Saturday, January 14, 2012

Where is my home?

The Czech national anthem starts "Kde domov můj, kde domov můj?" (Where is my home, where is my home? ).
I often ask that question myself. To me home is where my heart is, which means here in Atlanta with my husband and our furry babies. However, a big part of my soul is still back in the Czech Republic. People often ask me if I miss my homeland. There are things that I miss about living in the Czech Republic and there are things that I do not miss at all. I have lived in Atlanta, GA (USA) for almost 7 years now. All of my personal experience about the USA is based on this city. I have visited Florida and Louisiana though.

I made a list of things that I miss and that I do not miss. I think that you might find my observations interesting since it shows some of the differences between Czech and American culture and their standards of living. These observations and opinions are strictly my personal, even though it might seem like a generalization. I will be going back to edit this post when I get some more ideas in the future :-)

I miss:

*FAMILY (Yes, my whole family is still there and since my husband is American, I do not have anyone here from the Czech Republic besides my doggie Shelly and a few Czech friends that I met here).
*Czech friends
*Prague- I have been to most European cities and Prague to me is the most beautiful, magical and amazing city that I have ever been to. I was born and raised in Prague and I know every little corner of this fairy-tale like city. I have seen Prague go through changes but the spirit and the core of Prague stays the same. Prague's architecture is magnificent and her beauty is captivating. When you are in Prague you travel in time into the Midieval times, through the Renaissance, Baroque and back to the 21st century. There is always something to do in Prague-museums, theaters, coffee shops, clubs, river boat trips, feeding swans and ducks by the Vltava river, hanging out downtown, roller-skating in a park or spending a day in the main library. You never get bored there and you can have fun even with very little money. Nightlife there is so much more fun than in Atlanta, especially when you walk across the Charles Bridge at 2 am...........
*Public transportation-You can ride with your dog (as long as he/she has a muzzle) :-))
The bus, subway and tramway system in Prague is fast, convenient and reliable. You can get anywhere in Prague and most of the time you only wait 5-10 for a bus, tramway or a subway. The night buses are awesome, too and they are fun to ride. You often ride a night bus with bunch of drunk, singing and joking people :-) And you can ride for free after the midnight (because nobody checks your ticket late in the evening.) You can live your whole life in Prague without owning a car and you would be fine. Public transportation in Atlanta is horrible. The usual time I have to wait is 30-40 minutes for a bus in the middle of the day. The buses do not go into many parts of Atlanta so you still need a car or a taxi. And you cannot take your dog with you (unless he/she is in a small crate or you have a guide dog).
*Trains- Czech trains and buses are relatively cheap and get you anywhere around Czech Republic. You can ride with your dog as well. I used to take Shelly with me everywhere.
*Cheap beer and the fact that you can drink in public :-) Beer is actually cheaper than soda or water in Czech Republic, bizarre but true. And I like that you can buy hard liquor at any grocery store and at most bus stops (at the newsstand) . Until a few weeks ago you could not buy alcohol in Georgia on Sundays. And grocery stores only sell wine and beer, no liquor.
*I miss how close Czech Republic was to other countries so traveling was fairly easy and fun
*Three different kinds of mineral water- non sparkling, lightly sparkling and regular sparkling (no kidding) LOL
*Fresh produce-Red currants, black currants, porcini mushrooms, gooseberries and wild blueberries
*Mushroom hunting on the weekends
*Ground poppy seeds and poppy seed pastry
*I miss the fact that Czech Republic is very dog friendly compared to Georgia. You can bring your dogs almost everywhere in the Czech Republic, including most stores
*I miss shorter working hours and weekends spent camping, hiking, snowboarding or swimming in lakes and ponds
*I miss the "safe" nature without poisonous spiders and snakes.
*Swimming in lakes, ponds, and rivers with my dog
*Four seasons-I love how different the spring, summer, autumn and winter were compare to the seasons in Atlanta. We only have two seasons in Atlanta, insanely long summer and short annoying winter without snow
*Small bakeries, vegetable and fruit stores and other small shops
*Tearooms and Teashops
*The diversity in stores, unique shops
*An abundance of English Cocker Spaniels
*My favorite tofu spread
*Free healthcare
*Czech humor
*Easy and fun traveling
*Warm and welcoming people (the ones that are like that, but many can be bitter and unfriendly)
*Czech movies and books (even though I watch Czech movies frequently online, or on DVDs that my family sends me)
*Czech castles and nature
*Vending machines with hot soup, coffee and hot chocolate at every subway station
*Lack of censorship

I don't miss:

*Seeing children peeing and pooping in the middle of the street (no joke)
*Seeing men peeing at every possible corner in any city or village, usually near pubs. Peeing in public for men is a normal part of life even though to me it is quite disgusting. One reason for that is the fact that we don't have free restrooms. Not all men pee in public though.
*Being bothered by prostitutes and drug dealers in Prague, especially downtown in the evening hours
*Not having a dishwasher or a dryer. I used to have to hang my clothes on the balcony and let it air dry. That could take days depending on the weather. In the winter the clothes would freeze and become hard as a rock so I would have to hang them in my bathroom, above my bathtub.
*Pickpockets. I cannot even count how many times I had been a victim of these thieves, my wallet was stolen at least once a year, my cell phones, walkman, money and camera were stolen as well.
*No free water in restaurants- In the USA when you dine out or even go to a fast food, you can ask for free water, and many restaurants bring you a glass of water as soon as you sit down. In Czech Republic you have to pay for water. The reason for that is simple, they want to make money and Czechs are known for being cheap so nobody would order soda or a fancy drink if they got free water. With the exception of beer, most Czechs will have a beer with their heavy, greasy lunch. And since beer is cheaper than water, it is not that bad :-)
*Restaurants charging for a basket of bread or a bowl of almonds served with your meal. The bread is really funny. They will bring you a big basket of stale bread that has been passed around from customer to customer and before you leave they count how many slices you ate and they charge you for each slice....... And if you are a tourist and don't know about this and eat the whole basket..... well, for the price of one slice at a restaurant you can almost buy a whole loaf of bread at a store :-)
*Smoking! Smoking everywhere, including restaurants. When I eat, the last thing I want is to smell and inhale someone's cigarette smoke. My whole Czech family smokes and it drives me crazy! I love that America is so anti-smoking.
*Paid public restrooms. Every time you have to pee or wash your hands when you are away from home you have to pay (it's about 25 cents which for us is not cheap). Most public restrooms don't even have a free toilet paper. You get a tiny piece of toilet paper from the "Toilet lady" that collects your money. Many public restrooms even charge extra for the "washroom" if you want to wash your hands. That is just insane!!!! Even McDonalds restrooms are not free downtown Prague. But they give you a coupon to use for your next visit. And Starbucks restrooms are locked with a coded door. When you buy something from them they give you a receipt that has a number that you use to get into the restroom. No purchase, no restroom! This is mostly done in effort to keep all the prostitutes and druggies away from the public restrooms. Does it work? Heck no, prostitutes and druggies have money and 25 cents to them is nothing. The only good thing about all this paid public restroom thing is the facts that it keeps old ladies employed after they retire, and the restrooms are fairly clean. The worst part of all is the fact that most restrooms use bar hand soap, which is disgusting, so bring your own hand sanitizer (and some toilet paper).
*Stinky people who do not shower or wear deodorants, and wear the same shirt for a week.
Most Czech men take shower only every other day, or less often. Most of them do not use a deodorant or a cologne because they believe that "a real man should stink like a man". Also most Czech men think that taking care of yourself is for women or metrosexuals. This is an observation that I have done over 21 years of my life there.
*Seeing people drinking a beer at a bus stop at 7 am!!
*Many disgusting foods such as boiled pork knees, veal brain, stewed kidneys, baked livers and lard
*Gloomy autumns
*The way some men treat women there
*Harsh and loooooong winters
*Seeing bitter and depressed people
*Customer service, or rather the lack of customer service
*Listening to my constantly unhappy, complaining and bitter family and neighbors

This is Karlštejn, my favorite Czech castle

This is Liberec, a city near the German border

Shelly loves snow! She used to play in snow for hours and it was the funniest thing ever to watch her

A view over Czech, Polish and German borders

A small city where my great-grandma lives

Feeding swans and ducks by the Vltava river

Hedgehog eating his evening meal before heading back into the nature


  1. Peknej clanek, ztotoznila jsem se se vsim, fakt, myslim, ze tam je napsanej kazdej neduh te nasi male(docela zakomplexovane)republiky.. :)

  2. This was an amazing post!! I was actually super curious about your homeland and it is super pretty :) - but some of the things you don't miss, do sound pretty gross!

    P.s I love hedgehogs. I used to have one, but it is even cooler than they just wander around where you come from!

  3. That hedgehog is the cutest!!! Great the pictures. Where is that picture of you in front of the wall w/flowers? That's a really nice one! Some of the things you mention you don't miss are common in other countries too :( In Sao Paulo, Brazil, it was very common to see human poop on the sidewalk....just sitting there, in the middle of the city! I'm used to paying for toilets, paying for water, paying for bread, a lot of other European countries as well (and the smoking!).

    I was only in the Czech Republic once. We stayed in Dobris (I think I've mentioned that to you before) for a music festival, but we were able to go into Prague once or twice. What an amazingly beautiful city! Wish I could go back one day....

    How often do you go back?

  4. I visited Prague when I studied abroad during college and had a wonderful time! Your description of the city is very similar to what I remember, a gorgeous, medieval city that feels like you have been transported back in time. I wasn't there long enough to experience most of the negatives. :)

  5. Very interesting comparison. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Thank you for this amazing post! I loved your photos, the Czech republic looks like a beautiful country. I am hoping to go on a city break to Prague in a few weeks. Where would you recommend as the ideal location to stay in the city? Thanks, Mark

  7. Thank you, everyone!
    @Tanya The picture was taken in Prague, near by Vysehrad subway station. Unfortunately I cannot go back too often, once a five years so far :-(
    @Mark The closer to Hradcany (Prague Castle), Old Town Square or Vaclavske Namesti, the better since most of the things that you should see are within a walking distance. However, staying downtown can be quite pricey. Some people rent an apartment for cheaper, or stay in hotels on the outskirts of Prague. If you stay in Kacerov, Chodov, Smichov, Budejovicka and so, it is cheaper but very close to the subway station that only takes minutes to get downtown. Have fun!

  8. I loved reading this. When I read the part about things you missed, it actually made me a bit misty-eyed. My entire family still lives in and around Prague, not a day goes by I don't think about them. I miss them very much (and the amazing delicious beer!).
    Your "things I don't miss" made me laugh. It's so true! Especially the public indecency and early beer drinking (my great grandpa, never drank water. He said it was for horses. But he lived to be 89 and was super ripped. He also chopped up tree-stumps as a hobby).
    But about the depressed, bitter people. I have never seen unhappier folk, than in Prague. Outside of the city, it's a bit better. I have some family in Kacovec and some in parts of Moravia, people in smaller villages look happier, I think. They just aren't as outgoing as people here in the states.

    I know many Czechs blame the communist occupation for this, but it has been so long, I don't think things will change for a while.

  9. Great post, Elisabeth! You truly do know every corner of Prague, since you recognized that tea house in my twitter profile :-)

    Your list really captures everything so well. I'm dreaming of shorter working hours, small bakeries & shops, and fresh produce too. I've never had a fresh currant in my life before - would love to try one someday.

    On the flip side, I totally missed the free water and noticed drugs & prostitutes in just the few days I spent in prague. I also thought the service in the restaurants was pretty bad, since tips are a very small part of their wages.

    That Hedgehog picture is amazing!

  10. I really enjoyed your post :) having lived in Czech for three years, and now being married to a Czech, I can agree with a lot of your comments on both sides. Thanks for sharing your thoughts :)

  11. Thanks for your lovely post :)

    I've been travelling for last years and now I am living in New Zealand but I agree with all that you wrote.. I am also originally from Prague where I grew up :).

    I've never had any experience with thieves and prostitutes etc, but I guess I was just really lucky and probably cautious - altough I can't say that because I used to walk back home at 3 am hehe. (crazy teenage years :)

    Your post describes all my 'feelings' and experiences about Prague so thanks for this :). I'm writing in english so other people can understand too.

    Wish you all the best! :)


  12. So funny .. even though you listed so many horrible things, (idioti jsou vsude!), you made me so nostalgic. Praha je nadherna, no denying it -- even with all the pickpocketing and smell people pissing, hahah. Thank you for this :) xo