Friday, June 25, 2010


Finished. The End.
Today was the last day of school. The last day of Winfield College. The last day of my life as a teacher. It's strange, bizarre, sad.
All week, saying goodbyes.
Tonight the last party. The big shebang. The final farewell.
Hard to believe that three years have gone by.
It was a flash.
And now it's time to depart this stage, to drift again...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

My Current Country has REALLY Cool Castles.

Julie and I definitely got the Royal treatment when she was here visiting. Mark's parents were free her first full weekend here and they decided that we should see the Czech Republic in style. So on Saturday we all squeezed into their Skoda and headed off to see some beautiful country.
Our main stop today was Karlstejn. This castle was founded in 1348 and finished just 17 years later. While that might seem like a long time, just imagine the kind of equipment they had back in the day and then be duly impressed as you should be.

After going on a lovely little tour of the place, we stopped for lunch just a short way down the hill. It's quite a hike up to the castle, and we were all amazed that Mark's mom could manage it in her very high heels. I'd have fallen and broken my ankle at the very beginning. anyhow, despite limited abilities to communicate we had a nice time together.

Because of the amount of time it took to get to Karlstejn, we didn't have time to see any other castles that day, but we did have a nice little shopping in Plzen on our way home. We also got to hear the end of the Czech/Sweden hockey game. Czech came out on top that day and went on to win the world championship on Sunday. Very very cool.
On Sunday we started out quite early. In fact, we were so early that the first castle wasn't actually open yet. So we had some time to wander around the town of Horsovsky Tyn.

When they opened up we went on two tours. This castle is super interesting because it is made in two different styles. The old section is Gothic, and a large part of it was burned down and rebuilt in a Renaissance style. We really enjoyed both of the sections. I particularly liked some of the Asian influences. I find it so fascinating how royalty often became obsessed with Asian arts and imported carpets and dishes and even armor. Mark liked the old piano predecessor, but sadly it wasn't operational any more. One of the coolest things they had in this castle was a chandelier that had original Edison light bulbs. When they turned them on I was impressed by their brilliance even after so many years. Definitely a unique artifact. Just goes to show how much we're being cheated on light bulbs!
Next we drove on through Domazlice. We hopped out of the car for a few minutes to get a little extra exercise. Julie and I hiked up the tower and Mark stayed at the bottom to take our picture. We really enjoyed the view from the top.

We got a little pose happy in the end I guess :) What's new I suppose. I really thought this last picture of Julie was amusing. When I first saw it I commented on how she looked like a kid in it. She reminded me that Mark took it. It shows what we look like in his eyes, which is just a little eerie...
I guess we really are pretty short after all!
We continued on to Klatovy where they have an old crypt complete with preserved bodies. It was so interesting to see how they had been mummified without being wrapped at all. They were normally buried in the crypt, but the airflow was just perfect so that they stayed in good condition. In more recent years some reparations were made that cut off the airflow and many of them were destroyed, but they saved more than 30 and they're now on display in special glass cases. Naturally you can't take photos there, but we did get some post cards :) We were especially surprised at how good their teeth were. Ancient people generally didn't have the best teeth, but these were mostly all intact and straight. I'm very curious about their dental care...Even the bottle of French toothpaste from the 1890s was a bit late for them. Curious.
There was also a tower that we climbed in the square. The lady at the top was really interesting and enjoyed our interest. She told us about the old bell keeper and how he lived up there to keep watch over the city and would call out the hours to mark the safety of the town. It actually made me think of Nancy Hood who used to live in a look out tower during fire season. What a fascinating confined sort of life. I definitely couldn't do it, and yet I find the idea intriguing all the same. Here are some views from below and above.

The tower lady told us that back in the day the original tower top actually crashed down and fell on the square below, so I decided I should act it out for the sake of preserving history...
After a lovely time exploring there we continued on to the last stop of the day: Svihov. Sadly, we just missed their opening hours, but we were able to wander around the grounds some and we really enjoyed looking at the moat and what we could see of the castle from the outside.

So, like I said, there are a lot of amazing places to see here in the Czech Republic, and it was great to have Julie here to give me some excuses to see more of them :)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Cheb Tour '10

I'm going to start out by adding a couple of pictures I really should have put up last time in order to demonstrate just how crazy it can be around here during construction times. The first is one in Cheb that shows the work they've been doing to make the new pedestrian zone. It's supposed to be done really soon, and seems to be about there so it should be all cleared out before FIJO. The second is in KV where I'm not sure they'll have anything but chaos ready for the Film Festival. Rumor has it Jude Law is going to be there this year. Not sure yet if I'll make it to the festivities, but we'll see. All depends on whether or not Mark and I can EVER plan our Paris trip!

Uploading photos is going reallllllly slowly today. Hopefully I really will manage to get some in for you today. Nice dream at least.
So for Julie's visit I decided that my students should to a tour of Cheb for her. Since I only have a few regular daily students it was quite a bit of work to manage it.
In the end we did pull it off. The L1s came along as well, but it was the L2s that did all the work. We went around town and enjoyed different sights where they also provided Julie with some history. I'd done my best not to show her too much of town before this point so that she could really enjoy all that they had to share. I was quite proud of them, and we had a good time as well.

Aren't they all just too cute? I had a lot of fun with them this year. So hard to believe that this is my last week as a teacher. I wonder if I'll ever integrate this experience into my life again. I've gotten pretty used to it over the last three years. I definitely wouldn't want to go back to being a sub, but maybe if I could be some sort of language teacher in the future it wouldn't be so bad. I'd still prefer inspiring students to delve deeper into literature, or to really bare their souls through the written word, but it's hard to know if that's really a practical hope. Especially with America's economy these days. Ah well.
Anyhow, Julie and I traipsed around Cheb a bit more and found some interesting new friends as well.

And now I'll leave you with another picture of the amazing limo that followed us to Cheb at some point. Pretty random if I do say so myself. If only they'd had this around in Kansas for Laura's wedding...:)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Beyond Prague...Journeying into West Bo

I bring you now the further adventures of Julie in Czech. After the first few days in Prague I was happy to get Julie on a train and to bring her out to the part of the country that I know best. While I wasn't able to answer Julie's confounding questions about the connection between the American idea of being Bohemian, and the actual people who live in Bohemia, I did give her a chance to see what this area is all about.
We didn't rent a car this time, so we had to rely a lot more on trains, but Julie adapted easily, and we managed to hit a lot of different places. Her first week here we stuck close by with a couple trips to Marianske Lazne, or course, as well as a lovely afternoon in Loket and a positively drippy visit to Karlovy Vary.
As well she should, Julie found Marianske Lazne to be a very lovely place :)

She also got a crash course in posing, something most people who hang out with me end up having to endure :) She held up pretty well if I do say so myself. We had great fun wandering around town with Mark, and we all got a good laugh out of this little car we saw parked by the side of the road. Whatever gets you there I guess.

On Monday we headed to Loket, and I was excited to bring Julie to another Czech castle. We did actually go to Prague Castle when we were there, but there is something really special about Loket. Although I wasn't in the mood for the torture chamber today. I can only take so many groaning wax figures. It's kind of a been there done that sort of thing, and so I was glad Julie was happy discovering other things around town. We were able to enjoy the castle and then walk pretty much everywhere around town before having to take the little train back toward Cheb. It was a busy afternoon, but the weather was pretty good and that made up for the rush.

For those curious about the first picture, "Loket" is the Czech word for Elbow.
Okay, small confession to make right now. Yesterday Mark and I spent around four hours shoveling and hauling wheel barrows of rock and dirt out of the garden and today we did another 3 hours and I'm a little spacey. So I do apologize for any strange things I might say today. I keep writing lines and then thinking to myself, that is really lame Sarah, why would you write that? So if I accidentally leave a few of them in I'm very sorry. Okay, so back to it.
On Tuesday we were back in ML. It was a cold day, so we were thankful to spend most of the time in the museum. After a lovely meal we decided to try out something new. Mark took us to a tea house and it was really cool. We had to take off our shoes and then sit on cushions on the floor in this dark little room. They had a huge list of teas that we had no idea about. Julie ordered a Japanese Lime Tea that even I could drink. Unfortunately, Mark's tea tasted more like grass than anything else, but it came in such a nifty pot that it was still worth it ;)

Wednesday we headed to Karlovy Vary. Unfortunately, as stated before, the weather was pretty miserable. KV has hot springs, and around every one there were groups of old tourists trying to keep warm. We were also surprised to see how torn up the roads were. It really is amazing how differently construction is done here from how it is in the US. Here they don't really seem to care if people are going to be walking through or not. They just tear everything up and regular work continues so you have to sludge your way through it all. No hard hats, no safety equipment, just everything a mess. So it was a little messy, but at least she had a chance to see it.

We had a little lesson in posing from a group of young tourists. We were soooo amused by their different stances that then we had to try some of them out for ourselves. It was so interesting to see how just the way they posed revealed that they clearly were NOT Americans.

Then we tried a bit of our own variety of posing. Love it!

We ended with some flower photos before heading to McDonalds. I didn't take her there too many times, but they do have good ice cream, and it was a nice way to end this damp and dreary sort of day. Note, I'm wearing a big coat and a scarf. Not exactly the sort of cheery May weather we were hoping for.

And so it continues. And my brain really is done so I'll stop for now and bring you more soon :)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Yes, Julie really was here...

Which is naturally one of the main reasons that this report is sooooo long in the coming. We had such a great time and did so many things that I didn't have time for all those other little details like keeping up in my journal and writing in my blog. Hard to live a life so dictated by the little things. But, as I promised a couple days ago, I'll start with a few photos from her first weekend here in Czech.
I'm really starting to become a pretty decent tour guide by this point. I'll have to start charging. Ha! Actually, I'm just sooooo happy I've been blessed with so many guests this year. After very little action over the past few years people decided it was now or never and finally showed up.
So Julie started her trip here with me in Prague. Unfortunately, the weather decided she should see what it was like when Mom and Dad were here in March. It was positively awful and rainy for her first few days. In truth, except for getting to see more flowers and leaves, she didn't see much more of the sun than they did. This has been a cold wet sort of year, and we've sadly been back in it again after a fabulously warm week last week. It's like it can't quite commit to being nice and keeps back sliding into miserable weather. I still hold that things would be fantastic if it would just get all the cold and rainy ick out of it's system at night, leaving the days to be sunny, warm, and gorgeous. (sigh)
Anyhow, I still managed to drag her all over the place. I had little mercy on her jet lagged exhausted body, and pretty much had her on the verge of collapse by the end of every day.
We hit the big sights her first few days. Here you can see her enjoying a mix of ancient sights and the animals she loves :)

We wondered all over and enjoyed some pleasant views of town in general as well.

Then we wandered around in Valdstejn's Garden for a while. There was a very strange wall there, made of some strange concrete mixture which was supposed to resemble being inside a cave. They called it the wall of mystery or something, but it was more like the wall of creepy. We also enjoyed seeing the peacocks there. It was an interesting assortment.

I'd never seen an albino peacock before. Rather an odd thing to see.
I also managed to get her up to Vyssehrad Cemetery. It's a very interesting place where a lot of famous people, especially artists, are buried. I really thought this particular stone was cool and interesting.

There is a really nice park up there and so we looked around and found a few opportunities to pose as well. Isn't that what life is all about after all?

That's Father Czech posing with us in the last photo there. He didn't want to miss out on the action after all :)
So not much of interest to read in this post, but at least a few photos to whet your interest. And now, it's actually lovely outside so I'd like to enjoy it a bit more before it vanishes behind the rain of tomorrow.