A blog for people who don't want to spend all their free time in the real world. After all, we live and work there. Escape the mundane with books, travel, and writing.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Velvet Revolution in the Czech Republic

Twenty-five years ago, On November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall fell, and that’s what most Americans remember about the beginning of the end of Communist control in Eastern Europe.

A week later, demonstrations started in Bratislava.  On November 17, high school and university students began protesting in Prague.  Over the next few days, demonstrations sprang up all over Czechoslovakia, and as many as 500,000 protestors had banded together in Prague.  Keep in mind that the current population of Prague is only about a 1.2 million.  On November 27, the top dogs of the Communist party in Czechoslovakia all resigned.  By the end of December, walls and fences had been torn down along the borders with Germany and Austria, parts of the constitution had been changed, and Vaclav Havel had been elected president of the first democratic government since the war.

Not a single person died.  And thus comes the name:  the Velvet Revolution.

Today is a public holiday here in the Czech Republic, where I’m living.  There’s a party down in the park later, special programs on TV, and I just heard sametová (the word for velvet) on the radio. 

Last week, one of my classes had an assignment to bring in a photo that was important to them and describe what was happening in it.  I assumed they’d bring family photos.  Out of six students, four for them brought pictures of the Velvet Revolution:  flag-waving protestors, peaceful demonstrations, Vaclav Havel before he became president.  They told me how the crowds had grown and grown, and how the masses sang for freedom.  Out of those six students, only one remembers the Velvet Revolution.  The rest weren’t even born yet.  Still, it holds an important place in their hearts.  

In another class, I asked if anyone there remembered.  One student raised her hand.  “I was in university,” she said.  “I went to the demonstrations.  In the middle of it, I didn’t believe things would change.”  But they did.
And now my older students—who once had to do gas-mask drills in school, just in case the Americans attacked—have me for a teacher.  Sometimes words and songs and hands without weapons can change the world.  


Friday, November 14, 2014

Spider Webs, Fog, and Dew Drops

These are pictures from my foggy and mysterious hike this morning in the hills above Vsetin, Czech Republic.  Nature is so dynamic!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Pulčínské Skály--A Czech autumn hike

Czech forest in fall
Yesterday I hiked with friends to Pulčínské Skály, near Lidečkoin the Czech Republic, and then on to Huslenky.

It was a great hike, misty and mysterious in the morning, blue-skied by the end, and all of it through the colorful last gasps of fall.

I love the Czech countryside!

Petra, Jiři, and James at Pulčínské Skály

Golden larch trees add color to evergreen forests in the Czech Republic

This was my second time at Pulčínské Skály.  If you want more specifics, check out my travel article about the trip on Go Nomad:"Wallachian Rock; Off the Beaten Track on the Czech-Slovak Border"  

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Czech Republic in Fall--Vsetin's park

This is Vsetin's town park, which I get to walk past every day on the way to work.  Lucky Me!  I love watching the seasons change here.

Vsetin, Czech Republic, Nov 9

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

All Souls' Day in the Czech Republic

November 2:  A beautiful day to remember the dead.

Cemetary in Velke Karlovice, Czech Republic

All Souls' Day, Vsetin, Czech Republic

World War Two Memorial, Vsetin

Monday, October 20, 2014

Alaska Traveler, by Dana Stabenow

Alaska Traveler: Dispatches from America's Last Frontier

This is a collection of travel articles on Alaska, most of which Dana Stabenow wrote for her column in Alaska Magazine.  The articles are interesting and the content is pretty varied, from general travel tips and descriptions of glaciers to vignettes of life in the bush and accounts of local celebrations.  I learned a ton, and it inspired me to return to Alaska.  However, the style and structure can get a little samey if you try to read too many close together.  I recommend enjoying them in small doses.

And you can easily read them this way, because it's FREE on Amazon!

Some of my favorite articles:

Ch 4: “Alaska Travel Etiquette”—handy for tourists and culturally interesting.
Ch 12: “I Hear the Train A-Coming”—about the Hurricane Turn flagstop route on the Alaskan Railroad
Ch 16: “Thar She Blows”—about Sitka’s Whale Fest
Ch 17: “Dogs and Beans”—about the start of the Iditarod, from the point of view of normal residents of Anchorage
Ch 20-21: “In the Shadow of the Great One”—about Denali
Ch 24: “Carving History in Ketchikan”—about totems and other carvings by the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian
Ch 29: “Two Points, Big Team, Two Points”—about the basketball culture of small-town Alaska
Ch 38:  “Boardwalk Boogie”—about a music festival (and life) in the tiny community of Pelican.
Ch 46: “Some Say in Ice”—about an ice-carving festival

Ch 57: “Marine Pilots”—about the pilots who guide big ships into ports and such.

My overall rating:  FOUR STARS