just kept on exploring. I ended up at the top of Prague Castle hill at the Strahov Monastery and then meandered my way down to St. Vitus Cathedral and all the way back to Tesco and then NYU.

I guess this was my own sort of subconscious farewell to Prague.

The Great Cookie Festival

November 29, 2007

So many cookies. This isn't even all of them. We may have gone overboard.

To celebrate the beginning of the Christmas season Molly and I each baked about three to four different kinds of cookies and cake last Friday. We may have gone slightly overboard- there were cookies everywhere and we all felt a bit sick afterwards. It was pleasant though.

I made a pumpkin bundt cake, my nanna’s ginger cookies, and oatmeal raisin cookies while Molly made double chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal apple cookies, and brownies. To work off our food coma we watched Love, Actually that night.

My pumpkin cake turned out the best of what I baked. The ginger cookies I made, though, were nothing like how my mom makes my nanna’s recipe. The texture, taste, and color was all off. They tasted okay though. I think it was because I couldn’t find molasses in Prague. I ended up spending about $8 on dark corn syrup at the American food market at Red, Hot & Blues as a substitute but it didn’t quite work.

Thanksgiving in the Czech Republic

November 26, 2007

This was my third consecutive Thanksgiving away from home and my second one I’ve ever spent outside of the United States.

I’ve gotten used to not being around most of my family for this holiday which I suppose put me in a better state of mind than a lot of the other kids who are here. That said, I still miss my family (and of course the food that goes along with a traditional Thanksgiving dinner).

Even though my past few Thanksgivings have been nothing close to traditional (I spent 2003 with my family and distant cousins in a small coal mining village in Wales at a Mexican food restaurant. Seriously) this one was also rather bizarre, but what else would you expect from living abroad? No complaints here in the end.

NYU put on a dinner for us at a super swanky hotel across the river in the Smichov district of Prague. The food was served buffet style so the hot turkey and mashed potatoes were gone by the time we arrived. Lame, but it was okay (except that part where I ate cold cut turkey for Thanksgiving. What?).

The ingredients for everything else was very similar to what you would have in the States but the presentation was all very different. There was pumpkin ragout and sweet potatoes cut into chunks like carrots. Everything was delicious, just a bit odd.

The next day, to celebrate the official start of the Christmas season (even though the Czechs started putting up decorations back in October) Molly and I collectively cooked about three or four different types of cookies each and we all fell into a solid food coma for the second day in a row. Then we watched Love, Actually. This weekend was a success, at least food-wise I guess.

I want to be a Berlinette.

November 24, 2007

So this is very delayed, but it’s been a long week. Last weekend three friends and I went to Berlin for two days. Just like this post won’t do the city justice, neither did spending only two days in one of Europe’s coolest cities. I would love to get back as soon as possible. Berlin is on the verge of something very important whether it be its music scene, art, and/or architecture. In some ways it reminded me of Beijing with lots of construction and new shiny glass buildings popping up all over the place.

I would like to write much more later, but for now I’ll put two pictures up. One is from when we arrived very early on Saturday and watched the sun rise over the Brandenburg Gate all by ourselves. The other is from right before we caught our midnight bus back to Prague on Sunday. We wandered up to the top of the Reichstag dome which was deserted. Nothing like having major European monuments all to yourself. I guess this is the bonus of traveling in the off season.

The Brandenburg Gate at 6 am on a Saturday morning

The Reichstag at 10 pm on a Sunday night.