Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

This is a beautifully written book.  And yet.  Some of it's too stylistic for my taste.  It's interesting.  But.  Sometimes "style" comes across more like "gimmick." 

I LOVED Leo's character. His loneliness is palpable, heartbreaking, his views on things unique.  But.  The "And yet" and "But" sentences drove me crazy.  Had there been fewer, I think it would have been a nice way to distinguish his voice, to show his sort of tentative hope and struggle to hang on.  And yet.  Too much of anything just diminishes the power of the device.

I also loved Alma and her world and her weird little obsessions.

I didn't read the book fast enough, so I got a little confused sometimes on what was truth and how people were really connected, but I think that's part of the point of the novel, so I didn't mind it. 

I would have preferred the ending to go on a little longer.  But.  It was still satisfying in a bittersweet sort of way. 

As I said, most of the writing was beautiful, with some fantastic passages.  I cared about the characters and didn't want it to end.

I would definitely read more by Nicole Krauss.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Pernštejn Castle, Czech Republic

Pernštejn Castle is a CASTLE.  Sprawling defensive walls, bastions, towers, spiral staircases that go clockwise so that attackers can't properly use their sword arms, tales of a ghost who appears to foretell good or bad events...the whole nine yards.  But parts are also very palace-like and opulent inside.  It's now one of my favorite castles.

If you go..

Check opening hours and plan plenty of time.  The tour alone may take over an hour, and there are other museums, shops, and bastions to wander.

By public transport, the nearest train station is Nedvědice.  From there, it's a a nice walk to the castle, about 1.5 km on the yellow trail.  You'll see the castle in the distance.  Head along the railway tracks toward it and watch for trail markers.  On the way back, consider the "long" red loop, which leaves from the castle gate nearest the restaurant and takes you past some other sights like a covered wooden bridge, an old stone bridge, nice views of the castle, and various other points with interpretive signs in Czech.  

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Cool Fountain--Brno, Czech Republic

This is the most awesome fountain I've seen in a long time.  It's hard to see in the picture, but this big frame has a row of water jets in the top that go and stop in carefully controlled patterns to create designs with the falling water, everything from various geometric designs to quickly plunging images of the city's landmarks.  It's amazing.  I sat on the grass in front of the theater and watched for a long time, and I wasn't alone.  If you can't see the patterns, look for diamonds.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Funny English Errors

Learning any language is tough.  English is no exception.  But if you're a big company producing T-shirts to sell, and the T-shirts have sayings in English, don't you think you should pay someone like me a dollar to check and fix T-shirts like the one I saw in Brno which said,

"Expect for the best.  Be prepare for the worst."

Nice motto, but...not so nice grammar.

Then, on a nicely printed color map of a Czech folk festival, they translated "šatna" creatively.  I would translate "šatna" as "dressing room" or "changing area" or something, but they translated it as "hinterland."  So, the end result was "Hinterland for Performers."  Banish those performers to the inland wilderness away from all centers of civilization!  :)  I got a kick out of it.  But...I'm not sure the organizers were really intending to make English speakers laugh.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Hiking the Czech-Slovak border

I love living so close to the Czech/Slovak border.  A few weeks ago, I went hiking along the ridge that separates the countries, and I went to Slovakia about 50 times, hopping back and forth like a kid over the border markers.

This is from the red trail west of Kohútka.  That thing I'm leaning on is one of the many old border markers.  The "S" stands for Slovakia.  There's a "C" on the other side for the Czech Republi, and a line through the top marking the exact border.  Some of the lines even change angles right on the stone.  Very cool.

If you go...

If you want to go without a car, I recommend getting a bus to "Nový Hrozenkov,Vranča,konečná" and then hiking up to Kohútka via the yellow/blue trail.  Stop at the restaurant there for lunch or a snack.  Consider their famous blueberry knedliky (a sort of dumpling filled with blueberries and drenched in cream, butter, and sugar).  Then hike the red trail west as far as you like before heading down to a road or train line.  I took the blue trail to Huslenky (well, I got lost on the blue trail, but ended up in Huslenky anyway).  Great hike.