Friday, 15 July 2016

Czech Republic - The ultimate A to Z (S to V)

Dobry den!

The penultimate part of my A-Z of the Czech Republic from the three years I have happily spent living there.

The ice-cream trdelnik - don't believe the hype!

S is for…skiing
Honourable mentions: Sparta/Slavia, Segways, Signal

As I’ve said before, the Czechs are very sporty by nature. This desire isn’t dampened when the snow starts to fall, indeed it is magnified. Skiing and snowboarding are immensely popular.

Goggles optional, the rules are a bit more relaxed here!

They’re also drilled into children here from a very young age. It’s always a sobering moment when a three-year-old zooms past you without any ski poles. In spite of that, I’ve certainly improved as a skier. Going on the school ski trip and spending four days on the slopes definitely helped.

Some people still aren't completely sold on the skiing idea...

My Year 6 children welcoming me onto the ski trip in the nicest possible way...

The main ski resort is Spindleruv Mlyn, in the northeast of the country. Being significantly cheaper than resorts in nearby Germany, it is often packed with both local and European snow-lovers. Though probably nowhere near as picturesque as the Alps, it has some nice views from the top.

The crispness of the trees is beautiful on a clear(ish) day

The runs get bumpier in the afternoon, adding an extra degree of challenge

I can’t see myself skiing anytime soon in Malawi so I hope that I retain the skills I’ve polished in the Czech Republic and can put them to good use in the future.

The view from one of Spindler's higher lifts

Apres-ski will also be missed

T is for…trdelník
Honourable mentions: trampolining, tourism, tennis

One of the stranger foods eaten in the Czech Republic. Well, eaten by tourists in the Czech Republic, anyway. I’ve never seen a trdelnik away from the centre of Prague.

This is a trdelnik. Not a real one, obviously.

For those uninitiated, a trdelnik is a holey spiral of dough cooked over a fire which is then caked in cinnamon and sugar. It is incredibly sweet and is a must-have, though I was less impressed with the latest version which is shaped more like a cone and contains ice-cream. I think they taste much better when just cooked, i.e. really hot – having ice-cream inside them negates that, as well as making it  bit harder to peel off little bits.

The...ahem...'traditional' cooking method

The ice-cream version, which starts melting out of the bottom soon after purchase

The stalls sell it as a traditional treat, and buying it from ‘wooden’ huts containing the ‘fire’ certainly lends itself to that idea. The fact that it was invented in Slovakia and has only recently exploded as a ‘thing’ in Prague is forgotten. As for the ice-cream version, there’s no way that has been made for centuries, though admittedly that isn’t given the ‘traditional’ treatment.

A trdelnik vendor in the Old Town Square Christmas market

Just look at that mound of sugar it's dipped in!

Let’s stay positive, though. Though terrible for your teeth, they are really nice!

Perfect when dawdling through Christmas markets

U is for…ukulele
Honourable mentions: any pub starting with Ů

One of my resolutions at the start of 2014 was to learn a musical instrument. A proper one, not a triangle. After a bit of research, I learnt that a cheap and supposedly easy one to learn was the ukulele. At the end of my first year in Prague, I took the plunge and bought my very own four-stringed noise creator.

Yes, they really are that small. Perfect for travelling!

I’m so happy I did. Maybe others who’ve had to endure me learning various chords and practising songs would have a different opinion but I do enjoy strumming away as a way of relaxing and taking my mind off more serious things.

It seems the new uke also gives me us the ability to fly on an invisible magic carpet...

I used it a lot in school as well, even performing ‘The Lazy Song’ with my class on stage. The impact on them must have been positive – two of the girls I taught last year clubbed together to get me a SpongeBob Squarepants ukulele as a leaving gift.

My two mini-axes

If you’re thinking of learning an instrument or want to try something a bit different, I’d highly recommend getting one!

See, people love it really!

V is for…Vietnam
Honourable mentions: visitors, volleyball

Might seem a strange one when reviewing the Czech Republic, unless you’ve read my previous blog about this.

One of many in Prague

Immigration is a hot topic all around Europe. The Czech government made the news for the worst possible reasons last year when it emerged that they were tattooing numbers on migrants entering their borders.

Our local potraviny, the owners of which were Vietnamese.
Hannah swears she didn't graffiti her initials there...

Data from 2012 states that there are just under 450,000 immigrants in the Czech Republic, with Vietnamese representing the third largest foreign populace. Like the old stereotype of every British corner shop being run by someone from South Asia, it seems like every potraviny is owned by someone from Vietnam.

The Czech equivalent of a British 'corner shop'

Having a variety of nationalities and ethnicities adds culture and flavour to Prague, making it a truer reflection of being an international city. Markets on the outskirts of the city, such as SAPA, provide immigrants with a reminder of home, not to mention great food at cheap prices.

SAPA market in distant Prague 4, where I found kimchi for the first time in the Czech Republic

At a time when freedom of movement across Europe is under threat, it is always important to remember the benefits that immigrants can bring to a city and a country. After all, I’ve been an immigrant for the past three years. I haven’t learnt the language but I feel that I have contributed in a positive way towards the country’s present (by buying lots of beer, amongst other things) and future (helping to shape the lives of children who might become important people in the country’s next generation).

Pho, one of Vietnam's staple foods

We are all immigrants and have been warmly welcomed by Prague
 Love you all


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