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.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Czech Language--or Klingon?

Is it just me, or does this Czech word look like Klingon or some equally intimidating language? 

"Insult my honor, and I will destroy you with my baťůžkář of death!"

Okay, so it actually means "backpacker" in Czech, but I think it sounds more appropriate in the above example.  I love the Czech language, and I'm getting slowly better and better at it, but some of it's just a little more complicated that what seems necessary. 

Friday, June 10, 2016

Živá Voda Aquarium, Czech Republi

In Modrá, by the folk skansen and near the impressive basilica and pilgrimage site of Velehrad, you can visit Živá Voda.  It's a cool place with an herb garden, outdoor representations of the different environments in the Czech Republic, a pond you can wade in (complete with frogs and fish), interactive exhibits good for kids, and the most awesome thing:  a glass tunnel under the freshwater pond where you can see giant fish from below.  The biggest fish there is a Beluga (European Sturgeon) measuring 2 meters!  It's apparently the largest freshwater fish.  You can also watch a lot of huge carp and other cool fish.  Amazing to see them from that close.

   It's hard to show the true size, but here's a hint--with one of the smaller fish.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Bees in Buchlovice

Wow.  That's all I have to say.  I wouldn't want to get to close to this mass of seething life.  My friends with beekeeping knowledge, however, say that when they're swarming around looking for a new home--that's when they're calmest.  They certainly didn't sound calm.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Velehrad, Czech Republic

Though the current basilica and other buildings are fairly new (by European architectural standards), this location has been a holy place for more than 800 years.  It was more impressive than I expected.

If you go...
Velehrad has good connections by bus from Uherské Hradiště or Staré Město.  Also consider combining the trip with a visit to Modrá, right next to Velehrad, with its folk skansen and the Živá Voda ecology center and aquarium.  

And if you go in spring, you might see this in the pretty little lakes there:

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Buchlov Castle, Czech Republic

The view from the top of Buchlov Castle.  I recommend Tour C, which is the most extensive.  Lots of interesting rooms, artifacts, and stories.

If you go...
By public transportation, the nearest bus stop is on the road between Uherské Hradiště and Brno.  It's called "Buchlovice,,hrad Buchlov rozc.1.5," but if you tell the bus driver "Hrad Buchlov," you'll be okay.  Plan ahead, as there may not be many good connections.  The green trail to the castle starts just slightly uphill from the bus stop.  It's a pleasant, 1.5-km walk.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Buchlovice Castle, Czech Republic

Buchlovice Castle (or chateau) is a grand residence near Uherské Hradiště, built because nearby Buchlov Castle (a real castle) was too drafty and dark to please the owners.

The tour shows some pretty cool rooms, and the English text even has some of the interesting tidbits and stories often left out in favor of dates and names of artists and owners and architects.

Afterwards, wander the grounds.  You'll find formal gardens, wild foresty and meadowy bits, rhododendrons in May, interesting species of trees, streams and bridges, peacocks, and plenty of benches with nice vistas.

If you go...

You'll find frequent bus connections from Uherské Hradiště, a short distance away.  A tour of the castle currently costs 120 Czech Crowns (around $5) and entry to the grounds only is 20 Crowns (around $1).  If you're interested in the interesting species of trees on the grounds, buy the guide at the ticket booth.  Plan plenty of time to wander the extensive grounds.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Broken Angels, by Gemma Liviero

4.5 stars easily.  Almost 5. 

I often read in short snatches, while I'm cooking or waiting in line, in short intervals between other tasks or activities.  I find that many books can't hold my attention for long periods of time.  But last night I was reading Broken Angels on the bus home from work, a 30-minute trip I didn't notice any of.  I almost missed my stop.  I held my Kindle up to the streetlights as I walked the rest of the way home.  When I got in, I didn't turn on music. I didn't change clothes or get a snack or anything.  I just lay down on the couch and read for an hour, straight through to the end.  I cried. 

That is one of the signs of a good book.

Occasionally the dialogue feels written, the narration a bit too "told," and this distanced me from the characters at first, but overall the writing is clear and powerful, getting better and better as the novel goes on. 

Liviero tells the story from the perspectives of three people experiencing different aspects of the horrors of the holocaust.  This gives the story both depth and breadth.  And the way their lives weave together is both tragic and beautiful.

Before reading this, I knew about the Nazi program of taking Aryan-looking children and Germanizing them, but I hadn't read much about it, and this made it very real.

The dehumanization of people in a Polish Ghetto is also very emotional.  And this is the ghetto, not even the concentration camps. 

The German doctor, Willem, struggles with what's happening, struggling even to let himself fully realize what his country is doing, and that is perhaps the most powerful aspect of the book.

It was a sick, sick time in history, and I think books like this are important, because history does repeat itself.  The more people who are horrified by the hatred, racism, and resulting unbelievable cruelty and disregard for human life…the more people who are aware of how one thing leads to another…the more people who recognize the humanity in all…the more people there will be who will try to break the cycle of history. 

I will definitely read more of Gemma Liviero.