08 June 2011

Things Czech People Like

City strolls on waterways. There seemed to be a river running through every town or city on which people in rented kayaks, rowboats and paddleboats milled around. It was something I always enjoyed seeing and which felt so unique and quaint after the more commercially used Danube of Austria and more literally inhabited Amstel of the Netherlands.
It was like the liquid equivalent of bikers and Frisbee golfers in Central Park. Urban blue space. Utterly charming. The men most often coupled this activity with another thing (male) Czech people like: going shirtless
Guided tours in vintage cars. This was Prague-specific, but still worth mentioning. At first, we thought some sort of automobile convention was going on, but then we noticed all were packed like clown cars. When we saw a sign advertising this sort of experience, it made sense. Sort of. I guess it's a two-in-one experience, but in such a walkable city it felt like just another contrivance for tourist dough. Still, it was fun seeing them put around.
Business names with unfortunate English translations. It happens all the time, but in the Czech Republic, signs just kept popping up that made us go, "Oh... that's unfortunate." Aside from Eurotramp, the chain minimarket Flop was a personal favorite. There was also a clothing store with a terrible slur (or British word for "cigarette") as its name. Very unfortunate indeed.
Rollerblades. It was like I was back in in 1994, wishing I could roll around on those sleek, futuristic things everyone else had strapped to their feet, but all I could do was shuffle my outdated (but stylin') red suede roller skates. People here rollerbladed like the whole world was a Floridian boardwalk. Most nature trails had more bladers than bikers or walkers. At the Štramberk fair, it was nice to see shoed friends pitch in to help when the cobblestone going got tough.
Hyperbolic Advertisements. Yes, it's true, folks. At Portefena Husa you can have the "best beer selection and cuisine you have ever tasted." Especially in Prague, businesses really brought out the linguistic big guns in praise of what they had to offer. I can't know for sure if this was false advertising or not. I never actually dined or drank at Portefena Husa, but I think it's safe to say that there may have been a little bit of exaggeration involved.
Maybe this one was actually true, but I tend to doubt it. The small print reads "5 Clubs for price of the 1," which further confuses things. Can you really be up for the title of "Biggest Music Club in Central Europe" if you are, in fact, 5 clubs? Jury's still out.
Microbreweries. There seemed to be one in every sizable town, bustling with locals and serving beer that far outshone any bottled or canned Czech variety. Most microbreweries were proudly outfitted with glassware and coasters touting their pivo. For some reason, I enjoyed it more when the glasses weren't branded. I think when you travel this much, you become attached to some details that you consider marks of authenticity, little things that make you feel like your experience is unique, of the moment and not culturally mass-produced.
Themed Class Portraits. This was both the strangest and most recurring thing Czech people liked. From Prague to Rožnov pod Radhoštěm, store windows displayed photo collages of a graduating class. These weren't your average hold-a-rose-and-look-to-the-right portraits. There were some really elaborate set-ups and a number of risque ones that we just didn't feel right photographing. (A lot of girls appearing nude except for a chair or a tuba or something covering their sensitive parts). Students recreated famous works of art, took expensive on location shots with jets and motorcycles, presented themselves as Simpsons characters.
My personal favorite was this gangster motif, featuring $100 US bills. I'm not sure if my parents would have been less happy footing the bill for a professional portrait of me straddling a backwards chair or holding a handgun. A lot of these made you wonder what the teacher (always displayed in the corner, keeping with the theme) was thinking.

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