Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Good friends






This weekend we spent with some very good friends of me and my SVG. The first trip was spent out of Prague at a small campsite which was situated close to a large pond that is a very popular location for keen anglers and hikers. The second trip was on the outskirts of Prague and was spent with a very old friend of mine and her family.



The first trip was to the 40th birthday celebrations of my SVG's close friend and colleague Standa and it involved a very complicated journey considering how far it was as the crow flies. We took a train from our local train station at Vysocany to Lysa nad Labem and then another train to the small village where her good friend lived nearby and the campsite where the party was being held. The first part of the journey started with a small refreshment at the train station bar with a very reasonable priced Gambrinus and 2 parek v rohliku, one of which was crammed full with so much ketchup that it exploded all over my daughter's beautiful clean top. The train was an elephant or as David calls it, a slon, so we had to sit on the top of this double decker train and the ride to Lysa took about 40min and this was followed by a 30min wait for the connecting train, so we headed to a small cabin/bar/restaurant which was situated 10 metres opposite the train station and it had a very beautiful garden with a few tables and chairs and a makeshift toilet which I assume was only for men,  I didn't have the urge or need to go and check it out unfortunately but the garden was nice and we played a little game of softball while we were waiting for the train and the Gambrinus was again a bargain and very refreshing, we did see a man devouring a klobasa, so again there was a small selection of beer food available. The connecting train was one of those old red Czech carriages so very slow and rickety was the journey to the little unheard of village Ovcary and this is where the dramatic event of watching the train pull away from the station with my son on the platform and we were still on the train, my son's panic screams and my heart being torn from my chest, was thankfully shortly followed by the conductor pulling the emergency cord and stopping the train about 400 metres further down the line. We were reunited shortly after to the relief of everyone involved.

On the way to the campsite we were met by my SVG's other close friends Hana and Bronek, the latter is my  bike's doctor so a very good friend of mine as well.They gave us a lift to the campsite, which was only another 200 metres but was much appreciate nevertheless. At the campsite there was a long wait involved in signing the card which I couldn't understand why it really needed so much time and effort in doing but who am I to question a woman's logic, apparently it was not something which could have been done beforehand and needed to be signed on the hot bonnet of a car in the midday sun in front of the awaiting host and the card had to be signed by all those who were greeting best birthday wishes to the birthday boy. So after the introductions and getting settled into our little wooden hut, which came with its own hornets nest in the roof, though I must say they were very quiet and I slept like a log with out any interruptions, it must be said.

The party was an all day affair, starting with a cold buffet and lots of alcohol, it seemed that the corect customary thing to do was to have a chilled bottle of vodka on your table, which you would very often use to fill up shot glasses and toast the host, but thankfully seeing as I was the only one drinking on our table, we didn't have to keep this tradition, after an hour's break the main meal came out again followed by lots of alcohol being exchanged, but as I said, I didn't have to join in this tradition and I was happy sticking to the beer. The main meal was chicken breast and chips and my daughter did a wonderful job of finishing hers and a large portion of her brother's. After this we had a break and went down to the pond to the great enjoyment of my kids, who didn't take very long to strip naked and start paddling and playing in the pond until the sun went down and even then, were very reluctant to leave. The party was in full swing when we came back and they were just starting the BBQ and the Karaoke, which was mostly sung in Russian or Ukrainian thankfully we had to put the children to bed so they were not traumatized by my version of God save the Queen from the Sex Pistols.



On Sunday we went to visit my very long time friends in Prague and their 2 beautiful daughters, who when we met for the first time were around the same age as my 2 babies but now they are young women just starting to discover what the world has to offer and I don't envy them at all. When I was a lad, the world was a very different place; it was flat for one thing, and I remember a young innocent 17-year-old boy heading off to the Lodore Swiss Hotel in Keswick way back in 1984, it seems like a century ago and as far as the technology goes it probably was, aye we had no mobile phones or internet. It was a special event taking the plane somewhere and a pint of beer was only 50 pence.

Sorry for that small digression into my youth, showing my age a little bit. So, where were we, yes of course the visit to my good friends Blanka and Jan who unfortunately is a Sparta supporter but we won't hold that against him, will we? We arrived at noonish and it had been a long time since I last came to their house so I was thankfull that Blanka had started the BBQ so we were able to smell our way to their front door, thankfully they were the only people having a BBQ on a beautiful sunny day.
I had been here before with the children when they were very small so I don't think that they would remember Blanka and her family but they were happily tormenting their Border Collie after a few minutes of our arrival and wandering around their house like it was their own. 
Blanka and Jan are perfect hosts so it was no surprise to find a table full of food and drink and charming company with their eldest daughter Bara, who coincidentally has the same name as my little angel, looking after my 2 little angels, which involved lots of spent energy and running around the garden hiding a miniature rugby ball and playing badminton with intermittent spells of running Bara the Border Collie ragged by throwing tennis balls up and down the garden.

So all in all it was a nice breakaway from the blog and this weekend we will be back to it with a conclusion to Liben and Smichov hopefully to follow the following week. A big thanks to all of our friends who made this weekend a very special weekend and I would also like to add that 'a good friend is a connection to life, a tie to the past, a road to the future and the key to sanity in a totally insane world'.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

NUSLE


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Hello again, this week we had a special request to find a music bar in the Nusle area, so it was off on our merry way to one of my old stomping grounds and to see if we could find a music bar for one of my student's band to play.
I lived in Nusle briefly in 2007 and I didn't really do much scouting around as I usually headed towards the centre to  more regular haunts near and around Staromestske Namesti, most of what I had seen, was  from the 18 tram or walking down from Prazskeho Povstani metro so I kept my fingers crossed because I wasn't very confident that we would find many gems but in fact we were a little bit surprised as you will see if you read on a little further.
What can I tell you about Nusle? Well its most famous landmark is also its most notorious as far as I am concerned and it isn't  the huge high security prison at Pankrac but in fact it is the bridge which spans from I.P. Pavlova to Vysehrad and everyone will tell you that because of its height it is very popular for die hard jumpers, without the bungee and so far there has been up to around 300 leaps, so pretty grim stats but that is not all that we found out. Some more interesting facts are that in 1925 the biggest or largest bowling alley was built at the Sokol and it is pre-brunswick so 9 pins instead of 10 and they were attached to strings so when they are being set it more resembles a Punch and Judy show than a game of bowling . There was also a brewery here but a long time ago, it was in the 17th century I believe and it was one of the largest in Europe at that time and finally it is also home to Divadlo na Fidlovacce which takes its name from a festival celebrating shoemakers and I do believe that there is a play based on this parade which is also mentioned in the national athem apparently, if anyone knows the lyrics or the name of the play then please leave me a comment. Actually, those of you who read my blogs, most of you I have no idea who you are unless you want to add yourself as a friend, then I can see who you are, don't be shy.

Review no. 1

It was a nice day so we decided that a beer garden was the most crucial requirement and I remembered one place in Nam. Generala Kutlvasra called Na kvetnici, so that was it then and off we went. The beer on draft, served from a large tank was Staropramen and I am getting to prefer this more to Pilsen or Gambrinus but that is just my personal choice. I had a mixed beer, half dark, half light or rezane in Czech is especially difficult to pronounce also, and my SVG had a non alcoholic water. In the past you used to have to go to a hatch to order your drinks and order your food at the table but now untill 6pm you can order both at the table so there is an improvement straight away.
They have a fixed menu which has a nice variety, mainly Czech but there are some international choices as well and a daily menu which has about 5 choices of main dishes and a couple of soups at very reasonable prices, so I went for the wild boar entrecote and surprisingly my SVG went for the roast duck, being a semi-vegetarian, which was leg and wing with 5 types of dumplings, and the portions were very generous to boot. The steak was well done, though I wasn't asked how I would like it, it still was quite tender although it could have done with some seasoning but for 150czk, I was not complaining. There were no complaints from my SVG either apart from it was too much so all in all we would recommend it and for me it is one of the better large beer garden pubs in Prague although for the sports fans there is no TV so that may be a downside but apart from that it is open, quiet, clean, good beer, good food and table service which is pretty efficient.

 Restaurant Na Kvetnici
                                                            www.nakvetnici.cz



Review no. 2

This place is for the beer lovers and is a very small independently run pub that serves a relatively little known beer from a small brewery with a long tradition and has a great view of the high security prison and you can see some of the inmates, depending on when you go there. It also has a small beer garden and even a small children's playing area. We came for the beer and just because it is hidden away. There beer is called Kacovske and it comes in 10 and 12 degree and is cheap and pretty good so if you fancy something different then give it a try. It is worth it just for the beer which you will not find anywhere else, I hope and also the beautiful view.
U Klokočníka
Na veselí 48


Other places of interest

Restaurants and bars

Restaurant & Club BAANG!                  Restaurant Chapadlo
www.baang.cz                                        www.chapadlo.com/nuselska

Beer cellar Zly casy                         Bowling club
www.zlycasy.eu                              www.bowlingvtovarne.cz
 


Other shops and businesses

Music instrumets & notes                          Shop with games
www.schelinger.cz                                    www.svet-her.cz
 
Sports eyewear                                         Juggling equipment
www.sportoptik.cz                                     www.zongluj.cz

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

ZIZKOV - the final chapter


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I was supposed to put an introducing picture of Zizkov here to motivate the author to writing and couldn't find any of a naked lady so the one of a beautiful view David came across last Sunday will have to do. Now only give me a minute to wake him up...

Good morning, well my SVG wasn't able to wake me up from my slumber but now I feel refreshed and ready to tell you about the final chapter of Zizkov. The reason that I fell asleep was mainly due to the fact that we had been working on setting up a facebook page. The idea is that while doing the blog we basically took photos of most of the business that we passed and then later sifted through them and chose a few for the blog so we didn't want to waste the vast wealth of information we had and that was when I thought about using them for the more socially applied network that Facebook offers and set up a page where everyone could add comments to the photos or just read other peoples opinions about interesting places that they have visited even go as far as arranging events and inviting people along to them. The Facebook page is called livincity-prague: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Livincity-Prague/154194704643103. Go along and become a friend, and contribute to the page. The first area that we completed with information such as the name, street and website was Vinohrady and later will we add a link from google maps so that you can find it. In the future we will add brief comments from the blog of places that we have visited and give it a general thumbs up/down. We encourage you all to do the same to help the site and even link with other people whose comments you like, that way we hope that the hard work will have been worth it. If you have any problems you can leave a comment here or send me a message on skype, my name is wiggypier or you can email me at wiggypier@yahoo.com.

The final part of Zizkov was along Konenova up towards Spojovaci and there was such a contrast in the area we covered, from the bustling hub at Konenova and Zelivskeho to the quiet green nature that you can see in the profile photo at the top overlooking our neighborhood of Vysocany and Liben. I remember the area very well because 8 years ago I used to drive my then wife to a small swimming pool that was attached to a middle school and she used to go swimming when she was pregnant with my oldest David, and I never thought much about the area apart from the fact that it was dirty and depressing, but little did I know that 100 metres from where I waited in the car was a huge campsite and a large area frequented by walkers and cyclist alike.
This part of Zizkov was the largest in terms of area covered but a lot of it is residential so it is not as dense with businesses as part 1 and 2, but if you are looking for a nice house with a natural park on your doorstep, it is perfect.

Review no. 1

The first place we stopped at was technically in Zizkov part 2, but before we started part 3 there were a few scraggly ends that we had to mop up from the previous jaunt in this area, which took us a lot longer than we anticipated, so to quence my thirst and my SVG's hunger we went to a cafe/bar/tea room, yes that is correct and even more interesting was that the business was visibly divided by the nature of the furniture and the colour scheme into 3 distinctive areas. The tearoom part had cushions on the floor with low tables and the bar had a tv on the wall, well go and look for yourself, but what we did find was a very limited menu so we wouldn't reccomend going there if you were hungry but it was very cheap and the lady was extremely welcoming and, yes another 'and' was the smell in the toilets, my SVG was very impressed and thought that it deserved a special mention. I had a nakladany hermelin because that is what I use as my bench mark and it has to be the spiciest one that I have tasted so far and distinctively mature in flavour. I couldn't put my finger on it but it was rather like the flavour of a blue cheese and not mild as you would expect but really nice. My SVG had a toasted cheese sandwich which was not on the menu but the lady was kind enough to offer it anyway. The price also deserves a mention because 2 drinks on top of the food and the total was 109czk, we think that she must have made a mistake so we repeated the total back to her and she confirmed it again, so cheap and cheerful and very colourful and diverse.

                              Kostnicke nam. 3

Review no. 2


The final stop was a very nice surprise as well as a coincidence, because we had just come back from visiting SVG's parents in Poland and her mother had left also on a trip to Armenia to help set up an institute for the blind so it was just amazing after refusing to stop at a pizzeria on Konenova, because they served Krusovice to find out the tip of the street a very well hidden Armenian restaurant which is very small inside but in the spring and summer has a spacious suburban open garden area out the back and it is relatively sheltered from the busy junction and the midday sun.
My SVG as you can imagine was very excited, women generally more than men love coincedence so it had to be a sign for her that her mother is thinking about us, well well. The cuisine from what I saw, because I am not too well informed about Armenian cuisine is typically middle Eastern, so spicy lamb and chicken, kebabs, salads, dips and lots of strange dairy type drinks like lassi but in Armenian cuisine is called tan and tastes a bit like cottage cheese.
My SVG had labuchas which is a brothy kidney bean soup to start and this was accompanied by smbuk which is grilled nicely spiced eggplant with pita bread and freshly made paneer (soft cheese). I had a pork kebab made from the loin and had a middle eastern spice served with unleavened bread and freshly grated carrots and beetroot.
We were very pleased with the food, service and a glimpse of the Armenian chef who obviously made the food to order, so though it did take a little bit longer, which we didn't mind, it was worth it and we will go there again, now that we know that it exists and we strongly recommend it to all of you, give it a go.


                                              NOY restaurant
                                   www.armenskarestaurace.cz

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

ZIZKOV part 2



Well it is back to blogging again after a week in Poland with my SVG and her family, who were extremely welcoming and I have learned several valuable things from my week away in Poland and that is Family is very important, a Polish table is always full of food and vodka, never drive to Poland, always fly or take the train and if your future father in law is an ex Olympic sharpshooter, don't upset his favourite daughter.

We decided to go back to Zizkov when we got back because we had to go to Jiriho z Podebrad to hand over some second hand books that my SVG had sold on expats. This part of Zizkov is a very hilly area so we put on our hiking shoes and set off with the plan to finish the rest of Zizkov off the following day.
If you remember the last blog about Zizkov, you will remember we mentioned the interesting fact that there were over 300 bars and restaurants so it was no surprise that both our cameras packed in before the end and we had about 500 photos between us so it was real difficult task to narrow the 500 down to a blog full but don't worry because for those of you who would like to see all the photos that we have taken while following the blog might be interested to know that we are in the process of setting up a Facebook page which we thought could be more socially interactive and a place where people could add there own comments about places in Prague and keep everyone informed about new interesting places to visit, also all the photos of places that we didn’t put on the blog will be in the album section for your perusal with a little info such as email and address. Hopefully it will be up at the end of the week so you can go to Livincity - Prague and click that you like it and start making comments, also of course because it is fairly new. We would be interested in your comments on how we could make it better because our idea is just to have a forum where people can meet people and pass on interesting info and experiences out places that they have visited.

It was hard to decide on the final photos as I mentioned above, but some places did stick out and give us a kind of Zizkov atmosphere such as Yes Burger and Rizek Planet (see below) so have a look and make a comment, let us know what you think. We appreciate any input that is positive except from The Dude who is very difficult to please it seems. Only joking Benjamin. This started as a fun way to spend a day over the weekend and now it seems to be turning into a massive project which we hope to see grow and develop as more of Prague is revealed and in the near future we hope to also set up a website that will be like a community travel directive, helping not only people living in the city but visitors to Prague and after Prague we will see.

Review no.1


The first place that our hunger led us to was a nice little cafe called Yes Burger. It is on the main drag through Zizkov and not so far from the Viktoria Zizkov football stadium. What we liked about it was that it is a very colourful place and the decor is very personalized and you get the feel that the people who started up the business had a lot of energy and plenty of ideas of what they wanted to do. From the title you can guess that they have a large selection of burgers, so with an empty stomach we ventured in and we were not disappointed. They also had other things on offer such as quesadillas and vegetarian options so my SVG was very relieved at that fact. I went for the Mexican burger which came with a toasted bun, salsa, guacamole, sour cream and the usual garnish, and the burger was spicy and a fair size for under 100czk and my SVG had the vegetarian option which was a toasted bun filled with aubergine, courgette, peppers and dressing and she was very satisfied with it and the price as well was as attractive as the burgers were.

As I said at the beginning, the cafe had been personally decorated and the colour scheme was very bold and as well as some framed boxes with kinder egg toys and fantasy figurines. It had a nice welcome feeling and the chef who was very friendly and my SVG commented, "he looks like that guy out of Little Britain". I will let you decide which one. We give it a big thumbs up and will go there again, we were very happy.




                                                 Yes Burger
                                             ul. Seifertova 14

Other places of interest


Restaurants


Mexican restaurant Amores Perros      Japanese and Thai restaurant Kon Nichi Wa
www.amoresperros.cz                         ul. Borivojova 58


Vegan City                                  Schnitzel Planet                          
ul. Husitska 45                            www.schnitzelplanet.cz               


Yo! Sushi                                                Pakistani restaurant and food shop
Sladkovskeho namesti                             www.pakistani-restaurant-mailsi.eu



Bars and cafes


Coffee and Tea                                       Bowling bar
www.coffeeandtea.cz                              www.bowbar.cz


Cafe and galllery                          Pivoteka Pivni Rozmanitost          
www.cafepavlac.cz                      Husitska 37                                




Shops



Collectibles & Fashion                            Korean food and goods 
ww.bohemianretro.com                           ul. Borivojova 34

Kite shop                                                 Halal meat
www.syta.cz                                            ul. Borivojova 76

Other businesses

Wall Designers                                        Cooking school
www.lepeeto.cz                                      www.chefparade.cz