Thursday, December 27, 2007

Florence and Milan, Italy

R and I spent Christmas in Italy. Florence and Milan to be exact.

I'm not sure if it is part of European tradition to kill cows for the Holidays, but we certainly did our best to uphold this tradition while in Florence. You probably already known that Florence is known for their leather products. Unfortunately, R and I knew this too and we came prepared to spend.

The end result is that we bought four pairs of shoes, three leather belts, two pairs of leather gloves and a leather-based money clip. (R also purchased a scarf but I'm happy to say it was NOT a leather scarf. There comes a point when you can only have so much leather - it's not like we're S&M freaks!)

In between leather purchases, R and I also happened to take in some culture. We went to the Uffizi Museum one day. It was a nice museum, but it certainly pales in comparison to the Vatican. That's the problem with all of the traveling we're doing... you are bound to compare one city with another, one museum with the next, etc. Once you've seen the Vatican or the Louvre, it's hard to see the others and appreciate them. (The other problem with doing a lot of traveling is that you sound like a complete jackass when you make a complaint about the amount of traveling you are doing. sorry.)

Not to be outdone, we went to see the statue of David the next day. It is arguably the most famous statue in the world and, for good reason. I'm far from an art critic and probably couldn't differentiate between a Rembrandt and a van Goh, but sometimes you know when you are in the presence of greatness. It's hard to describe unless you've been there, but the statue seemed like the perfect piece of art. Those old guys sure knew how to work a piece of marble.

After Florence it was off to Milan to spend Christmas with R's family. R's sister Alex, her husband Brendan and their two kids - Emily and Julia - were there to join us. Most of the trip was spent eating, relaxing, eating and going to parties where Italian was the spoken word. If I haven't perfected the practice of nodding my head and saying "si" by now, I don't know if I ever will.

It should be noted that we snuck in another masterpiece before leaving Milan. Raffy and I went to see The Last Supper in a church near Milan. Unlike most other famous works of art, The Last Supper is not in a museum. It was painted on a wall within the church, so it is kind of hard to move. In order to see the paining, you have to make a reservation a month or so in advance. The entire visit takes 15 minutes. You are lead through some temperature-control glass doors into a room that gives you a very basic history lesson of the painting. Before you can finish reading, you are ushered through another set of temperature-control glass doors and, lo-and-behold, there is the painting.

The painting is far from perfect (like David) and has taken quite a bit of restoration to get it in its current state. But, given all of the history that surrounds the painting, it is truly a site to see. The history is very interesting, you should read it when you have chance.

It's hard to talk about The Last Supper without referencing The Da Vinci Code. I'm not even going to bother giving my thoughts on the book other than to say that it is a very good page turner and makes interesting claims (meanwhile, the movie was unspeakably bad). All I can say is that the person sitting to the right of Jesus certainly looks like a female from every angle I looked at the painting. Many people more knowledgeable on this subject than me can make convincing cases for either side - but on first site I thought it was definitely female. I also thought Mona Lisa was eye-fucking me... so what do I know.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Carps are killed..... by Raffy!

Over the past few weeks everyone I know has asked me "Have you seen the carps yet"- My response "no- what's the story with the carps"

Well... every year during the Holiday/Christmas/New Year Season, the carp vendors emerge from who knows where. Basically, these vendors set up small stands with 2-4 tubs filled with live carps. They set these stands up all over Prague, usually in proximity to busy streets and the subway.

The deal with the carps is one of two:
1. You pick a carp LIVE and then bring it back to your home where it must live within the bathtub until Christmas Eve. Tradition says you must give the carp a name and it basically becomes part of the family! On Christmas Eve you bring the carp back down to the river, and release it while making a wish. (However, this last part was only told to kids to make them happy- reality is, that the carps die within the river because the water is too cold and they are accustomed to lake waters- but, the kid's dont know that part) :)

2. The 2nd. option is just plain BRUTAL... so I will let you watch the video that I took just this morning. The video really cannot capture the brutaility of the situation.

N and I will are not partaking in the carp tradition!

We are off To Florence and Milan for the holiadys today- Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!

R, N and B

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Booze Shots at Local Supermarket..

After my daily workout today, I went to my local supermarket called TESCO.. which I guess could be compared to a Path, A&P or Giant Eagle- for all you Cleveland readers.

Anyway, I felt compelled to come home and write about how different and liberal the Czechs are in comparison to Americans when it comes to booze/alcholol.

So basically, with the holidays coming, the isles at TESCO are all filled with food samples along with alcholoic beverage companies displaying their products. They each have a sales rep and spokesgirl at the booth, but the best part is that they also serve you the booze! I guess you gotta try it to buy it right???

Tonight, I saw Bailey's Irish Liqour, Cuervo Tequila and some flavored vodka brand which was serving (5) different flavors (I did not know or recognize the brand) but each brand was there to display and promote their product. I found this so amusing!

What surprised me is that the shot glass to test the product weren't all that tiny and the pours were rather large and not regulated. As you can imagine each booth was filled with taste testers. In fact, I saw one guy have three of the flavored vodka shots- three shots at 7pm. I also watched what seemed to be two sisters maybe age 16-18 try the Bailey's and Tequila shots.

You could basically have a free happy hour at TESCO...(7) Free shots total, unless you went back for seconds.

Can you imagine this ever happening in the US? NOT! NEVER!

No.. I did not have any shots.. I had just worked out and was going home to have dinner. ok.. call me a loser!


Friday, December 07, 2007

Back in the USA- Part 2, By Raffy

Having just read N's blog... I wanted to stress his words!

New York City F'in Rocks!

I too just returned from a 14 day trip from the US and wow, I miss it already! The moment N and I took a taxi into the city my stomach was in knots- I was sooo excited to see the skyline and my city!

I never appreciated New York City as much as I did on this last trip. The dirty water hotdogs, the steam coming out of the potholes in the streets, and even the crowded bustling streets! You don't know how good a place is until you leave it and this time round I just realized that., I ate so much! Like N, I too had to eat at Yama- best Japanese in town, Rosa Mexicana, Dos Caminos and yes, I had amazing BBQ too- at both Virgil's and Hill Country (new place in the city which was amazing!) Ohhh..and dear Cosi too, love their salad!

So, for all you New Yorkers out there, remember that there is no place like HOME- New York City!

PS- Thanks to everyone I got to see on my trip! Miss you all already!


Sunday, December 02, 2007

Back in the USA

I just got back from a 12 day trip to the USA. It was the first time I have been back to the States since I moved to Prague. I just have to say one thing....

New York fucking rocks!

It really is the best city in the world. The minute I got off the plane I started wandering around the city and had a big smile on my face the whole time. I didn't realize how much I missed the city until I stepped back into it. It felt great to be home.

Of course, one of the best things about being home is (a) seeing friends and family and (b) eating great food. I had no shortage of either. Every lunch and dinner was spent with good friends and family. I went home to Cleveland for 4 days and had some great, great home cooked meals. In the city, I hit Yama (twice) for Sushi, Rosa Mexicana, Houstons for a burger, Buenos Aires for some steak, some random Cuban restaurant for fish and a Thai place. The only place I didn't hit was a BBQ place (but Raffy did). After gorging myself for nearly 2 weeks I probably couldn't have fit it in anyway.

Not much has changed since I last left. Sure, a few new restaurants and bars have opened up, but for the most part the city is sitll the same. I was able to ease back into life as if I had never left.

Many of my colleagues in Prague have told me that they originally came here thinking they would only last 2 years - but never left. I can say with 99.9% certainty that it will be a different case for me. I really, really like Prague and totally enjoy it. The opportunity that Raffy and I have to live in Europe has been great and we are taking full advantage of it. But Prague is not and never will be New York. That's my home and that's where I'll be going back to when Raffy and I are done traveling.