Thursday, February 25, 2010

Happy Name Day, Liliana!

Today we honor Liliana.  Happy Name Day, Liliana!
Liliana is of Latin origin meaning "lily"

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Happy Name Day, Matěj!

Today we honor Matěj.  Happy Name Day, Matěj!  Matěj is of Hebrew origin. It is used mainly in Czech and Slavic. Matej is a pet form of Matthew (English), meaning Gift of God.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Happy Name Day, Svatopluk!

Today we honor Svatopluk.  Happy Name Day, Svatopluk!
Svatopluk is of Slavic origin meaning "celebrating people"

Monday, February 22, 2010

"Cafe Tour"...Day Four...Café De Paris & Bar Chez Des Amis

A splendid hotel in Prague is Hotel Paříž, or Hotel Paris, and within this hotel is a magnificent cafe appropriately named Café De Paris.  Adjoining the cafe we have Bar Chez Des Amis...where we'll enjoy a Bloody Mary in just a few.  The hotel also has a very famuous restaurant, Sarah Bernhardt, which is named after the famous singer & actress, but we're here to enjoy the cafe today.  The hotel itself is architecturally stunning, and I'll tell you more about it when I give you my recommendations of places to stay in Prague.
One of the reasons I adore this cafe is that the establishment is owned and run by the same family, the Brandejs family, that built the hotel back in 1904.  In 1991, after the Velvet Revolution, the hotel was returned to the Brandejs family in restitution.  After regaining possession of the building and having to renovate, the owners made sure to pay attention to even the smallest detail and took it back to "the grace and opulence of its halcyon Art Nouveau days...". 

Alphonse Mucha's "Four Times a Day" (1899) includes Morning Awakening, Light of Day, Evening Reverie, and Night's Rest
(Mucha is one of my favorite artists so I'll take you to the Mucha Musuem in a week or so)...
Today, Café De Paris perfectly resembles a traditional Parisian café circa 1930, and echoes the Art Nouveau 1920´s culture that still flourishes in Prague. Café De Paris and Bar Chez Des Amis is a great place to meet for coffee or afternoon tea and watch the world go by. 

Or perhaps a glass of Absinthe is more your style...

We passed on the absinthe this time around because there was champagne to be had...

Are you ready for that aforementioned Bloody Mary?

Happy Name Day, Petr!

Today we honor Petr.  Happy Name Day, Petr!
Petr is a variant of the name Peter, which is of Greek origin and means "rock"

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Congratulations, Martina Sáblíková! And thank you for our first Gold in speedskating!

A well-deserved victory!  "The Czech Republic and its predecessor nation, Czechoslovakia, had never won a medal of any color in speedskating."  We're proud of you, Martina!!

Happy Name Day, Lenka!

Today we honor Lenka.  Happy Name Day, Lenka!
Lenka is of Slavic origin meaning "light; illumination"

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Happy Name Day, Oldřich!

Today we honor Oldřich.  Happy Name Day, Oldřich!
Oldřich is of Czech origin meaning "one with riches and power"

Friday, February 19, 2010

Happy Name Day, Patrik!

Today we honor Patrik.  Happy Name Day, Patrik!
Patrik is a variant of Patrick (Latin), and the meaning of Patrik is "patrician, noble"

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Go Czechs!!!! Sweet 3-1 Olympic victory over Slovakia!

These men make me so proud!
We Czechs have a passion for ice hockey and it has been a tradition of ours from the turn of the 20th century.  It was played quite differently then though...would you ever associate a ball and a golf-like swing with ice hockey?!  Nor would I, but that's how it was played in the very beginning when the Czech lands were still part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  The game was then known as "bandy hokej" and skaters would hit the ball down the ice with a golf-like swing.   Hard to imagine, huh?   

Today's New York Times reports...
VANCOUVER, British Columbia — It was a thrilling, nonstop celebration of hockey amid a festive atmosphere that felt like a holiday in Prague or Bratislava, and it provided a glimpse of why this Olympic tournament is expected to be the greatest in the history of the game.

In the Czech Republic’s 3-1 victory over their Slovak neighbors here on Wednesday night, the biggest, most fabulous star of the show was Jaromir Jagr, the former N.H.L. great and now the marquee name for the Russian K.H.L., who dazzled like he did in his youth even though he has just turned 38.

Jagr scored the go-ahead goal on a breakaway and set up the insurance goal. He swooped hawk-like across the ice, stole the puck and created constant goalmouth havoc on almost every shift.

He was terrific from the start of the game, even though he claimed that he was a little overwhelmed by the high level of competition.

“It was hard making the adjustment,” he said. “In the first period I felt like a soldier in Iraq. I didn’t know where the shots were coming from. It was tough, but I survived.”
Photo by Hans Deryk/Reuters
Jaromir Jagr of the Czech Republic scoring on goaltender Jaroslav Halak of Slovakia.

Happy Name Day, Gizela!

Today we honor Gizela.  Happy Name Day, Gizela!
Gizela is of Polish origin meaning "pledge"

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Happy Name Day, Miloslava!

Today we honor Miloslava.  Happy Name Day, Miloslava!
Miloslava comes from a Slavic expression meaning "Gracious glory"

"Cafe Tour"...Day Three...Café Montmartre

Another great cafe in Prague is Café Montmartre.  I stumbled upon it by accident, stayed for a while enjoying coffee, and found it so charming that I've been back over and over again.  It's not fancy by any means...actually quite the opposite, in fact.  Just a few chairs and tables strewn throughout, and old piano with fresh flowers atop, threadbare settees and an antique chandelier, but something about the cafe's aura filled me with delight.  You could feel the past here, and imagine what it was like years, years ago...
 Café Montmartre was founded in 1911 and is situated on a quiet street in a building called U třech divých (House at the Three Savages)...not far from the bustle of Charles Bridge.  It was once a gathering place for writers, such as Jaroslav Hašek, František Langer, the Longens, Eduard Bass, Franz Kafka, Franz Werfel, Max Brod, Johannes Urzidil, and Gustav Meyrink.  Artists were also amongst it's guests, and the frescos adorning the dancing room were painted by V. H. Brunner who chose the theme of the seven deadly sins. There's a room in the back of the cafe which is now great for quiet conversations or small gatherings, but it's said that it once housed an altar used for secret black masses.

A piece of history that I found to be interesting is that shortly after the café was founded, "the Prague bohemian crowd, which was fond of nicknames and diminutives, promptly changed its name to “Montík”, which can be interpreted as the “Monty”.  During the First World War, when France had become an enemy for the Czech lands, it was referred to as the Montwaltner, because of the name of its owner, Josef Waltner, who would fulfill the roles of landlord, owner, excellent dancer and lecturer." 

Like most other establishments in Prague during the days of communism, Café Montmartre, too, was closed.  When it finally reopened after a hiatus of more than 70 years, it was restored to reflect its past.  Old photos of the cafe hang on the walls and an original mural covers the entire arched ceiling.  Like I always say..."always look up!"

Retezova 7, Prague 1 (Old Town)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Happy Name Day, Ljuba!

Today we honor Ljuba.  Happy Name Day, Ljuba!
Ljuba is mostly used in the Slavic language and is derived from Slavonic origins.  Its meaning is "person who loves peace".

Monday, February 15, 2010

Happy Name Day, Jiřina!

Today we honor Jiřina.  Happy Name Day, Jiřina!
Jiřina is of Czech origin and the feminine form of Jiři (Czech form of George)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Name Day, Valentýn!

Today we honor Valentýn...appropriately so since today is also Valentine's Day.  Happy Name Day, Valentýn!
Valentýn is of Polish origin and a variant of Valentine, which is of Latin origin, meaning "strong, healthy".

St. Valentine receiving a rosary from the Virgin

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Happy Name Day, Věnceslav!

Today we honor Věnceslav.  Happy name Day, Věnceslav!
Věnceslav is of Slavic origin meaning "greater glory".  Věnceslav is also the Czech form of Wenceslas.  St. Wenceslas was a 10th-century duke of Bohemia who was murdered by his brother. He's the patron saint of the Czech Republic.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Valentine's Day wasn't always celebrated in the Czech Republic.  Before 1989, Valentine's Day was non-existent in then Czechoslovakia.  Even a mere decade ago it wasn't as popular as it is today, but alas, times have changed, and now you see signs of Valentine's Day everywhere you go.  Some Czechs still see it as a commercial holiday, used to urge people to spend more money, but others have embraced its spirit.  It's hard not to finally accept Valentine's Day when businesses have been pushing it to boost their revenue, but don't think the Czechs aren't romantic...

Czechs have their own version of Valentine's Day, and that day is May 1st...A Day for Lovers.  On the first of May, lovers are supposed to kiss under a blossoming cherry tree to ensure a year of good health and good luck.  Hmmm...I like the sound of this and think I'm going to bring A Day for Lovers to Brooklyn!  Imagine a kiss under all of those blossoming cherry trees at the Brooklyn Botantical Garden...or in DC when the blossoms are in full bloom.  I think we should all mark our calendars for May 1st, locate the nearest cherry Blossom, and kiss our beloved under a canopy of pink and white! 
Sorry, didn't mean to go off on a tangent, but it just sounds so romantic!  So, back to May 1st...there's another tradition associated with A Day for Lovers, and that is to meet at the statue of Karel Hynek Mácha.  Why?  Mácha was a Czech romantic poet, and today he stands on Petřín Hill.  Couples who kiss in front of his statue believe that their love will be as strong as the stone his statue is made from. 
Karel Hynek Mácha is best known for his lyrical epic poem, Máj (which is about May 1st and speaks of the tragic love of two young people).  Máj is "regarded as the classic work of Czech Romanticism, and is considered one of the best Czech poems ever written."  It's quite beautiful and you can read the translated version of it here

Friday, February 12, 2010

"Cafe Tour"...Day Two...Café Slavia

This stop on our "Cafe Tour" is the oldest cafe in Prague, and one that has the most significance to me because it's a cafe that my grandparents and parents frequented ever since they were youngins.  Whenever I visit we make sure to spend a leisurely afternoon here...sharing a palačinka (crepe) and a hot apple strudel accompanied by coffee or tea.  They have a special coffee that you must try!  We'll order one in just a bit... 

My mom and I enjoying a summer afternoon at Café Slavia

The cafe's location is wonderful sits on the corner of Smetanovo nábřeží and Národní, right across the street from the National Theatre and overlooking the Vltava River, with a splendid view of Prague Castle.  It's truly a great place to grab a table by the window and just watch the world go by. 
Café Slavia opened in 1881 (the same year that the National Theatre opened) and was always a meeting place for writers, artists, politicians, directors, actors and actresses.  The café closed in 1991 due to ownership issues, but reopened in 1997 after being restored to its 1930's Art Deco look.  It was always, and still is, one of those places where you might very well be sitting next to someone famous.  Probably the most famous guest is ex-president Václav Havel, who frequented the café during his dissident days.  Other famous guests include writer Franz Kafka, 1984 Nobel Prize Winner, Jaroslav Seifert, and composers Dvořák and Smetana.  

Piano music fills the air...

A painting that I fell in love with the moment I set eyes on it is entitled "Piják absintu", Absinthe Drinker, and hangs here in the cafe (you may have noticed it in the first photo above...hanging on the wall behind my mom and I)The artist is Viktor Oliva, and this is his most famous painting (believed to have been painted  sometime around 1903). He was born in Bohemia in 1861, studied art at the Prague Academy of Art, was intrigued by Paris and thus moved there for several years before returning home to Prague.  While in Paris, he discovered "the joy of absinthe".  Lucky for him, there was an absinthe drinking culture in Prague too!  History states that Oliva kept a diary, and in one of his entries he stated that he was was drinking absinthe at Café Slavia, thus we know that he frequented the cafe.  You may very well be sitting in the same spot he sat!

Viktor Oliva's painting of the green fairy brings us back to a time long , long ago...
There was another diary entry stating that he was out celebrating with a lady friend, drinking Champagne. He held up his glass, looked at his lady friend through it, and mused, "As I looked at her through my glass, and saw her beautiful form, it looked as if the Green Fairy herself was swimming inside. What a wonderful pairing that would be!"  Hmm, champagne and to try it with me?

So, are you ready for some apple strudel and my favorite coffee offering, Coffee Slavia?  Mmmm, coffee with absinthe topped with homemade whipped cream, delicious!!
Do you like it?

My love enjoyed it...

Café Slavia...Smetanovo nábřeží 2, Prague 1

Happy Name Day, Slavěna!

Today we honor Slavěna.  Happy Name Day, Slavěna!
Slavěna is of Slavic origin meaning "glory"

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Happy Name Day, Božena

Today we honor Božena.  Happy Name Day, Božena!
Božena is of Czech origin and means "happy"

One of my favorite Czech novels was written by a Božena...Božena Němcová.  She wrote Babička in's the stopry about a young girl named Barunka and her childhood with her grandmother in the countryside. The book was inspired by Němcová's own childhood in the village of Ratibořice, where she lived with her parents, siblings, and maternal grandmother.

"Cafe Tour"...Day One...The Imperial Cafe

I promised to take you on a "cafe tour" and today seems like a great day for it!  There are so many cafes in Prague to visit, but I'm going to take you to my favorite ones.  Are you ready?

I think we should start at Cafe Imperial for a few's a great place to start the day with coffee & a doughnut, and there's a fun story associated with this cafe too.  I'll give you a hint... it has to do with aforementioned doughnut.
Don't let the exterior of the building fool you (yeah I know, I see it too... it's old and dirty from trams and cars going by) but that just adds to its faded glory.  Once inside, it's simply gorgeous!

Cafe Imperial opened in 1914 and has always been thought of as one of the most beautiful cafes in Prague.  For many years, the cafe and hotel was famous and bustling with guests...until World War II.  Once the German soldiers declared it their own, Czechs stopped coming.  Understandably.  After the war, the hotel and cafe regained popularity, but operations ceased in the 1980s.  Then in 2005 through much of 2007, reconstruction took place to restore the cafe to its original beauty. 

Cafe Imperial brings back the grandeur of the turn of the century.  One has said that "to sit in the Cafe Imperial is to sit with the ghosts of the past", and that is why I am drawn to old establishments such as this one.  The interior is truly magnificent with millions of ceramic tiles covering the walls, pillars, and ceiling.
And what do I always say to make sure to do in Prague??  "Always look up!"
You may recognize the interior from the movie "The Illusionist" with Edward Norton as Eisenheim, the Illusionist.  The movie was "supposedly" set in Vienna, but was entirely filmed in the Czech Republic.  The movie was shot before the cafe was renovated though, so it may not be too familiar to you.
Are you ready to find out my little secret about this cafe?  Have you ever wanted to throw a doughnut, or a plate of doughnuts?  Yes, I said throw a doughnut.  At anyone.  In the entire cafe.  The waiter walking by?  Sure.  That businessman in the corner reading his newspaper?  Definitely.  Grandma sipping her tea?  Yes, but be gentle.  That kid having a childish screaming fit?  Hand me a doughnut won't you!
I'm not sure what the cost is now, but for 2,000 crowns ($60 American) you get the entire plate of stale doughnuts and can throw them at anyone you wish. The idea is based on a Czech novel, Saturnin, and the  theory of a Czech humorist - there are three categories of people:
1. those who would look at a bowl of doughnuts and think nothing;
2. those who dream of throwing them, and;
3. those who would actually do it
Which category do you fall into?

Cafe Imperial: Na Poříčí 15, 110 00 Prague 1

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A stroll around town...

So it's cloudy, maybe even rains a bit here & there.  It's still a glorious day for a stroll through the city!  I think tomorrow sounds like a good day for our "Cafe Tour", what do you think?  So for today, just stroll around town, take in the sights and smells, rest your feet in a hospoda for a bite or a pivovar for a brew, and remember, always look up!

This is one of my favorite photos.  I just adore all of the red roofs and the way the castle is lit up in the background.  Just puts my soul at ease and fills me with love for this magical city...

Happy Name Day, Mojmír!

Today we honor Mojmír.  Happy Name Day, Mojmír!
Mojmír is of Czech origin and means "My Peace".  Mojmír is a special name to me because my grandfather's older brother's name is Mojmír.  He has since passed, but will be forever in our hearts.  Here's to you, Mojmír, we love you!

Here's a photo of my grandfather, Zdenek (I call him DinDin), seated in the middle with his eldest brother, Vlada, to his right and Mojmír on his left.  My great-grandparents are Bohdan and Maxa Kříž

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Happy Name Day, Apolena!

Today we honor Apolena.  Happy Name Day, Apolena!
Apolena is the Czech and Slovak form of Apollonia, which is the feminine form of Apollonios.  This was the name of an early saint and martyr.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Perhaps not such a secret anymore, but definitely a hidden gem!

An absolutely breathtaking hotel is located directly in Old Town Square, and that hotel is called U Prince (At the Prince).  Although I highly recommend the hotel for it's location, rooms, and service, it's the rooftop cafe that I call a "hidden gem".  I'll tell you a little about the history of this building, and then it's to the rooftop we shall go!  Before I even begin, I have only one word to describe the rooms at U Prince...gorgeous!!  They all ooze of dark rich wood, parquet floors, walls & ceiling with original detailing, and oversized antique furniture that looks as though it belongs in a palace. 

U Prince is the 3rd building in ...the one with the flowerboxes in all of the windows

The hotel also offers a few restaurants (one on the main floor and one subterranean), and if you really want to feel like nobility, there are 2 private rooms, The Knights' Salon and the Royal Salon, where you're surrounded in medieval glory!

It's easy to feel like a king or queen in this building from the 12th century, which was at one time a "showpiece house".  Even though it has been reconstructed, the building still has old stone portals and Gothic wells.  In the 15th and 16th century, a pharmacy was located in this building, and in the mid-19th century the ground floor was a bookstore.  It wasn't until the 20th century that a restaurant and bar opened its door at this location.

The building's Baroque-style facade is from the first half of the 18th century.  There's a sculpture of St. Florian on the corner of the building, which is the emblem of the hotel.  St. Florian is the Patron Saint of firefighters and the protector of those in Danger of Fire and Flood.  Legend has it that Florian was a General in the Roman Army and that he "saved an entire village from flames by dousing it with a single bucket of water."

Now that you know a little bit about the building, let's walk through the foyer to the glass elevator in the rear...up, up, up we go!  Now just follow me right through this door to a set of stairs connecting us to another part of the building (yes, we're outside in a courtyard so-to-speak).  Now follow me through the cafe (coffee smells good doesn't it?), one more door and we have arrived at the rooftop terrace!
Beautiful view isn't it?

Prague castle stands proud in the background...

Old Town Square
The Clock Tower

As evening rolls around...
The city alights in a magical glow

Waiting for Orloj to strike the hour

View of Malé náměsti (Little Square)

Prague, my love, with my love...