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Monday, April 18, 2011

CASTLE OF BONES

TRAVELER'S TIP

Always try to meet at locations which have something interesting there. You don't want to be in a dump out in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do before they arrive. And see suspicious locals. As is often the case with such meetings, other incidents and such may cause you to arrive way early of the meeting. Always ask the other person 'What's around there?' If they say they don't know, you're probably in Prague.



THE FLEA MARKET

We were suppose to meet Jana and Mirianna at a station. Unfortunately, Pete and I arrived an hour and a half early. We found it to be the most boring stop in the world. There were even two older guys who were there insistently trying to help us get to another stop. They kept telling us (in both English and German) that just one stop down was a market and we should go there instead. After thanking them politely and looking around anyway (were they hiding something cool for us to see like a giant golden sphinx? Sadly, no) we did so.

The 'market' turned out to be a semi permanent flea market run pretty much exclusively by Asians. Littered in among the desultory clothing stalls and a couple of strip clubs. Being that this was Sunday, nearly all of the businesses and most of the stalls were closed. There was also one of the Czech lottery places ("Fortuna") around. It was a pretty grim, lower class area. Pete then suggested we go to two stops in the opposite direction, which would put us one stop away from our meeting point. There we found a better place to meet up - a pub. Two drinks 155 CZK. A note on drinks here, if you order 'rum and coke' you may end up paying for both the coke and the rum shot separately. You will get a can/bottle of rum and a glass with rum in it. I'm not joking.

We met up with Marianna who had to go to a birthday party for a twelve year old girl. I had brought along one of my two pirate flags. I didn't know if we'd get invited along to the party or if I'd just send it along. I ended up just sending it along. I felt it was best not to try to lock kids into gender roles from an early age. If she wants to grow up to be a pirate, by god she should. I am curious to hear back from Mirianna as to how it was received.

We all went to the 'Blind Cat' restaurant. It is a quirky place with badly done amateur paintings of cats, pictures of cats, statues of cats, etc everywhere. Fortunately, no actual cats were in evidence.

Jana got to get her 'weird on'. They had one of the small sticks with ribbons on it used for Easter to hit women with to get them to give men eggs and chocolate. I don't think the symbolism is too hard to figure out here. Anyway, Jana decided she wanted it and was wandering out with it. The waitress came out after her and asked 'Is that yours?' Jana replied, 'It is now but if you want to sue me, I will give it back!' She sometimes gets very odd, but she is a gamer. We expect that sort of thing.

After that, we went and did something uniquely Czech. An amusement park. [50 CKZ each person for admittance. Rides ranged from 30 CKZ to 70 CKZ per go.]

While the rides were gaudy, decreped and many banned in the USA due to serious safety concerns, it was a nice time. Best of all, there were no lines - not even short ones - anywhere. This was 'very Czech' as it is completely unknown to tourists. The fair is held mid march to mid april every year. The place it is held at is Vystaviste, the fair is called Matejska Pout.

Jana: "Ï've liked it since childhood. I went every year. Now, I rarely find the time (to go). None of my boyfriends wanted to go there."

Pete: "Enjoyable - not touristy Prague. It's actual Czech people going there. On one hand it reminded me of every carnival I've gone to in Australia. On the other, it wasn't aimed at tourists."

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get Marianna's opinion as she had been sucked off to a birthday party but she was the one who suggested we go there, so my guess is that she enjoyed it.



LIES ABOUT THE CZECH REPUBLIC

I was told before I came here that beer is cheaper than water. Beer typically costs 30-70 CZK depending on where you get it and what you get it. I bought a bottle of water for 12 CZK.



CZECH TRADITIONS

The tradition of 'all girls go to the restroom at the same time' also is observed here.

Czechs love their dogs like Germans love their dogs. Translation, dogs are allowed almost everywhere. If you go into a pub, chances are you will find someone who loves their dog too much to leave at home in the pub. Many of the dogs are well enough trained the owners don't even have to leash them. From the American owned dogs, this is a huge step up. Unfortunately, many Czech dog owners don't get the concept of 'clean up after your fucking dog' so dog shit litters the sidewalks. Be careful where you step.

We did have an interesting time when a lady who owned one of these dogs had a poorly trained and extremely willful dog who slipped its leash and invaded a pizza place trying to get ham. When she eventually managed to recapture it, the dog showed what 'passive resistance was' as she attempted to pull it away without dislodging the leash. Someone outsmarted someone else that day.

In the Czech Republic, they often turn off the street lights. You just get them blinking yellow. I remarked to Jana that only the smallest towns in the USA did this, never a major metropolitan cosmopolitan city. She replied that "the lights are tired and need to rest."

Despite smoking being amazingly common, it is illegal to smoke at spots people wait for trams - you can be fined. Nevertheless, it is common practice to do so. I have seen people do it even in front of the police.

The Czech Republic has their own soccer (football everywhere but the USA) hooligans fro the two teams, Slavia and Sparta. We saw some of them chanting loudly outside of a supermarket. I thought it was a useless waste of time to do it - perhaps they were wanting to show people how rebellious they were. I think in the USA, cops would appear to break up that shit.

Rarely during the day but always after midnight, a pair of cops stands at the back of every street car. I think they are on buses and subways but I'm not really sure. I am wondering how many cops they actually have in the Czech Republic to be able to do that. Of all of the cities I've ever been in, this one far and away has the highest police presence.

In what I have seen of the Czech Republic, they have what I refer to as the 'Czech Stairmaster'. This would go a long way to explain the firm posteriers I've seen on many of the women here. To be more direct, there are lots of stairs and hills everywhere. I really don't think anyone from this town would ever buy a 'Stairmaster'.

In the Czech Republic, you can't get a proper shave. Every Czech I talk to always comes up with 'shave yourself' as the answer to this question.



CZECH SERVICE

I wanted to revise my earlier 'Czech Service' article to say that 'Czech service is very hit or miss'. We've gotten some really good service - maybe from a fourth or so of the places. From approximately one fourth of the places, apathetic at best service. The remainder could be characterized as 'We are here to drive customers off' service. But the good service - when you get it - can be really, really good.



THAI MASSAGE

One of the things I had hoped for before coming to the Czech Republic was that services - such as a massage - would be reasonably priced or really cheap here. This is not the case. From a flier that Pete found me, here are some prices:

Thai massage - 800 CKZ, 60 min or 1500 CKZ 120 min.
Foot massage - 700 CKZ for 60 min.
Ritual massage - 1450 CKZ for 90 min.
Relax - 450 CKZ for 30 min.
Visage - 450 CKZ for 30 min.

I know that when you go into a place like this, you usually end up getting several services, sometimes at once. No, I'm not talking about the 'happy ending' service - just the usual massage stuff. For me, the effects of a massage in the past wear off in about three days. I have zero interest in spending a couple hundred dollars or more per three days to feel better. I've got to wait till a cheaper country. BTW - if those prices sound good to you, go to the corner of Narodni ad Mikulandska in Prague - it is called the 'Relax Centrum'.



EUROPEAN HAIRSTYLES OF MALES

The women have pretty 'standard' hairstyles and theirs are too varied to talk about so I will discuss what I have witnessed of men's hairstyles. Disclaimer: These are not always true - there are always exceptions to the rule.

Long hair: Rebel or artistic temperament or 'dirty hippie'.

Long hair, dreadlocks: 'Dirty hippie'.

Clean cut: Average.

Short hair: Tough or athletic or 'skinhead'.

Hair swept up into a point in the middle of the head: Dick.

I'm not kidding about that last hairstyle. I have no idea who the hell came up with it or why. It is surprisingly common.



PHILOSOPHY

Seeing the old and young littering, as well as the graffiti which litters a huge number of the buildings, makes me uncertain as to what the people of Prague want but it might not be Prague.



LOGAN

Have you ever leaned back in a chair on two legs? Almost had it fall over and caught yourself at the last minute? I feel like that all of the time. [Disclaimer - someone famous may have said that in the past but it is mine now.]



CZECH LANGUAGE

'Yez' (sounds like 'yes' but with a 'z') is 'eat'. You say it when you want someone to eat. Imperative form, I suppose.



ENGLAND

Oh, how I wish I'd seen this before going to England. I've gotten a lot of good laughs out of it (and part 2) as well as putting myself in the same situation. Bitty!



JANA TRICERATOPS

Jana is changing her last name from (insert unpronouncable Czech last name here) to Triceratops. I think it's a step in the right direction for her.

I have also come to the conclusion that Jana is actually Italian. This would explain her great love of Italian food and complete lack of knowledge of Prague for someone who has lived here 'all of her life'. My guess is that she recently came to Prague - within the last few months. She had been complaining that Prague had no cheese shops. Within an hour, Pete and I found two very nice ones.



JANA QUOTE

"You will crossdress in Czech Republic!" Be ye warned says I.



PETE QUOTE

"Radioactive ants striding through your brain!" I think he wanted me to look it up on the internet but I didn't find anything so think that the small sip of Absinthe he had must have caused him to say it.



MISCELLANEOUS STUFF

Prague gets a shitload of tourists from all over the world. I am pleased to say that Americans are in the running for loudest and most annoying. However, many other peoples are in competition for this - especially after getting drunk.

I booked passage via bus to Budapest for 500 CKZ - just about 10% more than a meal for two at a nice restaurant. After getting a lot of reports that Slovakia is hugely boring and more expensive than the Czech Republic, I decided to give it a miss and just travel through it. I have to leave at six something in the morning but that will put me there by one or two in the afternoon - plenty of time to get settled into some sort of hostel.

My favorite bar in Prague does have soft music playing. It is called "La belle Epoque". Address is Krizovnicka 8. Open from 12-2. Although the 1980's music playing is a bit loud, i like the layout of the place and the waitress we had was (gasp!) friendly. Jana, Pete and I went there. I got drunk and said many philosophically deep things that will be lost to the ages.

Bummer.

Pete (who I habitually call 'Holmes' - keeps me from calling him Richard, Matt or Logan) bought a new small 'travel case' for his glassses. 120 CZK.

On the outskirts of Prague, Pete and I found a McDonnald's with a drive thru. A heavy weight descended on my heart as I knew Prague was doomed.



CASTE OF BONES! (Sedlec Ossuary)

It's actually a cathedral full of bones but we call it the 'Castle of Bones' because it makes us happy.

It's moderately easy (or moderately difficult if you are Logan) to get there from Prague. Three round trip tickets - 381 CZK. How did they come up with the one in the last digit of the price when it is for three people? Who the fuck knows. We had two transfers to get there and a direct train back. Travel time each way was approximately an hour.

Czech rail doesn't really strike me as 'user friendly'. Sometimes you have to find the train that leaves at the time you are looking for, then look for the right track and other weird stuff. It can be a bit confusing until you get use to it.

On travel wiki, they recommend arriving in 'kutna hora mesto'. 'Mesto' is the town itself. The stop previous to it is actually closer to the site but unless you've done a lot of research - to the point of getting town maps and such, I don't think you'll be able to find the 'castle of bones'. I recommend going to 'mesto' station and finding the town square and information center. From there, get to a bus and have it drive you around or walk the medieval style (read as 'designed by madmen and not for cars) streets.

The 'castle of bones' town was a small town. [The cathedral was in it as opposed to our in the boonies.] We (by we, I mean mostly I) wanted to go to a pub first. We tried four. Two were closed, one seemed to have no entrance (literally) and the other had literally run out of beer and didn't seem to have a lot else to drink. Keep in mind, this is a town that has a pretty fair amount of tourism. We eventually just gave up and ate at a somewhat mediocre Italian place. Czechs in general (and Jana in particular) seem to have a great love for Italian food. If I get to Italy and find it littered with Czech fucking restaurants, I will be very confused.

Eventually, we stumbled across the town square and found a lot of bars and restaurants there. Figures. Hence, if you ever get to this town to see it, just hold out till you can get to the town square. Everything good is there.

Matt (AKA Wanker): You are going to have to raise your game in tour guiding! Jana told us a cohesive story about the war between the vampires and humans in explaining the town the 'bone castle' was in. She described the church some of them lived in to this day, though the war had greatly reduced their numbers. It was actually quite interesting and detailed.

The 'Cathedral of Bones' itself is actually called Sedlec Ossuary. Before I came to the Czech Republic it struck me as something extremely unique. For those who can't be bothered to click on the provided link, just imagine 10,000 people. Probably everyone you've ever known and will ever know. Now, take all of their bones and stuff them in this place. At some point in time, some 'clever dick' got it into his head that he had all of these bones around ("Look at the bones!") and they could be put to good use. They decided to make all sorts of neat stuff out of them and have tourists through there. I think it was a good idea.

Reflections on Sedlec Ossuary:

Pete: "Almost unreal. I know they're human bones but it doesn't connect. No overwhelming or saddening feeling. Just 'hum - interesting - bones'. I felt more emotion seeing bones in the museum. They could have been piles of dog bones for all they meant. I felt more emotion looking at St. Barbara's Cathedral because of the architectural wonder of the flying buttresses - not because it was a church."

Jana: "I did say I'm terrified of death but this didn't terrify me. They should have one triceratops head in there, it would have been much better. It was kind of calming. I like how every skeletons a little bit different."

Logan: "It didn't have a morbid feel to it. I thought the art and chandelier was brilliant. We were told to take our hats off when entering but I was planning on doing that anyway. When we went in, we were given an unwanted piece of paper that had facts and such that I didn't give a shit about on it. They didn't charge us extra to take pictures which the website claimed they would. I didn't think I'd be affected by the thought of so much death as I am an insensitive bastard. I was correct."

Cost notes for Sedlec Ossuary - a 136 CZK per person ticket gets you in to see three or four different things in the town of Kutna Hora. It's a good deal if you get it. The one we got was sold at the first place there. I'd recommend arriving at noon or before into the town and be ready to either figure out where the buses are (you can buy tickets on them) or doing some pretty heavy walking.

When we were on our way back, we made the mistake of trying to use the railway toilets. Neither the men or womens had any toilet paper. It was 8 CKZ for the key. The ticket seller did give us toilet paper when we reported they were out. It was pretty nasty in those toilets like they were cleaned monthly, frequented by slobs between. And a couple months over due for a cleaning. We did see a guy rebelling (presumably) against giving up 8 CZK for a ticket to the restroom by peeing in a bush near the track he was waiting by. This reminded me, for some odd 'this is just how Logan's brain works reason, of a little girl in a dress who went into a department store and pee'd on their carpet. Her mother seemed angry but not surprised. I was suspicious she had trained her daughter and wanted to get back at the store for some reason. I give her high marks for a creative payback.

While we were on the train, I was attempting to talk Jana into doing something stupid that I could write about in the blog. She refused. If this upsets you, please write to Jana Triceratops, care of the comments field below. Had she done something stupid and funny, this blog would be all the more interesting for it.

Later that night, Pete took us out to a ritzy place to eat. We were dining outside. There don't appear to be many airborne bugs in Prague for some reason. We noticed that one of the staff was just hanging around outside, presumably to greet guests, but we also noticed part of her job seemed to be to chase beggars away and keep them from bothering the nice guests. Unfortunately, we found out that this restaurant is so greedy and grasping for money that they won't even supply guests (who have ordered food) with a fucking glass of tap water. I always get irrationally angry (like get up and leave) at restaurants that won't do this thing. Instead of giving you a glass of tap water, they want to charge you for bottled water. Pete had mentioned in Australia they were pondering making it illegal to charge for tap water. I think charging for tap water should be illegal worldwide. The food of this ritzy but insultingly greedy restaurant was OK but the brewery I described earlier (which was much cheaper) was better. If you want to go to a restaurant I won't again visit, check out Cafe Cvateho Vaclava. A fancy meal for three, 1600 CZK. WOW.



MARIANNA'S HOUSE

We got invited to Marianna's house. A couple of interesting notes on that. First off, I felt seriously cramped in the elevator. I usually think of a space as narrow if I can touch it with both of my elbows at once. There I could do that and keep my arms at my sides! You've got to wonder what they were thinking when they built it. When I get to a place where the internet doesn't completely suck and get to upload my pictures, Pete took one of me in that Elevator.

We had bought a bottle of Absinthe to bring over there. Warning - do NOT drink that shit straight. It's basically moonshine. According to Pete, the proper way to drink it is to light it on fire then drop a lump of sugar into it. This extinguishes the flames and makes it more palatable. They apparently have special spoons and all kinds of shit that goes with it. After trying it closer to the right way, it was much better. Bottle of Absinthe, 400-500 (?) CZK.



FOOD AND DRINK

At a three star restaurant, I had roasted duck legs, dumplings and cabbage. After I got it served, they wheeled out the pissed duck in a wheelchair so I could make fun of it. The dish came with dumplings and red cabbage. If you ever order this, I recommend asking for the red cabbage on a separate plate so you can figure out if you want it at your table. The stuff I got had the faint smell of a warm spring day sprinkled with the open sewer. I still gamely tried it - pretty neutral. Just that dish about 190 CZK. Lunch in a three star place for two with two spirit drinks, 445 CZK.

In England, we had a cider that everyone seemed to really enjoy. We just found it over here - in cans. Weird. If you get the opportunity to try it, try 'Rekordering' brand 'strawberry-lime'. Try that shit out. It is amazing.

A typical bar bill broken down:

Absolut blue, 78 CKZ
Caffee doppio, 86 CKZ
Cappuccino, 55 CKZ
Kahlua, 78 CKZ
Main course, 129-159 CKZ.

Total bill for several drinks, two mains, a 'starter' and two cups of coffee, 2258 CKZ or 98 Euro. Painful.



INTERNET ACCESS

I'm sure they have good internet access somewhere in this country but I haven't found it yet. When I do, I'm going to work on uploading all of the pictures I've got and so on. Till then, meh. The service here either doesn't work or is so bad when it does work that it is inconsistent. I am doing the blog by means of typing it into notepad and the later pasting it into bloger and hitting 'submit' real quick.

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PICTURES

{{2011}} London, GB | Rail N Sail | Amsterdam, Netherlands | Prague, Czech Republic | Budapest, Hungary | Sarajevo, Bosnia | Romania | Chisinau, Moldova | Ukraine: Odessa - Sevastopol | Crossed Black Sea by ship | Georgia: Batumi - Tbilisi - Telavi - Sighnaghi - Chabukiani | Turkey: Kars - Lost City of Ani - Goreme - Istanbul | Jordan: Amman - Wadi Rum | Israel | Egypt: Neweiba - Luxor - Karnak - Cairo | Thailand: Bangkok - Pattaya - Chaing Mai - Chaing Rei | Laos: Luang Prabang - Pakse | Cambodia: Phnom Penh | Vietnam: Vung Tau - Saigon aka Ho Chi Minh City

{{2012}} Cambodia: Kampot - Sihanoukville - Siem Reap - Angkor Wat | Thailand: Bangkok | India: Rishikesh - Ajmer - Pushkar - Bundi - Udaipur - Jodhpur - Jasalmer - Bikaner - Jaipur - Agra - Varanasi | Nepal: Kathmandu - Chitwan - Pokhara - Bhaktapur - (Rafting) - Dharan | India: Darjeeling - Calcutta Panaji | Thailand: Bangkok - again - Krabi Town | Malaysia, Malaka | Indonesia: Dumas - Bukittinggi - Kuta - Ubud - 'Full Throttle' - Gili Islands - Senggigi | Cambodia: Siem Reap | Thailand: Trat | Turkey: Istanbul | Georgia: Tbilisi

{{2013}} Latvia: Riga | Germany: Berlin | Spain: Malaga - Grenada | Morocco: Marrakech - Essauira - Casablanca - Chefchawen - Fes | Germany: Frankfurt | Logan's Home Invasion USA: Virginia - Michigan - Indiana - Illinois - Illinois - Colorado | Guatemala: Antigua - San Pedro | Honduras: Copan Ruinas - Utila | Nicaragua: Granada | Colombia: Cartagena | Ecuador: Otavalo - Quito - Banos - Samari (a spa outside of Banos) - Puyo - Mera

{{2014}} Peru: Lima - Nasca - Cusco | Dominican Republic | Ukraine: Odessa | Bulgaria: Varna - Plovdiv | Macedonia: Skopje - Bitola - Ohrid - Struga | Albania: Berat - Sarande | Greece: Athens | Italy: Naples - Pompeii - Salerno | Tunisia: Hammamet 1

{{2015}} Hammamet 2 | South Africa: Johnnesburg | Thailand: Hua Hin - Hat Yai | Malaysia: Georgetown | Thailand: Krabi Town | Indonesia:
Sabang Island | Bulgaria: Plovdiv | Romania: Ploiesti - Targu Mures | Poland: Warsaw | Czech Republic: Prague | Germany: Munich | Netherlands: Groningen | England: Slough | Thailand: Ayutthaya - Khon Kaen - Vang Vieng | Cambodia: Siem Reap

{{2016}} Thailand: Kanchanaburi - Chumphon | Malaysia: Ipoh - Kuala Lumpur - Kuching - Miri | Ukraine: Kiev | Romania: Targu Mures - Barsov | Morocco: Tetouan

{{2017}} Portugal: Faro | USA: Virginia - Michigan - Illinois - Colorado | England: Slough - Lancaster | Thailand: Bangkok | Cambodia: Siem Reap |

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