Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Happy Name Day, Zina! Všechno nejlepší k svátku!

Today we honor Zina.  Happy Name Day, Zina!
The name Zina is a variant of Xenia, which is of Greek origin and means "quest, stranger".

Monday, November 28, 2011

Happy Name Day, René! Všechno nejlepší k svátku!

Today we honor René.  Happy name day, René!
The name René is the short form of Irene, which is of Greek origin and means "peace".  It is also used as an independent name, mainly since the early 20th-century.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Happy Name Day, Xenie! Všechno nejlepší k svátku!

Today we honor Xenie.  Happy name day, Xenie!
The name Xenie is the Czech form of Xenia (ZAYN-yah), which is of Greek origin and means "guest, stranger".  The New Zealand production of the TV series "Xena:  Warrior Princess" has brought attention to Xena (ZEE-nah) as a girl's name.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

'Tis the Season for Svatý Mikuláš

'Tis the season!

For those of you in NYC and the surrounding area, the Czech Center of NY will be hosting a party for children.  Get in touch with your roots or experience a Czech tradition by coming out and celebrating St. Nicholas Day!

There will be caroling, films being shown, treats, and St. Nicholas himself will be present, along with the Devil and Angel.  

Date:  Sunday, December 4
3-5 pm

Location:  371 East 73rd Street, New York, NY 10021

From the NY Czech Center's website:

Saint Nicholas Day
The charming tradition of St. Nicholas falls on the Eve of St. Nicholas Day, December 5th. It is the most popular Advent holiday celebrated in the Czech Republic. It is a special time when children receive sweets and small gifts.

On December 5th, the Eve of St. Nicholas Day, a group of three figures visit families with children: St. Nicholas, the Devil and an Angel.

Traditionally, St. Nicholas quizzed children on the prayer-book and the Bible. Today, however, the questions are mostly about the previous year's behavior. The Angel writes a record for each child in a large book and the children sing or say a poem to the saint. The Devil rattles his chains, threatening to put bad children in the sack and take them to Hell, but the Angel, with a gold star on her forehead and dressed in a white gown, protects the children. Good children receive stockings filled with tangerines, nuts, chocolates and small gifts. It is said that bad children get old potatoes or coal in theirs.

The St. Nicholas tradition is supposedly based on a 4th century Greek bishop named Nicholas who is said to have left a gift of money on the windowsill of three poor girls to enable them to get married.

This tradition is still very popular. You can see the threesome in towns and villages all over the Czech Republic, and the tradition is still quite important, whether it’s a family affair in a village or an organized event, with activities for parents too, in one of the bigger towns.

 For info visit NY Czech Center 

Happy Name Day, Artur! Všechno nejlepší k svátku!

Today we honor Artur.  Happy name day, Artur!
The name Artur is the Czech form of Arthur, which is of Celtic origin.

King Arthur of Britain (6th-century) and his Round Table of Knights have become legendary figures.  His name was first found in the Latin form Artorius, which is of obscure origin.  Other possible sources include "artos", the Celtic word for "bear"; an Irish Gaelic word meaning "stone"; Arnthor, an Old German name meaning "Thor, the eagle".  The name was often used in the Middle Ages, and was uncommon until the early 19th-century when Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, vanquished Napoleon.  

King Arthur presides at the Round Table with all of his knights

King Arthur

Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington

Some other famous Arthurs include:

Playwright Arthur Miller

Tennis great Arthur Ashe

And who can forget the lovable ardvark
File:Arthurtv logo.png

Friday, November 25, 2011

Happy Name Day, Kateřina! Všechno nejlepší k svátku!

Today we honor Kateřina.  Happy name day, Kateřina!
The name Kateřina is the Czech form of Katherine, which is of Greek origin and means "pure".  It's a name that has been used since at least the third century AD.  The early Latin forms Katerina and Caterina became Katherine and Catherine.  

It has been borne by illustrious women such as Saint Catherine of Alexandria, an early martyr; Empress Catherine the Great of Russia; and three of Henry VIII's wives.  

St. Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr whose feast day is today, Nov. 25th.  She is the patroness of philosophers and preachers

Empress Catherine the Great of Russia

Catherine of Aragon (Dec. 16, 1485 - Jan. 7, 1536)
Also known as Katherine or Katharine, she was the Queen of England as the first wife of Henry VIII

Catherine Howard was Henry VIII's fifth wife (1540-1542).  She was sometimes known as "the rose without a thorn".  Henry was informed of her alleged adultery on Nov. 1, 1541, thus she was deprived the title of Queen and was beheaded at the Tower of London.

Catherine Parr (about 1512 - Sept. 7, 1548)
She was the 6th and last wife of Henry VIII (1543-1547).  Catherine also has a special place in history as she was the most married queen of England, having had four husbands in all...Henry was her third spouse.  She married again after his death. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Name Day, Emílie! Všechno nejlepší k svátku!

Today we honor Emílie.  Happy name day, Emílie!
The name Emílie is a variant of Emily, which is of Latin origin and means "rival; laborious; eager".

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Name Day, Klement! Všechno nejlepší k svátku!

Today we honor Klement.  Happy name day, Klement!
The name Klement is the Czech form of Clement, which is of Latin origin and means "merciful".

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tuesday's House Insignia of the Day...Where am I?

Happy Name Day, Cecilie! Všechno nejlepší k svátku!

Today we honor Cecílie.  Happy name day, Cecílie!
The name Cecílie is the Czech form of Cecilia, which is of Latin origin and means "blind".

Saint Cecilia was a semi-legendary 2nd- or 3rd-century martyr who was sentenced to die because she refused to worship the Roman gods.  After attempts to suffocate her failed, she was beheaded.  She was later regarded as the patron saint of music and musicians.  Today is her feast day.

St. Cecilia

The name was introduced by the Normans into England, often in the form of Cecily, as borne by one of the daughters of William the Conqueror.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Wednesday's House Insignia of the Day Revealed...U bílého jelinka (The White Deer)

At the White Deer (U bílého jelinka)

There is no excuse for me revealing this one almost a week later...let's just leave it at that.  I also don't know very much about the history of The White Deer - anyone??

I can tell you that the building houses a restaurant called Restaurant Michal and that the building is pretty unique in that it says U bílého jelinka above the figure of a white deer.  The street it's situated on is very charming, too.  Take a look and walk around here

Location:  Náprstkova 8, Praha 1, Staré Město (Old Town)

Happy Name Day, Albert! Všechno nejlepší k svátku!

Today we honor Albert.  Happy name day, Albert!
The name Albert is of Old German origin and means "noble, bright, famous".

The name was revived in the 19th-century, mainly in honor of Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, husband of Queen Victoria, who was noted for his enthusiastic support of the application of science to the modern industrial age.  Queen Victoria's many children and grandchildren carried the name to most of the royal families in Europe, but her eldest son's first move as king was to drop it.

Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha

The name Albert was also made famous by Albert Einstein who devised the theory of relativity as a young man.

Albert Einstein

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Happy Birthday to my brother

Today is my brother's birthday so let's all wish him a very Happy Birthday!!!!  

As kids we lived together...we fought, we laughed, we cried,
We did not always show the love that we both had inside.
We shared our dreams and plans, and some secrets too,
All the memories we share is what bonds me now to you.
We grew to find we have a love that is very strong today,
It's a love shared by our family, and will never fade away.
I love you, George. 
So many wonderful memories...

Days with Babi & DinDin...

I highly doubt we were taking out the trash...more like using them as a drum set!

Toys-r-Us trips...

Summers in Maine...we were water babies even then!

Yep, beach babies!

Cheers to forever remaining beach babies!  Happy Birthday little brother...I love you

Happy Name Day, Nikola! Všechno nejlepší k svátku!

Today we honor Nikola.  Happy name nay, Nikola!
The name Nikola is a variant of Nicola and Nicole, both of Greek origin.  The meaning of Nikola is "people of victory".

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Happy Name Day, Alžběta! Všechno nejlepší k svátku!

Today we honor Alžběta.  Happy name day, Alžběta!
The name Alžběta is the Slovak version of Elizabeth, which is of Hebrew origin and means "God's promise; God is my oath".

Elizabeth has been a popular name since the 16th-century reign of Queen Elizabeth I of England.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Happy Name Day, Romana! Všechno nejlepší k svátku!

Today we honor Romana.  Happy name day, Romana!
The name Romana has its origins in the Latin language.  It is used mainly in Czech, German, Italian, Romanian, and Slavic.  The meaning of Romana is "woman from Rome", and it is derived from the word romanus, which means "citizen of Rome".  Romana is the feminine form of the name Roman.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thursday's House Insignia of the Day...Where am I?

Tuesday's House Insignia of the Day Revealed - The Vořechovský Family

The Vořechovský Family ( U Vořechovských)

I can't help but think of football when I see this insignia...for some reason I'm reminded of a player holding a football and going in for a pass.  Anyway, that's not what this insignia represents - a football player does not reside here!  

This house insignia is of a hand holding a nut, signifying that a family by the last name Vořechovský resided here.  Alas, the insignia is more than a century older and prior to this home being known as U Vořechovských, it was called U Aronů (Aaron House), as the hand is a sign of the Jewish tribe of Aaron.

To give you an idea of just how old this building really is, in the in the 14th century the house belonged to a monastery and already at that time they were brewing beer here.  Sadly, the brewery closed in 1890.  The way the house looks today is due to a reconstruction that occurred sometime in the 18th and 19th centuries. 

Location:  Liliová 5, Staré město (Old Town)

Czech Public Holiday Today - Struggle for Freedom and Democracy Day

Today is a public holiday in the Czech Republic - Den boje za svobodu a demokracii (Struggle for Freedom and Democracy Day) commemorating the student demonstration against Nazi occupation in 1939, and the demonstration in 1989 that started the Velvet Revolution.

On November 17, 1989, a Friday, riot police suppressed a peaceful student demonstration in Prague.  That event sparked a series of popular demonstrations from November 19th through late December.  By November 20th, the number of peaceful protesters assembled in Prague had risen from 200,000 the previous day to an estimated 500,000.  

Twenty-two years ago today, it started off as a peaceful officially-sanctioned march in Prague to commemorate Czech student Jan Opletal, who died at the hands of the country's Nazi occupiers in 1939.  Students, however, soon started to chant slogans against the communist regime.

Jan Opletal (Jan. 1, 1915 - Nov. 11, 1939)

Home of Jan Opletal

It is said that about 15,000 students had joined the demonstration.  They walked to the grave of Jan Opletal and - after the official end - continued from the Czech National Cemetery at Vyšehrad to Wenceslas Square calling for democratic reforms.  However, they never made it there.  At about 7:30 pm, when they were halfway through their march at Národní Street, the students were stopped by a cordon of police.  The students offered flowers to the police while singing songs and shouting "we have bare hands", but the police suddenly began to beat the young demonstrators with night sticks.  

Prior to this, the police managed to block all escape routes.  Nearly 200 people were injured.  One student was reportedly beaten to death.  Although this was later proved false, it served well for mass student support amongst the general public.

There is a memorial dedicated to November 17th at Wenceslas Square, and each year people place flowers and candles there to remember this day's events.  The President of the Czech Republic always places flowers atop the memorial, as well.  

Memorial to Jan Opletal

Along Národní třída, inside the arcade near No. 16, is a bronze plaque with a cluster of hands forming the peace sign and the date "17.11.1989" in memory of students clubbed in the street by police on that date.

Student Memorial on Národní třída

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Bah, humbug!

It's way too soon to begin thinking about Christmas (well, maybe just for me November is still considered early), but the reality is that it IS just around the corner.  

Christmas is my favorite holiday and I have a confession... I have already started thinking about it...a lot.  You see, I'm very excited for Christmas this year because we're hosting it!  I'll have a tree again (real, of course) and get to pull out my beloved ornaments and display my Dickens village.  In my mind, there's nothing more heartwarming than the thought of an old-fashioned holiday season in a small European village...cobblestone roads covered with a light dusting of snow*, chestnuts roasting, hot mulled wine and spiced cider, the sound of horse hoofs as they pull a carriage through town, carolers...this, to me, is happiness. 

This being said it makes perfect sense that my favorite holiday movie is A Christmas Carol ..

...(National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation is a close second!)

Want to see Scrooge for yourself?  Now you can because A Christmas Carol will be performed at Literární Kavárna in Prague!

From today's The Prague Post, "Prague Playhouse, an English-language theater troupe, is putting on a revival of the classic Charles Dickens novel adapted for stage, A Christmas Carol, Nov. 17-19 and Nov. 24-26 at 7:30 pm at Literární Kavárna on Řetězova 10, Prague 1."  For the rest of the article, click HERE

For tickets please visit Prague Playhouse box office

*The one and only time that snow (unless I'm snowboarding, which I will gladly fly to a snow-covered mountain) is acceptable.

Wednesday's House Insignia of the Day...Where am I?

Happy Name Day, Otmar! Všechno nejlepší k svátku!

Today we honor Otmar.  Happy name day, Otmar!
The name Otmar is of Germanic origin and means "wealth, fortune; great, famous".

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Monday's House Insignia of the Day Revealed - U Zlatého hada (The Golden Snake)

House at The Golden Snake (U Zlatého hada)

Depending on why you ask, they'll either call this The Golden Snake or The Golden Serpent.  Call it what you will, but I'm going with snake.

This is a late Gothic house that was rebuilt in Renaissance style with Baroque and Classicist adaptations.  The insignia is from the beginning of the 19th century.   

Apparently, one of the former owners of this house was merchant from Damascus named Gorgos Hatalah, whose real name was Georgious Deodatus Damascenus.  Gorgos is also the guy responsible for introducing coffee to Prague, and I adore him for that.  Coffee wasn't popular like it is today, some would even say it was exotic.  
Gorgos would walk the streets of Prague wearing traditional garb - caftan, baboosh, turban - carrying a container full of hot coals to warm the coffee and a kettle atop his head.  He'd also carry small cups and sugar and would sell this exotic drink called coffee to people he persuaded to try the beverage.  Praguers were initially weary, but eventually coffee was running through their veins and they wanted needed more.  Gorgos was successful because he opened what was probably the first coffeehouse in Prague - it was located in the house U tří pštrosů (The Three Ostriches) in the Lesser Town.  Business grew though, and eventually his enterprise relocated to a larger location, and that was here at The Golden Snake.

Today, a cafe/restaurant is situated in this building, aptly named http://www.uzlatehohada.cz/ (At the Golden Snake)

Location:  Liliová 181/17, Staré Město (Old Town)

Tuesday's House Insignia of the Day...Where am I?

A walk through Prague

What a beautiful fall day for a stroll along the Vltava...

Happy Name Day, Leopold! Všechno nejlepší k svátku!

Today we honor Leopold.  Happy name day, Leopold!
The name Leopold is of Old German origin and means "brave people".  Leopold is also a saint's name (today is his feast day), and it's a royal or aristocratic name in Belgium, Austria, and Britain.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Monday's House Insignia of the Day...Where am I?

Happy Name Day, Sáva! Všechno nejlepší k svátku!

Today we honor Sáva.  Happy name day, Sáva!
The name Sáva is from a Greek name that was derived from Hebrew meaning "old man".  Saints bearing this name include a 4th-century Gothic martyr, a 5th-century Cappadocian hermit, and a 12th-century archbishop of Serbia who is the patron saint of that country.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Happy Name Day, Tibor! Všechno nejlepší k svátku!

Today we honor Tibor.  Happy name day, Tibor!
The name Tibor is of Slavic origin and means "sacred place".

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Happy 95th Birthday to my beloved DinDin!

November 12th is always a very special day for me.  
Because it's my beloved DinDin's birthday, and today he turns 95 years young!

Happy Birthday, DinDin!  
Všechno nejlepší k svátku...Na zdraví!

A poem for my DinDin
Your wisdom seems to put my mind at ease
As a little girl you always made sure I said "thank you" and "please".
I love the talks and stories of the places you've been and things you've seen
Just being with you makes me happy, makes me feel serene.
I miss you so much, for we live an ocean apart,
But not a day goes by when you're not in my thoughts, you're always in my heart.
This is my chance to tell you just how much you mean to me
Just how very much I love you, DinDin!

Happy Name Day, Benedikt! Všechno nejlepší k svátku!

Today we honor Benedikt.  Happy name day, Benedikt!
The name Benedikt is a variant of Benedict, which is of Latin origin and means "blessed".

Friday, November 11, 2011

You are ordered to drink wine today

Oh, how we thank thee Martin, for today is St. Martin's Day and we must drink young wine!
(Well, if you say so...not that this is a difficult request)

St. Martin's Day, or the Feast of St. Martin, is a time for feasting celebrations, for it's the time when autumn wheat seeding is completed.

A Czech proverb associated with the Feast of St. Martin is this:  Martin přijíždí na bílém koni (Martin arrives riding a white horse).   The white horse represents snow, and the saying signifies that the first half of November in the Czech Republic is the time when it often starts to snow.  There used to be (and I'm sure still is in some parts of the country) a festival (posvícení) complete with roast goose as the main feast dish.  Even without a festival, many restaurants and homes will be making roast goose with red cabbage and either bread or potato dumplings.  Mmmmm....

St. Martin

And this shouldn't come as a shock... there's a legend associated with the goose!  No, make that two legends!  One legend states that the goose is eaten because geese disturbed St. Martin’s sermons, thus they are now being punished in the pan.  The other legend states that St. Martin was so modest that he hid in a goose house to avoid his appointment as bishop, but the cackling of the geese gave him away.

Another tradition (and my favorite one!) is the praise of young wine...because young wine deserves to be celebrated!  The first bottle of the new vintage is opened every year on November 11th at precisely 11 am in every wine bar and restaurant (and home) in the Czech Republic.  I wrote about young wine during Burčák
season here - and now we get to uncork those bottles.  Look out for drunk happy people!

The St. Martin’s tradition is like the French celebrations for Beaujolais nouveau, however, the Czech ritual is much older.  These celebrations date back to the times of Emperor Josef II.  It was on this day that people were able to start pouring young wine from the autumn harvest.

Emperor Josef II

I say we pop open a bottle.  I mean, it's noon somewhere, right?

Happy Name Day, Martin! Všechno nejlepší k svátku!

Today we honor Martin.  Happy name day, Martin!
The name Martin is of Latin origin and means "dedicated to Mars".  

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sweet 'lil baby...

It has been a while since I've been to the Prague Zoo, but an article I just read in the Prague Daily Monitor is going to change that.  

Here's the story...

Prague zoo's baby gorilla rejected by mother, stays in incubator
ČTK | 10 NOVEMBER 2011

Prague, Nov 9 (CTK) - The young gorilla that was born in Prague's zoo has stayed in an incubator since its mother rejected it on Tuesday evening, zoo director Miroslav Bobek told journalists Wednesday.

The keepers originally pondered trying to return the offspring to Bikira, the gorilla mother who gave birth for the first time last night, but they eventually dropped the idea because the young's temperature always dangerously plummeted outside the incubator.

Bobek admitted the young may have been born early.

"Now it is a patient," he said, adding that the baby gorilla will start being fed with milk.

The Prague zoo has discussed the situation with some European zoos that have similar experience.

With time elapsing since the young's birth, its chances of being accepted by its mother have declined.

The zoo is pondering what to do next, if the young survives and leaves the incubator.

"The Kama scenario would be the worst of all," Bobek said, alluding to an orangutan that was born in Prague in the 1970s and raised by the keepers at home. As an adult ape, Kama felt better together with people rather than orangutans.

Bobek said there exists a "kindergarten" for young gorillas rejected by their mothers, where the babies can spend time together with peers. If no other integration chance emerged for the newborn gorilla, Prague may send it abroad, Bobek said.

The keepers expected problems to accompany the motherhood of Bikira, as she was raised by people.

Expert Marek Zdansky said it is strange that not even other gorillas among the Prague group showed interest in the newborn young. This may indicate that the young is not in order, he said.

Bikira, the mother, was born in 1995 in Amsterdam. She was gradually raised in Stuttgart and Belfast, from where she came to Prague in 2010. Apart from her, the Prague group includes other four females, the male Richard, and three young, all born to female Kijivu.

Wednesday's House Insignia of the Day Revealed...House at The Red Eagle (Dům U červené orlice)

House at The Red Eagle (Dům U červené orlice)

This insignia dates from the early 18th century and the entire façade of this building has a copy of its insignia.  The eagle has long been regarded as a symbol of power, victory and authority.  You would find an eagle on shields of many ancient Persian, Egyptian, Arab, and Roman warriors.  Since the eagle is the symbol of the god Jupiter, it became the main insignia of the Roman legions.

Location:  Jilská 22, Old Town

We're more than just beer!

Just read this article in today's theguardian and thought you'd enjoy it ...

Not only here for the beer: Moravia, the Czech Republic's wine region
The Czech wine season bursts into life this week, giving our writer the perfect excuse to head to the region of Moravia to sample this year's harvest
Mark Pickering
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 9 November 2011 09.17 EST
Article history
vineyard Southern Moravia Czech Republic
A vineyard in Moravia, Czech Republic. Photograph: Alamy

When parts of Europe quieten in a moment of remembrance at 11am this Friday, in the Czech Republic corks will pop, glasses clink and the country will resound to one collective gulp. For 11 November does not just mark Armistice Day. Here it is also St Martin's Day, and that means something else: the start of the Czech wine season.

For a country so synonymous with beer, the term "Czech wine season" may strike the casual visitor as a bit odd. I didn't see a glass of wine for the first six months I lived in Prague, so I imagined they just didn't care for the stuff, or it was made in some secret cave my ropey Czech hadn't yet bought me the password for. But it wasn't a cave I was looking for. It was Moravia. Less than 150 miles south-east of the capital, sprawling with quaint villages and hundreds of lush, green vineyards, this is undoubtedly wine country.

St Martin's Day is when the first fermented wine of the year is tasted (Czech "beaujolais"), and it provides the perfect excuse to escape into the Moravian countryside to sample it with the locals. Of the four major Moravian wine-producing towns – Mikulov, Slovácko, Velké Pavlovice and Znojmo – I headed to the latter, a gorgeous place just north of the Austrian border. There are plenty of accommodation options listed in English on the town's website (znojmocity.cz), and I would recommend a stay in the sleepy, rural hamlet of Nový Saldorf, just 10 minutes' drive from the centre. The family-run wine cellar, U Smrcka (+420 739 144 688, usmrcku.cz, doubles from £28), which has cosy, modern rooms attached, is particularly charming.

Read the rest of the article here