Wednesday, November 19, 2014


Czechs drink the most beer per capita in the world.  Therefore it is important to know the rules when it comes to drinking.

For "cheers" you say na zdraví which means "to your health" and it is very, very important that you look at each person in the eye as you clink glasses.   

Be sure to never, ever cross your glass with someone else when you are clinking glasses.  Across Europe it is thought that doing so will bring seven years of bad sex. 

After you have clinked glasses with everyone then you can take a drink.  This goes for beer, wine or spirits.

In Moravia, the same rules apply for wine or shots but not beer.  Here after you have finished looking everyone in the eye and have clinked glasses, then you tap your beer mug on the table (or your beer coaster) before your first sip. 

If someone is drinking a nonalcoholic beverage then they do not participate in the cheers.  However in the USA, everyone cheers, even if it is with a glass of water or a cola.

Since living in Europe, I find that I say "cheers" quite often and it has nothing to do with drinking.  In British English people also say "cheers" for "thanks" and "good bye".

With so many friends here from all over, plus all of my travels, I've learned how to say "cheers" in many languages.

Czech - Na zdraví
Slovak - Na zdravie
Polish - Na zdrowie
Hungarian - Egészségedre
French - Santé
Dutch - Proost
Italian -  Salute / Cin cin (Chin chin)
Bulgarian - Наздраве (Naz-dra-vey)
Irish - Sláinte (Slawn-ch) 
Russian - Будем здоровы (Budem zdorovi)
Hebrew - לְחַיִּים (L’chaim) 
Greek - γεια μας (Yamas)
Catalan - Salut
Spanish - Salud
Portuguese - Saúde
Turkish - Şerefe
Estonian - Terviseks
Finish - Kippis
Icelandic - Skál
Danish, Norwegian and Swedish - Skål
Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian - Živjeli
Romanian - Noroc (No-rock)
German -  Prost / Zum wohl
Romanians love to cheers with Germans and Austrians because in Romanian "prost" means "idiot".

Monday, November 17, 2014

25th Anniversary of the Velvet Revolution

Happy Struggle for Freedom and Democracy Day!!  Today is the 25th anniversary of the start of the Velvet Revolution that toppled the communist regime which ruled Czechoslovakia for more than 40 years.

On 17.11.1989 thousands of people came out to peacefully protest the Communist regime of General Secretary Miloš Jakeš. 

Velvet Revolution memorial in Prague

Samolové Revoluce, the Velvet Revolution, lasted a week.  The peaceful movement allowed Czechoslovakia to transition to a parliamentary republic.

Google's homepage doodle in Czech land and Slovakia today depicted the jingling of keys which was a symbol of the Velvet Revolution which signified the unlocking of closed doors.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Berousek Circus

Last night we went to see the Berousek Circus which put on a show in Brno.  The circus was founded in 1918 and over the years has traveled to more than 40 countries. 

The circus was quite small.  There were no lions, tigers or bears but all of the kids seemed to have a good time.   

Here's a short clip of the acrobats that I shot with my mobile.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Banana Juice

After 5½ years in Czechland I finally tried banana juice today.  I wasn't missing out on anything.

There are lots of different kinds of juice at the market but I've never understood banana juice.  How on earth are you supposed to juice a banana?  With the high starch content I would think it impossible. 

I'm sure that it wasn't 100% banana juice.  It had to have been blended with other juices but I wasn't curious enough to explore it further.  It tasted kind of like a very watered down banana milkshake.  I'll stick to the multivitamin juice.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Back from Vienna

At Parliament
We spent the last few days in Vienna showing Steven's mom all around the city.  We hit all of the big highlights such as Schönbrunn, Stephansdom and Peterskirche.

At Belvedere Palace

We didn't get to see the Rathaus because the city is getting ready for the Christmas market.  Vienna has markets all over the city but the big one at the Rathaus opens early, on the 15th.  Steven and his mom missed seeing the market by a few days. 

At Aïda
We, for sure, made time to visit Aïda for coffee and cake.

They are now on their way to Salzburg for a couple of days before going to Munich, and then back to Atlanta

It was so much fun getting to spend time with them!

Sunday, November 9, 2014


As I get older I am amazed at how fast time flies by.  Five years ago I wrote about the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.  Now it's five years later and it is the 25th anniversary of the Mauerfall (the fall of the wall).

Twenty five years ago I was in the U.S. Air Force.  The Cold War was still on.  Back then, military linguists learned how to speak critical East European languages such as German, Czech and Polish.  Russian is the only Cold War language that is still taught to the military.  Now I'm working for IBM in Czech Republic.  Who would have thought that possible 25 years ago? 

Very little of the Berlin Wall still exists.  What's left is mostly for tourists which I find kind of sad.  I understand that Berlin wants to move past its divided history.  However, the Mauerfall can still be an inspiration to those people living under oppressive regimes.

©CBS Evening News

Friday, November 7, 2014

Another Tour Group

Steven and Elizabeth
Steven called me about three weeks ago and said that he wanted to bring his mom to Europe and wanted to know if I would be up for some Atlanta guests.  Game on!  Of course my best friend and his mom are welcome anytime.

Visiting Prague Cathedral
It's funny that my family spent more than a year planning their European vacation.  Steven called and we sorted everything out in about a week.

On Charles Bridge, touch the plaque to insure a return visit
This is Elizabeth's first time in Europe.  We've hit all of the Prague highlights and it's been a great trip so far.

We even found the best Mexican restaurant I've ever been to in Euroland.  It was awesome!

One of the best things ever for an expat is receiving a care package from home.  Well I'm here to tell you that hand delivered care packages are so much better than getting them in the mail.  Steven and his mom went out of the their way to spoil me by bringing me all kinds of great goodies from Atlanta.  

Tomorrow we head to Brno for a couple of days and then it is on to Vienna.  I'm becoming quite the experienced tour guide.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Czechs Receive Bronze Stars

On Sunday, two Czech soldiers serving in Afghanistan were awarded Bronze Stars.  The Bronze Star medal is the 4th highest individual honor in the U.S. military.  It is awarded for acts of heroism, acts of merit, or for meritorious service in a combat zone.

Bronze Star
Warrant officer David Lavička and Jiří Pazděra, commander of a military company that has guarded Bagram allied base for six months, were presented the medals in Afghanistan by U.S. Major General Stephen Townsend. 

Platoon commanders and deputy commanders  were given Army Commendation Medals while other soldiers received Army Achievement Medals.

The 150-member Czech unit is tasked to guard the area surrounding Bagram Airfield in order to prevent rocket attacks and to gain intelligence information.  Over the past three months the Czechs have brought down the number of attacks down and eliminated rebel targets.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Sir Nicholas Winton

Yesterday the Czech President awarded Sir Nicholas Winton with the Order of the White Lion (Class I) at a special ceremony at Prague Castle.  He is 105 years old and the Czechs sent a special plane to bring him to the ceremony.

In 1939
At the onset of WWII he organized the rescue of 669 Jewish children from Czechoslovakia to England.  The British press have dubbed him the "British Schindler".  Including the offspring of those 669 children, around 6,000 people owe him their lives.

What's commendable is that he never sought out recognition for his heroic deed.  He never talked about it until his wife found an old scrapbook in the attic many years later.  He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2003.  

In 2009, to mark the 70th anniversary of the rescue, a statue was unveiled on platform 1 at the Prague main train station.  The 669 children were the lucky ones.  A total of 15,131 Czechoslovak children were killed in concentration camps.

1st Class Order of the White Lion
The Order of the White Lion is the highest possible honor in the Czech Republic.  It is awarded by the Czech President for outstanding services to the Czech Republic.

There are five classes of the award.  The 5th and 4th classes are awarded as crosses.  The 3rd class is worn around the neck.  The second class is worn around the neck with a chest star.  The 1st class is a sash with a badge and a star.  There is also a supreme grade which also includes a gold neck chain but that may only be awarded to Heads of State.

Here's a clip I found on YouTube about Sir Nicholas Winton.

©CBS Evening News

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

I Don't Have Ebola

On Sunday I had an early flight back to Prague from Oslo.  At least with the time change I had an extra hour to sleep in.  It still seems odd that Europe and the USA don't change time on the same day.  The two continents always change time a few weeks apart.  Anyway...

Prior to landing the flight crew gave everyone a form to fill out.  I've never had to fill this out before.  The form was only available in English.

According to the form it is to prevent the spread of Ebola and it is mandatory for everyone on an international flight arriving in Prague, Karlovy Vary, Pardubice, Ostrava or Brno.

You are required to turn it in to the appropriate personal upon arrival.  The form also says that if you have been in Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone within the past 42 days you must immediately report to the airport's Public Health Protection Authority.

There were signs showing where the health office was but no one collected the completed forms.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Scream

The Scream is a well-known masterpiece by Norwegian Expressionist artist Edvard Munch between 1893 - 1910.  Munch created four versions of it.  There are two paintings and two pastels.

Munch's Self-Portrait with Cigarette
The National Gallery in Oslo has one of the paintings.  The Munch Museum has a painting and a pastel.  The second pastel sold at Sotheby's in 2012 for $119,922,600.  This was the second highest price ever paid for a painting at auction.

This is a popular item to steal.  The Scream and another piece were stolen from the Munch Museum in 2004 but were both recovered in 2006.

The Scream, 1893
In 1994, on the opening day of the Lillehammer Olympics, two men broke in to the National Gallery and stole its painting.  The rub is that they left a note..."Thanks for the poor security".  The thieves demanded a $1 million ransom.  Norwegian and British police recovered the painting about three months later.

One of the best things about living in Europe is getting to see original masterpieces.  I'm just glad I got to see The Scream before someone tried to nick it again.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Oslo's Froger Park

Frogner Park is the biggest park in Norway.  It is open to the public and is about a 10 minute tram ride from the center of Oslo.

Gustav Vigeland
Between the 1920s and 1943, Norwegian sculptor Gustav Vigeland created 212 bronze and granite sculptures which he donated to the city.  Each of the pieces are of naked people and shows the human condition and development of life. 



Love the ski cap that someone put on the head
The Monolith of Life

Froger Park is the world's largest sculpture park done by a single artist.

Here's a Rick Steves video from YouTube about the Park.
©Rick Steves

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Oslo, Norway

Oslo is over 1,000 years old.  It is the capital of Norway and with a population over 634,000 it is the largest city.  The Oslo metro area is home to over 1.5 million people.  Oslo sits on the Oslofjord which is a 120 km (78 mile) long lake.  There's lots of nature here.  There are 40 islands and 343 lakes within the city limits. 

Oslo was founded in 1048 by King Harald Hardåde.  During the union with Denmark the city was renamed Christiania after the Danish King Christian IV.  In 1877 it became Kristiania until after Norway gained independence.  In 1925 the city became Oslo again.

University of Oslo
In 2012 Oslo was ranked #1 for quality of life among large European cities.  However it is one of the most expensive cities in the world.  In 2011 it was the #2 most expensive city after Tokyo.  In 2013, it tied with Melbourne, Australia as the #4 most expensive city in the world. 

Det Kongelige Slott is the Royal Palace.  The 173 room palace was completed in 1849 and is the official residence of the Norwegian monarch.

St. Olav's Cathedral
St. Olav's Cathedral was consecrated in 1896.  It is the Roman Catholic cathedral in Oslo.

Since 1866, Stortinget has been the Norwegian parliament building in central Oslo.

Trefoldighetskirken is the Church of the Holy Trinity.  The red brick church belongs to the Church of Norway.  It was consecrated in 1858 and is one of Oslo's largest churches.


The National Theater was built in 1899 and is the country's largest theater.


The Oslo Cathedral is the main church for the Church of Norway.  The church was consecrated in 1697.

Akershus Festning
Akershus Fortress is an Oslo castle that was built in the 1290s.  It was built to protect the city and has also been used as a prison.

Holmenkollen ski jump


Oslo Børs was founded in 1819.  It is the only independent stock exchange within the Nordic countries.

Opera House
The Opera House opened in 2008.  The exterior is covered with Italian marble and white granite.  It looks like it is rising from the Oslofjord.  You can walk up on the roof and it's a great place to watch the sunrise.


At 45 hectares (111 acres), Frogner Park is Norway's biggest park and is home to 212 bronze and granite sculptures by Gustav Vigeland.

The Fram Museum is a ferry ride away at Bygdøy.  It opened in 1936 and is dedicated to the Arctic and Antarctic exploration of the Fram which launched in 1892.  The ship sailed further north and further south than any other wooden ship.  The Fram is preserved inside and it is possible to walk through it.  The museum is also home to the Gjøa which was the first ship to sail through the Northwest Passage.

Oslo rådhus
Construction on the Oslo City Hall began in 1931 but was delayed because of WWII.  The building opened in 1950.  Every December 10th, this is where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded.

Nobel Peace Center

The Nobel Peace Center opened in 2005 to mark Norway's 100th year of independence.  The center is home to permanent exhibition about every winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

National Gallery

One of the cool things about living in Europe is getting to see original masterpieces instead of just prints.  The National Gallery is home to Edvard Munch's The Scream.

Here's a Rick Steves video about Oslo that I found on YouTube.
©Rick Steves