Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Happy Name Day, Petr! Všechno nejlepší k svátku!

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

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Happy name Day, Jiřina! Všechno nejlepší k svátku!

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

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day! Šťastný Valentýna!

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 http://www.lupomesky.cz/maj/may.html

Happy Name Day, Valentýn! Všechno nejlepší k svátku!

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

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Happy Name Day, Věnceslav! Všechno nejlepší k svátku!

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.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Happy Name Day, Slavěna! Všechno nejlepší k svátku!

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

Friday, February 11, 2011

Happy Name Day, Božena! Všechno nejlepší k svátku!

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 1855...it'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.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

"Coffee, the finest organic suspension ever devised" - Star Trek: Voyager

GASP!!!  How did I not know that a coffee museum exists in Prague?  I.  Love.  Coffee.  Coffee runs through my veins.  That being said, this place is heavenly to me...

The private Coffee Museum Alchymista is a hidden gem tucked away in a Prague suburb.  Hidden in the shadows of Sparta Prague's Letná Stadium, it's a place that I would be sad to not have discovered, for it traces the often surprising history of my dear friend, coffee.  

As if I didn't love this place already, the museum's current owner, Kateřina Ebelová, brought some of her own family history and collection of coffee paraphernalia to the exhibit.  One of her ancestors was the founder of a company that prepared chicory coffee in the central Czech town of Čáslav at the start of the 1870's before moving on to the production of mustard in the nearby city of Kutná Hora.  

And as if the museum itself wasn't enough to make me giggle like a schoolgirl, the award-winning adjoining café Cukrárna Alchymista ("The Alchemist") is a retro sweetshop, tea room and café.  

Did you know that the first coffee house in Prague is believed to have been set up by a Turk and in its earliest days in Europe the drink was castigated as an unchristian, devilish drink?  Well this is how I feel about it being devilish...

Coffee was also regarded as more of a medicinal treatment than refreshment with coffee being originally sold from pharmacies as a drug.  The museum reflects some of that history and you can view beautiful pharmaceutical jars that date from around 1890.

An old coffee roaster

One of the museum's prize exhibits is of a very rare coffee that can only be described as animal-flavored coffee droppings (I must truly love coffee because I need to try this!).  In fact, it is the undigested coffee bean rich droppings of the catlike Asian Palm Civet, sometimes known as the Sumatran civet, with the resulting coffee known as Kopi Luwak.  Kateřina Ebelová states, "This excrement from the Palm Civet, known as Kopi Luwak, is from Bali where I was last year in the summer.  One kilogram of this selected coffee costs about 1,000 dollars and one cup of coffee in a good hotel is between 500 and 600 crowns."  That is between $28-$33 for a cup of coffee!

Asian Palm Civet

The museum and café are open daily between 11 am and 6 pm.  A garden is open during the summer.  For additional information about the museum, please visit www.museumkavy.cz and for information about the café, www.alchymista.cz

Happy Name Day, Mojmír! Všechno nejlepší k svátku!

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

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Happy Name Day, Apolena! Všechno nejlepší k svátku!

Today we honor Apolena.  Happy Name Day, Apolena!
The name Apolena is a variant of Apollonia, which is of Greek origin and the feminine form of Apollonios.  Apollonios is from an ancient name that was derived from the name of the Greek god, Apollo.  Apollo was the Greek god of sunlight, music and poetry.  Saint Apollonia was an elderly 3rd-century Christian martyr.  In art, she is often portrayed with a pair of tongs and an outsized molar.

St. Apollonia

According to legend, her torture included having all of her teeth violently pulled out or shattered.  For this reason, she is popularly regarded as the patroness of dentistry and those suffering from toothache or other dental problems.

Friday, February 4, 2011

A world of dreams and fantasy where time is suspended

Once Upon A Time...

In ancient Prague, 
Somewhere in a magnificent baroque palace...

A dreamy carnivale night,
Full of fantasy, music, delicious food and joy...

A shine of twinkling lights,
In the middle of dazzling costumes,
Floating in sounds of baroque melodies...

The great dancers, music masters, charming primadonnas,
Amazing saltimbanques and actors of Emperor's Court,
Will be your noble society
on the mysterious carnevale...

Dear Madame & Monsier,
You are cordially invited to attend an exclusive event inspired by the magical tradition of Prague bohemian carnivals.  This unique, prestigious ball is an elegant and graceful interpretation of the magnificent 18th century...a time when beauty and elegance were an integral part of our lives.

Two-hundred exclusive guests will be enchanted by the fantastic atmosphere of the gorgeous baroque Clam-Gallas Palace on Prague's King Road, which brings you into a world of dreams and fantasy where time is suspended.

To purchase tickets and for additional information, please visit:
**A historical costume is required**

 Clam-Gallas Palace
This Baroque pearl, one of the most beautiful palaces in Prague, is situated in Old Town on Husova Street.  It was built by Italian architect Domenico Carnevale in 1713, and is a place where splendid balls and concerts took place in the 18th century, attended by both Mozart and Beethoven.

Happy Name Day, Jarmila! Všechno nejlepší k svátku!

Today we honor Jarmila.  Happy Name Day, Jarmila!
The name Jarmila is Czech and is the feminine form of Jarmil, which is derived from the Slavic elements jary "fierce, strong" and mil "gracious, dear".

Happy Belated Name Day, Blažej! Všechno nejlepší k svátku!

Yesterday we honored Blažej.  Happy Belated Name Day, Blažej!
The name Blažej is used mainly in Czech and Polish.  Its origin is Latin and it's a variant of Blaise (English and French).   Blažej means "lisping, stammering".

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Romance is a Ball

You've heard me say it time and time again...Prague is a magical place.  And although most of us prefer spring to the biting cold of winter, there's something very enchanting about the city when it's coated with a fresh dusting of snow and filled with the scent of fireplaces burning.  Darkness sets in early, but the street lamps cast a warm glow over the historic buildings and cobblestoned roads...lighting the way for horse-drawn carriages carrying ladies and gentleman dressed in gowns and tuxedos.  Where are they off to dressed so divinely?  To the Ball, of course!

'Tis Ball Season in Prague, and January through March is when most of the balls talk place.  

The Ball Season brightens up the dark winter nights at Prague's grandest venues, including Lucerna Palace's Marble Hall, Žofín, and Národní dům na Vinohradech. 

Žofín Palace
The famous composers, Antonín Dvořák and Bedřich Smetana took their turns on the dance floor here

Lucerna Palace's Marble Hall
Lucerna was Prague's first multipurpose complex from the beginning of the 20th century - it is one of the best known of Prague's cultural "palaces"

Národní dům na Vinohradech (National House of Vinohrady)

Majakovsky Hall
The biggest and most spectacular historic hall in the National House of Vinohrady, named by Russian poet Vladimir V. Majakovsky

Shall we waltz?

Happy Name Day, Nela! Všechno nejlepší k svátku!

Today we honor Nela.  Happy Name Day, Nela!
The name Nela is a variant of Cornelia, which is of Latin origin, and Nelia.  The meaning of Nela is "horn".

Where or where have I been?

A brief hiatus, but now I'm back and can't wait to share so much more of Prague with you!