Tuesday, July 26, 2016

another Prague beer spa

Bathing in beer is something I imagine the gods taking time to do up there on Mount Olympus, next to drinking ambrosia and playing fatal games with mortals. So when at first I heard this could be done in Prague, I jumped on it and went with my wife to Spa Beer Land on Zitna. It was a good experience, but one thing let me down, I wouldn’t be bathing in actual beer. It was tepid water with some malt, barley, and hops added. Not quite the real thing. But with unlimited pours of beer and my beautiful wife, a good time was had anyway.


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The treasure of the Clementinum

View of the Castle from the Clementinum
There was a heavy knock at the door. Pavel was kicked out of bed by his wife, who whispered loudly to answer the door and it better not be Vasek coming home from the hospudka again! Pavel muttered something about his wife as he stumbled through the kitchen and opened the door. There in the hallway were two men in heavy monks’ robes, the hoods up so their faces were only deep shadows. Pavel was somewhat surprised and rubbed his eyes a bit before making out a groggy “Hello?”

Monday, June 20, 2016

escape from castle wolfstein

St. Michael's Church, Schwabisch
Our way back from Strasbourg wasn’t nearly as nice as the way there. After seeing all the villages of the Alsatian countryside, we were a bit spoiled on beautiful villages, so we didn’t care much for stopping for the Bavarian roadside attractions. But rest stops were in order for the 5-hour drive, so we did decide on a couple. The first stop was going to be Schwabisch Hall—neither of us had ever heard of it, but it certainly had a fun name to say and the visit would include a huge fortified monastery—and the next was to be Neumarkt in der Oberfalz, which we had passed on several occasions, so it had a something of a “why not?” quality to visiting there. The pictures of the town looked nice enough and if our visit to Nordlingen could be a judge of Bavarian towns, then there was sure to be at least some ice cream available. 


Thursday, June 16, 2016

The steel roads of Chiatura

Sign reading "Chiatura" in Georgian and Russian
This season always makes me nostalgic for Georgia. May and June are the perfect times to be there, when the weather is not sweltering, but good for shorts and beer gardens and traveling, the flowers are out, and the air is always fresh after a rain. The best time, of course, is the fall, when the grapes are out and the scent is so strong in the air that it makes you hungry just standing around. But that's a distraction, this is spring folks. And in spring, it's a good time to visit one of my favorite towns: Chiatura.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

the festival and the tramp

Loket, By Rejectwater, commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46676354
Lying in the grass, looking up at the dwindling light of the Sun as pinpoints of light slowly turn on like their lights from a skyline, with music blazing out from one direction and the next, some girls laughing over near a grove of trees, dancing in a circle, some guys commenting about the girls while they sip drinks and nod their heads to the pulsing of the bass from the nearby stage – these are parts of the image of summer that I love, the festival life, the life of being outside, slightly so inebriated, feeling the earth pulse through me as it rocks and shakes with the footsteps of passing people. When I lived in the United States, I always enjoyed the idea of a festival, but in general the complexity and price of getting a beer makes it only mildly worth it. Here in Europe, especially in the Czech Republic, where the beer is cheaper than water and finer than champagne, festivals are fodder for fun. And it’s hard to go anywhere in Prague where you don’t run into a festival, in some park or some street corner, there is something that’s going to be going on with beer, sausages, potato pancakes, or all three.


Sunday, May 29, 2016

Colmar and the end of architecture

Le Grand Rue, Colmar

Already tired from all the driving and sightseeing, we had one more destination to see: Colmar. Colmar is the Queen City of Alsace, a town with a bit of everything that each village of the region has, all put together in one beautiful conglomeration. It sits in the open plains, before the fields give away to the rolling hills and vineyards that crawl up the front range mountain slopes like a David Cerny statue. It considers itself the Capital of Alsatian Wine and is the largest of all the area fairy tale towns, still taking you back in time to what Paris might have been like before the destruction caused by Napoleon III. It’s full of squares of half-timbered houses, avenues lined with majestic Baroque fabrications, canals with boats gliding gently down them, medieval churches and monasteries, and pubs and restaurants everywhere, to spill over the spoils of the local wealth. 

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.