Wednesday, January 6, 2016


Czechs do NOT have pancakes.  There I've said it and I'm not wrong.

Czechs have palačinky which is translated to "pancakes".  Palačinky would be better translated to crêpes but Czechs will swear up and down that palačinky are pancakes.

American pancake batter is thick and is made from flour, milk, eggs and baking powder.  Sometimes milk is substituted with buttermilk.  American pancakes are thick, usually ⅓ inch (1 cm) each and about 4 inches (10 cm) across and a serving consists of 3 or 4 pancakes.

Silver Dollar pancakes
Pancakes are served with butter and maple syrup.  Blueberry pancakes are popular and you just add blueberries to the batter.  Kids (and some adults too) like chocolate chip or strawberry pancakes and are topped with whipped cream.

Sometimes we call pancakes hotcakes or flapjacks.  Silver Dollar pancakes are only 2 - 3 inches (5 - 7 cm) across.

Palačinky batter is made from flour, milk, eggs, and salt, with no baking powder.  They are very thin and look like crêpes.  They are never served with butter or syrup.

There are both sweet and savoury versions.  The sweet versions are usually rolled up with plum, apricot, blueberry or plum jam.

Many times you can get palačinky filled with fruit or Nutella with whipped cream and powdered sugar (confectionary or icing sugar).

Savoury options include spinach and garlic or ham and cheese.

Now don' get me wrong.  I like palačinky.  After all, who doesn't like crêpes?  But Czechs are passionate that palačinky are pancakes.  Stubborn, but they are not alone.  It's the same across Europe.  

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Czech License Plates

A = Prague
Image from Wikipedia
Cars in Czechland have two license plates, one of the front and one on the back.  The only difference is that the one on the back has registration and technical inspection stickers.

When you look at a Czech license plate you can tell where a car is registered by looking at the second character on the left.  The alpha character tells which kraj (region) the car is registered.

A = Prague
B = South Moravia For me, B = Brno
C = South Bohemia
E = Pardubice
H = Hradec Králové
J = Highland
K = Karlovy Vary
L = Liberec
M = Olomouc
P = Plzeň
S = Central Bohemia
T = Moravia-Silesia
U = Ústi nad Labem
Z = Zlín

B = Brno
As of last year, the plates are not changed if the vehicle owner moves to another region or if the vehicle is re-registered to a new owner in a different region.  New plates are issued if the plate is damaged, lost or stolen.

As of yesterday it is now possible to get a personalised "vanity" plate in Czechland.  The requested plate must have eight characters with at least one numeric character.  There are about 900 words deemed vulgar by the Ministry of Transportation which are not allowed.  No plates may begin with G, CH, O, Q or W.  The price for vanity plates is 10 000 Kč (~$400).

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Wrist Update

So here's the update on my wrist injury.  The good news is that I don't have carpal tunnel.  It did turn out to just be a tragic (drunk) potato sack race accident.

I saw the neurologist and she said that it wasn't carpal tunnel.  So she referred me to an orthopedist who was able to see me the same day.  I had a slew of new x-rays taken and he said that I had some soft tissue damage.  Too much vodka before the potato sack race I guess.  I was prescribed 10 sessions with a physical therapist, located in the same building, who was able to fit me in 10 minutes later.

Everything turned out fine.  My wrist is completely healed.  The medical care I received was top drawer.  I had a few office visits, several x-rays, and multiple physical therapy sessions and it didn't cost me a single penny.  Love socialised health care!!  In the USA, even with insurance, all of this would have still cost me several hundred dollars.

Friday, January 1, 2016

1 January 2016

Happy New Year!!  Šťastný nový rok!!  

This morning I woke up to some New Year's Day snow.  Which, by the way, is way better than waking up to that fog we were having.

Věechno nejlepší Česko!! (A Slovensko taky!)  Happy Birthday Czechland!! (And Slovakia too!).  Independent countries for 23 years.

Tonight's plan is to go see the new Star Wars film at the cinema.  In Czech but with English subtitles.  Here's the dubbed Czech movie trailer that I found out on YouTube.  It should be a good show.


Thursday, December 31, 2015

PF 2016

PF 2016!!  Šťastný nový rok!!

I'm really not quite sure where the year went but it just flew by.  Another great year over here in Euroland with lots to be thankful for.

2015 was another good year for travelling about.  Happy New Year to all of the places that I was lucky enough to visit.

Happy New Year! Šťastný nový rok! Head uut aastat! Bonne année! Gelukkig nieuwjaar! Glückliches neues Jahr! Ευτυχισμένο το νέο έτος! Boldog új évet! Athbhliain faoi mhaise daoibh! Жаңа жыл құтты болсын! Laimīgu Jauno gadu! Laimingų Naujųjų metų! Szczęśliwego Nowego Roku! С новым годом! Bliadhna mhath ur! ¡Feliz año nuevo! Жаңы жылыңыздар менен! Mutlu Yıllar! З Новим роком! Blwyddyn Newydd Dda!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

New Flat

It's been a busy month with lots going on but I managed to find a new flat.  It's in Stránice in the Masarykova čtvrť (Masaryk Quarter) part of town.  This is the north west part of Brno's centre.  It's a quiet area with many old villas and not far from Kraví hora (Cow Mountain) and the observatory.

The building is quite modern looking and stands out among all of the surrounding houses.  The owner is the architect and I assume that he must have had some pull with the city.  It has been recently renovated and I will be the second person to have the flat.

When I started looking for flats I considered downsizing and wanted another furnished flat.  Fast forward a bit and I ended up choosing a slightly larger place and unfurnished which means now I need to buy some furniture.  The flat is a 3+kk which is a two-bedroom flat with a living room and a corner kitchenette.

Things in the kitchen are a bit smaller.  The refrigerator and freezer are smaller than what I have now.  There's a little less counter space and no dishwasher but I don' think that will be a problem.

It will only be a challenge for when I cook Thanksgiving dinner.  Oh, and the washing machine (no dryer) is next to the oven.

The bathroom has a tub with the traditional Czech hand shower wand but I should be able to sort out a shower attachment.

There's a separate loo and it has a sink.  It also has a hot air dryer.  I can honestly say that I've never seen an air dryer in a flat before.

I will lose my view of the castle and cathedral but I do have a balcony with a view of the garden.

The highlight of the flat is the onyx wall next to the kitchen.  It is beautiful and it lights up.  I may have to call the place mini Tugendhat.

The biggest drawback is that there is no closet but built in closets are not the norm over here.  It looks like I'll be spending some time at Ikea so that I can pick up a wardrobe and other furnishings.  I'll post a future update once I'm all moved in.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Polská krev

Polská krev (Polish Blood) is considered to be the most popular and most played Czech opera.  It was composed by Oskar Nedbal and it was first performed in Vienna in 1913.

In 1934 a musical film was produced.

Tonight was a production at the Janáček Theatre and it was outstanding!

The story is a revenge plot that goes wrong and turns out well in the end.  

Monday, December 28, 2015

Czech Antarctic Expedition

©National Geographic
Yesterday, six experts from Brno's Masaryk University left on an annual expedition to Antarctica.  The scientists will continue their research on geology, climate change, UV radiation and the ozone hole.  They will also test some new technologies developed here in Czechland.

In 2006 the Czech Republic finished building the state-of-the-art Mendel Polar Station on James Ross Island in Antarctica.

The teams go to the station every January to March, during the Antarctic summer, when the weather is the best.

Update:  On 14 March 2016 an automated weather station recorded a temperature of 17,8 ℃ (64.04 ℉) which is an all time high.  More evidence of global warming.

The team also discovered a new species of bacteria which they named Pseudomonas gregormendeli.  It is named after Johan Gregor Mendel, the 19th-century founder of modern genetics.  The discovery will be published in the journal Current Microbiology.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Spooky Brno Fog

I'm not sure what's going on but we've had really heavy fog in Brno for the last 5 days and nights.

This would have been great around Halloween.

Here's what I woke up to this morning.  Nice and spooky fog.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

2015 Christmas

Well another Christmas has come and gone.  On Christmas Day (24 December) which is what I still call Christmas Eve, was a German Christmas with Claudia's parents coming down from Berlin.

Orphan's Christmas goose

Of course Tünde was spoiled rotten.  But that's a part of being a kid.  She really seemed to enjoy the keyboard and microphone that Santa Claus brought.  It was even worth going through Czech Black Friday to get it.

Yesterday was the second day of Christmas (25 December) and I had a few people over for another "Orphan's Christmas".

Today was St. Stephan's Day (Boxing Day) so mainly just hanging out and trying to recover from the past couple of days.  Merry Christmas to everyone back in the USA!  In Czechland, Veselé Vánoce všem!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

2015 Christmas Video

It's that time of year when you buy a Christmas carp and let it swim around in the tub for a few days.

Seven Czech Christmases so far and I still don't quite get this one.

As the last working day before the Christmas holidays I want to wish my very international team...

Merry Christmas! Veselé Vánoce! Veselé Vianoce! Selamat Hari Natal! Boldog Karácsonyt! Wesołych Świąt! Geseënde Kersfees! Crăciun fericit! Gëzuar Krishtlindjet! Весела Коледа! 圣诞节快乐! Sretan Božić! Vrolijk kerstfeest! Joyeux Noël! Срећан Божић! Fröhliche Weihnachten! क्रिसमस की बधाई! Nollaig Shona! Buon Natale! عيد ميلاد سعيد Priecīgus Ziemassvētkus! Milad bayramınız mübarək! Linksmų Kalėdų! Среќен Божиќ! Feliz Natal! С Рождеством! ¡Feliz Navidad! மெர்ரி கிறிஸ்துமஸ்! З Різдвом Христовим! Chúc Giáng Sinh Vui Vẻ! میری کرسمس ! חג מולד שמח!

This year at work we made a "Happy Holiday" video.  Merry Christmas everyone!!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

New €20 Banknote

In November the new €20 banknote was released in to circulation.

The new €5 banknote was introduced in May 2013 and the new €10 banknote was released in September 2014.

Front side

Here's a comparison of the new and old banknotes.

The new version is on the top and the old version is on the bottom.

Back side

I guess the new €50 banknote will get released some time in 2016.

Here's a short video I found out on YouTube about the new €20.

©European Central Bank

Monday, December 21, 2015

Vienna Gay Traffic Lights

During this year's Eurovision finals in Vienna the city installed some interesting new traffic lights to demonstrate tolerance and openness.  Specifically some same-sex traffic lights.

Instead of traditional single figure lights, the new lights show hearts and three different couples - a man and a woman, two men, and two women.

The lights were installed at 120 different crosswalks in the city.  The lights cost €63 000 (~$70,000) to install.  They were meant to only be temporary but it looks like they are here to stay. 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

2015 Vienna Christmas Market Trip

Yesterday was a day trip to Vienna to enjoy some of the city's Christmas markets.  And there are definitely a few.

The first December Market was held back in 1298.  Today there are more than 20 different Christmas markets held in December.

Most of the markets open in November and close in December.

The main Vienna markets are the ones at the Rathaus (city hall), Maria-Theresien Platz, Belvedere Palace, Schönbrunn Palace, Spittelberg, and the former general hospital.

Aside from visiting six different markets we managed to visit a couple of new sightseeing spots as well.

In District I is the Judenplatz which was the centre of Jewish life in Vienna back in the Middle Ages. The Holocaust Memorial was unveiled in 2000 and commemorates the more than 65,000 Austrian Jews who were killed between 1938 and 1945.

At the end of WWII, Vienna was divided into four occupied zones by the American, British, French and Soviet armies.  At Schwarzenbergplatz is the Soviet War Memorial.

The monument was unveiled in 1945 to honour the 17,000 Soviet soldiers that died in the Battle of Vienna.  The city restored the monument in 2009.

As many times as I've been to Vienna it's nice to know that there are still new sights to see.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Louskáček Time Again

It's Louskáček time again!!  Time to go see The Nutcracker at the Janáček Theatre.

This really has become a Christmas tradition here.  I think I've seen it at least four of the past seven years.

The ballet here in Brno really is world class.  And you can't beat centre seating.