Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Hakka song

Lai sui moi in hakka means female construction worker. It might be funny to some people except the hakka, it is very common to have hakka women working alongside the men in the fields, in construction and other jobs nobody wants.

Shopping in Prague

I'm still trying to figure the new blogger editor, I don't know if I like it. I'm tempted to look for a new blogging host. The puppet shops reminded me of Sicily. Marionettes are very popular in Sicily.Chinese in Prague? Why not? Again it reminded us of the strangest place where we had Chinese food, in Trapani, the most western city in Sicily. It was a cold and rainy Sunday night when we went looking for food and nothing except the cafes were opened. We had already gotten really wet during the day's excursion to Erice and my boots were squeaking because they were very wet. It took 2 days before they dried. I was miserable and wouldn't mind eating day old Lasagna at one of the cafes. Sophie insisted on walking further to look for something better and lo and behold we did, a Chinese restaurant. We ate well, we chatted with the owners. That was fun, we'll always remember that incident. Here is the market place in Prague where they sold fruits and vegetables and souvenirs. I don't think it's a place for the locals, it's a place more for the tourists.I watched as the shopkeeper took out a new box for a customer and I said to myself, 'I'm going to see where that thing is made'. It had, 'made in China' on it. Ok, now we know almost all if not all souvenirs all over the world are actually made in China. What a let down. But there was a store that sold 'made in the Czech Republic' stuff.
There were numerous Starbucks and McDonald's all over the place. In Budapest we ate at a BurgerKing a couple of times. We maybe away from home but not really away from home, there are so many reminders of home all over the world.

Friday, November 27, 2009

A river runs through it

It was late afternoon when we finally ventured near the river Vltava and also caught a glimpse of the Charles Bridge. Like Paris with the river Seine running through it, Rome with the Tiber river running through it, Prague hs the river Vltava running through it. We did hang out long enough to see the lights lit up at the castle on the other side. We didn't venture to the castle quarter till the next morning. It is evident from these pictures that it was dusk. To have heard so much about Prague and now to be here was incredible. We've seen postcards of the castle from this vantage point at night when it was all lit up. Wow! We are at that moment seeing it in person.

They have just started lighting up the lamps.... Prague castle at night. It had been a long day, we started early in the morning in Munich and arrived after a 6 hour train ride. We've been all over town, it was now time to call it a day and tomorrow we cross the Charles bridge to visit Prague castle and St Vitus.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Wenceslas Square

It's not really a square, it is a broad boulevard lined with fancy buildings that now houses fancy shops. Here we are heading towards the old town square. It is named after one of the Czech Republic's heroes, King Wenceslas of the Christmas time favorite, 'Good King Wenceslas'. He was credited with bringing culture and education to the Czechs. The Czechs were never a military power and they have always chosen heroes that enhances their culture and intellect rather than their fighting strength. It is very admirable. At the other end of the square is the museum. We didn't have time to visit the museum.

I was surprised to see this giant building that now houses a huge bookstore. I love bookstores, most of my disposable income goes to Barnes and Noble, and There are a few English bookstores near the old town and they are usually staffed by American expatriates. We chatted with one of them. They come to teach English and end up staying. This square is home to a few architectural styles, notice the beautiful Art Nouveau exterior of the Grand Hotel Evropa.
1989 was the year Communist rule ended in Eastern Europe. In November that year, some 300,000 Czechs and Slovaks were gathered in this square chanting at the communist government, 'it's time to go.' Today Prague feels like any other European city. There's something to be said about freedom.

Happy Thanksgiving 2009

Thanksgiving means that Christmas is hot on its heels and then the New Year. 'Fast away the old year passes..fa la la la la....

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Na Prikope

The most fashionable street in Prague, Na Prikope, chock full of Art Nouveau style buildings and fanciful shops. When we visited that morning, there were already a few tour groups there. It's good to be in a tour group, they have the knowledge of the history of the place. It's amazing this street and all the lovely things in Prague survived the world wars, Hitler's rule and communism and then emerged unscathed as if nothing happened and rejoin the western world in their consumerism. Why is the modern world associated with malls and fancy shops. It's the same mentality in China. When I visited Kunming, Yunnan, China, they were building more and more malls and there were some of the west most famous labels there. I could never afford these designer's things and why would I waste thousands of dollars (hard earned) on designer shoes, clothes or handbags? I'd rather take a trip.

We craned our necks just looking up and taking pictures of these gorgeous buildings.

There was an eyesore, this building, a remnant of the communist era, it's some worker's building. The statues depict some of the professions the communists deemed noble!

The oldest building in Prague is now a bank. It is absolutely gorgeous. This is the ceiling at the entrance. Inside is this gorgeous staircase, there was a guard there and we weren't allowed to take any pictures but while he was not looking I managed to take this shot.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Art Nouveau

Most maps in guidebooks are not drawn to scale. So most times, I can't tell how far apart things are and whether one would require motorized transportation. Once you've been on the ground, then you'll find out the scale of things. One doesn't need any transportation in Prague at all unless you are elderly. I met someone who said by the time you've climbed down and then up the stairs of the metro, you would have reached your destination if you had walked above ground. From our hotel across the street from the main train station, we walked to Wenceslas square, to old town square, to the Jewish quarter, cross the Charles Bridge, walked up a little hill to the castle quarter and St Vitus. That's pretty much most of Prague. Looking at it today, it is hard to envisage that not too long ago, Hitler was here and so was communism. Today, it is like any other European city. Our hotel was part of a small chain and it has been refurbished and had all the modern amenities including the Internet. The staff was nice enough. We needed to go to Holesovice train station to take the train to Vienna and they arranged for a car to take us, for a fee, of course. I think it was 250 korunas.
It is a pretty city, lined with beautiful Art Nouveau buildings. Like most European cities, it is crowded with tourists.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Jewish quarter in Prague

Prague or Bohemia had a huge and important Jewish presence since the middle ages. They were one of the few 'Jew cities' or 'Judenstadte'. They were given freedoms as regular folks and flourished and was in every profession. Europe, especially Eastern Europe was strongly Roman Catholic and soon discriminated against them because of the quirky Jewish ways and their refusal to convert to Catholism. The regular folks soon relagated the Jews to 'ghettos'.These ingenious Jews prospered regardless of the obstacles placed on them. This reminds me of a verse in the Old Testament that said, 'blessed is he whose God is the Lord'. God's word in the bible is immutable. We, all know what happened to the Jews during Hitler's time and during communism.
Today the Jewish quarter is among the fanciest neighborhood in Prague. The synagogues have been rebuilt. The old cemetery still stand as a reminder of a people so oppressed and yet still strong and vibrant. The old Jewish cemetery is just a tiny little plot but it has been estimated that tens of thousands of Jews have been buried here, one on top of another. The entrance fee was too steep that we refused to pay so we didn't get to go in to see it. We could see it from the streets, the cemetery was above the streets. I took a few pictures and told myself, that was enough, we came, we saw.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

What's this?

I don't remember what this is, it is the door to some church, though I can't temember which one. Oh well.

We walked into this store and lo and behold there was this little thing on the floor. I looked at it and asked someone near by, 'what's this, is it real?' Indeed he is as real as you and I. It's the tiniest dog I've ever seen. It is so cute. This was in a store in Prague.