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.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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

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

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.

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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.

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.

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At first it intimidated my little boy.

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Then he decided to take the leap with his daddy.

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Ooopps, he jumped too much.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The ride took 10 mins under rough terrain.

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

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As you can see, it was a guy thing.

There were a lot of other attractions that everyone enjoyed.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

The Heat is On

We have been having scorching hot weather in this part of the world these past few days. After the very long winter, now comes the heat.   It is the 3rd week now where temperatures had been at 30C++.  Although it is not unusual to get this high temperature, I have been told that having it linger for 3 weeks is quite unusual.

Thankfully, our passive house has kept us comfortable despite the soaring heat. Even without AC, we have managed to avoid overheating by scheduling our activities to conform with nature. For instance, I schedule all my cooking at night time when temperatures are normally low.   At dawn, when the temperature is at 10-17C, we increase the ventilation and open the windows to quickly let the cold air in.  During the day, we normally get 30+ temperatures, so we have all the blinds closed.  Although one of the features I love of this house is an abundance of natural light, no sunlight means minimal heat accumulation, so it will do for now.   The thick insulation is enough to preserve the coldness that was trapped at dawn.  The only drawback is that we, (mainly my husband) has to wake up early just to open the windows and quicky let the cold air in.  But this is very minimal considering the comfort that it brings.

To give you an idea of how it is ventilated, here is a short video about the ventilation system in a passive house.

So there you go, a passive house is not only good in winter but in summer as well.   I am sharing this with you so that if you ever think of building your own home, the passive house is the way to go.  It is good for the environment, good for your pocket and good in any weather!

Destination: Čáslav

One of the neighboring cities in my county is Čáslav.  I’ve passed by this town several times but never really stopped to view the locale.

One weekend, we decided to visit Čáslav  to explore the area.

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Like most towns here in the Czech Republic, the town square is laid with cobblestones.  During our time there, we didn’t see a lot of people roaming around the streets since it was a Sunday.  It was nice to see the town so quiet.

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Going further, we passed by the monument of   Jan Žižka, one of the greatest Czech generals of all-time.  In 1910, part of his cranium was discovered in the Čáslav parish church.

We then walked further to view the remains of the city’s walls.

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It further led to a sporting area with a playground for children.

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My little boy had a great time playing there with his daddy.

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After almost an hour, we decided to walk through a small lake to complete the loop.

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We then found ourselves on the square again and this time we went the other way where the Parish church is.

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But perhaps one of the most notable landmarks in this town is the Dusikovo theater, which is the oldest theater in the Czech Republic.

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With its artistic heritage, no wonder it produces world-class talents.  The famous director Miloš Forman was born in Čáslav.

To know more about this historical town, you can visit their website.

Czech the Cyclist

If there is one thing that strike me as the best Czech past time, it is cycling. Now that the weather is definitely getting better, cyclists abound the streets of my little town. The cycling paths are not that well developed but people still go out and ride their bikes.

A Czech friend once told me that it is almost mandatory for every Czech child to know how to ride a bike. And these bikes come in all stages depending on the child’s age.

They start out with little plastic ones.
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Then as they get older, they have those that resemble a real bicycle but without pedals.

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And of course, your bike grows with you.

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As much as I would like to join the trend, I cannot ride a bicycle for now. Plus, I do not own a good bicycle…just yet.   All I can do is reminisce my biking days.

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But the good thing is, we may be able to save some money on my bicycle since I am a small person. Those bikes for teenagers may just fit me just fine. We’ll see.

Enjoying the outdoors in Obergurgl

During our visit to Innsbruck, our friends Melba and Cez took us to a beautiful, quaint village in the alps called Obergurgl.  This village is mainly a tourist spot with only 400 permanent inhabitants.  In winter, it is a very popular ski spot and in summer a very popular hiking spot.

Photo courtesy of Cezary Kaliszyk
Photo courtesy of Cezary Kaliszyk

We chose a very easy route that is convenient for pregnant women and small children.  Moving away from the village and onto the trail, these were the sights we saw.

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Some of the lifts were still open for those who wish  to view the sights from up above.  I decided against going on one because of my current state and my fear of heights.

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Our guys led the way with my little boy tagging along.  Melba and I followed slowly behind.  Both of us are pregnant and the decreasing oxygen was quite taxing for our lungs.  Besides, it was also a great time to chat and catch up.

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As they ascended higher, we decided to stay behind at a shaded, comfortable spot.

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While waiting, we amused ourselves by watching other serious hikers conquer more difficult trails.

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Meanwhile, our boys had a grand time in their trail.   My husband was so proud of our little boy for walking all the way through the almost 3km loop with around 2500 ft elevation.

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And here they are, posing for posterity.

Photo courtesy of Cezary Kaliszyk
Photo courtesy of Cezary Kaliszyk

On the way back, we all stopped by a nearby restaurant as we were already famished.

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Yes, I almost ate that whole serving of pizza.  Since it was very close to Italy, they do make great pizzas.

Although this wasn’t a very serious hike, it is one of the greatest one I’ve had in a long time and will definitely be one of my best memories.

Thank you Melbs and Cez for taking us there!

 

Impressive Innsbruck

As mentioned in a previous post, our main goal for last weekend’s trip was to visit  friends in Innsbruck, Austria.

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Melba is one of my closest friends from the university.  Since we had the same bachelor’s degree and lived in the same dormitory, it was only natural for us to be in the same group of friends.  All through our college years, we have shared endless discussions about our families and life goals.  Together with a few other girls, we were like a family- lending an ear and supporting each other.

After obtaining our degrees, we parted ways to follow our dreams.  While I was pursuing an ambitious goal in a manufacturing industry in the States, she went to Japan to obtain her Phd and go after her scientific pursuits.  It was during this time when we met our husbands – both Central Europeans (mine Czech, hers Polish).  Little did we know that we would end up in the same continent to raise our families.

I’m glad that we made this trip out to see them.  It was a great time for our families to bond and for both of us to catch up.

Their place is situated in a suburban location close to the mountains and not too far from the university where her husband Cez teaches.

That Saturday morning, we started our day with a full breakfast on their balcony.  It was very refreshing to be just around nature and inhale its beauty.

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We were lucky that the powers-that-be gave us good weather during our stay there.  There was nothing but sunshine which allowed us to go for a short hike and tour the downtown.

I will do a separate post on the hike because it was a pretty interesting one.

Meanwhile, here are photos of this beautiful city.

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The inner streets of the city is full of impressive buildings with a typical European feel.

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The succeeding picture is a view of the Old City watchtower, which is a popular landmark.

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Going further into town, there lies a more modern square normally used for social events.

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Innsbruck’s public transport system is very well-developed and accessible.  Trains, trams and buses can be seen moving in and around the city.

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Being in the highlands doesn’t mean it’s short of fun.   During our stroll, I was lucky to snap a quick photo of these youngsters parading the streets.

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Although, if you live in a place like this, it would be crazy not to go on a hike.  The alps are just breathtaking.

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When Melba told me that they were thinking of giving up a great opportunity in a major city in exchange for a quiet life in Innsbruck, I didn’t fully understand why.  But after experiencing this beautiful city, I now understand.

I was very impressed with this amazing city and wished it was closer so we can do more frequent visits.  But most of all, we had a great time in the company of great friends.

If you would like to learn more about Innsbruck, you can check out this page.