Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Ugly Wednesday

Czechs have specific names for the days leading up to Easter and today is Ugly Wednesday.  It's possible that Wednesday is called Ugly (Škaredá streda) because it's traditionally spring cleaning day, which included sweeping the chimney - and it all had to get done in one day! Another reason might be that it was the day Judas betrayed Jesus.

Easter Markets in Prague

One of my favorite things to do around Easter is to stroll through the Prague Easter markets, which will be up through April 11th in Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square.  There are over one hundred stalls selling everything from wooden toys, Czech crystal, jewelery, candles, marionettes, etc.  But the stall that I'll be headed for is the one selling hand-blown & hand-painted eggs (kraslice), for Easter just isn't complete without them!  These eggs are the most recognizable symbol of Czech Easter.  Girls decorate eggs to give them to boys on Easter Monday (not a typo... we celebrate Easter on Monday). 

Happy Name Day, Kvido!

Today we honor Kvido.  Všechno nejlepší k svátku! (All the best for your name day!)
Kvido is often used in Czech, but its source is Witu, an Ancient Germanic name meaning "wood."

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Prague Symphony Orchestra's Easter Festival

Remember when we went to Obecni Dum and I told you that there are several concerts held there?  Well here's one you may not want to miss.  On March 31st and April 1st head on over to Smetana Hall for the Prague Symphony Orchestra's Easter performance, which will include Dvořák's stirring Stabat Mater.  Joining the Prague Symphony Orchestra will be Petr Altrichter at the podium, and four very good soloists: Marie Fajtová, Jana Wallingerová, Michal Lehotský and Peter Mikuláš.  The orchestra will be back for the only other set of Easter concerts at Obecní dům on April 8th and April 9th, which will feature two Czech superstars, conductor Jiří Bělohlávek and mezzo-soprano Dagmar Pecková, headlining a heavy-duty triple bill of Mahler, Zemlinsky and Foerster.  Pecková will be singing Zemlinsky's Six Songs, composed to texts by the Belgian poet Maurice Maeterlinck, and the Foerster piece is his Symphony No. 4, subtitled Easter Night, a hymn-like celebration of the holiday.

Smetana Hall

For an entre calendar of the Prague Easter Festival, visit the Prague Symphony Orchestra's website at

Happy Name Day, Arnošt!

Today we honor Arnošt. Všechno nejlepší k svátku! (All the best on your name day!)
Arnošt is of Czech origin meaning "determined' stubborn"

Monday, March 29, 2010

Happy Name Day, Taťána!

Today we honor Taťána.  Všechno nejlepší k svátku! (All the best on your name day, Taťána!)

Taťána is the Czech variation of Tatania, which is of Russian and Latin origin.  Tatiana is the feminine form of Tatius, a Roman family clan name. A king by this name was said to have reigned over the Sabines and the Romans with the legendary Romulus.

A more popular name, Tanya, is the short form of Tatiana.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Happy Name Day, Soňa!

Today we honor Soňa.  Happy Name Day, Soňa!
Soňa is the Czech variation of Sonia, which is of English origin and a variant of Sophia (Greek), meaning "wisdom".

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Happy Name Day, Dita!

Today we honor Dita.  Happy Name Day, Dita!
The name Dita is of Spanish and Old English origin, and its meaning is "strife for wealth".

Friday, March 26, 2010

Sunshine makes everyone happy

This is what I love to see... sunshine and people without coats.  Hellllllloooo Spring!!!!

Happy Name Day, Emanuel!

Today we honor Emanuel.  Happy Name Day, Emanuel!
The boy's name Emanuel is a variant of Emmanuel (Hebrew), and the meaning of Emanuel is "God is with us".

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Happy Name Day, Marián!

Today we honor Marián.  Happy Name Day, Marián!
The name Marián is of French origin.  It is a blend of Mary (Latin), meaning "star of the sea", and Ann (Hebrew), meaning "grace".

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mmmm... Chlebicky!

Don't try to pronounce Chlebicky, just eat them!  Eat lots and lots of them...
Chlebicky are far better than American sandwiches and if you don't believe me, try them for yourself!  Whenever we Czechs have a party, or even if someone just stops by our home, we're bound to have chlebicky.  But today let's go to one of my absolute favorite places to get chlebicky...Zlatý kříž in Prague.  Get there early though before the lunch crowd comes in and leaves you without chlebicky!!  I once went at 3 p.m....big mistake.  I don't know what makes the chlebicky at Zlatý kříž so good, but they really are the best in Prague.  They're just so fresh and the variety is phenomenal. 

You can make your very own chlebicky at home (I do...often!).  Some of my favorite are roast beef with this creamy horseradish spread and a sprig of parsley; the traditional potato salad & ham with a slice of hard-boiled egg and a sliver of pickle; and the sardine spread.  Mmmm yummy!  Experiment with your favorite toppings and enjoy!

By the way, Kříž is my last name...but no, we don't own the joint...sigh

Address:  Jungmannovo náměstí 19
Prague 1 110 00

Happy Name Day, Gabriel!

Today we honor, Gabriel.  Happy Name Day, Gabriel!
Gabriel is of Hebrew origin, and its meaning is "God's able-bodied one; hero of God".

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Happy Name Day, Ivona!

Today we honor Ivona.  Happy Name Day, Ivona!
Ivona is of French origin, meaning "yew".

Monday, March 22, 2010

Happy Name Day, Leona!

Today we honor Leona.  Happy Name Day, Leona!
Leona is of Latin origin, and its meaning is "lion".

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Happy Name Day, Radek!

Today we honor Radek.  Happy Name Day, Radek!
The boy's name Radek is of Slavic origin and a variant of Roderick (Old German).  Radek means "famous ruler".

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Spring is in the air...finally!!!

Ah, we've patiently awaited your arrival!  Prague in the springtime is simply beautiful..I've waited a long time to see window boxes filled with flowers!

And fields abloom...

There's nothing quite like the smell of laundry dried in the fresh spring air...

Sammi is as happy for spring to be here as I am...

Today we honor Světlana. Happy Name Day, Světlana!

Today we honor Světlana.  Happy Name Day, Světlana!
Světlana is of Russian and Slavic origin, and its meaning is "light".

Friday, March 19, 2010

Happy Name Day, Josef!

Today we honor Josef.  Happy Name Day, Josef!
Josef is a variant of Joseph, which is of Hebrew origin.  The meaning of Josef is "Jehovah increases".

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Happy Name Day, Eduard!

Today we honor Eduard.  Happy Name Day, Eduard!
Eduard is the Czech variation of Edward, which is of Old English origin meaning "wealthy guard".

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy Name Day, Vlastimil!

Today we honor Vlastimil.  Happy Name Day, Vlastimil!
Vlastimil is derived from the Slavic elements vlast "homeland" and mil "gracious, dear".

Green beer in Prague? You bet!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!
Someone just asked me, "Do you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Prague?"  You bet your shamrock we do!  Perhaps it's our shared Celtic history or the mere fact that we share a love of pubs and, no surprise here, beer!  (statistics show that the Irish consume the second largest amount of beer per capita after the Czechs). 

Before we head out to down a few green beers, let's not forget that St. Patrick's Day is not just a day for festivities, but a day to honor St. Patrick, the most commonly recognized patron saint of Ireland.  After nearly thirty years of teaching and spreading God's Word, St. Patrick died on March 17th, 461 AD, and was buried at Downpatrick, so tradition says.

We could have been drinking blue beer...
Originally, the color associated with St. Patrick was blue. However, over the years it changed to ribbons and shamrocks were worn in celebration of St. Patrick's Day as early as the 17th century.  St. Patrick is said to have used the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity to the pre-Christian Irish, thus the wearing and display of shamrocks and shamrock-inspired designs has become a staple feature of the day.

Thirsty yet? 
A few places to enjoy a green pilsner or a Guiness:

Molly Malone's U obecního dvora 794/4
Dubliner Irish Bar, Tyn 1, Old Town, Prague 1
Rocky O’Reilly’s Štěpanská 32
O’Che’s Liliova 14
J.J. Murphy’s Tržiště 4
Flannagan’s (The Shamrock) Vaclavske nam. 52
Caffrey’s Staromestke nam. 10

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

"Rare Egyptian tortoise hatches in Prague Zoo"

An article in the Prague Daily Monitor today caught my eye...simply because this little fella is just so adorable!

The article states...

Prague, March 15 (CTK) - A young Egyptian tortoise, one of the world's most endangered species, hatched in the Prague zoo this weekend, measuring 2.5 cm and weighing 5.5 grammes, the keepers have told journalists.

The "closely watched" egg spent 81 days in an incubator. This species ranks among the most vulnerable in terms of breeding, the keepers said.

The Egyptian tortoise is a small terrestrial tortoise living along the Mediterranean coast. It is on the brink of extinction as its habitats have been devastated and the rest of its population is threatened with poachers and local inhabitants, zoo spokeswoman Jana Ptacinska Jiratova said.

Only about 4,700 specimen survive in the wild, she added.

The Prague zoo's 15 Egyptian tortoises, including the fresh arrival, are part of a new European salvation programme.

Ten of them arrived in Prague last December. Originally they were part of a consignment of 400 tortoises that were smuggled from Libya and confiscated by Italian authorities.

Happy Name Day, Elena & Herbert!

Today we honor Elena & Herbert.  Happy Name Day, Elena & Herbert!
Elena is of Greek origin, and its meaning is "sun ray, shining light".

Herbert is of Old German origin, and its meaning is "illustrious warrior".

Monday, March 15, 2010

Happy Name Day, Ida!

Today we honor Ida.  Happy Name Day, Ida!
Ida is of Old German and Greek origin, and its meaning is "hardworking".

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Happy Name Day, Rút & Matylda!

Today we honor Rút/Matylda.  Happy Name Day, Rút & Matylda!

Rút is the Czech variant of Ruth, which is of Hebrew origin, and its meaning is "friend, companion".

Matylda is the Czech variant of Matilda, which is from the Germanic name Mahthildis meaning "strength in battle".  The name was brought to England by the Normans and was popular until the 15th century in England, usually in the vernacular form Maud.  Both forms were revived by the 19th century.  This name appears in the popular Australian folk song 'Waltzing Matilda', written in 1895.


Saturday, March 13, 2010

Happy Name Day, Růžena!

Today we honor Růžena.  Happy Name Day, Růžena!
Růžena is the Czech variant of Rose, which is of Latin origin meaning "rose"

Friday, March 12, 2010

Prohibited Love

There are many legends assoicated with Prague, and I'll tell you about them as we visit certain places, but did you know there are also many legends and stories associated with castles?  Since we just visited Konopiště, let me tell you a true romantic story...

The destiny of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his beautiful wife Žofie Chotková (Sophie von Chotkovato) is tightly bound to the history of Konopiště palace. Although they were a happy couple and were living in a happy and maybe even romantic marriage, their journey towards the marriage was not an easy one and resembles more a romantic novel than a real story.
Franz Ferdinant was a nephew of the emperor Franz Joseph and thus he was one of the most important men in the empire.  On the other hand, Sophie was a daughter of an Austrian diplomat and a countess, and although her family tree was as rich as the one of the Hapsburg family, her family was not very wealthy and even they could not cope with the influence of the Hapsburg house. 
(To be an eligible partner for a member of the Austro-Hungarian royal family, you had to be descended from the House of Hapsburg or from one of the ruling dynasties of Europe.)

Franz had first met Sophie at a dance in Prague in 1888.  It is no wonder that a young archduke was charmed by Sophie.  She was a very beautiful, slim, darkhaired and brown-eyed young lady with very aristocratic manners.  What is more, she was educated, she loved reading, and was very entertaining. Franz and Sophie were secretly dating and then they fell into a deep love.
They both realized that a marriage would be very problematic, because according to social habits, Sophie was not an appropriate wife for Franz Ferdinand.  Both lovers knew this very well and the archduke once wrote: "When today´s young people love someone, there will always be some small details found in the family tree of the beloved person, that would prohibit the marriage.  This leads to the fact, that a husband and wife in our house are actually relatives twenty times.  The result is that half of the children are stupid or idiotic."
The revelation of their secret relationship was a bit of coincidence, when Franz, in one of the quarrels, lost his nerves and yelled, "Žofie will be my wife!"  Franz could not hide their relationship but he needed all his spiritual strength to tell it to the emperor and ask him for the marriage allowance.  He was correct when he thought that the emperor would consider the marriage as a treason of the future throne successor.

Anyway, he wanted to marry Sophie at all cost – he was even willing to refuse the throne succession!  The emperor gave him one year to reconsider his decision and if it would remain unchanged, he would agree.  The emperor thought that it is only a passionate, short-term love.  However, time did not weaken the strength of their secret love. 

In 1899 Emperor Franz Josef agreed a deal with Franz Ferdinand.  He was allowed to marry Sophie but it was stipulated that her descendants would not be allowed to succeed to the throne. It was also pointed out that Sophie would not be allowed to accompany her husband in the royal carriage nor could she sit by his side in the royal box.

The beloved couple married in 1900. Franz arrived in uniform and Sophie in a white atlas dress.
Sadly, Franz Josef did not attend the wedding. Nor did his brothers or their families. The only people of the royal family who went to the ceremony was Franz Ferdinand's stepmother, Maria Theresa, and her two daughters.

Over the next few years the couple had three children:  Sophie (1901), Maximilian (1902) and Ernst (1904).
Although people expected that they would not be very happy, the opposite became the truth.  They both loved each other deeply and were very happy, until they both died in the fatal assassination.
With children Sophie & Maximilian, 1904

Kazimir & Lady Máša

Remember these two bears from our trip to Konopiště the other day?  Alas, I remembered their names!  One of them is named Kazimír and is from Poland, and the other is a slovakian lady named Máša (unfortunately, I don't know which is which)

Happy Name Day, Řehoř!

Today we honor Řehoř.  Happy Name Day, Řehoř!
Řehoř is the Czech form of Gregorius (Latin) meaning "to awaken"

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Happy Name Day, Anděla!

Today we honor Anděla.  Happy Name Day, Anděla!
Anděla is the Czech form of Angela, which is of Greek origin meaning "messenger; messenger of God".

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Czech Republic is a castle lover's (ahem...that's me) dream!

By now you know that I love all things historic and charming, so it only makes sense that I would love old residences.  I simply adore an old cottage and abandoned buildings intrigue me, but this time I'm thinking on a much, much grander scale.  I'm thinking majestic castles, captivating chateaux, and elaborate palaces.  I can even find charm in ruins and keeps.  And did you know that there are over 2,000 castles, castle ruins, and chateaux in the Czech Republic?  Yes indeed!  According to the Guinness book of World Records, the Czech Republic has the most castles per square mile of any major country in the World (Liechtenstein has more per square mile, but it’s only 62 square miles vs the Czech Republic's 49,007 square miles.)  So that being said, shall we embark on a quest to visit as many, if not all, of these fascinating structures?  I think we shall...

An Emperor's Residence...Konopiště Chateau

Konopiště was the last residence of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir of the Austro-Hungarian throne.  Sadly, he was assassinated along with his Czech wife, Sophie Chotek, in 1914.  His assassination triggered the start of World War I.  The bullet that killed him, fired by Gavrilo Princip, is now an exhibit at the castle's museum. 

Konopiště was initially constructed as a Gothic fortification in the 13th century.  With his inheritance, Franz  bought Konopiště in 1887 and transformed it into a luxurious residence, which he preferred to his official residence in Vienna.  Since 1921, the castle has been property of the Czechoslovak and later Czech state.  The Ministry of Culture is said to spend more than $800,000 USD per year to maintain the castle, but  recovers about as much from entrance ticket sales, tour sales, and rentals (weddings and the like...I wouldn't mind having a fairty tale wedding here would you?)

I strongly recommmend touring the interior of the castle.  Franz Ferdinand was an enthusiastic hunter, as you'll see in the hallway lined with antlers and stuffed trophies.  My favorite rooms are always the bedrooms, sitting rooms, bathrooms, and the dining hall...I like to take myself back and envision life as it once was.  Perhaps I was a princess or duchess in a previous life!  

Konopiště is a castle dear to my heart because it's very near my parent's home, thus I visit it often.  There's something calming about strolling around the property in wintertime and hearing the crunch of snow underfoot.  Let's take a stroll...

Spring is wonderful though for all is abloom...
There are a few ways to get from the parking lot to the castle, and one of the best is via horse-drawn carriage.  It's not that I'm being lazy, not at all!  Remember how I said that I like to envision life as it once was?  Well, I like to pretend that I'm on my way home from market and, well, this was the mode of transportation in those days.

Now you don't have to take a horse-drawn carriage.  There is a trolley available, or you can simply walk along the road leading up to the castle.  Along the way you'll pass what I call the Hansel & Gretel gingerbread house.  It doesn't exactly resemble the house in the storybook, but there's just something fairy tale-like about it...
Another great way to reach the castle is along a path through the woods, but watch out for bears...
(just kidding!)

The only bears you'll find are these fellas at the entrance to the castle (just like medieval times)...

Shall we take a tour? 
Remember I told you that Franz liked to hunt?  Well, if this isn't a testament to that then I don't know what is!  He reportedly bagged some 300,000 animals (think of it this way... 20 animals a day, every day, for 40 years).  Only 1% of his total hunting collection is on display, and it still ranks as one of Europe's largest collections.  I'm not a proponent of hunting though.

The Main Hall

I have taken all of the tours available, and highly recommend Tour One for the first-time visitor.  Tour three is fantastic for me though because I get to see more of Franz's "private" rooms, such as the bedroom (ie, the "girly" rooms to some)'re not allowed to take photos inside, but due to my ability to hide a camera and still get a pretty decent shot (even though I'm aiming from the hip), you get to see some great photos.

What do I always remind you to do???  That's right, always look up!
Follow me into the courtyard...

And out onto the beautiful terrace..
I can see why this castle is rented for weddings...

Here's my beautiful mom in the garden amongst a circle of sandstone statues of classical gods...

Here's a very interesting statue ...
...with the face of both a man and a woman

No castle grounds are complete without...

Can you spot the peacock?

Address:  256 01 Benesov