Notes from Prague

In Prague there is a tower for TV and cell antennas that rises high above the city. Everyone thinks it’s ugly, but replacement is unlikely. It was built during the Soviet era, so it is called the last Russian rocket in the Czech Republic.

Our tour guide for today. I wish I could hire her for our entire stay.

Our tour guide for today. I wish I could hire her for our entire stay.

Skoda builds cars in a plant just outside Prague. The S in Skoda has an umlaut(?) over it so is pronounced ‘sh’ as in shoe. It is open to the public to watch cars being built all the time. It is now part of the VW empire. Our guide told us Skoda translates to “What a pity” in English. Maybe that’s why we don’t see them in the US.

A town we passed through on our way back to Prague translates to “Eat the goat”. Town names evolved in competition with neighboring towns, for reasons both good and bad. There was a lot of discussion going on in the bus and I didn’t get the actual town name. Sorry, Martin.

There are a lot of Canola fields here and in other countries we have passed through. Turns out the EU mandates 4% of fields be Canola for use as bio-fuel. “Stupid, stupid, stupid!” was our guide’s feelings on the matter. She reeled off a list of reasons it is a bad idea, one of which was folks in the CZ are not keen on having a lot of mandates from above. But…

In the small quaint town our guide was taking us through was a very modern new house built between two traditional ones. It was well finished and quite striking to my eye. Our guide was visibly offended by it. She said it was built after the Soviets left, who would never have allowed it, and before new regulations were enacted to keep the quaintness in. She thought it was just awful that anyone would do that. Politics is much the same the world over, I think.

They eat a lot of pork here and a couple of Australian ladies on our tour asked, “Where are all the pigs?” Well, they all live inside. This is a small country and they don’t have room for outdoor stock yards as in America. And they are fed a very controlled diet, mostly of manufactured ‘granules’, basically like dog food. Same for chickens, cows, pigs and other food critters. Our guide pointed out several large barns to us on our way back that were typical for pigs.

Virtually none of the large fields of crops have irrigation. Only some vegetables get it. There is normally enough rainfall to grow all that they grow. Virtually all the corn they grow is for animals. It is not sweet corn, which has only recently become popular and all that is imported.

Our guide joined us when we took a break for food and drink and we had a wonderful chat. She speaks seven languages, has lived in Prague all her life, as has her extended family for several generations. I explained that Americans are way more mobile than that and often move for a job, a spouse, the climate or just because. I felt like I was describing a rainbow to a blind person.

BTW, the Czechs think of themselves as central Europeans. Our guide was quite firm on this point. Poland is northern, Russia and Ukraine are eastern. “Those two countries are so different from us!”. Almost no one who has mentioned Russia has done so without crinkling their nose, or worse.

Our Mercedes mini-bus had a 5-speed manual transmission in the dash. That surprised me. There were three or four suction cups on the windshield in front of the driver. One was his cell, one a notepad, one a dash cam and something I didn’t get a chance to ask about. The bottom half of his view was well obstructed. As we came back into the city and traffic got heavy, the smoothness of the traffic was a revelation. No one was driving too fast and then braking hard, we all just got slower and kept our distances and we all flowed into town. And there was a lot of traffic. They drive better here, I think.

On our tour today we had quite a mix of folks. Two from Spain, five from Australia, two from Russia, and us. Nearly every time we had to gather up to be off to the next place the Russian couple were the last to join us. The guide kept saying, “We’ve lost the Russians, again.” When we got back into Prague the Russian lady asked if they could be dropped off at some corner. We did, and as soon as the door was closed and we had started to move, the guide said, “We won’t lose the Russians again!”. Everyone howled.

We were having a drink in the bar when the local evening news came on. Looks the same the world over. There was an extended segment about the weather. I gathered several heat records were broken, several large damaging hail storms and the odd flood here and there. We experienced none of that, thankfully. It is much cooler here today so the front has moved past us. It was a very pleasant mid 70s day today.

We are looking forward to more tomorrow. Oh, and after getting thoroughly lost this morning, we are not going out tomorrow without the GPS.