Saturday, February 28, 2009

Top Ten Things About Living in Prague

OK - the last post while I am living in Prague is a tribute to the city I have called home for the last 2 years: Prague. I may have not always said the nicest things about Prague in this blog - but the truth is this city has been absolutely great to me. Although it isn't perfect, it's been a really, really good place to live. Here are the top 10 things I liked most about the city:

  • Beauty of the City
    The first thing that has to be said about Prague is the beauty of the city. The tourist attractions aren't anything speial, but the buildings and the streets are just amazing. I never get bored of walking around the city and just looking up at the buildings.

  • Czech Beer
    The Czechs love their beer. The drink more beer per capita than any other country in the world. And, as you might expect, the beer is fantastic. You can order a half liter of beer for as little as $1.50 in most restaurants. I have probably ordered less than 10 mixed drinks in my entire time here - I always get beer. Since the beer is great and ridiculously cheap - it makes for an easy decision.

  • Easy, Cheap Living
    The lifestyle in Prague is pretty easy. People live and work at a relaxed pace. It is nothing like New York. At the same time, the city is pretty cheap to live in. Especially compared to New York and other European cities. Groceries are cheap and you can go to a restaurant without spending a lot of money. (Unfortunately, you get what you pay for)

  • Urban Parks
    As much as Czechs like their beer, they also love the outdoors. And the city planning in Prague is some of the best I have ever seen. I can't think of another major city that has so many parks spread throughout the city. I can be at 5 different major parks within 15 minutes of walking out of my house. It's great - especially witha dog. Which leads me to my next point...

  • Dog Friendliness
    Never have I seen such a dog friendly city in my life. Dogs can go off leash in all of the parks. They are allowed on the subways, the busses, the trams and in taxis. You can bring them in to all but the finest of restaurants. And, when they do come in the restaurant, the dogs are usually served water before you.

  • Our Apartment
    After living in New York for nearly a decade, I've become used to a small apartment. A very small apartment. I remember the first apartment that R and I lived in together in 2000. One day I went out and bought basketball. I came home and no where to put it. Literally - there was not a single unoccupied space in my apartment that was large enough to fit a basketball.

    Fortunately the current apaartment we own in New York is a bit bigger - but not much. It is still a 1 bedroom and space can be tight.

    In Prague, we got to live like kings. We had a great 2 bedroom apartment that overlooked the river. The place is about 60% bigger than our New York apartment. If this place was in New York, it would probably cost between $5000 and $6000 a month to rent. Here... it significatnly more affordable.

    I should also throw a shout out to Mirka and Pavla - the two ladies that work in the apartment directly across the hall from us. They have helped us out a thousand times over the past two years and have adopted Bauer as their own. We have been very lucky to have their help and friendship over the past two year (although I still think Pavla tried to posion me)

  • Sex Shops
    OK, this one is just in here to see if you are still paying attention. I've said it many times in the blog but I'll say it again. There are a ridiculous number of Sex Shops in Prague. They're on every other corner. I have no idea how they all stay in business. It fascinates me.

  • 10 Minutes from the Country
    When you are in downtown Prague, it can feel like a major International city. It's not on the same level as a London or a Paris - but it has all of the essential ingredients. However, if you get on your bike and ride for 10 minutes, you totally escape city life. It feels like you are in the middle of the country and went back in time by 50 years. The difference is amazing - but in a pretty cool way. I really enjoyed riding my bike through these tiny little towns and villages on the outskirts of Prague.

  • Intra-City Transportation (Trams)
    Here's a random entry - trams! I love a city with good trams.

    In New York, I NEVER take the bus. I have literally been on the bus less than 5 times in my life. I have no idea how the numbers work and am always afraid that the bus is going to take a random left turn and leave me far away from my destination.

    Since trams have built in tracks on the ground, they always go where they are supposed to. The ride is smooth and the stops are freqent. Trams are great!

  • Central European Location
    Finally, one of the things I like most about Prague is how easy it is to escape from. If you look at a map of Europe and find Prague, you'll see it is stuck pretty much right in the center of Europe. This makes traveling ridiculously easy. For all of the traveling we have done, the only flights longer than 90 minutes were to London, Lisbon and Istanbul. And some places are so close that you can easily take a train or drive by car. We have traveled by train/car to Italy, Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Poland. The location has made our traveling life style much easier.

I won't end my stay in Prague by putting a list of things I didn't like (the food, the surly attitude of everyone that works in retail, etc.). Those thoughts are well documented in some of my earlier posts when I first moved here.

In all honesty, there were many many great things about living in Prague. We are so glad we made this trip and have never regretted our decision for a single second.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Top Ten Things I Will Do When I Get Back Home

Today is a fun blog. Instead of looking back and places we have been and getting sentimental, I'm going to look to the future. In 48 short hours, we get on a flight and head back to New York.

Although we are very, very sad to leave Prague - we are also very excited to move back to New York. Here are some of the things I will do within my first week of getting back.

  • Eat Good Food
    During my first 6 months in Prague, I was an mission to find a good burger. It never happened. I eventually gave up and lead an essentially burger-free life for the past 18 months. That's a crying shame. I can't wait to eat a good juicy burger when I get back home. I'll probably go get a Hickory Burger at Houston's, but I may also get a burger at Blue Smoke, Corner Bistro, Shake Shack, Rare or another new place that I don't even know about yet.

    And then there is sushi. Prague does have a pretty significant number of sushi joints. I can think of at least 6 within a 20 minute walk of my house. Unfortunately, since the Czech Republic is a land-locked country, the sushi is not that good and ridiculously expensive. There is one good place near our house, but it is so expensive that we have only been there twice.

    Finding great, cheap sushi in New York is not a problem. Our favorite spot is Yama on Houston - but I heard a nasty rumor that it was closed. I hope it is not true. But, if it is, no worries... there are dozens and dozens of other sushi houses that I am sure I will like just as much.

    (On a side note, I could have made this whole blog about food. But that's no fun. Just know that I could have easily added Wings, Mexican food and Pizza to this list)

  • Buy a new Home Entertainment System
    When I left for Prague two years ago, I had to sell all of my major electronic equipment. When I move back home, I will have nothing.

    Many people would be upset about this since they have to outlay a lot of cash immediately upon landing. While this is true, I'm still excited. I get to walk into Best Buy and get everything brand spanking new. I can buy a flat screen HD TV, a Blue Ray Player and a Home Theater System. All brand new, all bought at the same time and all bought to integrate perfectly with each other. The best news is that the price of this entire system combined will be significantly less than the HD TV I bought 5 years ago.

    I'll probably be at Best Buy within 3 hours of my plane landing.

    (On a side note, i was planning on buying this Home Entertainment System with my winnings from Fantasy Football. But Donovan McNabb had to ruin all of those plans on a Monday night against the Browns. Four lousy yards! Four F&*%ing yards!!! If he doesn't get those four yards, I am the champ and get a free system. I'm still bitter)

  • Watch the Cavs... in HD
    While I was able to watch a ridiculous amount of football while in Prague, I have only been able to watch a single basketball game. The games are on too late and I don't bet basketball.

    This is unfortunate because my Cleveland Cavaliers are having the best season in franchise history. LeBron James - a hometown boy - is the best player on the planet and I think he will bring Cleveland a championship for the first time in my life.

    But, I don't just want to watch basketball. I want to watch it in HD. I haven't seen a sporting event in High Definition in over 2 years. I'm going to be blown away all over again.

  • Browse Book Stores
    My favorite thing to do on a rainy day in New York is to go to the Barnes & Noble in Union Square. I spend hours and hours just browsing the book store. I don't know why, but I love it.

    I haven't had the chance to do it much in Prague. Although there are a few bookstores that carry English language books, the selection is not nearly the same.

  • Go to a Comedy Club
    I love going to Comedy Clubs. I haven't seen a stand up comedian since I left New York. I feel less funny because of it. I can't even think of a joke right now. Seriously.

  • Punch an Investment Banker in the Face
    Just because it seems like the right thing to do.

  • Go Shopping
    OK - let me try to write this without sounding too pathetic. I don't love shopping. The act of shopping gets me tired after about an hour. But, that being said, I would like to get some new clothes.

    I haven't bought a single thread of clothing in Prague. Literally. Not a sock, not a shirt, not underwear and not even a hat. Nothing. The clothes are overpriced and not my style (to say the least). When I get back to New York, I desperately need some new gear.

  • Live like the average American
    I can't wait to eat fast food, watch endless hours of mindless reality TV, shop at Wal-Mart, work 60 hours a week, buy a shot gun and shoot a moose.

    Wait. I don't want to do any of that. Why am I leaving Europe again?

  • See Bauer reunite with Casey
    We got our dog Bauer one week after our neighbors got their dog Casey - a German Sheppard. They grew up together for the first year of their life. They played everyday and were nearly inseparable. Then, one day out of the blue, we drugged Bauer, threw him in a small crate on a plane and he woke up 10 hours later in Europe. He has not seen Casey in the two years since.

    The dogs - who both turn 3 in the next couple of weeks - will be reunited on our first day back. I have no idea how they will react. They will either play and get along like they never left each other... or Bauer will see the big dog and roll over on his back and put his tail between his legs. There is no in between.

  • Hang Out with Friends and Family
    This item is obligatory. If I don't put it in here I'll sound like an asshole.

Check back tomorrow for my final blog from Prague.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Top Ten Pictures in Europe

This post belongs to R. During our two years in Prague, R really took an interest in photography. She got a digital SLR camera, took a couple of photography classes, learned how to use Photoshop, got a better digital SLR camera when her first one was dropped in Aegean Sea, etc.

Fortunately for her, Europe provides a pretty amazing background for taking pictures. Here are her ten favorite pics from the past two years...

Two random people in front of the Charles Bridge in Prague. I am typically quite shy of snapping pics of strangers but this was a perfect moment!

A guy in Istanbul with a scale & tissues. Apparently you could pay him a few cents for the privilege of using his scale. Not really sure what the tissues were for....maybe to cry after reading your weight?

Famous Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) in Florence, Italy. I loved the reflections and shades of yellow when taking this shot.

An atrium in The Vatican. We paid for a private tour and so were able to enter 30min. before regular opening. This explains why there is not a single soul there yet. The sun was starting to shine within the atrium and it was just beautiful!

A random door in Sicily, Italy.
I waited for the whole family to enter the apartment so that I could take this picture. I loved the bright blue door and the contrasting blue bucket colors.

Bikes in Sicily, Italy
I just loved the dimension of the walls and back window yet with the front wall bikes.

Costumes on display in Venice during Carnival. This may be viewed as out of
focus but I just love it!

Costumes on display in Venice during Carnival. Rule of 1/3's and the background just seemed perfect to me.

View of Vernazza in the Cinque Terre region of Italy. This is probably the most beautiful view I have ever seen in my life! The colors were amazing especially with the water contrast. Plus, I loved how behind the city is another small inlet/beach.

A small little street on one of the Greek Islands. This sums up Greek architecture!

Check back tomorrow to read the top ten things I am most looking forward to about returning to New York.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Top Ten Places We Would Visit if We Stayed in Europe Longer

OK - I've already spent enough time talking about the trips we took while living in Prague. Today, I'm going to talk about the trips we didn't take.

Had we stayed in Europe for a bit more time, here are the Top Ten places we would have visited. These are listed in no particular order and, truth be told, some of the places aren't even in Europe. To make this list, it just has to be a place that is easier to get to from Prague than from New York.

  • Moscow & St. Petersburg, Russia
    This is definitely #1 on the list for the simple reason that - if I don't go to Russia now - I don't know when I will go. I can't see myself taking a vacation from New York just to Russia. I feel like the opportunity may have passed me by.

    R and I did have plans to go to Russia and talked about it quite a bit. But, we decided against it because (a) it was extremely expensive and (b) I heard foreigners were treated pretty rudely there. So we decided to go on affordable trips where people would embrace us. I may regret missing the cultural significance that is Mother Russia, but a trip during these last two years just wasn't in the cards for us.

  • Egypt
    Egypt is just the opposite of Russia. It's a place I really want to go to and I do see myself making a separate vacation just to go to Egypt. That being said, it's much closer from Prague than New York.

    My friend Brian spent a considerable amount of time in Egypt last year and he advised me not to go. He was a bit turned off by the people - for whatever reason. He's also my #1 nemesis - so the fact that he didn't want me to go to Egypt just made me want to go more.

    R and I had tentative plans to go to Egypt over Thanksgiving weekend in 2008, but she got a consulting gig in Portugal that was too good to pass up and we went to Lisbon instead. So that was that. But, like I said, I'm not too disappointed because I will get to Egypt one day.

  • French Riviera
    If I close my eyes and think of the ultimate Eurotrash vacation, I think of lounging on a beach in the French Riviera, sipping champagne and wearing all white clothes - with excessive amounts of jewelry and hair product thrown in for good measure. It doesn't matter if it is Monte Carlo, Cannes or Nice. The fantasy is all the same. Me wearing all white standing on a yacht with models and bottles and the French Riviera in the background.

    Now, if I actually went to the French Riviera, I'm sure the vacation itself would differ wildly from the images in my head described above. So it's probably a good thing that I never went. Still... I want to go and it's on the list. Maybe I should wait until I have enough money to experience the vacation that's in my head.

    (A quick side note to accompany my food blog from Monday. My freind Brewsta - who operates one of the best food blogs in Prague - says the Oysters in Cannes are better than anywhere else. Just another reason to go here.)

  • Stockholm
    I've heard that Stockholm in the summer is the most beautiful city in Europe. The city spans a bunch of islands and the temperature is pretty mild - in a good way.

    But that is also part of the problem. The best time to see Stockholm is the summer, but it's not a beach destination. When the summer time hits, I want to go to the beach. I want to be lying in the sand, jumping in the water, diving, etc. Not going on vacations to visit the cultural capitals of Europe.

    Had I been living in Europe during my high school years, I am sure I would have made my way to Sweden. That's because I used to LOVE blondes. Now, I'm much more of a brunnette fan. So I'm sure that played a role in the fact that I have not been to Stockholm.

  • Copenhagen
    My nemesis Brian once told me that Copenhagen was his favorite city in Europe. I think he told me that because he specifically knew that I had not been to Copenhagen. Fuck that kid. Does he think he's better than me?!?!?!? I want to go to Copenhagen just out of spite.

  • Golfing in Ireland or Scotland
    My friend Mark and I had planned to go to Ireland last year for a round of golf. The trip fell through for a variety of reasons and we ended up golfing in the Czech Republic instead. But, you know what, I'm kind of glad the trip fell through.

    Don't get me wrong, I still very much want to golf in Ireland, Scotland or both. But not now. Not yet. I'm not a good enough golfer yet. When I have a realistic shot of breaking 90 on a regularly basis, I will book the first flight to the UK with my golf clubs in hand. But not now. Not yet.

  • Turkey - Cappadocia
    One of our favorite trips was our five day stint in Istanbul, Turkey back in March 2008. I would love to go back and spend a full 2-3 weeks in Turkey. The country is so huge with so much to explore. And one such area is Cappadocia. Just look at the photos below and you'll see why...

  • Fjords
    Another entry from Scandinavia on this list. As you can tell, I have never been to Scandinavia and really want to go. As far as pure beauty goes, it would be hard to beat the Fjords in Norway.

    To be honest with you, I don't even know that much about this area. I have only seen pictures and they blow me away.

  • Ice Hotel
    Actually, this isn't on my top ten list. This is all about R. I'll let her explain..

    So, yes, this is a place that I truly wanted to experience and I do think that one day I WILL!

    Picture this.. you arrive at the airport and are greeted by your personal sled diver who will take you to the ICEHOTEL. You are given warm outer clothing at the airport and your luggage is taken directly to the hotel. Meanwhile you just sit back and listen to the silence as the sled driver along with 15 reindeer take you to a magical hotel made of all ice!

    For those of you that hate the cold... You only spend one night in the ICE hotel and the other nights in a more traditional WARM hotel. At the ICE HOTEL, you are outfitted with special clothing to keep you comfortable to remain in the hotel surroundings.

    There are amazing excursions available such as forrest snow mobile ride, Moose watching tours and of course the mystical Northern lights- which happen in this part of the world! And as a dog lover, you have many opportunities to meet the many dogs that are used with sleds. "In JukkasjÀrvi and its environs, there are more dogs than people."

    This is an adventures I truly want to take one day! Just look at these pictures!

  • Cycling in French Wine Region
    I always thought it would be great to go on biking tour of France. Especially the wine regions. I love cycling, I love french food and I'm a big fan of wine... what's not to like.

    The problem is that I don't trust myself to just hop on a bike and start riding from one town to another. My sense of direction is not good enough and I wouldn't know where to stop. If I were to do this properly, I would want this to be part of an organized group. The kind of group where they take your clothes and belongings in a car from one hotel to another and you just have to merely ride along and follow the group leader.

    I looked into these type of tours quite a bit when I first moved to Prague and I was SHOCKED by the prices. A 5 day trip will cost over $4000 per person - and that does not include my travel to France. With these kind of prices, a trip like this may just remain a pipe dream.

Of course, there are many more places that we would have liked to visit had we stayed in Europe. Morocco, Dubai, Sardinia and> Belgium all come to mind. And this list doesn't even include some of the best aspects of Europe - those little towns and villages that are off the beaten track. Places full of history that still feel like they did 100 years ago. These are some the places I enjoy most.

The good news is that we're still (relatively) young and I don't plan to stop traveling any time soon. Hopefully we'll hit these places - and a few more - sometime in the future.

Check back tomorrow for R's favorite pictures that she took in Europe...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Top Ten Best Tourist Attractions

During our travels in Europe, we had the opportunity to see many typical "tourist attractions" in Europe. Here are our ten favorites. Please note: we are limiting the list here to man-made tourist attractions. These are also limited to things we have actually seen while we've been living in Europe the last two years. I'm sure there are plenty other great attractions out there but, if we didn't see them, they're not on this list.

  • The Vatican
    Any list about the best attractions in Europe has to start with the Vatican. I was absolutely amazed by this place, errrr, country. Every time you put your $5 into the church basket, it just feeds the catholic church monster. For everyone that does that on a weekly basis - thank you. The Vatican was very impressive and I thoroughly enjoyed the art that your donations helped buy.

  • The Colosseum
    This was legitimately cool. Even though the Colosseum is just a shell of its former self, you can smell the history in the place. The guide told us stories of the "shows" that used to go on in that place and... WOW. Now I'm normally not one that likes to watch people brutally murdered in front of me purely for entertainment purposes. But, I would have really, really liked to have visited the Colosseum during its heyday. (In case you are wondering, I watched the movie Gladiator again within 2 days of returning home from Rome)

  • Charles Bridge
    Here's an attraction that I can see from my bedroom. OK, that's not technically true, but it would be true if I had a 20 foot long neck. I try to cross the bridge at least once a month - just for the fun of it.

  • Blue Mosque
    After seeing about 100 different churches in Europe. I've got to be honest with you, stain glass windows and crucifixes (crucifi?) just don't do much for me any more. The Blue Mosque in Istanbul was my first Mosque and was a nice change of pace.

  • Gaudi Architecture in Barcelona
    My favorite architect ever - Antoni Gaudi. The city of Barcelona is loaded with works by this guy. The guy must have been on some serious drugs - because his buildings were like nothing I have ever seen. Each one was better than the other.

  • The Last Supper
    I had always assumed that The Last Supper was just a normal piece of art - produced on a regular canvas. I had no idea it was painted on the side of a church wall. It's not part of a museum. You have to order your tickets months in advance and all you get to see is The Last Supper - there is not much else. The whole experience takes 15 minutes. And, after reading The Davinci Code, I spent 14 of those minutes trying to figure out if the one dude was a chick. Diagnosis - inconclusive!

  • The Louvre in Paris
    I have to admit, I am not very knowledgeable when it comes to art. As an engineer in college, I didn't have much room on my schedule for electives like Art History. So, when I am in a new city, I feel like I should go to the top museums even though I know I won't get a whole lot out of them.

    That's not true with The Louvre. By far the best museum I have ever been to... and there is not even a close second. I prefer the sculptures to the paintings. While I can comprehend how some people can be good painters (even though I am not), I have absolutely no idea how some of these sculptures were done. It blows my mind.

  • Belam Castle
    This is a little castle on a port in Lisbon. It doesn't have nearly the same fame as any of the other items on this list. But, what can I say, I really enjoyed this place. I felt like a little kid running around the castle, taking pictures and hanging out in the dungeons. If you find yourself in Lisbon, definitly chek it out.

  • Statue of David
    The Statue of David resides in a little museum in the outskirts of Florence. The museum isn't much, except for the big statue of David in the middle of the room. As I mentioned above - sculptures blow my mind. But this sculpture in particular is head and shoulders (and penis) above the rest.

    I remember staring at this statue for a solid 30 minutes. I walked around it and studied it from every angle. I was mesmerized... ans I have no idea why. For lack of a better word, the statue was just "perfect". Bravo Michelangelo, Bravo!

  • Acropolis, Greece
    This one is on the list just for the history. The Acropolis itself is falling apart. You really are looking at big pieces of marble and rock. On the day we visited it, it was at least 100 degrees outside and we had to walk up a very tall hill with the mid-day sun hitting our back.

    But still, knowing the history of the place, it just made the trip well worth it. It's a place everyone should visit once.

It should be noted that I put this together almost out of obligation. The truth is that the typical "tourist attractions" are rarely the best thing about a city (except Rome). The best parts of a city are walking around the neighborhoods, eating the local food, talking to people, etc. Sure, you visit the typical tourist attractions, but that's not what you remember. It's the time you spent in the city.

Prague is the perfect example of this. With the exception of the Charles Bridge, the tourist attractions in Prague are rather lackluster. But, it is still arguably the most beautiful city in Europe. And the best way to experience that beauty is by just aimlessly walking around the city... not by visiting the attractions.

Check back tomorrow for a list of the places in Europe I wanted to visit, but didn't have a chance to.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Top Ten Most Memorable Meals in Europe

No doubt about it, the best thing about living in Europe is the food. There is fantastic food nearly everywhere you turn (except, unfortunately, in the city we have called home for the last two years).

Here is a list of the Top Ten Most Memorable Meals we've had while in Europe. Now, these aren't necessarily the best meals, but the most memorable (although they are all pretty damn tasty). I also won't be including any meals that are memorably bad. Just memorable in a good sort of way

Here is the top ten, listed in no particular order:

  • Oysters in Paris
    We visited Paris 3 times in the past two years and enjoyed several Oyster meals each trip. I can't get enough of these slimy little suckers. The taste is like heaven. Some of the Parisians we talked to said that they taste better without lemon. I've tried them that way, but have to say that I prefer them with a little spritz of lemon. That brings us to Nino's Life Rule #1: When anyone asks you if you want lemon with that, always say yes.

  • Oktoberfest Food
    Growing up, I always liked Pretzels as much as the next guy. No more, no less. You put a pretzel in front of me and I would eat it. But I'm not going to go out of my way searching for a pretzel.

    However, bring me to Munich, and all bets are off. I'd kill another man for a pretzel. These things are out of this world. And, the best part, they are served in a variety of ways. You have traditional shaped pretzels, pretzel sticks, pretzel rolls, sandwiches with pretzel buns, etc. All fantastic.

    These pretzels are great when sober but, throw in 10 liters of beer at Oktoberfest, and they turn down right orgasmic. It's not just the pretzels. The sausages, the spaetzle, the bratworst... all amzing. I think I ate 6 feet of wieners in the 3 days I spent in Munich for Oktoberfest.

  • Fruit in Sicily
    When most people think of food in Southern Italy, they naturally think of pasta, pizza, fish, etc. Don't get me wrong. These are all out of this world. Some of the best food on earth. But, it's not the best food in Sicily. The best food in Sicily is, without a doubt, the fruit.

    Let's start off with the tomatoes. The reason the pasta is so good is because of the tomatoes. And the tomatoes in Sicily are just better than anywhere else in the Universe. I haven't been to everywhere in the Universe, but I still feel 100% confident making that statement. Go to America and get one of the best tasting fresh tomatoes right from your garden. It will taste amazing. Then go to Sicily and try a tomato. You'll never look at your shitty little garden the same again.

    And, don't forget about the blood red oranges. These look like oranges from the outside but, when you open them up, the juice is bright red inside. Very unique and very tasty. These are only available a few months a year, but well worth the wait.

    Saving the best for last... the figs. I can honestly say that I've never had a fig before going to Sicily this year. If you asked me last year to name my top 20 favorite fruits, figs wouldn't crack the list. Today, they're at the top of the list. I ate a full tree of figs in my week in Sicily this summer.

  • Traditional Turkish food in Istanbul
    The most fun I had at dinner in Europe was at a restaurant called Al Jamal in Istanbul, Turkey.

    For $100, you get a huge family style serving of traditional Turkish food and all-you-can-drink wine. The all-you-can-drink wine comes pretty handy - because the place isn't just a restaurant, but a full scale nightclub (with belly dancers to boot). So once you are finished eating, you stay at the club until all hours of the night drinking free wine.

    There is no menu at the restaurant. They just start bringing you food. It never ended. A variety of hot and cold appetizers (hummus, baba ganoush, etc.), kebabs, etc. OK, I have to be honest, as I am sitting here trying to remember what we were served, I am failing to do so. So I guess the food itself wasn't too memorable. But, I think that has much more to do with the all-you-can-drink wine than the quality of the food. I remember raving about how great the food was for weeks after... so it makes the list.

  • Authentic Cuisine from Central Asia in my office
    Here's a surprising entry to the list. My company has many people who originally come from Central Asia. Places like Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. And these people like to have a good time and celebrate a success with parties. When it comes time to celebrate a success (like the launch of of the Kazakh or Kyrgyz website) - they do so with food.

    Unfortunately, I have no idea what this food is called. It usually consists of rice with lamb, meat pies and similar food. It's all home cooked and it's all delicious. I can't get enough of this stuff. It's like a much better version of Chinese food. I try to launch new websites at work just to get people to have more parties and bring more of this food to the office.

    The one thing I don't love is Baklava. It's a little too sweet for my taste. But, I'm clearly in the minority here since this stuff is like crack for some people in my office.

  • Portuguese Breakfast
    I recently blogged about how amazing the breakfast in Portugal was. It's good enough to make my top ten list. This includes Pasteis de Nata (custard cream pies), Pao de Qeijo and more meat pies. In case you are sensing a theme here, I like meat pies.

    Another theme I'm realizing is how difficult it is to write about food while avoiding double entendres. Between my love of cream pies, six feet of wieners and Portuguese Breakfast - you can't tell if I'm writing a food blog or am a sexual deviant.

  • Ice Cream in Meda, Italy
    R's parents live in a little suburb outside of Milan called Meda, Italy. The town is marginally famous for its impressive furniture production. However, R and I think it should be more famous for a little, nonchalant gellatto (ice cream) shop on the outskirts of town.

    This is hands down the best ice cream I have ever tasted. Every trip to R's parents house includes more than one stop at this store. The best flavor is something called fior di latte - literally translated to "Flower of Milk". It's taste like vanilla ice cream laced with heroin and some magic fairy dust sprinkled on for good measured. If we're playing the association game: Fior di Latte is to Vanilla what Fillet Mignon is to a McDonald's hamburger patty.

  • Czech Beer
    Finally, an entry from my adopted home town of Prague. Beer's here!

    The Czech beer is world renowned. It's much more flavorful than it's American counterparts and much cheaper. You can get a half liter of local beer for less than $2. Sometimes much less. As such, the Czech's drink more beer per capita than any other country on earth. There is an old wive's tale that says girls should drink beer to get bigger boobs. You have to love a culture like this!!!

    The most popular brands are Pilsner Urquell, Staroparem and Budweiser Budvar. Interestingly enough, the last entry has nothing to do with the American Budwesier. The Czech counterpart started brewing 100 years before Anheuser-Busch started producing their own. There have been several lawsuits between the two companies and they have reached an agreement based on what name can be used in which part of the world.

    My personal favorite is Kozel. It's a dark beer - which I usually don't go for - but this is just too damn tasty. I will certainly miss the beer when I say good bye to Prague.

  • Crepes with Nutella in Paris
    There are many, many great things to eat in Paris. Croissants, seafood (mentioned above), steak frites, foie gras, cheese, wine.... just to name a few. With all of this high class food, it's pretty surprising that my second French entry on the top ten list comes from street vendors.

    Whenever I am in Paris, my breakfast is always the same. Leave the hotel, find the nearest street vendor and get a crepe filled with Nutella and bananas.

    The funny thing is that there is nothing particularly special or French about this meal. Nutella is an Italian based chocolate spread found on grocery shelves all across the world. Bananas are a tropical fruit. And while crepes did originate in France, the recipe isn't exactly rocket science.

    I'm surprised that little crepe stands aren't available in more cities. I think they would work perfect in New York (among other cities). I've seen a crepe stand or two in SoHo - but they certainly aren't wide spread. Maybe this will be my calling in life. If my little IT Executive career path doesn't work out, maybe I should just buy an industrial size vat of Nutella and open up crepe stands on random corners in Manhattan. I'll put on a beret, learn to speak with a French accent and make millions.... $3.50 at a time.

  • Tapas in Spain
    I'm one of the most jealous eaters I know. The worst 20 minutes of my life are between the time I order my food at a restaurant and the time it arrives. I absolutely hate it when someone orders a dish that looks better than mine. It ruins my entire meal.

    That's why I love tapas so much. Especially in a group. You just order a bunch of food for the table and eat whatever looks best. All food should be served this way! Of course, the best tapas experience we had was in Barcelona. Everything was perfect - from the cheese, to the iberico (ham), the vegetables and especially the sangria. There's no better way for a small group to share a meal.

I tried my best to cut this list down to ten items. But it was just impossible. There were so many delicious and memorable meals in the past two years. Here is my honorable mention. These meals are all fantastic in their own right - but not quite good enough to make the Top Ten.

Honorable Mention

  • Pork Knee in Prague
    If you ever come to Prague, you have to try these.

  • Mussels in Dubrovnik
    Great muscles... and cheap.

  • Octopus on a Plate in Sicily
    Very memorable. A full Octopus dropped on my plate. I had a knife in one hand and a fork in the other. I went to town.

  • Plachuta in Vienna
    A shockingly excellent restaurant in Vienna. Who knew boiled beef could taste so good.

  • Anchovies in Monterosso
    I never liked Anchovies - but my friend in Monterosso al Mare made me try and converted me for life

  • Pasha in London
    Like a mini Al Jamal... only much more expensive.

  • Donor Kebab in Turkey
    Best. Drunk Food. Ever.

  • Honey Cake in Prague
    R's favorite.

  • Spaghetti Lobster in Greece Islands
    This meal doesn't make the top ten because we had it on a tiny Greek Island but there is nothing Greek about it. So if we are judging it on being "memorable" it doesn't make the cut. But, the food was absolutely perfect and deserves special mention. The tomatoes and lobster were as fresh as can be.

You may be surprised that - despite our many trips to Italy - there are very few Italian meals on the list above. I think this deserves a side note. I grew up with a very Italian grandmother that made out-of-this-world home cooked Italian meals. I married an Italian bird who cooks amazing home made Italian meals. My very Italian mother-in-law cooks for me whenever I see her... and she may be the best cook of them all.

In short, I have become very spoiled when it comes to Italian cooking. I have yet to find a restaurant in Italy, New York, Cleveland, anywhere.... that makes Italian food as good as the three ladies mentioned above. Had I married a Turk, I'm sure I would remove Al Jamal from the list above and replaced it with one of my meals in Rome, Florence, Milan, or Sicily. But that didn't happen. I married and Italian and you're stuck with my list.

Check back tomorrow for the Top Ten Sites we visited in Europe.