I've been up to a lot of stuff and I've been too busy sleeping and drinking to write about it all properly. Here are some pictures.
St Martin's day, where the first wine made from the grapes picked in 2011 is drunk. I took a picture of a kid running around with a balloon which would have been amazing, but I missed the balloon.
Really hot girl serving Spirály - amazing deep friend potato things.
Me and a giant pic of a naked dude. So this turned out to be a gay bar.
When New Zealand won the world cup I went out drinking all day with the local rugby club. I thought the guy in the lions jersey looked like an overweight version of my cousin Ross and I was calling him that all day, he probably wasn't too chuffed about it. The bald guy in the background is an ex-US Marine who married a Czech stripper. When his wife found out he was drunk that day (Sunday) she told him not to come back home. He stayed in the pub drinking until she let him back in the house (Tuesday).
These guys were making a house of cards on their drusleeping friend. When I took a pic the guy with the 'tache stood up and revealed he was wearing some underwear over his jeans. Then we all flicked beermats at each other.
I went to Vienna as part of an epic journey which shall be documented in due course. For some reason there is a vast plaza featuring monuments with Cyrillic text on it. Never found out why, but I took a picture.
Traffic zooming past the bus on the way to Prague.
One Saturday morning Audrey, Natalie, Ian, Vojtech and I hopped on a train to Vracov (where my colleague Martin is from) which is around an hour or so from Brno by train.
We were there for Hody - an annual celebration where the locals wear traditional clothing and play out an eccentric procession through the town singing, drinking, eating and dancing as they go. There is a story behind it (which sadly I don't really know), but essentially there is a Stárek (a guy) and a Stárka (a girl) to whom the Mayor hands the responsility of the town for the day. The procession through the town revolves around these guys - stopping off first at the Town Hall to ask permission from the Mayor to proceed with Hody.
Initially the Mayor refuses (as is tradition), but once he's been given a couple of big jugs of wine he relents on condition that everyone drinks lots of wine and sings about drinking and girls. There are a couple of more stops, at Stárek's house (where everyone dances, sings, and drinks lots of wine) and at Stárka's house (where everyone dances, sings, and drinks lots of wine - after Stárek climbs in through her window).
OK I must admit that I don't really know what was happening, here are some pictures though
Once the procession reached its conclusion and everyone went their separate ways we stopped off at Martin's grandfather's house to eat and dress up.
After we were fed we toddled over to Martin's grandad's wine cellar and drank yet more wine
Later I would fall asleep on a table at a ball through drunkenness because I was tired, only to be woken up to jump in a dodgy Škoda to take me to where I was actually allowed to sleep.
Phrase. "I don't understand"
I can't speak Czech, that's the main problem. It doesn't help that there is a shortage of vowels in the country, and those that haven't been purged are distributed sparsely in words such as "čtvrtek" ("Thursday") or missing entirely in phrases like "Strč prst skrz krk" ("Stick your finger in your throat"). Thankfully alcoholism and table football are a universal language and to honour that, an image where the two have brought together people from many cultures (Argentina, Scotland, New Zealand and Czech Republic):
That said, I do have an on-going feud with the old lady who works in the little kiosk across the road from the hotel. After 11pm the kiosk half-closes and you have to bark your orders through this little hatch, which scuppers my usual point-and-say-in-English-anyway strategy. When I ask for "chips" (which is pan-global for "crisps") the lady has no idea and acts like this concept is entirely alien to her - fobs me off with a sandwich menu or just a series of confused frowns and a shrug.
Or at least she pretends to have no idea. My latest theory is that she is getting some kind of satisfaction from denying me the one thing I've been craving while drunk. I know they sell them here. I've seen them. I've bought them. It says chips on the packet. I even say cheeps instead of chips because I know that's how they roll.
However the next time I stagger over to her little window I will not utter a single word. I have an idea which will once and for all end this little game of hers. Behold my prop, my secret weapon:
I have I discovered that I am an absolutely evil shot with an AK47 - the terrorist\rebel's assault rifle of choice. If you click the first pic below and let it load you can see the shock wave of the rounds pushing the felt draped across the ceiling. Pretty cool!
The targets they provide range from the usual "circle with numbers" to "pregnant lady being held hostage" and even "scantily clad giant boobs lady". Gonza had heroically saved pregnant lady with his AK47, but would go on to mercilessly dispatch giant-boobs-lady with his Desert Eagle.
Afterwards Gonza took us to a cool part of the city up on a hillside called "Kamenná kolonie" which was originally an illegal settlement built in the early 20th century which now has a quasi-legal status within the city (they have street signs, drainage and electricity but you can't buy or sell any of the properties).
We sat around on the street outside a tiny pub called "Duck Bar" drinking beer, talking nonsense, and playing around with the local kids until the sun went down.
I also drew a giant penis in some random guy's notebook when he wasn't looking.
It's currently the right time of year for Burčák (Boorchak) - a cloudy, sediment-filled drink made from newly pressed grapes which is sold by vendors in plastic bottles on the streets of the City Centre. It's still actively fermenting when you buy it, which means that you have to let the pressure out every so often (or you accidentally leave it closed all day in your hotel room and the maid does this for you - THANKS, GRANDHOTEL BRNO!) and it's not clear how alcoholic it is. Probably around 5 - 10%
It's sweet, quite refreshing and I really want to have it in a tall glass with gin but that could be the start of a very bad evening. I've heard it could function as a fairly servicable laxative if drank in substantial quantities, though I have not explored this.
Once I had woken up after the long journey to Brno I met up with a few of the FNZ Czechia guys in a wee restaurant hidden up a couple flights of stairs called "Atrium". On Sundays their Speciality dish is Tatarský Biftek - Steak Tartare. I should point out that I had agreed with a friend to only answer "Yes" to questions once I had left Edinburgh, so when Pavel said "Are you going to try the Tatarský Biftek?" I was left with little choice:
You pulverise the raw egg into the raw steak with a fork and mash mustard, onions, herbs, salt, pepper and whatever else you feel like into it - once this preparation is done you're presented with a basket of thick slices of fried bread on which to spread it (before which you usually rub raw cloves of garlic onto the bread). It might sound weird, but it is one of the finest things I have ever eaten, we're heading back on Sunday for more after the rugby.
After work on Monday three of us (another Scot and an Argentine) sauntered over to a place called Blahovka, where they serve unpasteurised, unfiltered Pilsener Urquell. Within a few minutes I had finished my first pint which was so nice I cannot begin to describe it. I had been assured that this beer was virtually hangover-proof, though we'd have no opportunity to prove this scientifically as after a few (5 or 7?) pints, a beer ball (Blue cheese dipped in Paprika and spices with bread) and a Pork Knee later we headed over to a favourite FNZ haunt "Desert" for Absinthe and Rum+Kofola (think: Commie Coke). The guy on the table next to us was out for the count the entire time we were there. In Brno if you fall asleep in a bar, they just leave you alone to sleep off your troubles in front of your half-finished beer
And on a different note, this is what Brno looks like from where I sit in our office. This doesn't do it justice though, the city centre is typically rather grand like Prague, though I understand it gets a little grim on the outskirts thanks to some concrete Communist-era blocks.
In an airplane there was absolutely no place in the world to go except to another part of the airplane
- Joseph Heller, Catch-22
I'm finally here in Brno. There's a bar on the street outside my window with flashing neon lights - "Herna Bar" - with a little banner proudly proclaiming that it is "NONSTOP!" even though it appears to be closed. No idea what "Herna" means, maybe "This bar is not NONSTOP, please ignore the banner".
The journey was pretty long, mostly due to the 5 hours I spent twiddling my thumbs in Heathrow's Terminal 5. I managed to kill some time wandering around shops pretending that I hadn't just changed most of my Sterling into "Koruna česká" back in Edinburgh - having spent the remainder on a mountain of sushi and a couple of cans of Asahi in a faux-Japanese restaurant called "Itsu".
The beer did help, as I got blethering with a lad from Sri Lanka who was going to University in Sunderland. However when he went to board his flight I replayed the conversation in my head, I realised that he hadn't understood about 95% of what I said, and just randomly guessed the majority of his responses. An excerpt from our stimulating discourse:
Me: So what did you do before you decided to go study in Sunderland?
Sri Lankan: I was engineer on a ship
Me: Ahhh cool, my dad did something similar, he was in the Merchant Navy for a number of years, got to travel the world and see cool places.
Sri Lankan: *RAUCOUS BUT SLIGHTLY AWKWARD LAUGHTER*
And he's going to Sunderland. Good luck, mate. I can't really talk though, you know those information posters where you think "Who in EARTH is that targeted at?" - let's take a peek at one I casually snapped while checking in at the BA desk in Edinburgh.
While I didn't have any live virus materials, radioactive material or firearms I did have a bullet stuffed in my wallet which I picked up in Bosnia. I only realised this after I had slid my tray along to be eaten up by the x-ray machine. Luckily the fine chaps at airport security were more interested in a french lady who had taken a bottle of water with her. Anyway back to the question - who on earth are these goofy posters aimed at? Apparently me on earth.
Anyway it's late, I'm tired and I just wanted to post and get this set up.