Genghis Khan and the American Idol Hottie

Posted by: elraymundo at 6:32 pm on Saturday, February 25, 2006
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: Books & Literature, American Idol

Becky O'Donahue

How come my favorite American Idol contestant had to be voted off on the first night? C’mon America, why Becky and not this nasty bee-otch? Now I’ve gotta find a new hottie on the show.

I’ll miss ya Becky. You and your Babeasaurus Rex twin sister. Who knows, maybe Playboy has them both on speed dial.

And I’ll stop right there before I get myself into trouble.

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World

Genghis Khan has spoken and he has said, “Come to Central Asia.”

Yes indeed, The Debra and I are investigating trekking trips in and around Kyrgyzstan, one of many lands conquered by Genghis which became grazing lands for his horses. By all accounts, the country is safe and free from whack-jobs bundled in dynamite corsets and the country sports some of the highest and most beautiful mountains in the world, the Tien Shan (the Celestial Mountains).

Some of the peaks in the Tien Shan, which delineate the border between Kyrgyzstan and western China, are over 7000 meters high; a pass through the southern reaches leads across the border into China and the ancient Silk Road city of Kashgar. From there one can take the Karakoram Highway, a four day road trip past K2 into Islamabad, Pakistan. How cool would that be??? Unfortunately, the Karakoram Highway is reputedly infested with gentlemen wielding hand grenades and shoulder-mounted rocket launchers sold to them by the Republicans and it might not be wise to travel that route right now. Anyway, we’re looking into taking a walk through the mountains and cities of the Silk Road this summer. More to come!

Chocolate Chip Cookies

I wish The Debra would bake some cookies this weekend.

Snow Day

We got a little snow last week. Didn’t last long, of course, but it sure was pretty while it lasted.

Prague

Posted by: elraymundo at 6:05 pm on Saturday, February 25, 2006
From: Great Falls, Virginia
Filed under: History, Art, Travel, Friends, Architecture, Liquid Diet

Old Town Square

Prague! My favorite city in the world! The Debra and I just got back from a quick four day visit - a first for The Debra and my first since I lived there 12 years ago. Great times!

I showed Debra the city; walking Prague was something I always enjoyed when I lived there. Prague is imminently walkable - the center is compact - and simply jam-packed with beautiful buildings all crammed together one after another after another. Never bombed in the Second World War, save for a little German artillery practice designed to keep useful ammunition out of the hands of the advancing Red Army, Prague’s architecture has survived intact. The results are streets lined with ornately masoned buildings from one epoch packed tight against those from another, each with gorgeous swirling stone carvings above windows, gargoyles, terra cotta roofs, and half-columns emerging from the walls. It’s really a breathtaking place to walk.

Then you get outside the city and see what the Communists built. Shoeboxes poured-over with concrete. Grey small-windowed utilitarian shoeboxes stuffed together in ugly lots at ungainly angles with no imagination, grace, or beauty. But if the Soviet-style buildings on the outskirts are so fugly, why go there? you may ask. Why, to visit the Hare Krishnas, of course!

I arrived in Prague in 1993 with $1000 and no clue how to pronounce Jiřího z Poděbrad or Smichovské Nádraží (I figured it out) and spending money much too quickly on food and lodging. I stumbled into The Globe bookstore (sadly, removed from Holešovice and now located just down the road from the National Theater - and missing its former charm) and learned about a restaurant called U Govinda run by Hare Krishnas - all you could eat for 25 crowns! Less than a buck! The food was tasty, like nothing I’d had before, and it was true, you could eat all you wanted. I became a regular and eventually was invited, along with my good friend, Peter George (the only person I’ve ever met who hails from the island of St. Helena) to their commune south of Prague for a Hare Krishna festival where we ate vegetarian food and a giant cake shaped like a dancing blue Krishna while a cow walked among us, its neck strung with a garland of wild flowers . We watched an American television program about the HKs, subtitled in Danish and dubbed in Czech and reclined, patting our tummies while the initiates danced and sang “hare hare lama lama” and shone beatifically. Good times for all. And twelve years later U Govinda is still there. That pleased me. And that is why The Debra and I were out in Prague 8 at Palmovka, surrounded by Soviet shoebox buildings and chomping on cream-filled donuts from Delvita grocery store.

Here are some pictures of Prague that The Debra took. Click them for bigger images.
Astronomical ClockAstronomical Clock - Detail
Astronomical Clock, Old Town Square
Charles Bridge CanalCharles Bridge
Charles Bridge Canal and People
Jewish CemeteryTitan at Hradcany
Old Jewish Cemetery and a Titan at Hradcany
St. Vitus CathedralSt. Vitus Cathedral - Interior
St. Vitus Cathedral, Exterior and Interior

Defenesters

de·fen·es·tra·tion

n.

An act of throwing someone or something out of a window.

[From de- + Latin fenestra, window.]

Czechs invented defenestration, the practice of pushing Catholics out of the windows of very tall towers, as a means of political change and to spark bloody religious wars. Here a man demonstrates to his colleague the proper technique for defenestrating a Catholic and igniting a Christian Holy War.

Winers

This fellow may be plucking grapes from the vine to make into wine. Back during my wandering days, I drank a lot of red wine in Prague, a vintage called Frankovka - mostly because it was cheap. Less than a buck for a bottle at the Bio-Market on the Malá Strana side of Charles Bridge. When I went back last week I had to drink a glass, just for old times’ sake, which I did in a small pivnice in Malá Strana.

And how was the Frankovka after so many years? Oh, like dog pee. But not as smooth, and with more of a kick.

Jo's Bar

A lot changes in a city in 12 years. The James Joyce Pub was wrecked when Prague flooded in 2002 and never re-opened. The Thirsty Dog is now a jewelry shop selling Czech garnets and Bohemian crystal. The Repré Klub at Obecní Dům is now Smetana Hall and instead of hosting stoned patrons crashed on red couches waiting for dawn and for the Metro to start back up it now hosts reputable concerts. The Globe has moved and lost that lovely happy-accident feel of “Holy Smokes! We opened a bookstore-slash-cafe and it worked!” Prague has found and embraced the tourist dollar, and who can blame it? But one thing remains the same, and that is Jo’s Bar. It’s still there, folks, straight off the bridge into Malá Strana, down just a little ways and on the left off Malostranské Náměstí.

KGB T-Shirt

Czech humor from the Museum of Communism on Na Přikopé. One exhibit in the museum stated that efforts to enact the principles of Karl Marx cost over 100 million lives worldwide.

John Lennon Wall

There is a wall on the far side of Charles Bridge upon which for thirty years images of John Lennon have been painted. In Communist days, the police spray painted the wall to obliterate the paintings of John. Within days, John would reappear. This went on and on, back and forth, until the French Ambassador, who could see the wall from his office and who enjoyed the images of John Lennon on said wall, asked that they remain. The Communists relented and the wall has been a canvas for graffiti ever since. Sadly, the classic painting of John is long gone, replaced by this sad interpretation. Can someone with some talent please swing by the wall and give John a chance?

Milada & Jitka
Milada and Jitka, my favorite people in Czechland and two of the best people I know. Ahoj Milado! Ahoj Jitko!