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Life's a journey - not a destination

May. 31st, 2012 10:45 pm Lakes and Castles

So one of the weekends in April saw the arrival of Sally. I twisted her arm and convinced her to visit the land of cheap wine.
Friday night we went out with my work mates. Saturday we went sightseeing and nursed our hangovers. Saturday night we went out again.

Sunday we had talked about going to the lake. My colleagues advised against going there because "it is just a boat going round a lake all day, stopping at medieval castles"

We decided to chance it despite the bad reviews and.. oh wow!

I knew it was going to be a good day from the beginning because I finally got to go on the gold tram. That thing has been taunting me since I moved here - always going in the wrong direction, but not this time.
The lake is a tram north of Brno and then a short walk through, what looked it something that would be very busy in the summer, but since the weather wasn't great we pretty much had the place to ourselves.
There were rides, bouncy castles, tacky market stalls and outdoor bars.

Oh - and this

We didn't know any better and we were in too much of a hurry to look what was at the various stops, so we just got an all day ticket.
We made some notes as we went along so we knew where to come back too - stops included kajaks, pedal boats, a restaurant, a deserted nudist beach - and this

Veveri Castle.

I can't believe it's been on my door step this whole time. It is amazing. Even better that there was hardly anyone there.

We then encountered the local black smith who helped me smith a horse shoe

There was also a little wine shop and I finally managed to secure Moravian Ice Wine. That stuff is rare and expensive and tasty as! I now have a bottle for a special occasion.

We had already decided to head back down to the ferry, but then we decided to explore one last room first.
Turns out it was the room where they were preparing for the wine festival the following week.
I don't think I'll ever forget the look on Sally's face when she found herself with 200 individually numbered, open bottle of wines.
The guy was happy to talk and let us taste and we also talked him into selling us one of the special edition wine glasses.

After both falling asleep on the ferry back we headed into town to stuff ourselves on goose before dropping Sally at the airport.

Then there was a small incident at Luton Airport concerning having left the lights on over the weekend, but that's a whole other story :)

Current Location: Brno

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Mar. 23rd, 2012 03:13 pm Plans for this weekend

Saturday (day) Trip to a park with wild goats

Saturday (night) Ballet - Romeo & Juliet

Sunday - PJ Party

How about you guys?

Current Location: Brno

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Jan. 31st, 2012 07:37 pm I... what?

So today I had to do my end of year tax thingy. With the help of a kind HR lady, I think I managed to write my name in all the right places.

So basically. When you work in the Czech Republic you are entitled to a 2000 CZK tax discount every month.
Czech people automatically get this deducted, whereas foreigners get theirs once a year.

So because I only worked there 2 months last year, they now feel that they owe me 20000 CZK in unused tax credit? That is roughly all the tax I paid last year.

She did agreed it didn't seem logical but was pretty certain it's how it is. I checked with my boss and the same thing happened to him in his first year here.

So essentially the Czech government is paying for not having lived here. I like it. On the other hand I feel a bit guilty, as I'm pretty sure that money could have been better spent elsewhere.

Current Location: Brno

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Jan. 9th, 2012 07:31 pm And then came The Jos

Excellent weekend - why must weekends always insist on being followed by a Monday?

I went to the airport on Friday night to collect Doug and Jos. They had kindly agreed to come along to my work mate's leaving do and so I managed to keep everyone happy.

There was beer, beer balls and many Scandinavians. A great evening indeed.

Saturday started with a much needed lie in and then we headed in to town. First stop - the Cathedral, but not without stopping for epic hot chocolate on the way up the hill.

The Czechs make excellent chocolate - they distinguish between hot kakao (cocoa) and hot chocolate - the later is literally melted chocolate in a cup. It is divine. I had the amaretto version and was very pleased with my choice.

After the cathedral we went to the Mint Master's cellar and by the sound of it we have now covered all of Brno's underground.

It was very interesting and the guide was great and spoke brilliant English.

Afterwards I went shopping and Doug & Jos went for another hot chocolate at the same place.

The evening was spent playing Heroica (just the right levels of lego and geekery) and drinking mulled wine.

Sunday was another lie-in followed by Blue Marlin for breakfast. That stuff is really difficult to find, so trust Tesco in a land-locked country to stock it.

After the marlin had settled we set off to check out Spielberk castle (via a new hot chocolate place)
It looks very much like a castle, but I'd never seen manuals and building instructions for torture instruments before.

Finished the afternoon in style in our favourite medieval restaurant with hot mead and cabbage soup and I think Jos ate her own body weight in duck.

Current Location: Brno

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Jan. 8th, 2012 09:04 pm Vienna

So it's pretty obvious by now that I'll never get round to posting about Vienna, but seeing as I've uploaded the photos, I might as well stick 'em up.

First up - Wien Zentralfriedhof.
Europe's 2nd largest cemetery. Anyone who was anything is buried here - and yes - they do sell Maps to the Stars.

But actually. by far the most interesting part is the Old Jewish Cemetery. I really need to go back with a better camera, a large bag of nuts for the squirrels and some sun.

But the real reason we were there was the annual Christmas market. It was, indeed, massive and very crowded.

We got bored with it pretty quickly and instead went in search of sushi.

Afterwards we went to check out St. Stephan's Cathedral. It was pretty cool.

Definitely going back for more

Current Location: Brno

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Jan. 5th, 2012 11:19 pm Czechmate

So this evening I had my first ever Czech lesson.
It's, like, much worse than I expected and I did expect it to be pretty bad.

I think it didn't really help that we covered so much without really getting the chance to go back and catch up.
By the time I'd finished writing notes we were already on to the next thing.
In one 90 min lesson we coved the alphabet, pronunciation (complete with diagrams of where to put your tongue), an introduction to Czech grammar, common phrases and general vocabulary.
I feel like I came away with nothing.
And I already know I'll be missing lesson 3 and 4 due to being in Miami - there's no way I'll be able to catch up after that.
Bit gutted as I was really looking forward to it.

But in other news Jos and Doug are coming tomorrow for the weekend and it'll be awesome :)

Current Location: Brno

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Dec. 30th, 2011 06:50 pm That end of year thing

1. What did you do in 2011 that you'd never done before?
Fed a kangaroo, held a wombat, passed my driving test, went to the US on my own and moved to the Czech Republic.

2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I kept both of them. This year's is slightly more complicated – In 2012 I'd like to buy a house

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
My cousin had a baby, but we're not close. In fact – we're so not close that I don't even know if it's a boy or a girl.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
No, but we did have a scare. Special mention to Duncan also, although we weren't close it affected a lot of people I care about.

5. What countries did you visit?
Heh. Well I started the year in New Zealand, then onto Australia and a (very brief) visit to Abu Dhabi on the way back. I also found time for a quick trip to Denmark in February before I went back to work.
In June, Mike, Doug and I went to visit my friend in Copenhagen and then on to Sweden Rock Festival.
In July I went to the US (3 states in less than a week – not including the ones we drove through). August and September I went to France, Belgium and Holland with Brian, November I moved to Brno in Czech Republic and in December I went to Vienna in Austria for the christmas market and to pay my respects at Falco's grave.
No wonder I'm always broke really.

6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?
A job that I like and a nice place to live.

7. What date from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
4 July – passed my driving test :)

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
See above

9. What was your biggest failure?
Barely learning a word of Czech after nearly 2 months here. This will be rectified starting next week.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Don't think so. I finally kicked whatever it is I'd been suffering with since 2009.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
This hasn't really been the year for big purchases. I'm very happy with the boots I bought about 2 weeks before finding out I was gonna spend the winter in a very cold country – I must have known.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
Michael – for somehow getting through and teaching me to drive. Doug for being awesome and supportive. New friend Lucy for taking me under her wing and helping me settle in the new scary place.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
The management at my old work. Although maybe I should be grateful, as their shittyness finally gave me the kick up the ass I needed to move on.
14. Where did most of your money go?
Travelling. No question about it. I'm sure I could have bought a house by now with the money I've spent.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
The US trip. I went on my own, and much as I love being with Doug and doing stuff with him, it was great having a little bit of independence. I had an ace time with the girls and at the Con and at the Denis Leary show. I'm pretty sure I didn't shut up about it for weeks.

16. What song will always remind you of 2011?
This was the year we got into Hammefall. I'm not saying that's a good thing.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder?
That's unfair – this time last year I was on a road trip in New Zealand

ii. thinner or fatter?
About the same I think. Maybe a little leaner

iii. richer or poorer?
Poorer if you work it out in pounds – I've taken a large pay cut coming here, but by Czech standards I'm loaded :)

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
I'd really should have tried harder with the Czech. I'm sure lots of grief could have been avoided.
I also wish I was better at staying in touch with people.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
I wish I'd worked less overtime.

20. How will you be spending Christmas?
I spent Christmas her in Brno with Doug. It was lovely. We had duck and pressies and movies and it was great spending some quality time together.

21. Did you fall in love in 2011?
Do wombats count?

22. How many one night stands?
Gone are those days

23. What was your favourite TV programme?
The Good Wife and Rescue Me

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
CF – the only reason I didn't hate him last year is because I didn't know him then. Otherwise I'm sure I would have.

25. What was the best book you read?
I read a lot of books this year. I think I enjoyed the Chris Kuzneski ones the most. Currently reading a Game of Thrones and it's looking pretty good so far.

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Another Animal

27. What did you want and get?
A new job

28. What did you want and not get?
A cat

29. What was your favourite film this year?
With UK cinema prices now around £9 I've pretty much stopped going. Mr Popper's Penquins was quite funny

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 31 and I was in Auckland. Jos was over from the UK and we spent the day at Kelly Taunton's Aquarium.
In the evening we met up with resident pony girl Laura for sushi. It was good.

31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Not having to come back after travelling.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011?
Much the same. Black jeans and skinny fit tshirts. It's possible a few more dresses and skirts got added this year.

33. What kept you sane?
My friends and my ponies

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Kalinda from the Good Wife

35. What political issue stirred you the most?
Probably The Riots

36. Who did you miss?
Everyone; My family back in Denmark and all the Ukers I left behind to come here.

37. Who was the best new person you met?
New friend Lucy. Brno would not be the same without her

38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011.
You can't solve the world's problems but you can at least take a shot at solving your own.

Current Location: Brno

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Dec. 18th, 2011 08:34 pm Tis the season

So little time. So many things undocumented.

The Vienna trip will have to have it's own post at some point, but I wanted to write a bit about christmas over here.
It really is amazing to be in a country where christmas is celebrated - and by celebrated I don't mean drinking to excess and spending insane amounts of money on presents.

We have it all here; beautiful lights, a christmas market (first and probably only time I'll ever hear I can't get to satisfaction performed on 9 ukuleles) There are carols and lovely smells and snow.
Today I saw the man selling carps and the kids picking their favourite.

5 December was Saint Nikolas. We don't have Santa here - Baby Jesus brings the presents on christmas eve, but on St. Nik's day he will visit the children with his mates the Angel and the devil in tow. St Nik wears a red cape and a white beard and the good children will receive treat in return for a song and the bad children get a potato.

A lot of people take the opportunity to dress up as one of the 3 characters on the day. Really elaborate costumes too - not just flashing horns and the odd halo.
Someone at Pixmania people dressed up and went round the tables and gave out sweets. That was one moment where you could really tell the difference at work - where the people of Eastern European origin were sat you could hear them sing carols for Nik - as they made their way round to the cold Scandinavians everyone had an excuse. I couldn't think of any hymns or poems, so I opted instead for Korpiklani's The Wodka Song.
After work we headed in to the square and the whole town was full of angels and devils. It was awesome.

Friday just gone was the christmas party at work. It was done as The Oscars - Dress as your favourite Hollywood character, red carpets, champagne etc.
And So Much Food.

Memorable moments: Wearing a yellow romper suit when everyone else was a classy Marilyn Monroe or Audrey Hepburn (many cheers of Keell Beell) Our managers' eye watering rendition of Do They Know it's Christmas?, meeting my first real RL Brony outside of ponyland (they're not all bad) - as well as just having an awesome time.
I didn't fancy making my own way home in the middle of the night, so I had arranged to stay over at Lucie's.
We spent pretty much all Saturday eating mozzarella (because that was all she had in the house) in bed, until her house mate took pity on us and brought us back some shopping.

Tomorrow night I'm going to a gig - some bouncy sounding Czech band, Wednesday I'm having the girls round for Scandinavian Christmas (thank you, Ikea) Thursday I'm going to see a Faith No More Tribute (I REALLY need to learn the language - I thought it was real FNM lol) and Friday sees the return of Doug for christmas and new year.
It'll be nice to finally spend some time together. I'll the making The Duck again for christmas. No penguins this time though :(

Current Location: Brno

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Nov. 30th, 2011 10:35 pm Bones!

So previous rant aside, it's not all bad here.

Doug came over again this weekend and Saturday morning we headed to the small town of Kutna Hora along with Czech guides Lucie and Veronika.

Kutna Hora is famous for quite a few things, but the most interesting attraction is Kostnice - a small village church who's interior is made mostly of human bones.

The area had a massive cemetery back in the 1400s. Mostly populated my plague victims. At some point the land was reclaimed and all the bones were stored in sheds and outhouses.
Some bright spark came up with the idea of decorating the local church. It's very, very cool - and strangely - not really morbid at all.

The rest of the day was spent checking out the medieval town centre and a very impressive cathedral before heading back and finishing off with drinks at Brno Christmas Market.

Current Location: Brno

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Nov. 29th, 2011 10:57 pm Rant!

So part of the reason I took this job was the promised Czech course. Not much point in living here if you can't communicate with the locals right?
So when I started I asked about the lessons and apparently the course had already been running for a while. Next one doesn't start til January. Not great, but what can you do?

So today the email came about signing up for the new course when it starts - EXCEPT - you have to have completed your 3 months probation period before you're eligible. Not impressed here.
My probation is up in February - by which time the course will have been running too long and I'll then have to wait for the next one to start, which will probably be some time in the spring.
What's the point in starting beginners lessons 6 months after arrival? And, even more importantly, what on earth am I gonna do in the meantime? Grrr.

I sent an email to HR. I'm giving them the standard Pixmania 48 hours to reply. We shall see.

Current Location: Brno

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