Monday, March 26, 2012

I can see your hotel from here!

Since we'd only had time to explore half the castle the previous day, and our tickets were valid for two days, we decided to trundle back across the Charles Bridge and continue our investigations, including climbing what my notebook assures me was called "The Big Fekov Tower".

The peaceful tranquillity of the Charles Bridge
The *other* Prague Castle
There! That's our hotel! Just there!

 We then trundled home via the odd brewery or two, plus a dumpling stop.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Defenestration of Miffy and the Mysterious Case of the Vanishing Pub

 We spent much of the Sunday exploring the castle. Since it was some way up the hill from our hotel (we were staying in the Hotel Hastal in the Old Town), and Miffy has a bad knee, Miffy got a tram whilst we walked. This inspired me to sing the Trolley Song interminably for the rest of the weekend. Sorry Miffy.

The castle provided a wealth of entertainment, from the Changing Of The Guards (we spotted that they had those metallic tap-shoe things on their soles so that they could make a really good stompy sound) to the famous Defenestration window and the crossbow shooting gallery.

The Defenestration of Miffy
How to prevent further defenestrations

Pretty books

This poor Noble Knight appears to have his bottom on backwards...

We were impressed with the resourcefulness of the angel on the left selling souvenir tea-towels
Mock my facial expression all you like - I can get a bullseye with this thing!

The consequences of taking honey, money, and inadequate contraception?

I liked this "art". But then I think H.R. Giger's Alien is cute, so who am I to judge?

 Following our Castle exploration, we retired to a Mediaeval Cellar which promised BEER and Mediaeval Dancers (conjuring up a confusing mental image of chain-mail nipple tassels). The beer was indeed good, but we were too early for the dancers, and had Places to be.

The juxtaposition of the Brian Blessed-alike and "Mediaeval Show Dancer" is frightening
 Now, the Czech nation are, according to Karel, the greatest consumers of alcohol per head in Europe, and are somewhat proud of this fact. Whilst exploring the city, we had seen advertisements for many pub crawls ("The best night you'll never remember!"), and, it being St. Patrick's Day, the locals were enthusiastically gearing up for a celebration of drinking and more drinking. We opted to ignore the local Irish pub, and the local English pub, and thought we'd go for a pre-dinner drink in the Beer Museum Bar (since there were still 22 of the 30 beers on tap to be tasted), and thence to the restaurant we'd booked for dinner. We walked down the street, got to the end, and though "that's silly, we must have walked straight past it".

Students. St Patrick's Day. 'Nuff Said.
 We walked back down the street, chatting. We got to the other end. Silly us, still failed to spot the bar. Walk back down the street, looking very carefully this time. Nope, the bar has vanished! On the other hand, none of us remembered that Irish Pub having been there yesterday. The Irish Pub claiming to have 30 beers on tap...

On closer examination, it turned out to indeed be the Beer Museum Bar. In the past twenty-four hours, it had undergone a complete makeover including green carpets, a new name, sign and frontage, and a selection of moody black-and-white photos of Ireland plastered all over the walls. Serious dedication to drinking, the Czechs. But at least the beer was as fine as ever.

From thence we wibbled to U Sadlu, where we consumed a vast amount of protein, discussed the evolution of even breasts (well, uneven ones would lead to running in circles, and therefore those afflicted would be less likely to escape predation), and made little "Exterminate" noises with the Dalek salt-and-pepper pots. Oh, and possibly consumed more beer.

I lift my eyes to the rooflines

If, like me, you like looking up at the little details on buildings,* then Prague is a fantastic city.

A statue honouring Fearless Firefighters...
...and their Fearful Customers

We spent the morning ambling around Prague, guided by Miffy and an over-caffienated youth named Karel.
Tour Guide Miffy
Tour Guide Karel, explaining how the importance of keys during the Velvet Revolution
 Then we ambled a bit more.

Probably the best bit of the otherwise over-hyped Famous Prague Clock

Actually a synagogue, despite looking like a mosque (built with funds from an Islamic charity).

Note the lower clock is in Hebrew, and so the hands are backwards
There was much callipygian statuary
Standard Charles Bridge tourist shot
Apparently the opera Don Giovanni (which this statue commemorates) features Dementors. Or Nazgul. I forget which.

Having done that, we headed for the rather superb Beer Museum Pub ("30 Beers on tap!"), before a reviving meal of dumplings followed by a less-reviving bottle of Becherovka.

*For instance, a very posh restaurant in Bishopsgate sports a jaunty gold beaver weathervane, because it used to be the Hudson Bay Company's London offices. Not many people notice it.

All aboard the not-quite Orient Express!

As I said, last weekend we were in Prague. Now, it is possible to fly to Prague in a matter of a couple of hours, but that method was deemed boring, and far too simple. Instead, we felt it was much better to get a train to St. Pancras, a train from St. Pancras to Brussels, run hell-for-leather to another platform (not the platform which the helpful Eurostar announcement had told us) to catch a train to Cologne. Once in Cologne, we had time to find a jolly nice restaurant where I wrote "Schönsten = sossidge!" in my notebook, so it must have been important (or there was BEER), before it was back to the station to board a sleeper to Prague.

Every mod con - electricity *and* a sink!
Due to the many stops in the night (honestly, who wants to catch a sleeper to Berlin and arrive at three in the morning?), I ignored my alarm when it went off, and failed to see the really pretty view, but Miffy assured us it had been glorious. By the time I got up, we were running alongside a river, through a foggy valley which was nonetheless quite scenic.

Friday, March 23, 2012

It was ten years ago today...

Ten years ago, I stood in the college chapel and said "I do". I was wearing my grandmother's wedding dress to save money; Tim was wearing a grey suit and a hand-painted tie we'd picked up in the market. The Best Man had a matching tie, and my bridesmaid wore a dress from TK Maxx. Tim had to kick me on the ankle at one point because I was distracted by the squirrels behind the altar (those familiar with Fitzwilliam College will understand what I mean) and the man I could see pouring Buck's Fizz on the lawn, and almost missed saying half my vows before happily hopscotching down the stairs from the chapel.

That was seven ferrets, two cats, two cars, three houses, four jobs and twelve bicycles ago. I was trying to find some scanned-in photos, but they seem to have vanished into the ether.

Monday, March 19, 2012

I have been mostly eating pig. And dumplings.

This weekend, Miffy took us to Prague, where we ate pig-and-dumplings, and drank beer.

But first we stopped at Cologne, for a little practice at the whole "drinking beer" and "eating pork-based-produce" thing.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Somebody's just crop-sprayed the vicar. Again.

Somebody's just crop-sprayed the vicar. Again
Spring is here! As the sunlight plays across the trees, and the farmers begin to plough the fields, I am reminded of my previous career in horticulture, and the regular theological altercations which would take place between the tractor drivers and the vicar. 

The vicar was of the opinion that, despite the vicarage backing on to some of our fields, he really oughtn't be doused in agricultural chemicals on a regular basis. The tractor drivers' (rather persuasive) argument was that their job was to spray the crops, and the vicar's job was to pray. The tractor drivers were just doing their job. If God hadn't wanted the vicar to be crop-sprayed, God would have made sure that the vicar hadn't been in the vicarage garden at that precise moment. Since that wasn't the case, it was quite clear to the tractor drivers that the vicar hadn't been doing his job of praying properly, and it was no fault of theirs. The vicar was generally not amused.

Ah, happy days. There's times I miss that job.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Classic teen Eldritch romance

Last year, or possibly the year before, I was passing through a local Waterstone's (this was long enough ago that it still had the apostrophe). In celebration of the literary master-work that is Twilight, an entire section was devoted to "vampire romance", and the centrepiece of the display was the complete works of H.P. Lovecraft. Well, romance, lovecraft, same difference, right?

I merely mention this because it amused me at the time. What has brought it back to my mind is the following link: Yup, that's right. The complete works of H. P. Lovecraft in electronic format, because one's Kindle can never have too many words. Especially words like "eldritch", "gibbous" and "sussurrus". And if that wasn't enough, there's also a crochet pattern to make one's very own woolly Cthulhu! linky*

Anyway, it has inspired me to fish out my crochet hook and have a go. Depending on how well it goes, I may also make Cute Cuddly Cthulhu a teeny-tiny non-euclidean blankie embroidered with "That is not dead which can eternal lie, yet with stranger aeons, even Death may die.

A project: I haz one!

*(Important note: the crochet pattern above is American. American crochet uses the terms "single crochet" ("sc") and "double crochet" ("dc") to mean what those of us on this side of the pond call "double" and "triple". Ta to my mum for that tip.)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

That Emily Chappell: I don't know how she does it!

I'm really quite jealous of my friend Emily. It's not the fact that she's given up her worldly goods and is off cycling around the world. I mean, as my friend Not-so-big-Dave* says "Sometimes I think I could happily pack it all in, sell everything I own, and make a living as a back-packing snowboard instructor. And then I look around my house and realise that actually, I quite like all my Stuff, and I'd miss it." And yes, whilst I'd love cycling solo around the world (it'd have to be solo - if I went with Tim we'd probably end up getting divorced by the fifth puncture), I'd really miss the ferrets, the cats, my books, my boxed set of Buffy, Doctor Who, I Can Has Cheezburger, shoe-shopping...

No, what I'm most envious of is her ability to write entertainingly about the everyday matters. Her posts on packing and paperwork and punctures are just as interesting as the ones about travelling through foreign parts. I find it really hard to to think of things to say - not least because my life seems to be a never-ending routine of mopping up puddles, vacuuming up gibbley bits (if any of the neighbours are reading this, and are in possession of a pond with an ever-diminishing frog population, I can only apologise), re-typing things that have been deleted because a ferret has just tap-danced across the keyboard, mopping up more puddles (four so far this evening), trying to work out whether mice go in "recycling" or "food waste", and so forth. But that aside, by the time I eventually get to my laptop I'll often just sit at the keyboard and stare blankly (and I'm not just talking about at work), wondering where to look for inspiration. And yet Emily's posts are all readable, whether she's talking about cake or surfing in the centre of Munich.

I don't know how she does it.

*He used to be known as "Big Dave", but lost some weight.

More macro prettiness

Following on from this post, Charlotte has pointed out this delightful gadgetmabob to me. The two photos taken with that set up are really quite impressive. Even if the fly is obviously quite groggy (look at the legs!) from having been chilled to prevent movement.

And that reminds me: amazingly beautiful shots of water here: Especially this one:

Photo (c) 2009 Mike Keeling (graftedno1) (Creative Commons licence)

Monday, March 5, 2012

Wow: beautiful macro photography!

I thought some of my insect photography (above and below) was reasonable, but these are amazing - especially the ladybird!

Time to get a spray bottle of water and go and practice...