Slivovice: The Unofficial National Currency

The Czech Korun is the Czech Republic’s national currency. But do you know that they also have an unofficial currency? Yes, folks. It is the Slivovice (plum liquor).


Slivovice is a distilled wine spirit made from plums. It is widely produced everywhere in Czech, but primarily in the region of Moravia, where my husband is from. To produce slivovice, the plums and their ground kernels are initially crushed and pressed. Yeast, starch, and sugar may be added to the juice, and the mixture is then allowed to ferment. After some time, it is brought to a government-certified distillery for the final step in the process. In the olden times, the whole processing of slivovice used to be done at home. However, to prevent errors in the distillation process (production of methanol), home distillation is now banned. Besides, it is also a good opportunity for the government to collect taxes on the product.

On our first year here in Czech, my father-in-law brought us to a private distillery where he brought his own fermented products ready for distillation. It was interesting for me to witness the distillation process, but equally interesting to witness the eager faces of the men waiting for their final product. They take pride in the percentage of alcohol from their mixture. The usual strength of privately-produced slivovice is 50%. Most commercially-produced products have lower strength. On that particular event, ours had 55%. My father-in-law was beaming with pride.

Since my father-in-law is a slivovice hobbyist, we need not make our own as we regularly have a constant supply of this product.  He makes gallons of it for his own private consumption and for distribution to his 2 sons.

This past weekend, my husband and his father were working on our driveway. We don’t own a cement mixer and had to borrow one form our neighbor. It was such a big help and we were very lucky to have such kind neighbors who are ready to lend a helping hand when needed. As a sign of gratitude for the favor, I asked them if I should bake a cake that they may bring with the mixer when they return the equipment borrowed. They were both laughing, as they said: “What do you mean cake? Slivovice. That’s what we’re bringing. It is the Unofficial national currency.”

That day, I had another lesson in Czech culture.

“Čas na Pivo” (Time for Beer)

There are only a few residents in my little community, but it is not without a pub. A pub is a very important part of a Czech settlement, because it is the home of the beer. And for those of you who are new to Czech and would like to meet a few people, it is the best place to go.

One day, as my 3-year-old son and I were walking, he tried to drag me to the direction of the pub and told me: “Mommy, Čas na pivo” (time for beer). I was taken aback by this gesture and was thinking to myself: “where did he learn that phrase?” But it really doesn’t matter. He could’ve easily picked it up from the people around him. It just goes to show that beer is an integral part of Czech culture. Even a 3-year-old knows it.

Playing with an empty beer bottle during our first few days here.
Playing with an empty beer bottle during our first few days here.

In my opinion, there are 2 basic food items in this world that Czechs can’t live without: bread (chleba) and beer (pivo). I know this because if I don’t have these things at home, my Czech husband gets into a bad mood. I have learned my lesson. I need to have a steady supply of bread and beer at my home to prevent any unpleasant mood swings.

During our big move from the US to Czech, we stopped by Brussels for 2 days to do a little sightseeing and slightly recover from the jetlag. Guess what my husband ordered in a Belgian restaurant. That’s right, a beer sampler.

beer sampler

This fondness for beer is not only with men but also with women too. Beers come in different varieties, alcohol strength, and raw material source. And to cater to everyone’s “needs,” a beer can also be non-alcoholic. Inasmuch as Czechs like alcoholic beverages, there is a zero tolerance limit of alcohol for drivers in this country. Thus, brewers have to come up with this non-alcoholic variety.

Before meeting my husband, I never liked beer. When we were still living in the States, and had parties with friends, I would drink it just to have something to drink. But now that we are here in the Czech Republic, and I have been introduced to all different kinds of beers, there is a growing fondness for beer in my palate. Thankfully, they have the non-alcoholic variety, so I can still enjoy it even now that I’m pregnant.

If you are Czech and don’t like beer, please do share your story of your secret society. Because out of my two years of living here, I have yet to meet a Czech who has an aversion to beer.

“Pabaon” is also a Czech Trait

“Pabaon” (send-off) is a Filipino trait.  In the Philippines, it is a send-off practice where the one who is going away is given a lot of things as gifts from the person (s) he/she is visiting.

The longer I have stayed here, the longer I have realized that it is a Czech trait too.

Last weekend, we visited my in-laws in Moravia and came home with a lot of “pabaon” from them.  It is already Friday and we “just managed” to eat all the food that my mom-in-law prepared for us.  Since it would be our last visit before the baby arrives, she prepared special dishes for us.  One of those was roasted duck which we were digging into until yesterday.  Aside from the cooked food, we also got to take home fruits, baked goods, eggs and even kitchen towels and a washing scrub.  And if that’s not enough, they also gave us some insect spray (for mosquitoes and ticks) because they know we live close to the woods.


This type of practice always happens whenever we come to visit my in-laws.  We never come home empty-handed.  There is always something that we get to take home.

It reminds me of my very own culture.  We do the same.  Going home is like going to the market.  You come back with lots of stuff.  Now there are even some items that we can buy for ourselves like kitchen towels or insect sprays, but it is really the thoughtfulness that means so much more.  These things are not only things but they convey a deeper message:  “You are loved.”

I think that this is one of the traits that have brought our families together.  Although we come from opposite sides of the globe, the things that we value are pretty much the same.  Knowing this gives me comfort.  It makes me feel at home.

New Baby, New Hairstyle

I have been contemplating about chopping my locks. With the impending birth of my little one, I just know that I wouldn’t have enough time to take care of everything, including my hair. Staying at home and caring for kids look easy, but it is honestly the hardest job I ever had.

So yeah, I want to cut my hair and leave it at a length that’s easier to maintain.  Plus, it’s all just going to fall off anyway.  I remember that a few months after I’ve had Jakub, my hair just started falling off.  I almost went bald.  Ok, that’s an exaggeration.  But as you can see in this picture, I did have a bald spot.


It is one of the downsides of having a baby.   As if the weight gain, sleepless nights, and lack of energy is not enough.

A few of the mom friends that I know over here had really short haircuts after they had their babies.    It must be another unique Czech practice, I think.  Or maybe I just started noticing it now since I am in the company of moms.    Most of them had pixie hairstyles.   But they can very well pull it off since they have the face to match it.  Czech women are pretty.

As for me, maybe I’ll just stick to something like this.

bob short

I’ve never really looked good in short hairstyles, but it has to be done.

For all  you moms out there, did you have to cut your hair after having your baby(ies)?

A Typical Czech Weekend for an Atypical Mama in Czech

Last weekend, we went to the mountains and spent our weekend in a cottage with some friends.    We were blessed with perfect weather, so we spent a lot of time outdoors.  The scenery in the meadows was very beautiful.


My son had a lot of fun even with very simple things.


We went to a little village close to Broumov, on the other side of Adršpach.   In one of our hikes,   we came very close to Poland.

I’ve never seen border markers other than the actual borders with guards and everything.  It was the first time I ever saw a border marker in the forest.  Here is one of them.


Our friends chose  easy hikes since we were there with children.  It was also meant to accommodate my capabilities.  I’m glad that despite the heaviness in my belly, I still managed to walk and enjoy it.  Albeit, I didn’t make it through everything.  Plus, at this stage of my pregnancy, frequent bathroom visits is another big obstacle.

My son and my husband had a lot of fun though.  My husband found his little treasure – a mushroom.


On the next day’s hike, I decided to sit it out.  I just couldn’t manage to jump off rocks anymore.


I just busied myself with capturing images of my loved ones.


Anyhow, everything went well and I’m glad we made that trip.  It was one very typical Czech weekend and one worth remembering.

Pregnancy classes and Childbirth

As my due date comes to a close, we are now preparing the important details for the arrival of our little princess.  One of the most important things to consider is the birthing place.  Out here in CZ, everyone is covered by a national health insurance.  Although it is a good thing, one of the downsides is that there are really a few choices when it comes to healthcare.

Since we are from a little town, there is only one major hospital in this area.  There are a couple of hospitals in Prague, but it is a 45min drive from us.  So, without even considering other options, I decided to enlist at the Kolin hospital.  After all, the current Czech president, Milos Zeman, was born here.  It can’t be that bad, right?

So last week, we went on a hospital tour.  The tour itself only lasted 15mins, but there was a  2 hour class before it.  My husband came with me, so he translated some important parts of the class.

And then we got this….

prenatal box

A box full of goodies for expectant mothers.


It is not as great as the Finnish baby boxes, but at least it is something.

The class was in Czech and so was the tour.  Even though I didn’t fully understand everything, I was thankful that we enlisted for it.   It just eliminates the hassle of trying to find places and people on labor day itself.

When I was pregnant with Jakub, I remember attending all sorts of classes.  I was a first-time mother back then and didn’t know anything.  I had a pregnancy yoga class, a lamaze class, a general childbirth class and a detailed hospital tour.  When labor day came, I had prepared for everything.  I even had a detailed birth plan  where I wanted everything to be natural – with no epidural, and the anticipation of breastfeeding my baby right after he is born.  But on the day itself, none of it went as planned.  Needless to say,  I had an emergency c-section, was unable to breastfeed my baby on the first few hours of his life and he had to stay at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for a few days.

It’s a good thing to know a thing or two about childbirth and all the birthing techniques, but in the end it is really up to the child on how he/she chooses to be born.  This time I know better.  The only class that I ever attended was the one that came with this hospital tour.  I will just go with the baby’s wishes and let nature take its course.  As they say, “prepare for the best and expect the worst.”

Pat & Mat

One of my son’s favorite animated series is “Pat a Mat.” It showcases two characters, handymen Pat & Mat, who always gets into technical problems but manages to solve them with the most surprising solution. It is presented in a very comical way and somehow showcases Czech culture.

I am sharing here with you one of our favorite episodes.

Right around this time, people from Czech villages are probably processing fruit and vegetable preserves from the excesses of spring’s harvest. When I first got here, I was so impressed with how my mom-in-law processes all sorts of preserves.


But after living here for some time, I have come to realize that this is a common practice among most Czechs because we also get preserves as gifts from friends and relatives.

I have never tried doing this sort of thing at home, but perhaps one day I will. I certainly got some ideas on how to do bottled strawberry preserves from Pat & Mat.

“False Friends”

My Czech mother-in-law spent some time with us last week and I am so proud to say that I was able to communicate with her in Czech without any difficulty during those times.  Gone were the days when we had to resort to body language just to be able to express what we wanted to say.  My Czech grammar isn’t perfect, but my language proficiency is at a level where I can communicate and be understood.

New Czech Step by Step: A Basic Course in the Czech Language for English-speaking Foreigners

However, in my continuing quest to learn the Czech language, I would have to say that one of the most challenging aspects is the existence of “false friends”  These are words that may sound similar in English and Czech but entirely have different meanings.  Thanks to this book, I can now refer to some of these words when confronted with a situation where I am not really sure about the meaning.

Here is an illustration of my point.  Although English words such as doctor and medicine are also doktor and medicina in Czech, other medically important words have “false friends.”  For example, if you want to say “ambulance, ” you cannot say ambulance (pronounced ambu-lan-tse)  because it means outpatient department.  The proper term is sanitka  which might be confused with sanitary in English.  In Czech, kontrola means check-up which can be confused with control in English.

You might hear somebody say he/she finished highschool in a gymnazium because a gymnazium is a secondary school, not a gym.   List is a leaf or a piece of paper in Czech.  Seznam is the proper word to use if you want to say list, as in list of things to buy or list of things to do.   While a host is the one who is hosting a party, a host is a guest in Czech.  A šéf  (pronounced “chef”) is not a chef but a boss.   The one who makes the food is a kuchař.

And never ever say kurva if you want to say curve because it means whore in Czech.  The proper term is křivka.  But perhaps the funniest “false friend” is preservativ  which you may confuse as preservative in food but actually means condom in Czech.  Preservative in food is konzervační in Czech.

About 2 years ago, I had my own funny experience with these “false friends” at a conversation with an older woman who was my former neighbor in the other house we used to live in.  In one of our small talks, I told her I was cooking pasta (toothpaste in Czech)  for dinner.

Destination: Mirakulum at Milovice

This past weekend, we visited an amusement park here in Czech called Mirakulum.  Since the temperature that day was relatively mild, we decided to head out there and check it out.  We went there with some friends who live close to the area.

From the main entrance, the first attraction that we visited was this giant trampoline/jumping area.


At first it intimidated my little boy.


Then he decided to take the leap with his daddy.


Ooopps, he jumped too much.


But perhaps one of the main trademarks of this place is this wooden castle with an underground tunnel and a lot of open space for the kids to run around.


We rented a cart and asked our son to ride in it with our stuff.  I thought it was such a clever way to carry  things (and kids) around.


My son was hyped up when he saw all the kids in the castle and all the fun things he can climb.  Instead of simply taking the stairs, my boys decided to climb.


There goes Jakub, and now it’s daddy’s turn.


As for me, I took the easy route – the stairs.  The great thing about this place is that there are a lot of different options to get to where you would like to go.  In my condition, i wasn’t able to go to every obstacle, but was glad my camera had a good zoom capability and I was still able to capture the action.

So here they are, on top of the castle, waving at me.


But perhaps the best attraction for Jakub was the ride on a war tank.  Milovice used to be a Soviet army camp during the communist era.  After the new regime, the barracks were left in ruins.    I’m glad they built something like this.  It made this place come to life again.


They call this the “tankodrom.”

I was wary in the beginning because I thought Jakub  will be scared and will scream to get out once the going gets rough.

Unsure of what lays ahead, he reluctantly waved back at me after they boarded and prepared to go.


The ride took 10 mins under rough terrain.

But when they got back he was so ecstatic to tell me all about it.


As you can see, it was a guy thing.

There were a lot of other attractions that everyone enjoyed.




It was a weekend very well spent.

So, how was your weekend?

Destination: Zámek Kačina

If you are  visiting the Czech Republic, one of the best things to do on a hot summer day is to visit one of its castles and chateaus.  Apart from the historical and aesthetic relevance of your visit, it is also a good place to cool down – even for a bit.

One of the interesting chateaus close to our area is Zámek Kačina.  It was built as a representative seat by Count Jan Rudolf Chotek between 1806-1824.  It was designed by a German architect from Dresden,   C. F. Schuricht.  Since then, it has undergone several renovations and was inhabited by the last Chotek heir in 1911.  During the second world war, it was occupied by the Nazi SS units.  In 1950, the building was converted as an agricultural museum.  Finally in 2001, it was recognized by the government as a natural cultural monument.


To this day, the chateau serves several functions.  One wing still serves as an agricultural museum, another serves as a museum to showcase the life of the royals who inhabited the area, and another wing has a more commercial function – catering to weddings and other social events.

On our visit, we wanted to see the exhibit of the life of the royals, but missed the tour schedule.   Instead of waiting, we opted to visit the agricultural exhibit, since it was a self-guided tour.

My son was particularly interested in the miniature tractors and machine equipment, while my husband was equally interested in explaining everything to him.


Since it was a lifestyle tour, it also showcased the domestic tools that can be found in the households during those times.


Here you can see the first washing machine that they used.


Pretty innovative, I would say.  There was also an option to visit the cellars.


During wintertime, little children were told to sleep on top of the ovens to keep them warm.  Here is an example of those sleeping areas.


Anyway, I’m glad we opted to go to this tour since it was very educational and a bit different from the typical chateau tours that we normally go to.

Kačina is a beautiful place and since it is close to our area, there will be more opportunities for us to visit again and witness the other tours.

If you would like to know more about this beautiful place, you can visit their website.    It is in the Kutna Hora area, so it can be a good side trip on your trip to Kutna Hora.