Hockey Night in the Czech Republic

It’s hockey season again, and the NHL has decided to kick things off with a pair of games right here in Prague. The Czechs are excited about it; the matchup is the team that Jagr used to be on versus the team that Prospal is on, but the ticket prices are outrageous, so I am at the Budvar Bar Near Home (Budvar is the hockey beer). The game is in the first intermission, tied 0-0, and it’s been pretty exciting.

Yet, despite the full stadium, the crowd seems quiet. Sure there’s plenty of shouting going on, but something is missing. Finally I realized what it was: There’s no one playing drums! There aren’t any horns blowing Poot Poot Poot-poot-poot — Poot-poot. There isn’t even an accordion that I’ve noticed. I guess the drum corps comes out for the home team, and neither one of these teams is home. (Note to self: when I own an NHL team and it’s playing here, recruit a drum squad. The rest of the crowd will assume that my team is their team. Instant home ice advantage!)

This is a country that brings their drums to tennis tournaments (that is not an exaggeration – at the Davis Cup match between the US and ČR the drummers were out in force). The real shame is that the US television audience has no idea what they’re missing, and the Czechs are missing a chance to show the rest of the world how things are done here.

Happy SOS Day!

Things are quiet here in Strašnice today, many of my favorite places are closed in observance of the holiday. What an enlightened nation!

Although this just might be a effort to extend Yesterday’s May Day celebrations into a four-day weekend, which is also an enlightened policy. (SOS Day gets its name because “SOS!” is what often comes after “Mayday!”) The Czechs take May Day seriously; around here it’s National Kiss Your Sweetie Under A Cherry Tree Day. More than one couple had told me about “their tree”. The cherry trees have been blooming, and when the wind blows their petals fill the air (where there are enough trees, at least).

That was yesterday; I meant to alert you all to it in time for you to go find some sort of plant to stand under and do some smooching with someone you like. Still, it’s never too late for that. Perhaps we could come up with a related activity for SOS day. Hmm… something that follows kissing under trees, and as a bonus would include some connection to pleas for rescue.

Nothing I’m coming up with would be termed “romantic”, I think.

Capr, Dlouhý Den

Here is part two of the epic video chronicling my attempts to turn carp into something to eat. I really didn’t feel very sharp as I was shooting this, so the humor is even more sparse than in the first one. In true Hollywood fashion I tried to make up for a lack of substance by increasing production values.


Capr, Prvni Den

Here is the extended version of the previous video, giving you the entire day’s exploits. The story is not finished – oh, no. Not by a long shot.

I learned a few things – first, give the camera plenty of time to get rolling and dont hit stop until long after I’m finished. But overall I really didn’t learn much about cooking carp.

Sneak Preview!

Here we go…

Production for the rest of this documentary might be tricky, as I won’t be able to film while I’m actually doing things. It will be more like a montage. I certainly don’t have the skills to make a stop-action animation out of it – but that would be cool.

In the zone.

I woke this morning to differing clocks. It took me a while to notice; the clocks on the computers are how I tell time when I’m at home, while the time on my phone is what I use when going mobile. When time matters at all.

Tonight I’m at the Budvar Bar Near Home, and the television is on. They just showed a feature about the confusion caused by the time change, and part of that was footage of engineers resetting the astronomical clock in the center of town.

This clock is a big tourist draw, a bigger tourist disappointment, and the ancient mechanism should not be subject to modern arbitrary time laws. The clock should be showing solar time, the way it did when it was first built. While every other timepiece in the square is telling you what time we have decided it should be, that one clock should stand defiant, and say what time it really is. I guarantee that will only add to the magic.

Something’s Brewing…

One of the nice things about the house where I live is that the back yard has several large fruit trees. A month ago my landlord was forcing upon me all the apricots I could possibly eat, then a few more. Recently it’s been plums.

On a couple of occasions in the last couple of weeks the smell of plums in the stairway has been pretty powerful. Obviously Otakar was not finding uses for the plums as fast as he was collecting them. Time waits for no plum.

But here, sometimes the obvious is not the same as it would be in other places. Anyone who live here would already have figured out that the plums downstairs were not going bad, they were going good. As I came down the stairs this afternoon there was a pot of plum juice, complete with peels and some of the pulp, sitting by Otakar’s door. The light bulb suspended over my head blinked on. He’s making Slivovice.

The Czech Republic has two national boozes. Becherovka is a brand name, made from a supposedly secret recipe; it hails from the Jagermeister school of boozemaking but is far less foul. Slivovice, or plum vodka, is just the opposite. It’s a people’s drink, the recipe owned by all collectively, and the best stuff is homemade. (I have had three chances to confirm this, and the homemade stuff really is better.) You have to love a country with a national tradition of making hooch. I wonder if old-timers lament that kids these days are content to drink liquor from factories rather than make their own.