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Sunday, April 24, 2011

VILLAGE OF RABBITS

Prague photos can be found here.

Czech for Xenophobes
If you're wanting to find out more about the Czech mindset - which is interesting - check out this book! It was advised to me by Jan - not Jana's brother, the one from the coffee shop. Although it cost about 4-5 times as much as he thought it did, I found it to be a very interesting read and give a lot of insight into the Czech mind. If you are ever wanting to go to the Czech Republic, read this book ahead of time.



BEER

When I used to live in Germany, I tried Pilzner beer. It was very bitter. Not so with the Pilzner here - totally different creature.



DOGS AND BABIES

Sometimes, people in the Czech Republic leave their dogs tethered outside of the store. No problem, I've seen that in the USA as well. Interesting thing I've seen here on three separate occasions - women doing that with their babies. I don't mean tethering them to a rail - which would be entertaining - but just blithely leave the stroller outside and go into the store. I've noticed that they are clutching their handbag tight as though worried about pickpockets, but it hasn't seemed to occur to anyone here that people may want an extra baby that is just lying about. In the sun. I'm not even kidding. It's just one of the new things I have to get use to.



THE TRASHCAN

There are some dogs that when you chain them to something stationary just lie down out of the way. This story is not about them. It is about the dogs who endlessly bark, knowing that by doing so they will bring their master back. I've always wanted police to ticket such owners of those animals with a nice triple ticket - animal cruelty, noise pollution and a possible safety hazard to the other poor bastards trying to use the door that the dog is inevitably leashed next to.

So, I sat there watching the dog chained to the garbage can. Next to the door of the store. I was bored and waiting on the others. Eventually, an attractive woman came out and unchained the dog. Then her girlfriend came out and they began to make out. I sat and watched the drama unfold, wondering what would happen next. Eventually, the lesbians got bored of making out in public. Perhaps it was because I was the only one watching and I'm certain my face showed 'hey, I'm bored but you guys trying to make out beats watching that stupid dog'. They wandered off and my gaze returned to the garbage can.

A couple of well dressed men approached and started going through the cigarette butt collection sand at the top, looking for something that could be smoked. I suppose it wasn't as interesting as watching one good looking lesbian make out with a fatter and uglier one, but when you get bored, you have to take your entertainment where you can get it.



SKATEBOARDING IN PRAGUE

The streets are cobblestone. Don't even try it. I've only seen one group of skate rats in this city. Come to think of it, there aren't a lot of bikes either. If you want to see those, Amsterdam.



PULITZER

Pete doesn't think I'll ever win a Pulitzer unless my writing style either improves dramatically or the bar falls way, way down. I'm waiting for the bar to continue to drop.



CZECH SERVICE - YET MORE

Interesting thing I didn't know about. If they bring you the wrong food - something totally different than what you ordered, you have options.

a) have them apologize and you eat it anyway - I am not kidding. Believe it or not, they expect you to just sit there and eat it. If you ordered a ham and cheese sandwich and they brought you an omelet, guess what? That's right, you fucking eat it and like it.

b) send it back for the right thing. Apparently, this is rare among Czechs as it is known that anything sent back comes out of the pay of the waiter/waitress as they are blamed for 'getting it wrong'. So you can bet your ass that any new food you get will either have something horrible in it or be tainted in some creative way. The Czech's I've talked to don't understand the concept of restaurants throwing out returned food.

c) say 'this is not what I ordered', get up, leave and never go back. Obviously, this is not done by any of the Czechs I've talked to but for tourists - if you don't want to eat what you are given (whatever that may be) this is the safest option. I doubt most people are rude enough to do something like this and will think 'Logan can't be right on option B' and try that. Good luck. BTW - this was suggested as an option by Miranna (Jana's friend, a Czech) - not by Logan.



JANA QUOTE

"In dreams, you can see reality much more clearly than in reality."



TRIP TO BRNO

If you recall from the previous blog post, Tomash (Tom) is one of Jana's friends from Brno. I've noticed that with Jana and her friends, there is no plan and the schedule can change hour by hour. This is also the case here.

Marianna got us three one way train tickets for Brno via the internet on some random bus line.

The plan was to meet Tom (Tomash) there and then go to a small village to see their Easter celebration.

We started the wake up procedure at 7 AM. Jana was thrilled about having to get up early and kept loudly saying things like "I am trying to survive here!" but Marianna helped us out by physically dragging Jana out of bed.

The ride from literally one side of Czech to the other is interesting. It takes about two hours. They have these weird divots in the road every few feet that make the bus rattle so much that it knocks bags off of the overhead shelves and such. I was concerned that one or more of the windows might fall out. Nobody on the bus ride talked the entire time. I was told this is the normal custom for bus rides. Weird.

According to the advertisements, they had 'luxurious' wifi on the bus but neglected to provide a password. Since the driver is the only person to ask but it's really best not to disturb him, you're out of luck. Also, the bus seats don't recline. This has a disadvantage in that you can't really get comfortable but an advantage in that other people can't make you uncomfortable.

After we arrived in Brno and wandered around waiting for an hour or two, we met up with Tomash and two of his friends - Margaret and Julius. They were really nice people and the six of us (including Pete, Jana and I) traveled to the small village to the festival.



THE VILLAGE OF RABBITS (ZAJECI]

The village is about 1000 people. It is not connected directly to the rail line but by a little used road that is about 2 KM in length. For 'disgusting fat body Logan', that was a long very painful walk. Tomash (Tom) had no idea where exactly the party was but being a charming, outgoing sort soon had directions from other people in the area and we were off with Logan windging away and telling Margaret (who teaches English in schools) some of the English actually used as well as American customs.

The beer festival was held in and around a very good sized pub. I thought that this was the 'village pub' but it turns out there are like 7 or 8 pubs there. Amazing - I wouldn't have thought that a portion of a couple hundred people could support such a massive place.

When we got there, we were told we needed to pay 150 CZK to get in and 50 CZK for a wineglass. There was also an optional charge of 30 CZK for a menu. Nobody bought a menu but it turns out that it isn't really needed.

Here's how it works - you can go into the bar and get your wine glass filled (European filled, not American filled) as often as you'd like. Period. As we'd paid like $12 or so for this, I have no clue at all how they actually made any money. I'm told this is a common thing.

In the cooled house, they had a few hundred bottles of wine with numbers (or numbers and letters) on them that presumably corresponded to the menu (in Czech) that we had no interest in.

Food was extra but very reasonably priced - between 50-80 CZK for 'BBQ style' meals. Enough to eat on a 'European stomach'. If you've just arrived from the USA and your stomach hasn't had a chance to adjust (shrink) you might need a couple at once.

A note on insects in the Czech Republic - there don't seem to be very many. Less even than in England where they also don't need screens in their windows. The USA got the short end of the straw on this one I am here to tell you.

As I was hanging out there, I met by chance with a guy named Ivan (pronounced Eee-van) as he was crawling under my chair to get a stray piece of trash off of the floor. We got to talking and it turned out he was the wine maker. I love those sort of random coincidences! I think I am very lucky to have met up with him.

Ivan gave me a private tour of the wine making facilities. I got to taste several interesting wines. I've noticed that in the Czech Republic, many things are said to include 'herbs'. Medicine, strong liquor, wines, etc. It is my belief that Czech's think these are good for them and so make it a point of using them and bringing up that things are made with herbs. Due to the small amount of vineyards within the Czech Republic I was told they didn't have enough to export much wine. It is my belief that the wine was good enough they actually didn't want to export it but drink it themselves.

After my private tour, I'd asked Ivan if he wanted to show it to my friends - he graciously agreed. He also expanded the tour and told us how one guy was digging a shaft through sandstone about 20m (and still going) into the hillside in order to store more wines. They don't use bracing or anything so he had a big drill and a tube to breath through if it collapsed on him - and there was enough left of him to breath.

It was cold enough to see your breath in the winery place, where they store and age the wine.

Ivan is a fourth generation wine maker and he is marrying into another wine making family. We got to meet Ivan's parents. I think they were a bit surprised that some foreign visitors were poking around the winery especially since one of them was a bit 'scruffy looking'. I'll leave you to guess who that might be. Pete and Ivan had made a temporary swap. Pete was wearing Ivan's over-sized sunglasses, Ivan was wearing Pete's hat. In English (as Ivan's mom was or is an English teacher) she told Ivan she didn't like his hat at all and it was very silly looking. This caused a lot of laughter when it was revealed whose hat it really was. If I was rich, I'd have sent Ivan a hat like that just to remember the occasion. Being that I know how much Pete spent on it, Ivan gets no hat. Sorry Ivan. I am poor.

Ivan the adopted me into his circle of friends. I got introduced to his girlfriend, Aneta. Both of them had been together on a trip to California and were happy to talk to me about it. It sounds like they had a good time. Both Ivan and Aneta's English was great so communication wasn't a problem.

I also met a man whose last name in Czech means 'cake' so I called him just "Mr. Cake" - he is a local taxi driver but sadly doesn't speak any English. There were a lot of other very nice people I met (including a lady who does massage and worked on my arms) but I didn't get all of their names down. [Note, his actual name is Mr.. Buchta.]

There are about 20 total wine makers within the Czech Republic. I think it was interesting to see my first wine making and storage facility. Later, Ivan consented to show the same thing to my friends. More description follows when we get to that part of the story...



TRAVELER'S TIP

I call this one the Czech swap though it might work or be needed in other countries. I found that at the wine festival, if I drained my glass it would get filled with more wine. Drinking water (especially with wine) is crucial. Here's a tactic I found worked. When you've got a small amount (but still respectable) left in the glass, grab the water pitcher. Down the last bit of wine and in one smooth motion refill your glass with water. This may confuse some of the locals who might wonder what happened to your wine but just smile and nod at them.



ON WITH THE TOWN OF RABBITS

I felt like I was seeing more of the Czech Republic in the couple of hours in this village than I did in the tourist infested streets of Prague.

It's the people. It's always all about the people.

At this party, they had a twelve piece band - I'm not kidding. About half were violinists, a cello, a big dulcimer, and some woodwind instruments. Something that struck me as interesting about the band - none of them (I would guess) was above thirty years old. Usually, bands that play the 'old songs' are made up of 'old people' - not so here. [Note: A dulcimer is a big table like thing with strings on it that the person playing it hits with two small strange drumsticks.]

The band was playing the 'old songs' which, sadly I had no clue of the words to. I was told that all of the songs were either about wine or love. I told one of my hosts that they often went together. This got hearty agreement.

This was a really nice time out for everyone. I know it sounds trite, but I saw literally all ages from toddler to ancient having a very nice time. Rather than trying to show what rebellious badasses they were, a lot of the 15-25 year olds were doing the same thing as everyone else and having a great time.

I got offered the last room in the inn the party was at three different times. [Yes, I would have been paying for it but I think it was very nice of them to offer.] Old men I don't know have taken to refilling my glass if it gets low so I'm nursing the wine really slowly.

Whenever the band goes on break, the locals take up the singing - whether they know the words or not. I was hanging out with the locals while the others were wandering around touring the village. I figure in just avoiding the touring part, I'm a winner. Unfortunately Margaret had to go do her Lent stuff so she took off early but the others are still somewhere around. One of the old men who keeps refilling my glass seems to be wanting me to get married to the lead violinist. For reasons I can't figure out, Ivan gives me his keys to hold onto. These are a very trusting folk. So, I retreated, drank water, observed and wrote. During the music, the crowd does many of the same 'whooping noises' heard during Mexican music. I found that interesting. A lot of the music has a very 'gypsy' feel to it. Some of the music is Czech - some is Slovak. Julius (who is Slovak) told me that all of the interesting fast paced music is Slovak while the slow (and as he put it) boring stuff is Czech.

From the treatment I got, I might have been the first American (and Pete the first Australian) to ever visit that village. I felt a bit surprised because other people kept pointing me out to their friends. There were no signs of cops or bouncers around - just everyone having a good time.

Who the hell would have thought back when I was in the states bored out of my mind doing movie reviews that I'd end up sitting at a shindig in the 'village of rabbits' having a great time? I really didn't see that one coming.

We got invited by Ivan to go with him and a bunch of other people to another winery for more late night partying but some of my friends were tired and wanted to get back to Brno to go to sleep. So, the group got together and we had the next exciting challenge to go.

Remember the 2KM death march we had with the little used road? It was all still ahead of us though we were a bit drunk. Some, more than a bit. Unlike in America, the road was completely unlit and it wasn't a particularly bright night. Being from around here, they all wanted to walk it. A dark road, miles from anything at night.

With traffic.

I was quite concerned about how much traffic a small country road had. We were passed by 15-20 vehicles on this road that had no shoulders. [By shoulders, I mean the areas on the sides of the road that aren't normally driven on.] That was dangerous as fuck, especially since the cars didn't slow down at all. Very, very dangerous - and stupid. We almost lost Julius a couple times as he was a bit drunk and confused about the 'get the hell off of the road when a car is coming' thing. I went and stood in the ditch to the side and prayed the driver wasn't too drunk and could miss us. I have no idea how long it took but Charley was in the bush.

Fortunately, and with a couple close calls, we made it to the train station with everyone alive. And we'd missed our train.

So, we had to catch a train going in the opposite direction so that we could wait two hours for one going in the correct direction. Apparently, the train for Prague didn't stop at that time near the village of rabbits.

So we got on one going the other way and witnessed interesting things like a soldier who was carrying bottles of beer in his 'webbing'.

Eventually, entirely 'shagged out' (tired) we got back to Brno.



TRAVELER'S TIPS

Europeans don't carry a lot of cigarettes. It might be due to the price, their own forgetfulness or that they are 'trying to quit'. Carry extra cigarettes so that you can give them away one at a time. I don't think I'd recommend it for a non smoker but if you carried a cheap lighter it might be OK and possibly save your life if you get trapped in a Bear Grylls survival situation somehow. But carrying extra cigarettes for people is a very social thing.

Traveling to me feels a bit like a very extended NERO event. Extra socks and underwear are where it's at - that really does determine when you can shower. I'm sure this one has been mentioned before but I wanted to reiterate it as I've found it to be true.

Pete's Travel tip: Carry tea bags with you. They travel well and hot water is easy to get.



ZAJECI FACTS

Located in the south of the Czech Republic, about an hour or so by train from Brno, 40KM away.
Famous for it's vineyards.
'Zajeci' means 'town of rabbits'.

The pub/bed & breakfast I was at is called Zayecsky Vinny Sklep (Zajeci's Wine Cellar). I recommend going there for either the Easter festival (Easter Saturday) as I did or the big one (the locals tell me much bigger) the first weekend in July for the harvest festival, called Hody. During the big festival, about 1000 people show up for it.

What struck me as particularly odd about this place is that the only two foreigners there seemed to be Pete and I. Well, one other guy did come along later but I didn't really get to see him for long which I felt was a pity. This is exactly the kind of thing tourists would love to see - even pay big money to see. If you can decipher the train schedules and know the days, this is a very inexpensive way to delve into the real Czech Republic. The only 'tourists' there were Czechs. This is one of those 'undiscovered' things.

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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 |

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