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12 posts categorized "Food and Drink"

01/10/2018

Fall 2017 ISSUE II

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TRIP TO SOUTH BOHEMIA

In order to get away from a daily rush in Prague, students of CIEE Film Studies have left Prague in October for one weekend. They spent the whole weekend in South Bohemia, visiting historic town Pisek and castle Zvikov.

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The main reason for going to Pisek was International Student Film Festival which is happening each year and attracts attention of not only student from the Czech Republic but the whole world. CIEE students had a chance to attend several blocks of festival films and also meet students from a local film academy (Filmova Akademie Miroslava Ondricka).

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Diving deeper into the South Bohemian culture, students have visited a traditional and famous restaurant U Reineru that has been founded in 19th century and represent the local food.

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On Sunday, before returning back to Prague, our little travelers have visited a castle Zvikov, its nature and also Zvikov’s brewery. This visit helped students to understand better the history of the Czech Republic and also the important of the cold beverage in the Czech culture. Overall trip broaden horizons of students and showed them life outside of Prague.

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02/11/2015

CZECHING IN

by Emmy Weiner (Kenyon College)

January 25, 2015

I have found my soul mate. In the form of a country. Soul country? Country mate? Whatever…it’s here.IMG_3811

To be perfectly honest, I did very little research about Prague and general Czech customs before I got here. I was originally planning on going to London, but after dropping my double major, it made sense to come to Prague and take classes at FAMU (By the way…no idea if that’s an acronym. I feel like there aren’t enough letters in there for it to stand for “Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts,” but I feel relatively confident in saying that the “F” stands for “film”). So I headed to Prague, kind of ready to wing it. And what I’ve learned over the past few days has made me realize how in synch I am with the culture here. They hate loud noise. They hate small talk. They’re incredibly sarcastic. They wear dark clothes. Most importantly: THERE ARE SO MANY CZECH PUNS.

Ok, I have two things to clarify. 1. I realize that the above included some serious generalizations. I can’t be sure, but if I had to guess, I’d say that Czechs are also (probably) unique snowflakes of human beings. 2. I am not using this blog to superficially rave about the “extraordinary,” “eye-opening,” or otherwise “indescribable” (I hate that word. A. It promotes laziness in writing. B. The word “indescribable” is, in itself, a description.) experience. Although I’m currently in the “honeymoon phase” of the lovely culture shock chart the CIEE staff showed us, life here is obviously not perfect, and I will do my best to avoid creating a shallow highlight reel of social media.

And, after that fun rant, here are some actual updates on my life here. After struggling with the six hour time difference and having a few nights of truly miserable sleep, I have finally gained the ability to sleep for an entire night like a normal human being. It’s very exciting. My program consists of fourteen film students (only four of us are screenwriters), and we’ve all reverted to the freshmen mob mentality. It’s fun to hang out as a group, but we’ve gotten our fair share of weird looks when we walk around in a pack of fourteen loud Americans. We explore and eat all of our meals together (and in case anyone was wondering…The Czech Republic is not the most vegetarian-friendly country) and do school-related things, too. Last week was filled with intensive orientation, and now we’re moving on to two weeks of intensive Czech. It’s definitely an interesting language, but I suck at it. BUT I can say “hi,” “bye,” “please,” “thank you,” “coffee,” “wine,” and “beer.” So I’m pretty much all set. I know you can tell you’re truly fluent in a language when you dream in it, but I’ve had a few dreams in Czech accents, and I’m pretty sure that’s like the same thing (right???).

Ok, I’m done now. Sorry…brevity is not my specialty. Na shledanou for now!

05/06/2014

The Travelogue

By Griff Jones, Whitman College

April 15, 2014

With the semester wrapping up much more quickly than anticipated, I feel as though now is a good point to catch up with the going-ons of the past month and a half or so.  It has been a long while since I wrote for this blog.  In all likelihood, this will be my final post, but there may be one more to wrap up my experience this semester.  This one, however, will be a doozy, and I hope to cover the events since my last post.  Due to the scope, then, I apologize that depth may not be a priority, and a travelogue is what follows.

A month and a half ago, we pitched our films, which was a very nerve-wracking and frustrating experience (positive feedback isn’t a huge thing here, unfortunately) that led to a few weeks of work on our scripts.  Ultimately, after a lot of revisions and uncertainty, we arrived at a final product we like, and are about to actually film it.  Making a movie is a lot of work, and we’ve been incrementally working towards this production period the whole semester.  At the moment, we have a script, a storyboard, a technical screenplay, actors, and a crew, and we film next week.  Our film, due to our location, will be shot overnight two nights in a row, from 10pm to 8am.  Other films are shooting now – one is done, one starts tomorrow, and then there’s one more before we shoot.  At the end of all five groups production, the film is developed and transferred to a digital format which we then edit to a final product.  That is then sound-mixed and color corrected, and we premiere it on the final day of our program.  The day after the premiere, I leave for a trip to Rome, the Alps, and then Paris before coming home for one day and going to Jackson, WY, for a summer internship.  Life will be hectic, to say the least.  But it’s fun work, and keeps me excited!  

Anyways.  After the pitch, the rest of the weekend was spent at Hafan Animation Studio, which I was originally a bit unenthusiastic about. I generally enjoy the mandatory activities, but we have had a LOT of them, so I thought I was ready to be done. Actually though, this turned out to be the coolest. We split into two groups and went on different days, and then each of those groups split in half again. So Adam, Andie, Michelle, and I spent the first half of the day animating three puppets to create the first part of the short film our group made. It was so fun, and very informative about how difficult, detailed, and tedious old school frame by frame animation is. The attention to minutiae that animators have is insane, seriously. But, for 3 hours, it was awesome! The studio felt like an art studio and had a very bohemian vibe about it. The second half of the day we made facades with a window in them to get a feel for how the sets are made. It was basically an arts and crafts project; we sawed, painted, glued, and made some pretty cool looking “buildings.” It was seriously enjoyable. 

Krakow and Auschwitz

The following weekend, Adam, Michelle, Dominic and I went on the CIEE trip to Krakow and Auschwitz.  We met at midnight for the bus ride, which provided a fitful night of sleep before arriving loopy and dazed at Auschwitz.  The whole town had a sense of gloom to it, due partly to the cloudy weather and the sites we knew lay ahead.  We had breakfast at a youth hostel, and then sleep-deprived yet sober, we went to the former concentration camp.  Auschwitz is a collection of brick barracks, and each of the barracks had been converted into a museum.  The topics, while horrifying, were hard to comprehend in their entirety due to the sheer scale of the atrocities that occurred.  I can hardly fathom death as it is at my age, and the numbers killed there were difficult to morph to concrete, relatable concepts in my head.  The rooms full of human hair and shoes were telling in that regard, though, and difficult to witness.  After Auschwitz we traveled to Birkenau, which was even harder to believe.  It is huge.  The remains of the wooden barracks are marked by the still-standing chimneys that sprawl across a huge field.  Again, it was hard to fully fathom.  I appreciate having seen it and been present where such a world-defining event occurred, but being there didn’t get me any closer to understanding the events, I think, than reading about it had.  I don’t know what 1,000 people look like enclosed in a small barracks, only that I should be appalled by it.  It’s hard to relate to, essentially.  It was a very sobering experience – one I likely will not repeat, but I’m glad I did it.  I feel like it’s something everyone should do if possible.  

After a slightly detoxing bus ride nap, we arrived in Krakow later that afternoon.  That city…  It’s beautiful, and compact, and fun.  I really liked it, partly because it had a very college-y vibe.  And rightly so; a large portion of its population are students.  We explored the square, went on a brief walk around, and then took a break before going to an incredible sushi restaurant for dinner.  The restaurant was as hole-in-the-wall as I’ve ever been to, and we just told them what we wanted to pay and they made us whatever they wanted.  It was the best sushi I’ve had.  We then took a cab to the Kazimierz, or Jewish District, of town (which really wasn’t that far, but we were with a girl with a cast on her foot).  We bar hopped a bit and then went home, but it was really cool to experience some of the nightlife.  The next day was entirely in Krakow, and we had a tour of the castle and cathedral.  The cathedral in the main square in town has an altar totally plated in gold – it was gorgeous.  I had pierogies for lunch and dinner, because they were that delicious.  And we also went to the Oscar Schindler Factory, which is now a museum about Nazi-occupied Krakow.  That night I joined a group of people from the trip and went back to the Kazimierz.

The next day we went to the Salt Mines of Poland.  I did not have high hopes for this, as my main desire to go on the trip was to see Auschwitz.  I was blown away, though.  The Salt Mines were a functioning business for over 1,000 years, and only shut down large-scale production in the ‘90s.  In a two hour tour, we went through the top three levels.  Underneath lay at least ten more levels, all man-made.  This is after we went down something like 60 flights of stairs from the surface just to get to the first level.  The scale is just mind boggling!  And the air down there was incredible – they treat asthma down there in a hospital (still to this day!) and I could see why.  It felt balmy, but not humid, due to the salt in the air.  There were altars all over the place carved out of the salt, and the largest underground chapel in the world is there.  In that chapel, there are tons of lifelike sculptures and even a fresco of the Last Supper carved out of salt.  It was a blast – I had no expectations going in and it was one of the coolest places I’ve been to in Europe.  The scale and history of such a place is just so awe-inspiring.  

Tourist in Prague

The next weekend I took as an opportunity to explore Prague some more, and be a tourist here.  I went to the Mucha Museum, where Alfons Mucha’s prints are displayed.  I love his art, and going there inspired me to go see the Slav Epic, his magnum opus, displayed elsewhere in the city.  So the next day I went to the National Gallery and saw it.  The Slav Epic consists of twenty massive paintings, each the size of a two story wall, I would say.  They tell different stories from the history of the Slav people throughout Europe, and are just jaw-dropping.  The rest of the museum was meh, though…  I ran into a Whittie there, however!  It’s a small world.  I then went to DOX, the museum of contemporary art, which was also just okay.  But I was glad to explore the city some more and seek out new things I had yet to see.  

Vienna

The next week, Shannon came to town and we went to a few more places in Prague that I hadn’t been to, such as a museum by the castle.  We went together to Vienna that weekend, which is an incredibly gorgeous city.  I don’t know why, but German speaking countries are incredibly appealing to me.  I think just the slightly more American culture and laid back, bike riding demeanor of the people there makes them more relatable to me.  The Inner Stadt, where the Hapsburg Palaces are in Vienna, is one of the most gorgeous areas of any city I’ve ever seen.  On Sunday we went to the art gallery housed in one of them, which was a great gallery (partly because of the space it was in, no doubt).  It was also just fun walking around the city, which is very cosmopolitan, yet when you look up you realize that the buildings that house what is now a mall were originally homes to nobility and royalty.  The architecture was incredible there.  We also went to the Hapsburgs’ summer palace, not far from our hostel, and did a tour of it.  It was crazy how massive and ostentatious it was, but the crowds made it a less than ideal experience.  But seeing the splendor of that palace was worth dealing with them.  We then went to the zoo, in the massive park behind the summer palace.  On our way, we ran into another Whittie, who turned out to be the first of two from that weekend (another was staying in our hostel, and we met up and chatted on Sunday morning briefly).  That was crazy!  Anyway, the weather was gorgeous, so going to the zoo was a great choice.  The Vienna zoo is supposedly the best zoo in Europe (or self-advertised as such), and I would believe it!  It was really cool, and a fun break from cultural/historical Europe.  I would almost definitely visit Vienna again, along with Berlin.  

Olomouc and Uherske Hradiste

Then, now three weekends ago, our last weekend of travel arrived.  As part of our program, we went to Olomouc and another small Czech town, Uherske Hradiste, in Moravia (the Eastern region of the Czech Republic).  In Olomouc, we did a walking tour and then did a green-screen exercise with some students at the college there.  It was a quaint town, but quite pretty, and our hosts were very welcoming.  In Uherske Hradiste, we went to a museum about slivovice, or plum brandy that’s traditionally illegally distilled as moonshine.  We then went and had a slivovice tasting with a local family.  It was actually my first time welcomed into a Czech home, and they were very friendly and had a lovely house with a courtyard where they fed us delicious pastries and snacks during the tasting.  Afterwards, we walked around the town a bit and rested back at the lovely hotel we stayed at.  We had an amazing dinner off the beaten path, which was just one of MANY delicious meals we had that weekend.  To neglect mentioning the meals we ate would be criminal.  We had three course meals almost every day, and they were SO good.  We ate a ton, and all of it was amazing.  Go CIEE!  Later that night we had a private wine tasting with a man who made his own wines.  That was really fun too, and took place in his personal cellar where we spent a couple hours learning about wine and eating yet more tasty snacks.  On Sunday we went to a cave, where we went on a walking tour that transitions into a boat tour.  That was my second subterranean adventure of the semester, and while not quite as grandiose as the Salt Mines, it was super fun and very pretty.  Plus being in nature was a nice change of pace.  That weekend was in generally very relaxing, and a nice respite from the business of our workload.  

Fresh Eyes

Unfortunately, however, the next weekend I was laid out with what the doctor first thought was strep, but turned out to be mono.  So, that was a bummer, and sucked quite a bit.  But, I’m better now thanks to modern medicine, and when I reemerged from my sick, TV-obsessed cocoon, it had become spring in Prague!  So, with fresh eyes I’ve been re-experiencing the city.  It truly is gorgeous, and a very manageable city to live in.  I’ve dealt a bit with culture shock throughout the semester, however, and have discovered I just don’t like urban living a ton.  Add in the smoke that’s rampant here, destroying my asthmatic lungs, and I’ve had some times I haven’t wanted to be here.  But, newly healthy and with a rejuvenated perspective, I’m working on enjoying my final month here in Prague.  I’ll never live here, I think I can say extremely definitively, but I’ll definitely visit again.  I won’t close any doors in my life, but I think that extends to all of Europe as well.  Everything seems quite packed together, and the wide open spaces I’m used to and love from the American West don’t really exist in the same way here.  Which is fine, and I’m very excited to explore more of the urban centers in Europe throughout my life, as well as the Alps, but I think this may be my most extended stay on the continent.  But I’ll never say never! 

My classes are over now, except for four electives that I attend sparingly due to the demands of the production period. And now with nothing to do but make final arrangements for my shoot next week and crew on other shoots, it’s going to be interesting to study and work for my other classes’ finals.  But I’m going to try and be productive with my time and get in some final bits of exploration of the city.  

Anyway, with my travels over until after the program, there’s little to write about other than day to day activities.  Granted, those are going to get pretty interesting with the addition of making a movie of this level of quality.  So I hope to write one or two final wrap up posts about the moviemaking process and maybe my travels at the end, but my track record has been pretty pathetic with maintaining the blog.  Regardless, I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about my semester’s adventures to this point!  Thanks for reading!

12/23/2013

Fall 2013, Issue III

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Photo courtesy of EJ Kennelly

HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM PRAGUE!

Fall 2013 Film Studies semester is over and students are on their way home to reunite with their friends and families. The upcoming holidays are making their process of leaving the city of Prague and their wonderful study abroad experiences a little bit more bearable. It needs to be said that we had a very good group that stuck together at all times this semester - and their screenplays and final films reflected that. But how did they spend their last weeks in Prague?

Production and post-production

Production track dedicated their last weeks primarily to production and postproduction. Film Program Coordinator Ivana occasionally paid a visit to their sets to make sure everything was in order. Production managers Pavla Klimešová and Filip Teller and Camera Supervisor Tomáš Daliman made sure that all 5 shoots went smoothly. A couple of shooting days needed to be rescheduled due to weather, but students and their crews were flexible and everything ended well. 

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Photo courtesy of EJ Kennelly

We already shared Laurel Schwartz's (Scripps College) video about her shoot on CIEE FS blog, however, we want to make sure you don't miss it:

 

Screenwriting track: presentation rehearsals

All students enrolled in the Screenwriting track helped on the Production track film sets (as grips, caterers and actors), but of course they have been busy with their screenplays as well. All 4 students are quite ambitious, so during their regular Tuesday sessions with their FAMU Academic Advisor Mary, they came up with their screenplays introductions as well as short dialogues presented by actors. Therefore they experienced directing real actors during these meetings.

Last CIEE Cultural Workshop

Our last cultural workshop took place at the CIEE Study Center. Students started part of their orientation there and we thought it would be a nice wrap up for them. Over a late lunch, students, Ivana and Eva discussed reverse culture shock and ended the workshop with Greatest Czechs matching game which became quite competitive. Just before the sunset, we took a group picture together:

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CIEE Christmas party

Just like every Fall semester, CIEE Study Center hosted all programs get-together Christmas party. Students had a chance to taste traditional Czech Christmas specialities (fish soup, fried carp, potato salad, baked groats with mushroom "Kuba", sweat bread "Vánočka" and indispensable Christmas cookies)! They also experienced local Christmas customs, such as gingerbread baking and decorating, Christmas decorations creating, nutshell mini-boats creating, and much more. Of course not even a Christmas tree wasn't missing and all students found a small gift from Baby Jesus underneath it (CIEE got them Christmas ceramic decorations created in workshops for people with disabilities so local NGO Jedlička Institute - where CIEE Prague CES students volunteer - was supported). All students had a blast!

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Final Screenplays presentation and Final Screening

Thursday, December 19th was a big day. At 2pm, Screenwriting track students (Jamie, Nicole, Alex and Edan) started with their screenplays presentations. Their rehearsals truly paid off and full projection room appreciated their work. They also received feedback from the audience. The actors (DAMU and CIEE students) they managed to find were extraordinary and made their dialogues quite lively. We would like to congratulate them all for their progress!

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At 4pm, projection of Production track final films followed. The audience consisted of FAMU professors and staff, CIEE students and staff, actors and special guests got to enjoy 5 films plus a bonus - Hafan classic animation workshop outcome. Students were provided with feedback by their professors and a big (deserved) applause from everyone present.

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 CIEE FS Farewell Dinner

After the screening, everyone continued on to FAMU student club and pub Lažanských for the farewell ceremony and dinner. All students received their FAMU certificates and final films, CIEE added another CD with Prague Yearbook and a special Film Studies video with a slideshow from the whole semester. FS Academic Advisor Mary Angiollilo and FAMU dean Pavel Jech gave their final speeches, winners of the green game were announced, and most immersed and volunteering students were acknowledged.

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The yummy reception with traditional Czech dishes followed. Students said their goodbyes to their professors, crews and staff, and even a few tears had been shed. It has been a great semester!

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CIEE staff wishes you HAPPY HOLIDAYS and we will be back with CIEE Prague programs newsletter in Spring 2014!

02/18/2013

Spring 2013 semester begins...

February 10th, 2013

The winter is almost over in Prague and Spring 2013 semester has already begun. Both tracks (Production and Screenwriting) were opened this term.

How did the first week go?

On Wednesday, January 23rd, CIEE Film Studies Program Coordinator, Ivana (who is back with CIEE Prague after her maternity leave as an external coworker) and buddies Lucia & Jonáš, picked up students from the airport and took them to their apartments. The rest of the day was dedicated to getting to know each other, exploring the neighborhood and resting after their long trip.

Since students needed to get adjusted to the European schedule, Thursday morning we started orientation sessions (Housing, Safety & Health, How to deal with bureaucrats and How to navigate Prague). After a yummy lunch, students had their visas registered at the Foreigner’s Police with CIEE assistance. To brighten the day, orientation walk around the city followed. 

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Friday sessions were dedicated to academics (including detailed tour of FAMU by FS Academic Advisor and Acting professor Mary Angiolillo) and extracurricular opportunities. RD Jana also introduced students to their very first batch of Czech vocabulary. And the dean of FAMU, Pavel Jech, stopped by to welcome students in Prague. Students had a traditional scavenger hunt afterwards and we have to say that they were quite competitive this time! The day ended nicely – Welcome Dinner was held at U Šemíka Restaurant (where Summer orientation is ran).

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Saturday sessions started slightly later and students had a chance to explore CIEE Study Center. In the afternoon, CIEE Art and Architecture professor Marie Homerová took them for a tour of Prague Castle.

Sunday was a free day so students could get ready for Intensive Czech and other new experiences. FAMU buddies 

used this free time to take 3 students who were interested to underground Světozor movie theatre for Cloud Atlas.

And on Monday, January 28th, students started classes: Intensive Czech course was their focus for the first two weeks. Their teacher says that even though Czech language is a hard one, they do their best to master the survival basics.

On Sunday, February 3rd, another flat buddy organized extracurricular activity was planned – Kupka exhibition at Salmovský palace. Six FS and two CES students joined buddy Jonáš. In his words „We saw František Kupka's path to abstract art. The exhibition has shown his works which he presented at art salons in Paris in the beginning of 20th century. After exhibition we went to dinner together.“

Thursday, February 7th was a busy day. Students had their academic advising sessions with Mary. They went through the core class syllabi so their expectations would be realistic. But studying abroad means having fun too, so after advising, students continued to Bowling and Pool night...and won the tournament against all CES program teams! This wasn’t the only opportunity to mingle with the big program though – FS students were also invited to CES welcome dinner at the Municipal House; they joined two lunch sessions (focused on Brief History of the Czech lands and Minorities and Genders in the Czech Republic); and a trip to Kutná Hora where students visited the extraordinary church made of human bones and explored the local silver mines.

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photo courtesy of Amanda Lechner

This week students started their core and electives and from now on they will meet their Czech language teacher once a week. There is so much ahead: Barrandov film studios excursion, CIEE sponsored high culture events, flat buddy organized Interest Group activities, cultural workshops, academic trip to Moravia, One World & Febiofest film festivals, Hafan animation workshop and more!



02/29/2012

The Epic Quest for Salad Dressing.

By Sharon Krome (Muhlenberg College)

Of course it is natural to miss home while in a foreign land. What do I miss? Friends, family, netflix, a giant dunkin doughnuts coffee, and of course caesar salad dressing. After my sister's trip to Ireland, she gave me some valuable advice…"Don't order a salad, I asked for a chicken caesar salad and got a hunk of chicken and two leafs of lettuce". Mind you I am not at all lumping Ireland and the Czech Republic into the same stereotype; however, no one seems to make salads quite like America. So I search. Then I gave up my search in restaurants, mainly because I couldn't resist the delectable goulash and svitckova. Which led me to my next destination: Tesco, the wonderland of all possible goods. Five stories of groceries and aisle after aisle of "things". I looked high and low, dear readers, but could not find a single bottle of Caesar dressing. Alas, I found ranch after a solid month of looking. I believe I'll give up on this pipe dream and camp out at Panera as soon as I get home. I feel that I must also say, I am not alone in this struggle. While grocery shopping today, I heard a woman ask a cashier in English where the salad dressing was. The cashier stared blankly as I swooped down and assisted my fellow dressing lover. We commiserated as I directed her to the limited selection. Sigh. Well, at least I was able to help someone through this struggle, a salad shrink as it were. Fear not, I will keep searching. And I WILL find that delectable golden liquid to grace my salad. Keep you posted!

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beautiful dressing, where art thou?

 

02/06/2012

Midnight in Praha - A tale of travel, film, and self-discovery

By Sharon Krome (Muhlenberg College)

Entry 1: An American Landed

There are three things I’ve learned immediately about Prague. One: It costs one Koruna (or Czech Crown) to buy a plastic grocery bag with your groceries (the woman at the counter looked at me like I was on fire as I attempted to piece this fact together). Two: if you stand on the very edge of the sidewalk a tram WILL run you over; and Three: Beer (pivo) really is that cheap!

But let’s backtrack to my journey here…an almost 10 hour flight from Dulles to Vienna where I sat next to a very friendly Bulgarian gent. Imagine if you will, burly Bulgarian, Joe,  asking through his thick accent “Why you no have boyfriend” for the first half hour of the trip. And here I was afraid I’d be stuck next to someone smelly. The flight went smoothly enough, we took off shortly after an American sunset and landed to a cotton candy, Vienna sunrise, a light dusting of snow still on the ground from days before. Just a skip away and I was in Prague! I’ve taken a mini walking tour of the city and bought my first groceries (in Koruna!) while operating on minimal amounts of sleep. So glad to be moved into my flat! More details to come, dear friends!

 

Entry 2: Books and Things

Life is about taking the impossible and breaking it down into conceivable, achievable steps. I was struck by this thought today while buying a book at a wonderful czech bookstore. Sure, the book was in english, but I managed quite well regardless of the language barrier. The event goes as follows:

Me: dobrý den! 

(giggle giggle as I proceed to pay her in exact change using Koruna! She hands me my wrapped book.)

Me (again): Díky! Na Shledanou!

end scene (bahaha)

Okay, so perhaps you had to have been there to share in my brief shining moment of victory…

I also have a bit of a confession to make, dear readers. Sometimes (already) I stand on the tram or bus next to my english speaking flatmates and remain mute, a blank look on my face, as I attempt to look as Czech as possible. I like to think my fellow tram riders thought me a native…a girl can dream. Any who, I eagerly await reading my copy of “Kafka at the Shore” (it’s not technically czech but it has Kafka in the title, give me a break!). More to come, pals!

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Entry 3: Groceries: A Foreign Concept?

An American’s survival grocery list:

Eggs

Milk

Bread

Butter (which no one really uses over here apparently)

Carrots

Potatoes (duh)

and more bread

I was pleasantly surprised that fresh produce here in Prague is relatively cheap. As I weave through the food aisles doing primitive conversions in my head (1 usd=20 korunas) I pass the meat (maso) section. Hmmm, self, I do believe I could buy triple my current stock of potatoes in exchange for a single chicken breast. Thus begins my stint of scrappy vegetarianism. Okay, occasional vegetarianism purely motivated by economic reasons…but it still counts! I’m also struck by the amount of processed food that was originally in American diets. I haven’t had a oreo or chips since arriving (how terribly un-American!). I admit the carb intake counteracts such a lack of goodies but hell, I’m Irish aren’t I? Can’t do away with my roots (don’t worry grandma!) But you don’t wanna hear about my eating habits…we visit the opera tomorrow. I will surely rave about The Magic Flute then. Ciao!

 

Entry 4: The Opera, A Night of Revelation

Dearest readers, I believe I am experiencing culture overload. Today after Czech class we journeyed to Prague Castle, a building that, at its core, was built in the 8th century. Our journey didn’t stop there. We soon went underground, descending level after level until we were there, inside a room of crudely dug sandstone, the lasting remnants of a far simpler, but brutal time. As I glided my hands across the worn, soft stone, I couldn’t help but hope that any wisdom of the former owner would magically ooze through my fingers. The fact that large sumptuous snowflakes were drifting down towards us outside merely punctuated the experience.

Soon after, my czech buddy, a flatmate, and I went to an art gallery supporting up and coming young artists. The splendid variety of canvases was incredible. One with gashes of vivid color, another with thousands of watered down pinpricks over an entire wall. Only to soon depart to the Opera. Cosí fan tutee.

Readers, I must admit, I have never been to an opera. The closest I ever came to one was the intro to “Mrs. Doubtfire” where Robin Williams sings (opera-like) as he dubs to a cartoon bird. This was an entirely different world. The building itself was stunning. The walls a smoky Robin’s egg blue mated generously with glimmering gilt. Rich, buttery folds of deep navy velvet masked the mysterious, deep stage, a pool of wonder and mysticism. “In a moment my being has been changed” this single line encapsulates my evening perfectly. Based on others reactions, I have discovered that one can seem cultured, they can look cultured, speak 4 different languages and have an Ivy League degree but without that incurable curiosity, a genius can come out a fool. May I never be a fool dear friends. May we both never be.

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Entry 5: The Magic Lantern

While at the cinema today, I discovered that language, like film, has this magnificent transportive quality. A verbal, guttural suitcase? I’ve found that languages are not simply strange new words or accent marks, but portals to a new world, avenues to cultures. I know I must pick up czech first, but I hope to never stop learning, never stop cultivating these avenues, cobblestone by cobblestone, word by word.

Tonight I have seen the filmmakers of tomorrow. They are bright, fresh, inspired. The poor economic prospects may darken news screens, but creativity remains unbridled. Perhaps inspiration can survive all turmoil. No, inspiration is cultivated by such turmoil. I’m not sure if I adore the city or the company more. This feeling of genuine inspiration through mere companionship has me dumbstruck, dear friends. Even a mouth as boisterous as mine has trouble finding the words. I go to the cinema again tomorrow (my third time in a week) more to tell then!

 

Entry 6: There's no Butter in my Popcorn!

Here’s the main difference between American cinemas and Czech ones, in a single word, beer. Yes, friends, one can enjoy a luke warm Pilsner in the comfort of a sunken movie seat. Another thing I’ve noticed here, every building serves an array of purposes, you think you’ve entered a simple movie theater? No, no (ne, ne) you have indeed entered one of the rowdiest pubs in Prague. Think you’re at the Opera? Take that flight of stairs to the left and sudden you’re bombarded by an enormous, stunning restaurant where only the elite dine. Bizarre but always an adventure!

The other big difference from the states? Czechs love their short films! I’ve already been to three short film festivals, every one of them delightful. They were also all student films, the most recent festival of entirely FAMU students. They were incredible. I felt honored to be associated with such an esteemed institution. Here’s hoping my films will one day end up on the same screen. For now I will content myself to my place in the audience, gawking at the grandeur of their success.

 

Entry 7: Pastry-atism

As I attempt to explore the breadth of Prague, I have taken to long walks to strange places. After meandering for several hours I decided to give my windburned face a rest and pop into a small cafe. Sitting over my káva bez mleko a pečivo, it hit me for the first time how much I love this city. There I sat dribbling on for ten pages between nibbles and sips, losing myself in the lazy atmosphere of this tiny cafe. I walked around the Charles Bridge, explored the other side of the Vltava, went to Old Town, even reached Wenceslas square, the site where Jan Palach completed his final political protest through self-immolation. 

I had to take a moment to reflect of such an event. Jan, I have been there, where your conflagration of martyrdom erupted into history. Wow. Every cobblestone here has a history it seems. Castles from the 8th century, town squares from the 10th. All this contemplation over a delightful raspberry pastry. Havel, the idealized Prague, and a few sheets of baked puff pastry, perhaps a new religion? A euphoric way of life here. In a country with the oldest, most architecturally stunning churches and a population of roughly 90% atheists, I have decided Pastry-atism isn’t such a bad idea after all. And so, dear friends, if you ever need to find me, I suspect I’ll be in a tiny cafe, my latest house of worship (sacrilegious, I know).

 

11/01/2011

Hope You Saved Room For Dessert

by Jessica Miller (Whittier College)

Saturday, October 22nd

Get ready for one sweet blog. (See what I did there?)

I'll be honest, I haven't tried all the Czech desserts yet-- which is very strange considering I'll eat anything if someone sprinkles sugar on it. But Czech desserts are like nothing you'll find back in America. There's tons to choose from and they use some pleasantly surprising ingredients; definitely worth trying out. And hey, if you don't like them, then there's always good ol' zmrzlina.

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Osm kopečky, prosím!

Most Czech desserts revolve around three things: sugar, fruit and starch. For instance:


Ovocné Knedlíky (oh-votz-nay kned-lee-kee)

Fruit-filled dumplings. Yes! You can have dumplings for dinner AND dessert! Just know that there's a  strictly enforced bring-your-own-wheelchair policy so you're able to leave the restaurant. You can bank on these being filled with some sort of berry, like blueberries or strawberries, though I don't think apple is unheard of. I tried these during the first week of my stay here, after nomming hardcore on my first-ever smažený sýr. Every part of my body kept begging me not to take another bite-- but my tastebuds overruled.

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Koláče (ko-lot-chay)

There's a million variations of this, including the name (I wasn't quite sure which one would yield the best Google Image results). This reminded me a lot of a danish when I tried it. It's a flat roll made out of a sweet dough, and on top is some variety of fruit/jam-y stuff, some kind of sweet cream cheese, and poppy seeds mixed into a type of sugary paste. You can find poppy seeds in a lot of Czech dishes (such as pasta with olive oil and poppy seeds... I may have to try it). They work very nicely on the koláče to counterbalance the tart sweetness of the fruit and cream cheese.

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Ovocný Pohár (oh-votz-nee po-har)

Fruit sundae. This one is very simple but it is superb. They take a glass that might otherwise be used for wine or beer, and fill it with fruit, ice cream and whipped cream (sometimes they'll get fancy shmancy and stick a wafer or something in there). During my stay in Písek I tried one with vanilla ice cream and raspberries. SO GOOD.

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Palačinky (pal-uh-ching-kee)

LOVE me some palačinky! Palačinka means "pancake." In central Europe (or perhaps all of Europe... I haven't done enough traveling yet) pancakes are served as desserts. They're not thick honkin' slabs-o-pancake like you get at IHOP (though the sugar content is probably similar); they're very thin and crepe-like. You can create a pretty dank ("awesome," if you aren't hip to the So-Cal lingo) dessert pancake by filling it with any combination of the following: ice cream, hot fudge, fruit, whipped cream, nuts, etc.

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Using all of them at once: instant win!


Strůdl (stroo-dul)

Don't you dare come all up in my blog and tell me you've never had strudel.

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Dalkove Kolacky (doll-ko-vay ko-lotch-kee)

At least I think that's what they're called. I haven't tried these but I see them everywhere. It's either a sugar or shortbread cookie with some type of fruit jam filling, complete with a little smiling face on the top. This is perfect; I always like to look my food in the eye before I eat it. ("I thought she said she was a vegetarian...") I couldn't find an exact picture of them, but here's the basic idea:

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Gee thanks, photographersdirect.com!


Medovník (meh-dov-neek)

Honey cake. It's a light, fluffy cake with layers of cake, honey, cinnamon... some other stuff, depending on the variation. I haven't tried this yet, but there is a slice in my fridge that I imagine will be gone within the next 24 hours (an optimistic estimate).

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And the reason I haven't eaten it yet is only because I just consumed...

Marcipán (mar-tsee-pawn)

Okay, so maybe this isn't necessarily a "traditional" Czech dessert. But I got it from a traditional Czech cukrárna (sweet shop), so it counts... right? For those who don't know, marzipan is a sweet almond paste. People sculpt it into all sorts of elaborate shapes... finally,  artwork I can both appreciate and digest! The one I got today was a ball of cake with a layer of marzipan in the middle and marzipan around the outside. It was sinfully sweet. And just look at that face! I almost felt bad eating something so adorable. Almost.

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Also featured: slice of medovník and chocolate-covered sticks of marcipán. Yeah, I'm a fatty, wanna fight about it?


10/21/2011

FOODZ

by Jessica Miller (Whittier College)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

All right, kids. Sit your keister down, because it's about time I told you a little something about the glory and the absurdity that is...
...
...
Czech food.

That's right. Brace yourself. Because just after READING this blog, you won't be able to eat. For a week.

I'll admit I haven't had the 100% *AUTHENTIC WOWZA* Czech food experience because I've recently taken up vegetarianism, and meat is a main component of Czech cuisine. But I've still had my fair share of the food.

One word: Heavy.

"Italian food is heavy." NO.
"Mexican food is heavy." NO.
CZECH FOOD IS HEAVY.

Allow me to lead you through the various courses... For starters, ya got what 75% of what Czech dining is about: soup, or "polévka." There's a vast number of polévky to choose from; I'll list some of my favorites, which are also the most popular. Most are eaten with a particular rye or sourdough bread which is fairly common in the Czech Republic.

Cibulačka (see-boo-lotch-kuh)
This is a typically broth-based onion soup.

Cibulacka

Bramboračka (bram-bo-rotch-kuh)

Cream-based potato soup. It's usually fairly thick.

Bramboracka

Houbová Polévka (how-bo-vuh po-lev-kuh)

It might also be called "houbočka," I'm not sure. But this is mushroom soup: another thick, cream-based soup. It tastes REALLY good with bread.

Houbovka

Hovězí Vývar (ho-vyeh-zee vee-var)

Literally, beef broth. Haven't tried it, but it's a very common soup you're bound to find in most Czech restaurants.

Vyvar

Česnečka (chess-netch-kuh)

Garlic soup. Delicious, and great for hangovers!

Cesnecka

So order any one of these bad boys as a starter. Word of caution: cream-based soups may be amazing, but they're really filling. And if you're following through with your 3-course Czech meal, then you'll want plenty of room for the main course. Here are a few of the most popular:

Hovězí s Knedlíky (ho-vyeh-zee s kned-lee-kee)
So what we've got here is a very traditional main course. It consists of beef ("hovězí") and dumplings ("knedlíky") all swimming in a rich, creamy beef sauce. For those who don't know, dumplings are thick, floury... discs... usually made of bread or potatoes. They're delicious, especially if you eat them with some kind of sauce ("omáčka"). Since they're also completely starch they fill you up. Fast.

Gulas

Pečené Vepřové s Knedlíky (peh-cheh-nay vep-shro-vay s kned-lee-kee)

 Same thing. But with pork, and usually some sort of vegetable prepared in the least healthy (and thus most delicious) manner possible-- spinach, saurkraut, etc.

Veprova

 Guláš (goo-losh... gee, why does this sound familiar?)

...Yes, it's goulash. Goulash is a stew made of beef and vegetables. If you're looking for some down-home Communist era cuisine, this is it.

Gulas2

Šopský Salát (shop-skee suh-lat)
Otherwise known as "šopák." Okay, this is more like a traditional salad than an actual meal, but I get it a lot because it is duh-ricious. It's simply peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers with feta cheese and olive oil.

Sopak

Smažený Sýr (smaj-nee seer)

DRUM ROLL PLEASE. Okay, so we're all familiar with cheese sticks, right? Smažený sýr is a cheese BRICK. It's literally a block of fried cheese, served with a side of potatoes and tartar sauce, sometimes cranberries.

Smazak

 ...Cheese. JUST CHEESE. As a main course. I still can't get over it. It's the most delicious way to simulate the feeling that you've swallowed a bowling ball.

And all of these wonderful meals are usually accompanied with beer. So-- beer, soup, bread, meat, potatoes. That's your traditional meal. Czech food is really delicious... but should only be consumed in sparse intervals.

TUNE IN NEXT BLOG when I talk about desserts!

10/13/2011

More food...

By Alex Thompson (DePauw University)

Here are my initial thoughts on Czech food, both as a warning and as an endorsement for anyone unaccustomed: sauce and potatoes. For me, I’m not a big sauce man. At least not cream-based sauces or mayonaise-based sauces like horseradish or whatever. If the general color is white and the first ingredient isn’t a vegetable (tomato) or seed (mustard) I’m an unapologetic knife-scraper. The first few weeks we had bagetas, sandwiches with butter or different types of non-vegetable/seed-based sauces accompanying an assortment of cheeses and meats that often had a tang of spice attached to it. I liked these sandwiches, though there was often too much omačka (sauce) for me. It’s almost always worth it to be the guy scraping mayo off your knife into the sandwich wrapper. The key there is to be in the middle of a conversation so you can “mm hm” a lot and distract yourself and your peer from your grossly disrespectful behavior.

 

The second item I mentioned was potatoes, brambory. They are everywhere, rather plainly cooked in butter and lemon, no spices usually. There’s really not much else to say in terms of the potatoes. That is what they are and if that’s something you like a lot you’re in luck because they’re everywhere, accompanying meats and often other potato dishes. Potatoes. At the FAMU cafeteria, there is an alarming potato surplus, I think, because of the three meal choices, potato will be the entrée for one and the side dish for the other. The cafeteria is a great place to eat for cheap – 40 korun for a meal and 20-some for a bageta – but don’t commit yourself. Feel no romantic attachment to the cafeteria. There isn’t always a good meal choice – it’s traditional Czech food, yes, but made with a real cafeteria sloppiness that often undermines nutritional value. The best days are broth based sauce days and chicken days. Often there is curry. Today, for example, a very good day – chicken in a red sauce with rice; the soup was a thick potato. The cafeteria is a fine place. Three weeks ago, however, the options were more difficult to choose from – they had a strange iteration of the classic beef and dumplings that I didn’t want to risk, so I got what I thought was the safe choice, pasta. The pasta turned out to be topped not with pepper but with poppyseed and sugar! The cafeteria lady behind the counter also poured a spoonful of lemon-butter sauce on it. The nice woman next to me explained that this sweet pasta was a traditional meal that somebody’s grandmother might prepare. I assumed and she concurred that the love and intimacy of a grandmother probably contributes to the taste. Never risk the purple-ish pasta.

My favorite place to eat, I’ve mentioned, is the Louvre. Other than that, I love the restaurant underneath FAMU, where you can get a lot of food for very little money. Garlic baguette, grilled chicken, two beers and a tomato and onion salad ran me under 10 USD.

Kmotra, “Godmother“ in Czech, is the cleverly named pizzeria and café on V Jirchářích. What I love is this: you have a tough day. You’ve been running around a lot. Let’s switch speakers so I’m explaining that it was a very tough day for me and I’d been in class since 9 am. Being 5 pm, straight up 17:00:00, I need food. I grab a buddy (Will Trowbridge) and head to Kmotra. Down, down into the basement I place an order for a margherita pizza, 100 korun. I then modify my order to add tuna for 20 korun. That’s a 120 korun pizza the size of my torso. A Siciliana, tuna fish and parsely, is 150. Like any benevolent godmother, Kmotra lets you cheat the system with a list of “by request” prices for specific toppings. The pizza is fantastic. The grease coagulating in the middle comes from the cheese and nowhere else. I watch the pizza man work. Shovel it in and that’s a meal. Or split it and that’s a meal. Or take it home and that’s two meals, four meals, five meals – all for 120 korun. Put tuna on your pizza.