Thursday, November 30, 2006

Birthday & Farewell Celebrations

Well, I am about to finish my work here in Prague, and to celebrate my birthday and my farewell, my boss and a few IAESTE members took me out for dinner and a few drinks.
However, I was quite sad at first, since I wandered the city alone for sometime before I learned where to meet up. There is nothing like the feeling of, well, loneliness. Carrying a heavy shopping bag in hand, I wandered aimlessly the lovely streets of Prague in the brisk evening air, watching all the amazed and distracted tourists in small groups busily hustling along segregated by languages, and there was I, finally, sitting by myself, too far from home to drop off my bags and relax, and thus forced to remain in centrum waiting to learn the location of a warm and cozy café. Realizing I was starting to become anguished, I decided to walk to a place where I would assimilate, such a place I find a local grocery market where a single person is never alone with all the gastronomic delights waiting to please one's stomach. As always when I am waiting and then decide to pass the by in some manner, I received the call inviting me to dine at a nearby café.

Dinner consisted of cheese gnocchi and beer, and Janca suggested a round of Becherovka, the green bottle in the picture, which is a Czech herbal bitter liqueur, also know as "medicine" here by many former communists. It was a lovely shot, smooth and chilled, and welcomingly cleansed my palette. As a birthday/departing gesture, I was given the typical Czech sugar wafers, a bottle of Becherockva, and a large bar of Studentksá chocolate, which I was informed, is good for students to eat while studying for increased energy (After a later discussion this Alberto, apparently, his knows of students in Italy who always study with chocolate in hand as well).
Speaking of Alberto, I meat him, his Belgium colleague, Hendrik, Roman and his Ukrainian friend, Lena, for a little birthday dinner at my favorite restaurant café in Prague, Lenka Hlava. I enjoyed my company over red lentil soup, a glass of house red, and vegetarian risotto. Det var kosleg.
Afterwards, we walked through Centrum and were granted a glimpse of the "Lighting of the Christmas Tree," as shown in the picture. The Old Town square is so beautiful at night, when all the cathedrals and historical buildings are light up. The golden circles in the picture of Alberto and me make up the medieval astronomical clock which acts as a primitive planetarium, displaying the current state of the universe, and dates back to 1410. The astronomical dial has a background that represents the standing Earth and sky, and surrounding it operate four main moving components: the zodiacal ring, an outer rotating ring, an icon representing the Sun, and an icon representing the Moon. Quite impressive!

We then nestled ourselves in a little, neat literary-themed, Czech café with Czech poems and phases written on the walls. We probably were the only Expats there since the entrance with its humble, brown, wooden door, lost in the grandeur of Old Town Prague, is easily passed by a busy tourist. First the first time in Europe this trip, I was able to recharge with a Macchiato Latté.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Thanksgiving in Europe
Well, my friend Karel and I were lucky enough to be invited to Thanksgiving dinner by an American girl whose parents are Czech and is living here in Prague for a year to improve her Czech. I was in charge of vegetables and my friend Karel, dessert, so before dinner we did some shopping at the local market. Our shopping list included broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, Czech beer, mineral water, and fresh raspberry cake for dessert.

The event was quite an international dinner since the guests included a man from San Francisco, a girl from New York, me from Ohio, a man from the UK, a girl from Ireland, my Czech friend, the host who is from Pennsylvania, her father who is Czech but living in Hungary and his wife’s son and daughter from Slovakia. We had a cozy time, enjoying the light conversation and warm food. We had all the staples such as stuffing (brought from the UK), turkey, cornbread, cranberry sauce, and mashed potatoes and gravy. Afterwards, coffee and cake was accompanied with a little Expat-style humor of translating a Russian-English phrasebook.
Pictured, Karel and Susy's step-brother take their shot at breaking the wishbone after enjoying their first Thanksgiving.