Thursday, December 31, 2015

Trip to Slovakia for the holidays: Part 2 - Prague

As mentioned in the last post, getting away for a few days on our own for a bit of an actual vacation was important, so we decided to head up to Prague, one of our favorite weekend getaway destinations when we were living in Bratislava. But while going to Prague from Bratislava involves an easy four-hour train ride, getting there from Podrečany, in the middle of Slovakia, is a bit more complicated.

We initially tried to book a night train from Banská Bystrica that would leave around 11:00 at night and arrive in Prague by 7:00 the next morning. This made sense since our time in Prague would be limited, and rather than waste valuable daytime hours sitting on our asses in the train, we could fall asleep in the middle of Slovakia and wake up in Prague. Sounds great, right?

Unfortunately, the overnight/sleeper train for that night was all booked, except for one cabin with three bunks, one of which had already been reserved by a woman. The reason this potentially mattered is because that woman could possibly have made a stink about sharing a cabin with a dude, apparently. You see, unless a male/female couple books a sleeper cabin for themselves first, the railway company tries to keep each cabin assigned to the same gender so as to avoid any possible awkwardness. The woman at the Lučenec train station ticket window was hesitant to sell us these tickets as a result.

We also asked about the sleeper train from Košice, but that was completely booked too.

The lesson: if you're planning to go somewhere overnight via these sleeper cars, you can't be so spontaneous about it. You really need to book them at least several days in advance. (When we traveled to Krakow via the night/sleeper train back in 2012, we purchased the tickets 3-4 days ahead).

The trek across the former Czechoslovakia

Since we didn't want to spend eight agonizing hours - i.e. an entire day - on the train, we had to settle for the next best option: take an evening train from Podrečany to Bratislava on Sunday, spend the night in Bratislava, then continue on to Prague early the next morning. Luckily, Hotel Mercure, a nice, modern, European hotel chain, had a standard room available for €60 that Sunday night, which worked out great since the place is basically right next to train station.

The four-hour train ride to Bratislava went by mercifully fast, or at least it did until about halfway through when this young woman who yapped in her "outdoor voice" to her boyfriend all the way to Bratislava boarded and sat in our cabin. Since the train car had enclosed, six-seat cabins, and this woman had no sense of how to adjust her indoor volume, there was no escaping her (or her cloud of cloying perfume, for that matter) unless we wanted to give up our reserved window seats. I cranked up my iPod in an effort to tune her out. Normally people are pretty quiet and respectful in these cabins, and the only thing you need to fear is someone who hasn't showered or used deodorant since the 80s coming in. (Totally unrelated, but we noticed she and her beau were speaking Hungarian, but Terezia noted that it was an odd mix of Hungarian and Slovak; perhaps a dialect specific to Hungarians living in Slovakia?)

We got off in Bratislava and walked through the eerily dense nighttime fog to Mercure, which turned out to be kind of a fun hotel. The €60 price must've been some kind of last minute deal, because the place looked and felt pricier, and a chart by the desk showed their cheapest rooms starting at €100 per night. I was amused by how the bathroom was separated only by a giant pane of clear glass with no door, so that you could watch the other person taking a shower from any point in the room.

We fell asleep watching West Side Story with Slovak subtitles (which Terezia noted weren't super accurate) on the large screen TV across from the foot of the bed.


We walked over to Bratislava's lovely, spacious, clean, architectural mecca of a train station early the next morning to catch the 8:00 AM train and got to Prague by noon.

Once out of the train station, the unseasonably warm, sunny weather had us madly unzipping our winter coats. Feeling like an early Spring day, the temperature was easily in the upper 50s Fahrenheit. Very unusual for Prague this time of year.

Though we managed to get a decent deal on our room at a place we've stayed at before (Green Garland B&B), we have discovered why Prague hotels significantly hike their rates between Xmas and New Years: the city is mobbed this time of year! It turns out that for some reason, this week is one of the busiest of Prague's tourist season.

After checking in to our hotel, we braved the crowds towards the main square and Tyn cathedral to discover that the Christmas markets were still in full swing. I was a bit surprised by this, since I remember when living in Bratislava the Xmas markets there were largely over by December 23rd. It seems in Prague they're milking it until New Years, and with this week being so heavily touristy, I suppose that makes sense.

We sauntered lazily around the old town, taking in the gorgeous architecture, cut through the mob on Charles Bridge, and made a pitstop at the ridiculously Baroque St. Nicholas church across the river.

We then wandered down to the Střelecký ostrov island (which is accessed via the Legion Bridge). They've recently redone this island and installed nice, clean, modern benches along its perimeter so you can plop down and gawk at the city. With the weather so oddly nice and warm, several young couples were out on these benches groping each other feverishly.

Kačka for dinner

For dinner we hit up our favorite spot: U Parlamentu. This joint was recommended to us by the hotel on our very first visit to Prague back in late 2010, and we've been going back with each visit ever since. With tasteful dark wood paneling, dim lights, and big windows, U Parlamentu has a warm and inviting feel. Whenever we've been there, the clientele has consisted mostly of Czech locals, and one long table along the back wall seems to be permanently inhabited by a group of several chain-smoking, shaggy haired guys (and a few women) in their 50s-60s who look like a cross between liberal arts professors and Frank Zappa fans. I swear, these same exact guys are at this same table downing beer and cracking each other up every single time we go there.

But the main reason we come here is they do a really good duck. For less than €10 (215 Czech korunas), you get a quarter duck - basically the leg and the the thigh it's attached to - with a pile of sauerkraut and two kinds of dumplings: potato and steamed. The duck is super moist, tender, and flavorful, almost like confit. It's admittedly a heavy plate of stick-to-your-ribs Czech fare that neither of us can ever finish, but we savor as much of it as we can.

Trdelník - a hot coil of sugary goodness

For dessert we strolled back to the Xmas market in the main square and got a trdelník - a yummy treat that you definitely won't find in the states, and the only thing I'd happily wade into a crowded Xmas market for.

I've heard that there has been some dispute between the Czechs and Slovaks over who created the trdelník, but Slovakia nevertheless managed to register the Skalický trdelník (named after the town, Skalice, along the Slovak-Czech border in which it was said to originate) as a protected EU food item in 2007.

The trdelník is made by taking a long strip of rolled dough and coiling it around a wooden rod, which is rotated over a bed of red-hot coals until the outside is browned. The coil is then removed from the fire and the rod, and rolled in what's typically a mixture of sugar, ground nuts, and cinnamon, and served piping hot on a napkin. When trdelníks are fresh, the dough on the inside is steaming, soft, and chewy, while the coated outside has a nice bit of crunch to it. A little messy, since bits of the coating fall down the front of you each time you take a bite, but fun to eat.

Interestingly, the trdelníks we've had at the Bratislava market were always a little better. I'm not sure if they simply use more ground nuts in their ratio of coatings, or if they use a more interesting variety of ground nuts, but the flavor just seems to pop a little more. They're a bit bigger than the ones in Prague too. But we've never been to Skalice to have a genuine Skalický trdelník, so I've no idea if those are even better.

Steering clear of the crowds

We both love standing and gawking at the insanely picturesque main square (easily one of Europe's prettiest), but the packed Xmas market crowds made the place a bit less pleasant. At night they had some choral group on a stage donning medieval garb and singing songs about local hero Jan Hus, which only exacerbated the craziness.

When Prague is this crowded, it can be a fun and surprisingly easy challenge to avoid the congested main arteries and take only quieter side streets. With so many eager tourists descending on the old town, it's surprising how sheep-like most people are in the way that nearly all of them tend to stick to the main artery from the Powder Tower through Celetná street to the main square, then through narrow Karlova street to Charles Bridge. People seldom stray from that general path, so even when Prague is super congested, it's not too difficult to have a more tranquil experience taking the side streets, which are nicer anyhow because they have far fewer of those brightly lit, Russian-owned shops selling useless tourist tchotchke vomit.

Similarly, the best way to enjoy Charles Bridge and have it more or less to yourself is to get there by 9 AM. In our experience, the hordes don't start descending on the place until after 10, so before then you can take an absolutely lovely, tranquil stroll across the bridge and enjoy all the ornate statues and cool scenery in peace. If you go there any time after noon, trying to cross the bridge is akin to wading through a thick crowd at an outdoor concert festival.

Charles Bridge before the mobs descend on it.

Next, the arguably more scenic and certainly less crowded route up to the castle is via the Zámecké steps. It's another quiet and beautiful route that hardly anyone else ever seems to take, which is fine by us.

Once up at the castle, we never get sick of the views over the city, nor the castle's St. Vitus cathedral, though the tourist throngs start materializing there pretty early. That majestic tower and beautifully ornate south side of the cathedral, in particular, with intricate Gothic details and Klimt-like filigree, never fail to mesmerize.

Museum of Czech Cubism

After strolling back across the river and eating a quick lunch, we headed over to the Museum of Czech Cubism. It's a small two-floor exhibition in a building inspired by Cubist painting, but honestly, you'll find a larger and better selection of Czech (and other) Cubist paintings at the vastly bigger Veletržní modern art museum across the river. I would only recommend the Museum of Czech Cubism to people who are short on time or who desperately must see everything related to Czech Cubism. Still, we thought we'd come back since they'd changed up the paintings since our last visit a few years ago. The place seems to have more furniture than paintings or sculptures, which is a bit disappointing, since the furniture is less interesting. Nevertheless, you can find a few paintings (and sculptures) by the usual suspects: Emil Filla, Bohumil Kubišta, Josef Čapek, Otto Gutfreund, etc.

The cafe on the second floor was nice and continues the exterior's vaguely Cubist inspired angles with the interior design, but it was a bit stuffy and formal, with lots of well-dressed European tourists. And my coffee was a little weak.

(Back in 2012, a temporary exhibition in downtown Bratislava's Palffy Palace had what was probably the biggest and most impressive collection of Czech Cubism we've ever seen).

Eating pečené vepřové koleno

For dinner that night we wanted to go to a place called U Trí Ruží, which we'd been to before. They brew their own craft beer and make decent, traditional Czech food. However, the bartender, who, as in many restaurants, is also the guy in charge of seating, indifferently told us to come back in half an hour because the place was full. So, we thought "screw it" and went back to U Parlamentu, but this time I insisted on ordering something I've always wanted to try in Prague, but never had the guts: the massive, legendary pork knee.

This Czech staple comes in the form of a giant cut of the knee, complete with the bone, skin, and everything, served with mustard and horseradish. It's intended for two (or three) people. There's no way you can cut through the skin since it's practically leather, so you have to turn the thing over and basically cut/scoop the meat out from underneath. The sections of meat that were close to the bone and those which were connected to the outer layer of fat were the juiciest and most intensely flavorful, while the layer in between was lighter and a bit dryer. The good parts were absolutely delicious. This thing may look intimidating, but with such a massive bone and such thick, fatty skin, a good deal of it isn't actually edible. Still, by the time we were full, there was enough meat left for a third person. I'm glad we finally tried it.

Meeting a friend in a smokey pub

Later that night we met a childhood friend of Terezia's, Martina, at Literární Kavárna Řetězová, a pub/cafe that was literally right below our hotel. Martina is married to a Moravian Czech guy and they have been living/working/raising a family in Prague for several years. I like the ambience of this particular pub with its massive, vaulted, medieval ceilings, photos of political activists and interesting art adorning the walls, and locals both young and old downing shots and beer. The cigarette smoke is annoying, but it's pretty much unavoidable in Prague if you want to go any place where regular locals tend to frequent.

At one point, we had an interesting conversation about some of the differences between Czechs from Prague and Slovaks from Bratislava. Terezia and I noted how seemingly everywhere in Prague you see these older guys with this particular kind of Berkeley, CA, look, e.g. long or shaggy hair, full beards, dark clothes, etc., yet you see very few people like this in Bratislava. Martina said people in Prague are perhaps a little more German in terms of attitude and culture (i.e. a little more western, or "free thinking"), which makes sense given the proximity to Germany, and the fact that for centuries Prague had a large German population.

By contrast, people in Slovakia tend to be more religious and conservative than Prague Czechs, and also more obsessed about what other people have (in terms of money and social status) that they lack. We've heard this from other people here as well.

I mean, you're obviously going to find some of that in Prague too, but there seem to be more people in Bratislava who are preoccupied with materialism and conformity. I don't want to overgeneralize and slip into cultural stereotyping, but Prague really does feel like a vastly different place at times from Bratislava, and that's partly why it appeals to us more. (And I don't want to overstate this: at the end of the day, Prague is certainly not as cosmopolitan or forward as, say, Paris or Vienna, but compared to Bratislava... And of course Bratislava was always at an unfair disadvantage compared to Prague and has lots of catching up to do, but understanding that didn't make living there any easier for us).

But at least Slovakia is far more developed than, say, Romania. Martina noted that on a recent business trip to Romania, cars on a four-lane highway were having to pass horse-drawn carriages in the slow lane, and that the country still feels at least 20 years behind Slovakia. Terezia said that even during communism, Czechoslovakia was always a couple decades ahead of Romania.

Segways - the scourge of Prague

Sadly, I have to report that tourists on Segways are becoming a total nuisance in Prague. At times it feels like you're dodging these things everywhere. They're fast becoming the Rascal Scooter of Europe, except the people using them are perfectly healthy, able-bodied, and often young. Sometimes you can see tour groups of 10-20 Segway-riding idiots all snaking through already congested streets and squares.

Honestly, how lazy do you have to be? How hard is it to use your legs and just walk? Terezia and I do it all the time. It's an extremely walkable old town. If I was mayor of Prague, I'd push to have every Segway rider shot on the spot, and every Segway rental company or tour group tried for crimes against humanity. Resisting the temptation to clothesline some of these imbeciles with my arm as they cruised by was mighty difficult.

The ride back home

While we managed to avoid spending eight solid hours in the daytime on a train when going to Prague, there was simply no avoiding it on the way back. We had a tight connection at Bratislava, with only 10 minutes to get off the Prague-Budapest train and catch the train for the middle of Slovakia. Luckily, the trains were on time and it wasn't a problem.

We started getting fidgety and irritable only on the last leg/hour of the trip, after we transferred in Zvolen to the slowpoke train that took us the rest of the way to Podrečany, which stops at every damn little podunk village along the way.

The slowpoke train's conductor shouted at us when we entered the last car: "this car is for us - you have plenty of seats in the other cars!" Terezia's response of "Well, why don't you put a sign on the door then?" elicited no reaction. Later, when checking tickets, the same conductor stumbled through the car like he'd been hitting the sauce all afternoon, and spent an inordinate amount of time trying to make out our complicated ticket. After emitting a series of odd sighing and grunting sounds, he told us to have a pleasant journey.

Stay tuned for part three...

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Trip to Slovakia for the holidays: Part 1

Since we actually spent the last two Christmases in California with my family, we felt it was time to go back to Slovakia for the holidays and spend a couple of weeks with Terezia's family.

At the time of writing, it's been a little over a year since we left Slovakia. A year may not be long enough to truly miss a place, since being here now, it kind of feels as if we never left! But it has nevertheless been nice to revisit this country that we called home for over three years.

We flew into Vienna late Saturday evening, spent Sunday recovering from the long trans-Atlantic flight and piddling around Terezia's brother Tony's house in Bernolákovo (a suburb outside Bratislava that's spreading like measles in an anti-vaxxer community), then got up early Monday morning to drive into Bratislava with Tony on his way to work. This particular weekday morning commute is normally backed up like a Power Bar in a colon, but with this being the week of Christmas, traffic was unusually light.

Annoyingly, we wound up wasting over an hour in our Slovak bank that morning trying to sort out some debit card related issues. Terezia had forgotten her PIN, and for some reason, rather than simply let her create a new one then and there, the bank apparently had to send her a brand new card, which wouldn't arrive until after Xmas. I, on the other hand, remembered my PIN, but my debit card expired a few months ago and I never received a replacement. Words can't begin to describe how much fun this was.

With that agonizing chore out of the way, Terezia and I took a stroll through Bratislava's small but always beautiful old town and checked out the Xmas market in the main square, where we imbibed scalding hot wine served in flimsy, carcinogen-leaching plastic cups, and took in the aroma of sizzling pork and duck products emanating from the grills in the stalls.

Locals all seem to love the Christmas market, which lasts through most of December up until around the 23rd. Most of the time, locals seem to steer clear of Bratislava's old town like a leperitic, mung-haired, panhandling homeless guy, but December is one of the few times of the year everyone flocks to the old town in droves for the Xmas market, and the mood is typically pretty festive.

I didn't partake in any of the greasy hunks of meat served on floppy plates, as I had plans to meet up with my friend and former Slovak Spectator colleague James for lunch at Bratislavský Meštiansky Pivovar, an old lunch break haunt from the Spectator days. We got to catch up over some sauerkraut and sausage soup and fried fish fillets - the cheap-o lunch special that day. Being expats, James and I often shared similar observations about some of the more comically bizarre and perplexing aspects of Slovak culture, and we both seem to have a perverse fascination with some of the country's more remote middle-of-nowhere towns and villages.

Monday night we took Tony and Silvia out to Liviano, our favorite restaurant in Bratislava, located in the extremely communist Technopol building, deep in the bowels of Petržalka. Readers may recall that's where Terezia and I would go for special occasions, since the place ain't cheap and the food there has pretty much always been excellent. Tony and Silvia had never been there before, but they dug it. Tony ordered the braised veal cheeks and remarked that he'd never had meat so tender, juicy, and flavorful. I feasted on a truffle ravioli dish - they always seem to have what turns out to be a stunning wild mushroom pasta on the menu, and this one certainly didn't disappoint.

Technopol building in the fog.

Day trip to Vienna

The sky had been a drab, dingy washrag grey since our arrival, but with the lazy sun starting to poke through Tuesday morning, it turned out to be the perfect time for a day trip to Vienna.

Part of our reason for venturing to Vienna (and you may recall we liked going there for Saturday day trips when we lived in Bratislava for a taste of some real city cosmopolitan buzz) was to have lunch at our favorite Thai place, the amazing Sri Thai Imbiss, which you can read about here. Sadly, even though the special holiday hours posted on her door clearly stated they'd be open for lunch that day from 12:00-3:00, the door was locked, the lights were off, and there was zero sign of life inside. We lingered for several minutes out front, hopeful but in vain, until it was clear that the Curry Nazi was pulling a no-show that afternoon. Major bummer, as she makes some of the most delicious and authentic Thai food either of us have ever feasted on. But what can you do? The Curry Nazi does as she pleases.

So, we headed over to Naschmarkt to our favorite falafel stand, then strolled up and down the length of the place to gawk at all the produce, meat, wonderfully stinky cheeses, and aromatic spices. Naschmarkt always reminded us a bit of certain farmer's markets back in the Bay Area in terms of the  sheer variety of produce you could find. If we wanted figs or medjool dates, we had to go to Naschmarkt, because you could never really find that stuff in Slovakia.

We hit up our favorite sites in the old town around St. Stephen's cathedral and wandered aimlessly through the less crowded streets, and ventured out to a couple of record stores in the Neubau area. This was a short trip, but totally worth it, because who knows when the hell we'll get to see Vienna again?

See all the Vienna day trip photos here.

Christmas in the sticks

That evening we made the 2.5 hour drive east with Tony and his wife Silvia to Podrečany, the village in the middle of nowhere Slovakia where Terezia and Tony's parents live.

Readers may recall that Slovaks actually celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve (see my post on Slovakia's Xmas traditions here). That's when they have the big meal and exchange gifts and all that. (On Christmas day people just sit around nursing hangovers by drinking more (sigh...) and eating leftovers.)

As I detailed in my Xmas post, the Christmas meal in Slovakia adheres fairly strictly to age old rituals, and every step, every part of the meal, has symbolic meaning steeped in catholic tradition, which is amusing to see when you're accustomed to the more anything goes customs in the US, which vary from family to family.

So, after enduring the Moby Dick length catholic prayer, we kicked off the Xmas feast in typical fashion with a round of shots. Terezia's dad then sliced up random pieces of fruit and passed them around, and we had the traditional oblatky with honey and garlic. After that, of course, came the pea soup, followed by the salmon and fried fish, and the obligatory heaps of potato salad, capped off with a platter of tasty cookies and cakes.

Xmas Eve bike ride in the countryside

Everyone here has been grumbling about how the weather has been very un-Christmas-like this season: zero snow (at lower elevations), not super cold (temps have remained above freezing), and much of the country seems to have been covered in an eerily dense blanket of fog ("hmla," in Slovak). But on Xmas Eve the lazy sun started breaking through the hmla, which brought a gorgeously hazy, wintery light to the rural landscape, so it was decided that this was the perfect time for a bike ride through the surrounding countryside.

Terezia's cousin Jano, her cousin Ludmila's boyfriend Chris, and Tony and I went on a super fun 18-mile bike ride through some nearby country roads. This was one of Jano's preferred cycling routes, and he led us through a series of rolling hills, dense forests, and tiny, ramshackle rural villages. We first made our way to the small, rough-hewn village of Tuhár, which is a little ways off the beaten path, tucked in a crevice between two hills.

After ascending the hill out of Tuhár, we made our way down a fun, gently curving descent into the picturesque village of Divín, which is home to the super cool Divín castle ruins and some wonderfully run down streets. From there we headed to Lake Ružiná, from which you get majestic views of the Divín castle ruins in the distance. After rounding the lake, which has a beach area complete with dilapidated facilities that was quite popular during communism, we headed back to Podrečany.

I could ride around this region every day. The scenery is lovely and I dig riding through the old, remote, worn down villages. The roads were - surprisingly - not as terrible as I expected, with the exception of a few stretches that were pitted and pockmarked enough to throw one's spine out of whack. But other seemingly random stretches were almost silky smooth from recent repaving. I got to ride my old Peugeot 10-speed, which I rode the crap out of when we were living in Bratislava, and which is in dire need of a tune-up, but it worked out okay for this ride. Overall, it was awesome to get out of the house and into the cool, fresh winter air and work the phlegm out of the lungs.

General rural Slovak weirdness

We saw a news story on TV at Tony's about how people in smaller towns and villages are burning plastic bottles (!) and old furniture that they've chopped with an axe in their wood stoves and fireplaces. Obviously, this is all kinds of horrible, but frankly it's not terribly surprising, especially when you're familiar with the mentality commonly encountered out in the country. Maybe this explains what happened to all the cool mid-century modern furniture that you never seem to see anywhere outside of museum exhibits?

Creepy Kubo

We took a drive with Tony up in the hills high above Hriňová, the town where Terezia and Tony grew up, in an attempt to get above the thick blanket of fog that had been submerging the valleys. Along the way, on a narrow road in the forest outside some remote village, we saw a gang of what's referred to as kubo. Kubo are part of this bizarre Slovak Christmas tradition in which young male hicks from the sticks dress up in creepy animal masks and/or tall, funny hats, and, wielding large sticks, they start the day going door to door singing Christmas carols in exchange for booze and food, but after a while, according to Terezia and Tony, they get so drunk that their outing usually devolves into harassing or beating up random people in the street.

From what I can gather, this tradition has something to do with the nativity. Usually a few guys in the group represent the shepherds, while another guy dresses up as an angel who, for some reason, carries around a small replica of a church (inside of which is apparently a miniature nativity scene), and a couple other guys don super creepy animal costumes. The furry animal character is supposedly the kubo, a sort of bear-like creature, but I can't figure out what he has to do with the nativity. He seems to be there merely to add a bit of comic relief or "fun" to the proceedings, and according to one source he would hassle local women for showing too much leg or stuff like that.

The roots of this tradition seem to have started innocently enough as a kind of reenactment of the nativity, wherein the youths would cajole locals into going to Christmas mass. But how it became an excuse to get shitfaced and terrorize the neighborhood is beyond me.

Terezia and Tony have scary childhood memories of kubo roaming the streets on Christmas in Hriňová. The kubo would stand outside the panelaks and shout menacingly up at the inhabitants to let them in the building. Terezia says that as children they always steered well clear of any roaming packs of kubo.

Terezia also explained that the kubo came from the rural areas on the edge of town, from homes where the same families had been living for generations, and never from the panelaks in the center of town. There was apparently a sizable cultural divide between the factory worker types in the town center and the peasant/farming families on the outskirts, and this kubo tradition was one way in which that distinction became glaringly apparent.

After a bit of Googling, I found that these customs seem to have originated as a way for rural youths to have fun on Christmas, since their families often had many children but no money to buy them Xmas gifts. They'd apparently spend all year rehearsing the carols and their "routine."

At any rate, the kubo gang we saw looked fairly young and harmless as we drove past them, but Tony nevertheless insisted on locking the car doors, and he noted that one of them was stubbing out his cigarette as if anticipating some sort of confrontation, so who knows?

Trip to Prague

Terezia and I desperately wanted to get a bit of "us" time on this trip, so we decided to take a little excursion up to Prague. When living in Bratislava, we'd go to Prague for extended weekend trips a few times a year, and it became kind of a special place for us. Despite the logistical headache of getting there from Podrečany, we were determined to make it happen. But I'll save the Prague trip for Part 2...

For now, I'll leave you with some random photos of Podrečany taken on or around Christmas day.

See the full set of Xmas in Podrečany photos here.