Thursday, July 29, 2010

My Neck of the Woods

For the past few weeks my life has fallen into a pattern. When the weather is good, it can be quite positive. When the weather is not so good, it's rather problematic. I guess when I was a kid I had slightly different ideas about things. I remember a time when I was ALWAYS hot. Mom had to put a limit on when I could wear shorts. I would eagerly check when the thermometer when I was languishing in the heat, only to be disappointed that it was not yet 72 degrees, and therefore shorts were a no go. But since my back breaking experience in 1992, my life changed to where I was far more likely to be cold, and my real love of the sun grew and grew.
All the same, I've been outside for several hours, rain or shine, reading or writing in my journal. I've definitely made up for all the time that I was missing out on reading during this year, and have already finished two books, with a third (over 600 pages long) almost finished as well. While I know I should really be working on my own writing (and have written more than 30 pages on a story myself thus far) it's been great to let myself escape into the stories of others, getting a feel for different styles of literature. The three books I've read, The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger, Five Red Herrings by Dorothy L Sayers, and now Firefly Summer by Maeve Binchy, are all very different in style and character development which really helps me to come up with new ideas for what I'm working on.
Anyhow, yesterday, when I was on my way home, I was suddenly inspired to start taking some pictures. So here is a little glimpse into the places I've been wandering on a daily basis.

Both of the benches here are ones I've sat on for my little reading writing times.

There are a couple of different Colonnades here in town. On days when the weather is quite rainy I spend a lot of time here in this one. There are some benches under the roof, and not usually very many people, so it works out nicely. And right now the flowers are particularly lovely. I'll admit, I went a little silly and took some self portraits as well. Yes, I'm still a poser.

From here I wandered down the path toward home. As I've said before there are a lot of springs here. I wanted to get a picture of these little stairs down to the spring, but had to walk on slippery stones across the creek to get there. I was a bit nervous about the way, but managed not to slip and drop my camera. It amused the little old lady walking by with her dogs.

I also decided to enjoy one of the springs. I can't say I'm a huge fan of the water, but I do try on occasion for my health and all :)

And then I continued along and took a few more as I left the park.

This next one I took for Julie, even though I'm not sure she ever checks my blog. Mom, you might have to make sure she gets a load of this one, seeing as how she loves that green glimmer on a gray rainy day...
These last two are from the way up to the house once I come out of the park. I'm always intrigued by the mirrors, and I love the name of the street because it's the same as my birthday ;) Kinda nice having my birthday be a national Czech holiday as well as a common street name!

So I hope you've enjoyed this little drift with me...and I'm definitely hoping the sun comes back by the weekend as the internet so sweetly promised me this morning...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Today is Tuesday

Just thought I'd state the obvious. Every now and then that's a good thing to say it like it is, right?
It's been a bit of a crazy few days. An early morning internet search, we're talking 4 AM, led to new discoveries about visas. That, naturally, spiraled rapidly into a first class freak out. It's been a while since I've felt so utterly devastated. Especially by my own stupidity. I felt as though I'd somehow failed everyone completely. The time scale I'd been counting on flew out the window, and new questions about whether we'd done things correctly or would have to start again at the beginning flooded my mind.
What a difference a few days can make. After countless freaked out messages with my mom, as well as a few e-mails to the US Embassy here in Prague, and a whole lot more time spent searching on the internet, I received news today that we have passed the first part of the process, and we are still okay. The information I was so afraid was late is actually something we aren't supposed to do for a little while yet. What a relief.
It's been interesting to look back at my entire freak out and see how little faith I really have. Throughout the process I have been praying that things would go well. I've been trying to do the right thing, and I've been trying to trust, but this moment showed me that I really hadn't been doing that as much as I'd wanted to believe.
In truth, I'm sure it was God who woke me up to the new set of facts, and it was me who overreacted. At least now that we know what is to be expected in the future we can prepare for it as much as possible now, and be ready when the time does come.
And now I can see how God really was working in each part so carefully, leading us into the right direction. How quick I was to think that my own humanity was enough to upset the plans of God. How quick to doubt that He was caring for me, more than I could even care for myself.
The process is not yet complete, and I'm still not certain how long it will all take, but with this newest information I know that the time is coming when all these things will be figured out and I can enter into the next stage of my life.
There are still so many uncertainties about heading back to the US. Obviously the job search is already in my mind, but not knowing exactly when I'll be heading back I must, once again, just learn to live more in the moment, and accept this time that God has given me to meditate more on life and my relationship with Him and with Mark.
It is so true that "Those that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength." If only I could hold that thought in mind more easily, as well as the truth that worrying will never add anything positive to my life, and only make every day that much more stressful.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A walk through some parks

A couple of nights this week Mark and I were invited out by his dad to explore some of the parks in the area around Marianske Lazne. They were places that really spoke of the history of this beautiful town. It's really quite fascinating when you think of it all. Here is this town, so beautifully designed with incredible buildings reflecting a history that spans just under two centuries, and it sits on what used to be a marshy bog. A pit really, if you will. A swampy place, filled with treachery and seeming sludge. And yet the people came here, they traversed the dangers on their pilgrimage in search of water that would heal.
In this modern era, when pharmacies abound, it's hard to imagine what drew them so many moons ago. There are still those who come, sipping water from their funny cups with built in handle straws, but is more of a novelty than a real search for a cure. I must confess, I find the waters difficult to swallow, and yet they are filled with minerals and such, that no doubt do produce reactions within the body.
When I look around this lovely peaceful place I wonder why it isn't booming in popularity. In this modern era when high end spas are so popular, it seems an ideal place for people to travel still, with all it's old world charm and beautiful parks. Mark and I often dream of seeing this place filled with people once again, delighting in the magnificent hotels of another era. But this is all a bit beside the point.
Basically I wanted to share a bit about the prehistory of Marianske Lazne which was visible in these parks. They do remind me something of Yellowstone, but on a different sort of scale.
On Monday evening we went and visited the "Stinker" spring. It lived up to it's name with pride, but was still a lovely place to see.

We wandered the forests there, and walked on spongy vegetation that reminded me a lot of the terrain in Alaska. Such a strange experience to feel the ground beneath your feet bouncing with your ever step.

We visited another spring there that we actually drank from. Fortunately it wasn't so stinky, and just had a very strong iron kind of flavor.
On Tuesday he took us out again, this time to the Kaldska Nature Preserve. We'd been there before in the winter when all the trees looked like little soldiers in their heavy coats of snow. This time everything was fresh and green and we were able to walk on the wooden trails built to protect the ground below. Again there was a lot of activity bubbling up under the ground. It was really fascinating to hear it whistling up even in the places that were dry on the surface. We went around a little pond that had an observation place in the middle. There we saw a mother duck with 4 or 5 small ducklings. Sadly it was a bit to dark to take their photograph, but still I was able to enjoy watching them swimming about.

We continued around to the larger lake and enjoyed the beautiful nature that was to be seen. The trail was a couple kilometers in total, and it was a lovely time of day for seeing it all.

I really love the grasses there. They're super tall, but they roll over each other in such beautiful ways. This next picture is one of my favorites from the day. Mark spotted this little bird's nest, and the lighting on it is really just perfect. Every now and then great pictures just happen, and this is one of them.

From then his dad was so sweet to take us to the area of the three crosses. They were put here in thanks for the healing grasses that grow in the region. Sadly, the area is now a special zone so we weren't allowed to walk very close, but we did get a few pictures of them.
Then we walked across the way and enjoyed the grassy fields as well.

It was really an interesting trip for sure. And I realize the flower picture is on it's side, but some how the coloring worked better that way for me :)
So I hope you enjoyed this little trip around the beginnings of my current little town. It really is amazing to see how they were able to take these marshy places and turn them into the beautiful city I live in today.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sumava Rocks

This past weekend I went with Mark to Susice, a small town in south Czech, to visit his grandmother. As I wrote in my last post, there was a crazy storm here that did a lot more damage than I had realized. When we went to the train station we were informed that we would be delayed a good twenty minutes and would have to take a bus because the tracks were littered with debris (meaning large trees) that had been blown about during the storm. So, we were off to a bit of a rocky start, but were still eager to see what the trip had in store for us.
Before leaving we had been told a little bit about his grandmother's boyfriend, and we were both curious to see what the man was like. I think precious is the best word to describe Fanda. At 87 years of age, he is quite the character. Shortly after our arrival in Susice we were being served a huge meal (we'd eaten in Plzen on our way there because of the train delay and weren't exactly hungry) but how do you say no to a sweet Babicka? So our plates were filled and we were promptly informed that there was more available if we wanted.
For the first round of lunch drinks I was able to get away with drinking only water. Quite sufficient for me really. But Fanda used to work in a bar, and is Czech through and through. He couldn't seem to understand that I really wasn't interested in drinking beer, and so after my water was finished he promptly (or as promptly as an elderly man can manage) refilled my glass with beer. Again I ask, how do you say no to a sweet little old man with his encouraging smile and twinkling eyes? He then insisted that we must have music. So he put in an old cassette of classical Czech folk music and began to sing along in a shaky old man voice, pounding the table for emphasis when the music required it. This, however, was not quite enough. Music was made for dancing, wasn't it? And dancing is what he had in mind. His ideal partner? Well, apparently that would be me. So after being stuffed with a hearty Czech meal, served a small glass of beer and an unsolicited shot of peppermint liquor (which tastes like drinking mouthwash)a dance was clearly in order. So dance I did. That is if you can call what I did dancing. Definitely won't be winning any competitions, but I managed not to ever be stepped on too seriously. And all the while Mark just laughed and cheered Fanda on.
After the entertaining first meeting Mark and I headed out to see some of the town. The whole place was full of memories for Mark. It was really wonderful to be able to see so many places that were important to him as he was growing up. We hiked up a mountain to a lovely little chapel. Mark told me the legend of the place. It was originally designed to be a lookout over the town to protect from attacks and disasters. One day a boy was playing there and he was bitten by a poisonous snake. He should have died, but an angel came and saved his life, so they built the chapel there to give thanks for his deliverance. We weren't able to go inside the building, but we enjoyed the view and had a nice walk around.

We headed back to the house and Mark visited with his grandma, who naturally insisted on giving us more food :) It's amazing we were able to walk after being so stuffed, and she always made sure to let us know that there was more if we wanted. Super sweet.
Around 8 we headed out for the music festival. The sky had grown dark and there were a few drips of rain so we both had umbrellas along, but were hoping it wouldn't be too serious since we were going to an outdoor festival called Sumava Rocks We bought our tickets and listened to the first girl up for a while. Then there was a break so we went for a little walk. While we were out the storm began to settle in. At first the rain wasn't too heavy and the thunder only seemed to be competition for the festival drums, but it quickly began to grow in intensity. We went back to listen to the second band and the rain really started to come down heavily.
Charlie Straight provided us with some serious amusement. A group of boys who looked about 17, trying hard to act like real rock stars. We're talking tight pants and bad dancing, trying to get the crowd to clap as they really only wanted to stay dry under their umbrellas, even an over the top entry into the crowd whilst playing the guitar. It was...special to say the least. It was hard to tell if the drunken crowd was making fun of them or honestly encouraging them, but when they cheered for one more song at the end it was pretty evident that, regardless of how ridiculous we felt them to be, they had a fan base.
By the end of their show the rain was coming down in buckets. Sadly, the band that Mark really wanted to see was coming up next. We left the grounds for a few minutes, and found a roof to huddle under. Mark was already soaked to the skin, and I wasn't far from it, my feet sliding around inside my sandals making every step an effort. But we really wanted to give it a try, so we waited until we thought they should be up and headed back.
Things hadn't gotten any better in the few minutes we'd been away. If anything the rain was coming down harder than ever. Each time I thought it couldn't become any more torrential, it would seem to double in its intensity. There was a question over whether the band would be able to go on or not, but, after another ten or twenty minutes of us watching the water rise up from the ground around our feet, the crowd surged back around us as Ivan Mladek and his banjo band took the stage. I'm not sure if the link will work, I was having some issues with it, but I'll try to describe them a bit. We're talking an ancient group of musicians, straight from a Czech folk sorta fest. I was the only one in the crowd who couldn't sing along with every word. They were definitely classic showmen. It was a lot of fun, and the rain definitely POURED down.

After three or four songs Mark was so freezing that as much as he loved it, he felt it was time for us to go. And a good decision it was. As we tried to rush away we were soon confronted by a serious stream of water that used to be the trail. With squeals and shivers we plunged ahead, the water surging around our ankles with every step. A few times it appeared as though we were going to rise up from the water, only to discover we were passing through waves. We were getting closer to home, but suddenly the water went more up to my knees. It was definitely an act of God that we turned from our chosen path at that moment. We would later see in the morning that had we continued in our current direction the trail would have become the actual river and we would have been facing more serious problems than just being wet. We slogged our way through a playground and finally made our way to the street where we fared a bit better than on the path. What a relief to finally make it back to the house. Unfortunately sleep wasn't an easy thing to find either. Not only were there constantly people shouting in the street (rather a shock considering the weather) but at about 3 AM an air raid style siren went off ordering evacuation. They apparently said something about fire, but it was actually about the river. We learned later that it was a warning for the people who were camping for the festival.
When we got up in the morning we looked out to a crazy watery world. We could see then that our path disappeared directly into a raging river. We were definitely thankful that we'd been rescued from that disaster.
After a small breakfast with "Babi" we were taken on a little trip by Fanda. I remember how frightening it was the last time I rode with my own grandfather, and that was a good many years ago. This was...well...worse. We set off in the ancient red Skoda, praying that all would be well. There were no seat belts in the back of this classic beast, so prayer really was what held us together.

I'll spare you the details of the drive, but harrowing would be a decent word as we wound our way up through the forested hills to the small village of Dobra Voda to see the museum dedicated to Dr. Simon Adler, a Jew who died along with his wife in Auschwitz. He was a very important man back in his day, and his sons had sponsored this museum about his life and the lives of other Jews who had lived in the region.

It was pretty interesting, as was the nearby church that we learned had housed horses during Communism. The whole area had been off limits during that era because it was near the border so only soldiers were allowed to be there. It's now a very peaceful farming area complete with hillside fields surrounded by thick woods and filled with a variety of brown cows ranging from deep maroon and white to a soft honey color. I tried to concentrate on the lovely region rather than the somewhat questionable driving. But the driver was precious and he did manage to get us safely back to the house where, of course, there was more food ready for us, and we were also instructed to warm up with "Grog" (a shot of rum mixed with boiling water, lots of sugar and a little lemon juice). I sipped mine gingerly and was thankful for the warmth having run about the countryside in shorts and a t-shirt, totally freezing because my jacket and capris were still soaking wet.
After lunch Mark and I took a little time to look around the town. It was a lovely little place and we're hoping to have a chance to visit again.

Here you can see a picture of the house where we were staying, and how it's so close to the river. By the time I was taking pictures the water had already gone down dramatically. You can also see the path we were taking in the night. In this photo there is still some water crossing over it, but in the night the entire area was part of the river. Pretty scary really.

Overall it was a really interesting and emotional trip. Before we left I had another dance with Fanda and after it he said that I was "Nase" which means "ours." He was pretty much ready to keep me there. He drove us to the station, where, I'm not going to lie, the back door of the car popped open in transit. Fortunately I was able to close it (and no, it wasn't the door on the side of the car that I had entered so I really wasn't to blame.) But again, we got there safely and said a sad farewell. Mark and I both agreed that it would be good if we could go back again before we head to the US. Family is so important after all.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


I was awakened in the middle of the night by whistling wind and a creaking door. I should probably try to describe the doors in this house first. They're of a very peculiar construction, more like room dividers than actual doors. I have the worst time trying to get them to close. They seem to be made of heavy bendable plastic. There are two panels, probably designed to keep out noise, but it doesn't work very well. You have to pull it tight over the doorway and then latch it shut. They're definitely not my favorite, and apparently when the wind blows they rattle and shake like someone is trying to get in.
As is often the case in the middle of the night I spent the first few minutes just trying to assess what was really going on. Once I decided no one was trying to enter the room I concentrated more on the storm that was seriously brewing outside.
The room flickered with light. It took a while to figure out what was lightening and what was connected to machines. Mark and I both have macs, and when they're sleeping, their little lights breathe in and out causing the light in the room to grow and diminish around them. There are also the flickering lights of the wifi, and some glowing lights on the sound board. After deciphering what was what, I was truly in awe of the light that remained.
The lightening was literally flickering like a strobe light outside the window. It was almost constant and sometimes nearly blinding. Even thought the shades were drawn it filled the room nearly the the point of daylight. The thunder mostly rumbled endlessly, with occasional massive booms that made the room shake even more.
The strangest part of all, however, was when the light that flooded the room was not white I've never seen lightening like that. I was wide awake by this point, and tempted to completely pull up the blinds and see if I could actually see green bolts, but I wasn't quite that high energy.
This morning I asked Mark if he'd enjoyed the storm and he said he slept through it but made me promise to wake him up the next time.
Now we're all packed up and ready to head off to Susice where Mark's grandma lives. Should be an interesting weekend...

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Flash from the past

So today I was on tagged in a photo that was pretty impressive. Talk about bringing back the old, and most assuredly chubby days.
I'm guessing this is from about 2nd or 3rd grade era, based mostly on my extreme white roundness, so I'm probably 8 or 9 here. Could be a bit off, but that's my best guess. The really impressive bit was that Mark guessed right off which one was me. So crazy. I haven't seen most of these people in absolute ages, but I was able to clearly identify everyone. In the back we have Noah Dice, Daniel and Gregg Neitsch, Charlie Linfoot. Middle row is Shirley Ward, Ramona Neitsch, and Theresa Dice, then in the front you've got Savana Oliver, yours truly, and Amy Claypole. It was probably a Ramona birthday party since she was the one who posted the pic.
Just amazingly crazy to see this and to remember the era. This would be back in the days when I did insane things like eating 8 hot dogs plus buns plus chips and cake and ice cream at Christina Stewart's birthday party. Talk about SICK! What was I?
In contrast, I've recently been on a get myself back in shape kick. We're talking working out in the mornings with some serious sweating involved, and drinking liters of water on a daily basis. I was telling Mark this evening about back in high school when I gave up drinking water completely. There were 4 or 5 years of my life when I drank close to no water. He says it's probably changed because of the miraculous powers of the water here...maybe...
Together with the picture blast I was also teleported in the theatre. We watched the A-Team tonight and it was pretty much spectacular. As soon as the movie got going I had the old school theme song running through my head, and so many memories of the crazy characters involved. We both laughed a lot and definitely enjoyed the experience. It was a lot more exciting than the Knight Rider remake that we watched on TV a couple nights ago. The action and comedy definitely delivered.
In all, a pretty entertaining afternoon :)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Just Call me Miss Mystery...

Being a substitute teacher in Alaska taught me a lot of things, perhaps the most valuable being that I most definitely don't want to do that job again. I learned things about how evil 7 year olds can be, how smiling at people can prompt them to be even more evil, and that not everyone has a desire to be good. In truth, some of them find any opportunity to be bad positively delightful. Okay, so basically I learned that being a substitute teacher is most assuredly NOT my dream job.
All the same, the year provided plenty of fodder for blogs and future classroom anecdotes. I mean how many jobs in your life provide being punched in the face by a 13 year old boy twice your size, trying to prevent 2nd graders from drop kicking their classmate, or standing outside in the freezing cold for hours while a slew of Kindergartners slip around on little red shovels.
Yes, there is a point to this walk down memory lane. I learned fairly early on in my year that one of the best ways to maintain at least some semblance of control in the classroom was to have a secret. It allowed me to have the upper hand, and that somehow kept their attention. The easiest thing to keep a secret was, of course, my first name. Of all random things. But it worked. They seemed rather horrified by the fact that they didn't know exactly who I was. Students would beg and plead for even the smallest clue, but in the whole year there were only two girls who actually guessed it correctly, and they were happy to keep it as a secret, granting themselves a little power over their classmates in the bargain as well.
One Fourth Grade class, being so frustrated by my tight lipped control, dubbed me Ms. Mystery. Rather liked that title myself. When a Second Grade class in the same school was whining about their lack of knowledge in the lunch room, I pointed them to these Fourth Grade girls who promptly assured them they would never find out and that I really was "Ms. Mystery."
I hadn't thought about that incident for a long time, but today I decided to adopt the persona once again. Since moving to the Czech Republic nearly 3 years ago, I've often found myself outside normal lines of communication. While I've "studied" Czech (yes I use that term very loosely) I'm still FAAAAAAAARRRRR from mastering this ridiculously difficult language. All the same, in my little town of Cheb, I generally didn't feel at a loss. Being a member of a community of native English speakers, there were generally 6 to 8 of us living in town, I was a curiosity, but not exactly an anomaly. I frequented the same places over and over to the point that I was well known. I was often irritated when clerks would speak to me in German, rather than Czech, since they obviously weren't going to speak in English, and I was trying to speak to them in Czech to begin with. The point is, I wasn't exactly anonymous there. I was recognizable, a known entity in the town.
Flash forward to the present.
I now live in Marianske Lazne.
While there are potentially a few of my former students floating around town, I really don't know, and am not known by, anyone here except for Mark and his parents. And while there might occasionally be other English speaking visitors in the area, I don't know of any other Americans actually living here. There might be some, but I'm not a part of their group, and am therefore on my own. Except for a few restaurants that Mark and I have been to together quite a number of times throughout the year, I'm an Enigma in this town.
The weather, as I mentioned in a previous post, has really warmed up around here. Due to that fact, Mark is happiest when he can avoid being out in the full heat. He has plenty of work to do on his music, and therefore, he spends his days hard at work, and I, who love the sun, wander about on my own. I've taken to spending several hours walking through the myriad parks, sitting in a small cafe with an ice coffee or somewhere in the center with a large bottle of water, writing in my journal or reading a book. This allows me time to really embrace the sun, while Mark can get some serious work done with no distractions.
Yesterday on my regular outing I had a most frustrating experience. Some ridiculously stupid clerk decided not to break my 200KC note for my 20KC bottle of water. Keep in mind, 200KC is about $10. Not exactly an enormous bill. For those of you who aren't quick on the math uptake, 20KC would therefore be about $1. She'd already opened her till, and I saw there rows of bills of various quantities ready to make change. And yet, for what ever idiotic reason, she refused to take my money, wanting something smaller. I showed her that I REALLY didn't have anything smaller, but she still wouldn't take it. I. WAS. ANGRY. All I wanted was a bottle of water. Seriously. And it's not like I was trying to pay her with a 1,000KC. Then I would have understood, but I've NEVER known anyone to refuse a 200. It's not big! So finally I shook my head and put my money back in my wallet. She seemed pleased with herself for having not sold me the bottle, and I spat out a very loud "Whatever!" as I made my way toward the door.
It's the "Whatever!" that is key. That one word set me on a different plane than the other people passing by her all day every day. It was spoken in a perfectly flawless American accent. We're talking Native English Speaker here. And I'm sure she had no clue what I'd just thrown at her in my rage. No expletive, just utter disgust.
It was then that I really felt a power in my anonymity.
I really am a mystery here.
I'm not expected.
I'm not a tourist.
I'm not Czech.
I'm not German.
I've decided, rather than being annoyed that they speak German to me, to be amused instead. They have no idea how to deal with me. I'm not on their general radar. I don't fit in with the standard modes.
Sunday when I went to meet Karina and her friend I was amused by a couple at the station speaking English. They were trying to figure out where they needed to be to catch the train. They weren't in any sort of trouble, and had plenty of time to figure it out correctly, but they were completely in the dark about my knowledge. I could fully understand every word they were saying. They were completely in the dark. Had they experienced some true difficulty, I would have stepped forward Good Samaritan like as was the case of the lost American women in Cheb square that I rescued when Julie was visiting. But it was fun to stand there in the know, fully anonymous.
It's easy for me to become frustrated that I have no one to talk to when I'm out and about. I like to talk. I like to communicate, to be with friends. But currently this is not the time or place for me to speak. It's a time to watch. A time to observe and to write. So for the time being I'm once again embracing the title of Miss Mystery. I'm enjoying the fact that they all have no ideas about who I am or where I'm from. I'm living the anonymity and doing my best to enjoy it.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

So This is Summer

Who's that crazy cat...?

After months and months and months of drudgery in the weather department, the Czech Republic now proudly brings you: SUMMER!!! Yes indeed, summer weather is sweeping the little nation in the very heart of Europe, bringing with it blue skies, temperatures reaching to the upper 30's (that's close to 100 for those on the Fahrenheit scale) and a healthy dose of creepy crawlies.
Having always been a summer girl, I'm definitely enjoying the climate change. At the same time I'm trying to find ways to creatively deal with the new slower lifestyle. Granted, the time still seems to disappear without me getting done some of the things I feel like I should be doing, but I also have more than my fair share of down time. I'm still trying to figure out a schedule that will help me feel like I'm really accomplishing something as well as taking advantage of my summer here in Europe.
Last week, as I think I mentioned before, the Czech Republic hosted an International Film Festival in Karlovy Vary. On Thursday Mark and I braved the heat and went to check out what was going on.
We'd watched some of the things happening there on TV during the week, and were excited to take a look at what there was to see. Sadly we'd missed Jude Law, who was the big star this year, and we didn't actually go to see any of the movies playing, but the place was just buzzing with energy. Perhaps that was partly due to the ridiculous number of Audi's cruising around the place.

This year these little numbers served as Taxis for the people with the power or the money, or whatever. We also saw other fancy little numbers thrown into the mix, a Maserati, Bentley, and Ferrari to name a few. Definitely a powerhouse weekend in Karlovy Vary. With the help of Mark, we even saw a star or two. While sipping on a cappuccino at the Thermal Hotel, home to most of the big events, Mark pointed out a Czech star. Just to prove it to me, he was able to look him up immediately on his iphone, and sure enough, it was definitely the guy. A few days later we saw his name on the credits of a movie as well. Pretty fun, and I would have had no idea who this guy was without Mark's help :)
We decided that since we couldn't see so many stars we'd just have to pretend we could live like them. We started this off with a little photo shoot making the most of all the props around town.

Then we treated ourselves to drinks at the Grand Hotel Pupp. The prices are, indeed, outlandish, but the ice coffee I had was pretty extraordinary, and on Mark's latte they were smart enough to put a little tribute to his musical skills :)

It was a lot of fun sitting there and watching snobby rich people talking about their films that were playing and such. It was an odd situation to be in, but amusing as well. Overall, it was a good experience to have, and we've decided we'll have to come back some day when we can actually check out some of the shows. Definitely a great day.

On Sunday Karina and a friend of hers who was visiting from America came by to see Marianske Lazne. It was the first time Karina ever made it out here, so it was great fun to be their tour guide. It was my first time as a solo tour guide here in ML, and after watching Mark show the place off to my family I think I did a relatively decent job. The weather definitely highlighted the beauty of it all, although it about wore us out. Still it allowed for some nice photos of the town.

Besides the little extras in life, I've been spending quite a bit of time at a lovely little cafe in a nearby park. It's a great place to sit, have an ice coffee, and write in my journal. It's not quite Starbucks, but it's a nice little place to enjoy this amazing weather.
And now I'll leave you with this little bit of entertainment from my walk through the parks this morning...