Monday, May 23, 2016

goblin kings and Alsace


There seems to be no shortage of beautiful villages in the world and that’s certainly true for the Alsatian region of France. Snuggled between the Rhine River and the Vosges Mountains, Alsace is replete with vineyards and flecked with fairy-tale villages that are sure to leave your mind blown and send you to a time filled with knights, princesses, goblin kings, and dancing magic babies.

The Vosges themselves are a series of low lying mountains that are something of a spur off of the Alps, offering Southern France something of a defense line against Germany. They're lined with villages, vinyards, and castles and are one of the leading rivals in the most-romantic-places in the world category. They were of huge strategic importance, with France always pushing to the Rhine for its border control and Germany always pushing to the mountains, making the region a beautiful and unique mix of German and French culture, with Colmar and Strasbourg as the two main regional capitals.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

the morning mists of Strasbourg

Cathedrale de Notre Dame de Strasbourg
The autobahn seemed to be entirely under construction as we drove through Germany. Normally I enjoy cruising down the highway at maximum speed, zipping past cars as though I were piloting an X-wing making my way past TIE fighters and cannons as I narrow in to destroy the Death Star. But this time, our speed was kept to a minimum most of the time, which wasn't a problem as we had decided to veer off and hit many a country road. But it seems to me I now know the dark truth as to why Merkel wanted so many refugees: she was simply hungry to fix up Germany's highways with cheap labor. Americans should take note as our highways and bridges crumble into something resembling a scene from Mad Max.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

a longing and south Germany

The canal of Nordlingen
It was time to get out of the house again and this time – out of the country! We both had a longing to go do a road trip across southern Germany and to Alsace. Strasbourg has long been one of my favorite French cities, so much better than the overrated Paris. In Paris one finds all sorts of things to hate about France, but in Alsace – and I imagine in the other French regions – one finds all sorts of things to fall in love with the culture. France should hold some sort of special place in my heart – I see all these American and British expats here who have Czech blood and have been pulled back to their motherlands that their parents fled during Communism. I have mostly French blood, with my ancestors having left during the Wars of Religion and other periods, but haven’t really had any sort of feeling of longing to get back; no sense of connection. That, I have for Louisiana a bit, but still, it’s not home. Home really is wherever my sweet wife is and that’s all the longing I need.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Grandmaster Bouzov and Kanye

Bouzov Castle from the village
I’ve long held my beef with Czechs and their castles. As I’ve mentioned before, when I first came to Prague, I wasted an entire day looking around for Prague Castle. Why? Because it’s not a castle. At least, not in the sense that us Americans have come to think of castle, which is something that kind of looks like a fortress, has lots of stone, and with flags on top. Okay, Disneyland did a lot to create this image, but their castle really is more of a castle than Prague castle, and has even more of a castle history – think Neuschwanstein, never really a fortress, always really just something that looks cool and came out of Wagnerian fairy tales. Prague Castle is an administrative center, has many palaces inside of it, and has a wall. That might make for the biggest "castle" in the world, but it also makes for castle that looks more like a palatial complex than anything else. In Prague, there is a castle, but it’s not the castle, it’s Vysehrad, which means “high castle”, and it’s a bit of a ruin, but have fun.


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Olomouc and the restaurant of torture!

The main square at night
Though slightly disappointed in our hotel at Slatinice, we didn’t let that deter us from enjoying ourselves. First would be the ecclesiastical metropolis of Moravia, Olomouc, which can claim the best Communist astronomical clock in the world. Come for the clock, but stay for the Torture restaurant!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

no curtains in moravia

a statue in Litomysl
We stood in line at the U Veterana cukrarna, or sweets shop. It seemed to be the busiest sweets shop in the entire village of Slatinice, families and crowds pouring in and out of the place, weaving through the tables, forming the worlds’ longest cukrarna line in the short history of the Czech Republic. It was understandably long, as this was truly the center of this small village’s life. Not only was it a cukrarna, but it was also a hotel, an automobile museum, and a wellness center. It was massively understaffed – the only employees there were in the cukrarna, but otherwise clean. When we went up to the room, which had beautiful wood paneling and quality wood furniture, but there were no curtains and the room faced directly into the street from the second floor. 

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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

a brief on Cesky Krumlov

My first visit to Cesky Krumlov was a romantic overnight stay last winter - and I've been back three times. Overnight with a lover is really the best way to see the beautiful crown jewel of South Bohemia. Cesky Krumlov is settled on the tight bends of the Vltava River with several scenic bridges spanning over the sanguine stream, and two large hills littered with cottages and Baroque blocks and one precipitous climb with a castle grasping on the ledges of granite. In the winter, when we were first there, the nights are quiet and the lights dot the darkness like candle flames, the reflection of the water flickering as the gentle wind blows. In the summer, during the days the streets are packed with tourists and the river crowded with kayakers, making their journey through the castle riddled hills of the Czech Republic.