Lately

It seems like forever since I wrote my last post. Too many things have happened that I couldn’t seem to put them in order.

Anyhow, we’ve had several visits this summer and early fall. First off, my husband’s cousin and her son from Moravia to spend a weekend with us.  We brought them to Prague and Kutna Hora, since it has been awhile since they visited these  beautiful cities.

Here’s a picture of us in front of one of the most beautiful churches here in the Czech Republic, the St. Barbora Church in Kutna Hora.

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The weather was not in our favor during their visit but we were still able to snap some beautiful pictures of Prague.  It is breathtaking in any weather.

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My friend Melba and her daughter also spent some time with us.  It was nice for the babies to see each other again.  This time, we contacted some alumni from the university where we had our bachelors and had a mini reunion in a cafe in Prague.

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A couple of weeks ago, My friend Mymy also came for a visit with her son.  She lives in Prague and it was her first long out of town drive since she got her license a year ago.  She also has a toddler who is close to Michaela’s age, so it was nice sharing motherhood experiences with her.

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Lastly, my son has started going to a state primary school and my daughter is turning one pretty soon.  How time flies.

Photo credit:  Jan Strnad (www.atelierkolin.cz)
Photo credit: Jan Strnad (www.atelierkolin.cz)

It seems like only yesterday since we made the significant decision to move here in CZ.  Since then, every year is marked with significant milestones.

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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.

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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.”

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.

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.

Krtek: The Czech Mickey Mouse

Because it is summer break, I am now constantly looking for exciting things to do for my active toddler. Between visiting the playground and going for a walk, there is also a need for quiet playtime, reading and learning. One day, as we were walking through a toy shop, I decided to buy him a puzzle to see if he will be interested. Sure enough, puzzles got him hooked! Maybe it is the feeling of completing something, the joy of seeing the picture unfold in the puzzle, or perhaps it is the mere challenge of solving something, but he loves puzzles.

And it’s not just any puzzle. It has to be a krtek (little mole) puzzle. Krtek is a very popular cartoon character here in Czech and in some parts of Europe. Its creator Zdenek Miler, was said to have gotten the idea of bringing this character to life after stumbling through a mole hill. Krtek was first shown in Prague in 1956, and now it is still running and has been shown in other countries as well. The character in itself has expanded to a whole brand of merchandise – from children’s books, to puzzles, to videos, etc. There is a shortage of Mickey Mouse merchandise over here but an abundance of Krtek.

I am still loyal to the mouse, but this mole is slowly winning my heart. Here is a short Krtek video of this endearing character.

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Have a great weekend!

Jsem řidič

After passing all my driving tests last week, I guess I am now eligible for a Czech driver’s license.  I only started getting serious about obtaining a Czech driver’s license 4 months ago, after living here for more than a year now.   One can get by with an International Driving Permit, but this is only good for one year.  Since we are here indefinitely, there is the inevitable need for me to obtain a Czech Driver’s license.   Obtaining a Czech driver’s license is quite a process.

In the beginning, I thought I could convert either one of my “other” driving licenses, since I already own 2, from 2 different countries.  I tried.  Unfortunately, I learned that I still need to go through the whole process all over again.  Classes in English were only offered in Prague.  Hence, I had to periodically endure the  1 hour commute to attend my classes, although I missed most of the theoretical lessons and only completed the compulsory behind-the-wheel sessions.  In retrospect, I think doing it all over again was well worth it.

Unlike the other cities where I obtained my other licenses, testing here in Czech is a tad more complicated.  One has to undergo three tests – a computer test on rules of the road and first aid, a verbal vehicle maintenance test, and finally a behind the wheel test.  Honestly, I have to say that these intimidated me a lot.  First, because my language proficiency is not at an intermediate level.  Second,  because failure was not an option.  With the help of a court appointed interpreter, I managed to answer all the questions of the rules and vehicle maintenance tests correctly.  Then came the behind-the-wheel test the following day.  Although it was freezing that day, I managed to sweat.  That’s how nervous I was.  The examiner only spoke Czech so my driving school teacher had to give me the instructions in English.   After probably 10 minutes of driving, (which felt like forever to me), the examiner told me to pull over to one side and flatly said I passed the test.  I almost squealed with joy, but the mood inside the car was  so serene, I had to conceal my emotions.

After going through the whole process, I feel like a huge weight had just been lifted off my shoulders.  Sure I can drive, but I feel more confident now that I am fully aware of all the rules of the road and its possible dangers.  Now I am proud to say that I am a Prague driver, a Los Angeles driver and a Manila driver.  So sit tight. Buckle your seat belts. Let’s go!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Geometry

Prague is a city with diverse topography and rich architecture.  Many of its cultural attractions have survived violence and destruction in twentieth century Europe.  It is home to approximately 1.3 million people but receives more than 4.1 million visitors per year,  making it the sixth most visited city in Europe.

As this week’s photo challenge is about geometry, I couldn’t think of a better picture than one of Prague.

This shot was taken from the Prague Castle overlooking the city.

The baroque structures seem to blend seamlessly with the more modern angular buildings.  For me, this blend is geometry.

The colors in this shot also have an interesting harmonious blend.  It almost exemplifies the city’s colorful history.

Are You Adventurous?

Having lived in 3 continents, and travelling to various parts of the world, I may as well consider myself adventurous.  Well over a month ago, my friend Reena of www.reenareigns.wordpress.com, passed on the adventurous blogger award to me.  Thank you very much, Reena!

 

To receive the award, one has to answer a couple of questions:

  1. In which country or region would you like your next adventure to be?   I would like to explore the African continent.  I’ve read and heard a lot of good things in this part of the world but have never visited it.  I hope I will have the chance to explore Africa someday.
  2. Where would you recommend for an adventurous time? It depends on how much time you have for this adventure.  There are a lot of interesting places in Asia, the US and Czech.  But if you have limited time, I would recommend visiting the Yosemite Valley in California.
  3. Most interesting culture: What I find interesting may change as I age, but I currently  find Czech culture pretty interesting.  After living here for a year, I found out that it has a lot of similarities to my own culture, but also a lot of differences when it comes to Asian culture in general.
  4. Favourite activity: Tasting the  food, conversing in the local language and spending time in historical places.
  5. Most dangerous risk taken: Hiking in Bryce Canyon, Utah.  I’m a wimp when it comes to heights.
  6. Favourite quotation:
    Adventure is worthwhile in itself. – Amelia Earhart

  7. Happiness is: CONTENTMENT

As part of my blogging journey, I have met a lot of wonderful people who inspire me everyday with their own adventures.  Though I cannot name everyone, here are the 12 bloggers who I think should also be receiving this award:

Writing Between The Lines

Crazy Train To Tinky Town

Another Day in Paradise

I write what I Like

Bucket List Publications

50 Year Project

The Open Suitcase

On the Road with Jim and Mary

Adventures of Andrea

24/7 in France

Toemail

A Big Life

Please check out these blogs.  I’m sure you’ll also feel like you’re part of their adventures.

 

Destination: Olomouc

Olomouc is the fifth largest city in the Czech Republic.  It is located in the heart of the Hana region in Moravia and currently inhabited by more than 100,000 citizens.

Map of Olomouc found at the city center

The first stop during our visit to Olomouc was the Holy Hill:  The Church of the Visitation of the Virgin Mary .  In 1995, Pope John Paul II paid a visit at this church and it was also during that year when the Roman Catholic church declared it as a minor basilica.  Today, the Holy Hill is one of the most visited places in Olomouc.

My parents, being devout Catholics, were so happy to have had the opportunity to visit this place.

We also visited the St. Wenceslaus cathedral, the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Olomouc.

Another famous landmark in Olomouc is the Holy Trinity column, which is currently listed as a UNESCO world heritage site.

Erected in the 18th century, this monument is the best example of a typical Central European column.

And of course, just like most cities in Europe, Olomouc has beautiful fountains.

There are only two astronomical clocks in the Czech Republic.  The first one is in Prague and the second one in Olomouc.

The Olomouc astronomical clock is quite unique because it was remodelled in the first few years of communism.  After the fall of communism in the ’80s, most of the prominent statues and monuments were removed, but the astronomical clock remained.  Today, it offers the viewer a glimpse of the communist era in Czech.  It has massive mosaics of workers and scientists and a dial that turns to display the International day of the Worker and the birthdays of Lenin and Stalin.

Like most cities here in Czech, the city of Olomouc  is laden with cobblestones and surrounded by beautiful architecture.

Although difficult for driving , a narrow street is my favorite passageway.

If you are craving for Asian food, there is always a Chinese restaurant somewhere.  In Olomouc, you can find it at the town square.

Olomouc is one of the cities that you should definitely see during your trip to the Czech Republic.

For more information about this city, you can visit this site.

Can You Drive?

When my husband tells me that I can’t drive, I get annoyed and oftentimes it becomes a catalyst for me having a bad day.  I have a Philippine driver’s license and a California driver’s license.  Unfortunately,  both of them are not good enough for Europe, so there is still a need for me to get the Czech Driver’s license.  Since last month, I have been enrolled in a driving school to help me secure that Czech license.  Although confident with my driving skills, I soon later found out that driving in Prague can be stressful and can be hair-raising at times.

When I came home from driving school one night, my little boy eagerly ran to greet me.

He asked:  “Mama, can you drive?”  Thinking that he was touted by his dad to ask me that question, I annoyingly replied:  “Of course, mama can drive!  Mama has been driving for years!”

But then he asked me again:  “Can you drive in a police car?”

Now that’s another story.