Friday, 25 September 2015

Czech Republic – Glow-in-the-dark mini-golf

September 24th

Hello everyone!

When you live in a place for a couple of years or more, you might end up spending most of your time in similar places. The excitement of exploring new locations, be they pubs, shops, restaurants or more, often gives way to the comfort of familiarity. Everywhere I’ve lived, at home or abroad, has followed this pattern at some point.

It often takes a new arrival, permanent or temporary, to jolt people into visiting new places which they may not have previously been aware of. We certainly experienced this feeling this week when Emily, a friend of Hannah’s from New Zealand, came to stay with us for a few days.

Emily arrived during the week so was left to her own devices whilst we were in school. After her second day gallivanting around Prague, we returned to a beaming Kiwi insisting that we go and play mini-golf with her. Not just any mini-golf, though: glow-in-the-dark mini-golf.

Hard to say no, really. The place itself was fascinating. A small old building located a five-minute walk from Wenceslas Square remarkably manages to host an eighteen-hole mini-golf course, a billiard table, jenga, an ‘escape’ room and an eating area.

Prague Golf and Games, located in Prague 1
I proved to be far better at golf than jenga

Glow-in-the-dark mini-golf doesn’t really need an explanation here. What can be explored in more detail is the artwork adorning the walls. It features many of Prague’s famed landmarks…in graffiti form. The detail is incredible and it clearly took a significant amount of time to create each piece. We spoke to the owner, an American, throughout our round and he told us that he wishes he had recorded a time-lapse of the Charles Bridge graffiti being created. He said that he wanted people to know the painstaking effort that went into giving his golf course a WOW factor.

A graffiti version of the Orloj, Prague's astronomical clock
The lanterns were the final aspect added to the Charles Bridge artwork
The course itself also lends itself to Czech culture and history, with crazy holes including scoring through a hockey player’s legs and manoeuvring your ball under a Soviet tank. The place is called Prague Golf and Games and can be found at Opatovick√° 18 in Prague 1.

An alternative way of nutmegging the hockey player to find the hole
A mini Soviet tank for mini-golf
Playing the Charles Bridge hole, which involves staying out of the 'water' on either side
Glow-in-the-dark mini-golf was an excellent reminder, not just to me but to everyone who has lived in the same location for a couple of years or more, that you must keep exploring and searching for new things in your neighbourhood. You might be pleasantly surprised!

Love you all


Saturday, 5 September 2015

Czech Republic – running through the night

September 5

Hello everyone!

You may know that one of my hobbies is running. I particularly enjoy running in Prague and taking in the beautiful sights. I also ran my first – and at this point only – marathon in the Czech capital 16 months ago.

Smiling for the camera before running the Birell 10k in Prague

My previous experience of running in Prague: the 2014 marathon 

One race that I've wanted to do since arriving in Prague in 2013 is the autumn 10k. It is different from other runs in the capital as it is raced during the evening. A fairly flat track and pleasant temperature without a burning sun: perfect conditions to set a new personal best.

The build-up to the race

Unfortunately, I spent most of my summer lugging my backpack around rather than training. On top of that, I’d spent the day of the Prague 10k at a welcome picnic in school. My pre-race meal was thus an extraordinary amount of sugar in the form of cakes and wine.

The first few metres of the 10,000 I was to run

The route was similar to the first section of the marathon, taking in the northern side of the river before returning to the centre for the finish.  Running through a more industrial area wasn't what I had dreamed of but sprinting through the Republic Square (Namesti Republiky) at the start and finish was pretty special.

The final kilometre was excruciating – I genuinely thought I was going to be sick at one point. I managed to hold in the cake to cross the line in a new best time of 39:45 – the first time I've broken the forty-minute mark over the 10,000m distance. Thrilled.

Love you all


Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Czech Republic – food from far away, wine from round the corner

August 30-September 12

Hello everyone!

Our third year in Prague has begun as the second finished: lots of food and plenty of plonk.

Czech food isn’t designed to be enjoyed in the summer. Hearty and stomach-expanding, meals such as pork knuckle and goulash are wonderful in the colder winter months. But eating Czech food in the summer is a bit of a challenge.

It wasn't just us two who ate all of that food, I promise

Thankfully, Prague is an international city stocked with food from around the world. Much of this was on show at a street food festival in a district to the north of the centre. From meat from South America to Japanese sushi, this was a gluttonous global food tour.

Vietnamese dumplings

Mexican mini-taco
Ignoring the fact that my first few days after returning from the Balkans were spent staring at relentless rain, August was a scorching month in the Czech Republic. One of the best ways to cool off in the summer heat is with an ice-cream. Luckily for us, a major ice-cream festival was occurring a mere few stops from the street food festival.

Other food festivals we have been to were excellent value for money. The ice-cream one was not. A surprisingly dear entrance fee (150Kc) was not the only cost in order to get a frozen treat. Though discounted from their regular prices, I imagine it would take a lot more than the five ice-creams I sampled in order to make the overall experience more value for money.

Really good ice-cream though. Coconut to die for.

Coconut ice-cream: creamy heaven

None of what we sampled on that fine late August day can be called as genuinely Czech cuisine. What is most definitely local produce is burcak (pronounced burr-CHACK), a young wine which is usually only produced in September.

Red and white wine has never looked so...cloudy

Burcak looks very different to your stereotypical image of ‘wine’. It is much cloudier and thicker, tasting more like fruit juice than cabernet sauvignon. It is also much more potent than you realise when drinking it, which can often result in a sore head. I suffered this consequence a couple of years ago, so heeded the warning and drank the pink drink slowly.

The vineyard of Troja in Prague
Burcak festivals spring up across Prague throughout September. The one we attended had a spectacular setting in the city’s botanical gardens high above the centre.

The Japanese section of the botanical gardens
One month into year three, three delicious festivals. Nice to be back!

Love you all