Friday, November 6, 2009

Pizza Neděle!

Pizza Sunday is my very own failed tradition here in the Czech Republic.

It started off as a great plan!

In our neighborhood there is a nice Italian Restaurant called Gusto (Found HERE). They have a large menu with everything from pizza, to pasta, Czech meals, etc. Lots of options and some pretty good food.

Overall, the restaurant has a great feel to it and everything looks very nice. Probably what one would expect to find in a nicer Italian restaurant. Located on a busy street that is frequented by pedestrians, car, and tram traffic, the restaurant's outward appearance is very bold and colorful.

Inside you will find that the restaurant is much larger than you would have thought, judging by an outside appearance. Besides normal seating (also known as the smoking section), the restaurant offers a non-smoking section, a kids section with TV, games, and cartoons painted on the wall, secluded rooms for parties of private gathering, and also an outdoor seating area in the back of the building in the courtyard area.

As with any restaurant in the Czech Republic, they also have a full stocked bar. Price wise it is a fairly expensive to have a few drinks compared to other alternatives in the area. Beer (pivo) runs around 35 crowns (~$2 US) compared to other places in the area that serve the same pivo for around 22 crowns. Even though the restaurant has a great feel to it and nice surroundings, you will not find an active local population going there for drinks. By US standards, I doubt you would get much complaint about the price :)

Now, the reason for my failed tradition is that every Sunday Gusto offers half price pizza to students. No matter the age, a student ID card is all that is needed.
One pie per student. While the pizza is no Papa Murphy's (Yeah, I went there), they taste pretty damn good! Part of the reason is that they are made by open fire in a brick oven.

The restaurant has a pretty good selection of different kinds of pies. Toppings range from what the US would consider traditional to things less traditional, like corn. Unlike pizza in the states, Czech pizza usually has very little cheese and very little grease, if any. It is pretty similar to pizza you would find in Italy. I have also noticed that the pies are not as clustered with toppings as a pizza you would get in the states.

Price wise, the pizza at Gusto runs around 150 crowns (around $8US) for a size that will confidently fill to gut of two adults. Usually we would not spend that much on pizza, since there are certainly less expensive options, but half price Sunday is a pretty decent deal!

Since the tradition was crafted five Sundays ago, we have only made it here twice. Though, there is always hope for this Sunday! :D

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Karlovy Vary! (Carlsbad)

I went my wife and some of our family to visit some extended family in the Western part of Czech. Since we were already in the area, we decided to stop by and visit Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad in German or if you are from the UK)!

A video I made showing some of the sights along with some more pictures can be found HERE, or located above in my video bar!

Karlovy Vary, located HERE, is one of the Czech Republic's famous spa towns located around 80 miles West of Prague. They city, which was founded in 1370, has a population of around 50,000 people. The city has been featured in films like "Last Holiday," and the 007 flick "Casino Royal," among others. Each year the city hosts a large international film festival, which I think would be fun to attend at some point! Carlsbad, New Mexico; Carlsbad Caverns National Park; and Carlsbad, California all take their names from Carlsbad (Karlovy Vary).

One of the things that makes Karlovy Vary so popular is its beautiful location, architecture, and warm mineral springs that flow through a number of different drinking fountains around the city. It is said that drinking from the different mineral springs is good for a person who is trying to recover from an illness or other ailment. Around the city you will find many small stands that sell a wide verity of decorated cups, usually found with a straw built into the handle.

Around the city you will find different fountains with water varying in taste and temperature. I believe the hottest fountain I saw was around 72 degrees Celsius, or over 160 degrees Fahrenheit. There is even an indoor fountain with naturally pressurized mineral water.

The Czech Republic is pretty unique from the US when it comes to healthcare. If you come down with an illness, give birth to a child, or have problems conceiving a child just to name a few, the government will at times pay for you to go to one of these spa cities to get well. When I say the government pays for you I of corse mean it is paid from taxes!

While in these spa towns, one will typically stay in a very nice hotel with complimentary food, masseuse, and other such amenities. I have heard of people staying in these places for a number of months while trying to recover. The Czech people comment that the women who come to a spa town to try and become fertile will usually find out that the cure is the men she meets there. :)

As for the architecture and natural beauty of the city,

Yeah, it's not too bad :)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Sights and Sounds of Prague

Just a short post for today. I was bored the other day so I decided to take out our little Flip Ultra HD pocket camera and take some video shots.

The video was taken on a cloudy Fall day. Wish there was some sun :)

The film starts out in the Vinohrady district of Prague (Praha 2) and ends up in Old Town. Along the way you will see over a thousand years of Czech history through architecture. The video is meant to give a small glimpse at some of the day to day hustle and bustle around Prague and also highlight some of its more famous locations.

The video is also meant to show what has changed to those who used to live in the neighborhood :)

The video is a little shaky at times as it was filmed with a small pocket sized camera and I have no tripod :(

Direct link found HERE.

I will embed the video, but as always it will not fit the screen correctly. You can click the link above to view on youtube or look ahead to my video bar! (CLICK "HD" in youtube to view in high definition)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Praha Nightlife - Cross Club

Photo borrowed from Here.

Well after being here around 3 weeks or so, the wife and I finally got out to experience some of the nightlife around Prague. We went with a friend and decided to go out to a club that we had first been to during our last visit to Prague around 3 years ago.

The Cross Club is a VERY unique establishment located in Praha 7, found Here.

After a short metro ride from the green line to the red line (Nádraží Holešovice stop), we found ourselves out in a less populated part of the city. There were a few apartment buildings and a hotel nearby, but the area seems to be more of an industrial type area of the city. It is nothing like the more tourist oriented clubs that you will find in the old town area.

As you near closer to the club from the metro stop (which is just a short walk down the road if you take a left after exiting the metro), you will immediately notice that this is not your normal kind of club. The front contains a large expanse of metal which has been fashioned as a multi-storied outdoor dining/drinking area. It is very artistically constructed with a mix of random moving mechanical pieces and various light sources.

The inside of the club is just as unique. While inside you will notice what seems like a maze of hallways which can take you to one of the 4 or 5 (I have no idea how many floors their are!) levels which very greatly in detail. The upper part of the club is a well lit non-smoking area where the rest of the club is rather dark. Random pieces of metal objects have been constructed into moving "things," that are mounted to the walls and attached to the ceilings. It is very hard to describe how it looks but it gives the impression that everything is moving.

What would be a normal one story brick room is transformed with very unique lighting solutions and scaffold like raisers which turn one room with high ceilings into a multi-level sitting area. When ascending to the upper level it is required to duck your head as to not hit the ceiling. When you sit down at one of the tables the height is no longer an issue. It is a very unique design which gives the club a great atmosphere. I believe I counted approximately 6 or 7 different bar locations around the club where one can order a drink. Beer prices ran around 30 crowns for a .5L (around $1.50US) and a coke with Czech rum for around 50 crowns (about $2.50US).

The last time we visited the club the main dance area (there are two or three I believe) featured live reggae singers and the audience to match. On this occasion it is what I would describe as a typical Euro disco. Loud techno/disco music with a floor filled with crazy dancers, myself included. It was a great time and the energy level was quite high. They had some great DJs!

Overall we had a great time. We arrived around 10pm and didn't get back home until 5:30am. We met some awesome people at the club and got a taste of the night life scene. The cab ride home (Praha 2 Vinohrady Area) was a fixed 200 crown (around $10 US), which was a decent price considering it was being split 4 ways. We didn't realize until the next afternoon that the metro starts back up at 5am and would could have just taken that back home! The metro stops running between midnight and 5am so if you wish to take public transportation during that time you have to wait around for the night trams that run every 40min.

If you live around Prague or plan on visiting some time in the future and want to experience some unusual nightlife, this is definitely a place to check out!

I will include a shot video of the club, but as usual the full video will not fit on the screen. You can either click the video to view on youtube or click above in my video bar!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Czech Gun Shop

Ok, so many people that know me well will know that I am somewhat of a "gun enthusiast." A common misconception that many people have is that there are almost no weapons to be found around the European countries that a citizen would have access to purchase. While this is mostly true for many European countries, the Czech Republic remains one of the few countries where a citizen can still purchase, shoot, and legally carry a firearm. Unlike many European countries, Czech has used some common sense and realized that you cannot legislate morality by trying to ban inanimate objects that people may use in crime. While the Czech Republic has a problem with theft (car theft being a big issue), their violent crime rate is lower than MANY Westernized countries, including many that have a total ban on firearms.

With all that said, I wanted to see what you would find in a typical Czech gun shop. In this case, a gun shop that is located in the largest city in the Czech Republic, which also happens to be the capital city. The shop is located in Prague 2, found here
View Larger Map

Unfortunately, I found that the shop was closed between 1200 and 1300 for lunch. Having about 45 minuets to kill, I decided to take a walk around the neighborhood and wait for it to reopen. The view through the window let me know immediately that I was in the right place :) The photo is quiet poor, but immediately I noticed that the front window consisted of two full automatic AK-47 machine guns, one fully automatic IMI UZI Model B, two American Thompson sub-machine guns, an M60 belt-fed machine gun, an HK56, and two WW2 era Soviet rifles. To a gun nut, this is a very nice sight to see :)

Once the store opened back up I spoke with the owner (well, I tried to. He didn't speak any english and my Czech is quite poor) and asked if he minded if I took some pictures to show my friends back home. He had no problem with my request and allowed me to snap away while he helped other customers. He seemed to be a very laid back and friendly guy. The shop was full of historic and modern firearms. While I was looking at what the shop had to offer and snapping away with my camera, a man was at the counter looking at some old Soviet WW2 era bolt action rifles. After finding the one he wanted to purchase, he filled out the paperwork and was able to walk out with the rifle and around 800 rounds of 7.62x54r ammunition in the matter of about 15 minuets. It is a very similar process to how one would purchase a firearm in the United States, in most areas. It was an interesting thing to see as I wondered how their process worked.

There were some very interesting firearms in the shop. I was also surprised to find the prices were generally very reasonable. I found a few WW2 area pistols in the first display case I looked into, including a Walther P38 for around $500 US, and Russian Tokerav pistol for around $180US, and some slightly newer things, like the fully automatic Czech Vz 61 Skorpion on the left side of the case. Unfortunately I was not able to see what those are currently selling for. They are a pretty unique firearm that has been used by both special forces groups as well as terrorist factions world wide. The design inspired Uziel Gal in his creation of the UZI sub-machine gun in the 1950s. Lower in the case I found a Sterling sub-machine gun in decent shape selling for the VERY reasonable price of around $300US.

After that I moved onto the pistol cases to see what was being offered. Unfortunately, there was a man rummaging through a spare parts boxes on top of the case that held the CZ pistols so I was not able to get a good picture. I did find CZ75 9mm pistols selling for around $300US, used in good condition, as well as new for around $600. That was all I was able to price check in that case. The next case I came across had largely new and used revolvers along with other small pistols.

There I found New S&W revolvers selling around $600-700US and used of the same selling for a little over $300US. I was surprised to see a pistol in the case called a "kevin," which was just recently introduced in the US under the Israeli IWI brand as the Micro Desert Eagle in .380. The price was around $325US.

Elsewhere around the shop I found: Czech military AK-47 style rifles, US M1 Carbines, AR/M4/M16 style rifles in .22lr for around $700US, Remington 870 shotguns in 12ga for around $700US, new EoTech rifles sights for $700US, and very used models of Eotech sights for around $400. Also found a selection of knives, with a couple Benchmade models around $40US and some other assorted brands. I saw many WW2 era SVT-66 rifles, as well as a Fully automatic HK G3 and a Bren light machine gun in a rack towards to back of the shop. Glock pistols were selling for around $800 for the sub-compact G36 and the full-size G17.

Below are some more random photos from the shop.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Like a Day at the Park

Hello all! I just got back from taking my pups to one of the local parks a few blocks from my flat. The park is called Riegrovy sady and is located in the Vinohrady district of Prague (Praha 2). Find it on the map HERE!

I stumbled upon this place just a few days ago and am currently wondering why I did not know about it sooner! Like many parks across Prague, you will often see them teeming with activity. Since Prague has one of the largest dog per-person ratios, residents are always out and about with man's best friend. This park is no different. In many places around the area you will find "dogs run free" signs where park goers will stand around talking with each other while their pups have a play day.

One incredible feature that sets this park above many you will often find, is the incredible view of the surrounding city. At first glance, one will normally walk around enjoying the activity and the greenery, and unless you go along the right path or know about this park to begin with, it will come as quite a shock when you witness the incredible views this park boasts. I know it was a surprise when I first stumbled upon this park. The city of Prague was built on a number of hills, but you will often forget this fact as you walk around the city. VIews like this remind you of the cities geography.

Another thing about this park that reminds you that you are in Prague (as if one would forget :D ), is the park bars! This is one feature that I have never seen in a park in the United States. Now, I am not talking about a bar that shares a street on the outskirts of a park. I am talking about not one, but several bars that are located within the center of park which is only accessible by park goers. There are no roads to these bars, so walking is the only way you are going to find them. Many are focused towards enjoying the outdoors, so you will often see people sitting on the outside benches with their dogs enjoying the day. Here is the first one I came across.
It has a great atmosphere and seems to always be busy with park goers. Just today I overheard a wife say to her child that he should go call over the dog so daddy and her can go have some vodka at the pub :). If you do not wish to stay outside, you will find the interior nice and warm. The bar has a beautiful wood interior, as is the the bar structure which is also inlaid with large stones. They feature a few brews on tap with prices ranging around the $1.50 range for a half liter of pivo. When the weather is nicer, there is also available roof seating where you can sit and enjoy the weather, along with a hot meal and a mug of Czech beer. Overall, the place has a very nice feel to it and it is a nice place to take a break.

Another interesting bar you can find in this park is a strictly outdoor space. There are small stands where you can order a meal and a beer, and then sit down at one of the park benches with umbrella and either enjoy some sports on the big screen or a local play or concert on the stage if you happen to be there during a structured event. Today there were perhaps 7 tables full of families enjoying a beer and watching the game.

Like all the places around the park, everything is very inviting and generally the people around are just having a great time enjoying what the park has to offer. Right across from this outdoor event space you will find a more indoor restaurant and pub. I didn't really stop by to check it out, but I did snap a quick picture.

Besides these features, the park also has a full playground which is usually teeming with children, many small gathering areas with picnic tables or benches, and on the South side of the park there is and old school, which now has been converted into a neighborhood rec. center which includes game courts, a track, swimming pool, restaurants, and other enticing amenities. Outside the door they have postings for various classes one could sign up for, from sports related activities to hobby groups. It is truly nice to have access to these resources. There are also fields where dogs are not allowed so you have a nice place to go lay in the sun, work on some homework, or maybe read a book while enjoying the outdoor space. No fear of finding some doggie surprises hiding in the grass :)

I will conclude this entry with a few random snapshots from my day. I hope you enjoy, and if you live in this area or plan on making a visit, maybe this is a nice place you can go and check out :)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Drive Through Prague

Just a quick video post. I will post a link here (though it will not all fit. Click to view on youtube or click the video above in my video bar!)

I filmed out short journey to gather some goods at our local Tesco. :)