web stats analysis

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The last post (probably)...

I am setting up this message to post at the same time we are scheduled to leave Prague - 12:50 PM on Saturday. My last day at work I was busy to almost the bitter end, finally sneaking out about 4:30 for a couple of last beers with some of the IT guys (who are actually about the most interesting and fun people here, imagine that). I had to finish the performance appraisals for my employees even though they aren't due to be finished until late July since there isn't anyone else here who can do it.

All in all I am satisfied with my time here. RFE/RL is a great institution and Prague is a fantastic cityin which to live. In addition, the opportunities to travel from right in the middle of Europe are truly staggering. Noah was able to meet friends from literally dozens of countries and Kathy was able to do the same and be able to enjoy not working for a couple of years (although she has been extremely busy the entire time in Prague).

We look forward to getting back to Minnesota. Here is a partial list of what we are excited about:
- having most family and friends close at hand
- shopping at Target
- shopping at Best Buy
- going to movies every week
- no language frustration while shopping or at the doctor
- golfing regularly (Al only)
- driving on wide street with signs in English

I am not looking forward to going back to American beer, since they taste like water compared to Czech beers and ome only in those cute little 12 ounce bottles (as opposed to the more manly 1/2 liter bottles).

That's about it. I don't know if there will be any more posts here or not since we are no longer "Tischlers in Prague", but it was fun while it lasted and was quite an experience (and I am referring both to living in Prague and writing the blog).

Goodbye and good luck.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The last night in the house...

The movers came on Tuesday and started by packing up the garage and then the top bedroom that we used for guests (there are five bedrooms in the house). Yesterday they continued on the two other bedrooms we don't use and the kitchen. Today they are supposed to almost finish, wrapping up tomorrow around noon.

Because our beds will likely be gone by the end of today we have arrangements to stay in a hotel tonight and Friday night (thankfully paid for by the company). So last night was the final night of sleeping in this house. We were only in it for about two years and we only rented, but it's still kind of sad.

Kathy has been stuck at home watching the movers pack stuff up and making sure they behave (they have). It's not very exciting duty but at least it's almost over.

Today after work I go out to a local watering hole (Jama's) for a few beers with some of the guys and tomorrow I basically just check out with all of the various departments (Security, Property) by turning in my badge, laptop and BlackBerry. I've been so busy getting things done that it hardly seems like we are leaving in less than 48 hours.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Am I a Mensch?...

I sent out an email this morning to everyone at RFE/RL here in Prague telling them it has been an honor and a pleasure to have worked with them for the last two years. I have received some very nice replies, including one that said in part "Where I come from, New York, we sometimes use a Yiddish word, which would seem apt to describe you and that is to say you're a real 'mensch'."

I have heard the word "mensch" but did not have a full unserstanding of its meaning so I asked this person for a definition. She sent a link to this blog which includes the definition of the word "mensch" from Leo Rosten, the author of The Joys of Yiddish, as Someone to admire and emulate, someone of noble character. The key to being “a real mensch” is nothing less than character, rectitude, dignity, a sense of what is right, responsible, decorous.

This blog then also gives the steps to menschdom:

1. Help people who cannot help you. A mensch helps people who cannot ever return the favor. He doesn't care if the recipient is rich, famous, or powerful. This doesn't mean that you shouldn't help rich, famous, or powerful people (indeed, they may need the most help), but you shouldn't help only rich, famous, and powerful people.

2. Help without the expectation of return. A mensch helps people without the expectation of return--at least in this life. What's the payoff? Not that there has to be a payoff, but the payoff is the pure satisfaction of helping others. Nothing more, nothing less.

3. Help many people. Menschdom is a numbers game: you should help many people, so you don't hide your generosity under a bushel. (Of course, not even a mensch can help everyone. To try to do so would mean failing to help anyone.)

4. Do the right thing the right way. A mensch always does the right thing the right way. She would never cop an attitude like, “We're not as bad as Enron.” There is a bright, clear line between right and wrong, and a mensch never crosses that line.

5. Pay back society. A mensch realizes that he's blessed. For example, entrepreneurs are blessed with vision and passion plus the ability to recruit, raise money, and change the world. These blessings come with the obligation to pay back society. The baseline is that we owe something to society--we're not a doing a favor by paying back society.

So back to the question of whether or not I am a mensch? No, I don't think so, but it is cretainly something to aspire to, and I am happy that there are some who think I am already there.

More paintball for 10-year olds...

On Saturday Noah had another birthday party at the best local paintball facility. Everyone had a good time and there were no serious injuries - although there were a few tears from those hit at relatively close range.

Here is Noah and some of his friends in their protective hear, sans the face mask.

I'm not sure what Noah is doing here other than being very silly. He is a bit of a ham and likes attention even when it's for doing something stupid. I can't wait until he's a teenager.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

We sold the Mondeo...

The biggest item to be taken care of before our departure in one week has been, well, taken care of. We sold our 2003 Ford Mondeo to the brother of a Czech co-worker at RFE/RL. I have the deposit and the transfer of the title will happen on Tuesday. To avoid having to take my own time to do it I will execute a power of attorney to Czech woman, Martina, so she can sign everything for me. We used her to do the same thing when we bought the car. The sale of the Mondeo is a big relief. I got less for it than I had hoped, but the fact that the dollar has fallen sharply has actually helped me, as the crowns I receive will buy more dollars now than they did 2 years ago.

As soon as we get back to Minnesota we will have to buy two new vehicles (meaning new to us, but actually used. I don't buy new cars). Kath is planning to look at the Ford Focus, Dodge Calibre and Chevy Malibu for starters. I would like to get something a bit nicer but will have to see what kind of house we plan to buy.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Goodbyes start...

It's still over a week before we leave, but the Goodbyes have started. Kathy had a ladies coffee get together this morning in her honor (and that of Dana, our friend who is also leaving Prague later in the summer). Kathy said it was very, very nice and that they gave her nice gifts that I will see tonight when I get home.

My staff surprised me with two gifts today as well. A nice coffee table book of Prague that they wrote kind things in and a wonderful ceramic beer mug. I told them that I wasn't sure that I could defile such a mug by pouring American beer into it. Even though I have another week they presented the gifts today because my college intern, Julie, is going on vacation tomorrow and I will be gone before she returns on the 23rd. So this was the last day that all four of us will be together.

Here are Jiri, Julie, and Vera with the National Museum across the street as a backdrop.

The only one missing is my DC employee, Abdul, who left the company a few weeks ago.

Even though I have only been here a bit less than two years I find myself getting emotional about leaving. The department has changed a lot since I got here - for the better I think - and the credit goes to the staff who works for me. I will miss them.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Another soccer tournament...

Yes, ISP played hated Riverside, a small Christian school here in Prague, in a soccer tournament on Wednesday. The weather was absolutely horrible with a steady rain that lasted all day. They played, though, and ISP crushed Riverside 7-0 in the first game and somewhere between 7-0 and 9-0 in the second game (different sources had different scores but by that point the actual score really didn't matter). The ISP side was all boys, while all but one or two of the Riverside team were girls. I make no judgement about relative ability except to say that the boys were much more aggressive in their play.

Noah loves soccer and is convinced that because he has played in Europe he will dominate when he gets back to Minnesota. We'll see. He did score 3 goals over the two games, though, so he doesn't do too badly.

Exuding confidence prior to the first game.

In action against Riverside.

Proud but damp parents.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Blog tidbits...

In slightly more than two weeks we will be moving back to the States and I doubt that I will add new posts to the blog. I might keep the blog going for awhile since most of my hits are on older posts (like the one post I did on Jane Mansfield which still gets a lot of hits). I will probably start another blog on another topic, but if I do I will do it anonymously and it won't deal my family.

Even as I approach the mothballing of the blog, though, there are some significant milestones to savor. As I write this the original hit counter (the small one at the bottom of the left hand side of the blog), which was up and running within a few days of when the blog began in April of 2007, is at 9,997 and I expect it to hit 10,000 by the end of the day. 10,000 hits. If you had asked me when I started if I would reach 10,000 I would have said sure, in 2012. Of course, the daily traffic started quite small and grew over time as there was more content to found by Google searches. So while I have reached 10,000 hits 14 months, I am currently averaging about 1,000 hits a month and about 75% of these hits are first timers, not returning friends and family.

This post is also number 396 and I will hit 400 in the next few days. That's an average of just under one per day (about 93% of the days I add a post), and many of the posts were pretty lame, but at least there was a wide variety of lameness.

I have now had visitors from 96 individual countries or territories (e.g. Puerto Rico and the Palestinian territories) and just yesterday had my first visitor from Iran (also brought to the blog thanks to the post on Jane Mansfield). It proves what a wonderful tool Google is that so many people can find my little blog about this and that. But I never in a million years thought I could reach countries of more than half the planet.

My plan is to convert many of my posts into a book via blurb.com. This is a self-publishing web site that is linkable to some blogs (fortunately, blogger is one of them) so I can create a publisher quality coffee table book of our time in Prague as keepsake.

I have really enjoyed writing the blog and hope that when you stopped by you found something interesting. It was a great learning experience for me and I now feel I could start a blog about anything that interests me and be able to make the blog look good and have interesting features. Thanks for your support.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

A million details...

The movers show up two weeks from today and we are busily preparing. This mostly involves getting rid of things that we don't want or need anymore. It's amazing how much stuff that really is. It didn't help that we brought a lot of stuff over with us that we shouldn't have, but it's understandable considering that the time between when I accepted the position here and when the movers showed up at our house in Minnesoat was just three weeks. And we were trying to finish some big house projects to get it ready to sell.

This time we don't have to worry about selling the house, and that is a big relief. The most significant item to get rid of is our car. We will get less than we had thought for it, mostly because we were not aware that Czechs are suspicious of cars that originate from outside the Czech Republic, and ours came from Germany. There is also a "technical book" that normally goes with the car that we don't have. These two factors will mean a lower price. Still, the car is the one area where the falling dollar will help us since we bought a crown asset with dollars when the dollar was higher and can convert those crowns back to dollars with the dollar lower.

We got rid of the Garmin yesterday since we completed our last trip on Sunday. I could have taken it home but I would have to buy the CD with the maps of the US and that would be a couple of hundred dollars. I'll just get a different one when we move back.

There are a million details to sort out for the move back, but everything is proceeding pretty well. In less than three weeks we will be back in Minnesota!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Back from Germany...

Another successful road trip for the Tischlers. We just got back from our overnightger to the Tropical Islands waterpark about an hour from Berlin.

It is really an amazing place - it's huge. We are lucky that it's low season, after all how many people want to spend $50 a head to go to an indoor waterpark when it's beautiful and in the high 80s outside? So there was plenty of open space in the pools and the lines at things like the water slides were quite light.

We stayed overnight at the park's tent hotel. It was very much like camping - lots of sand, noisy neighbors and the inside of the tent was hot. Still, Noah was so worn out from swimming and running around in the children's play area for so long that he collapsed on his bed at about 11 PM and was out like a light soon after. Kathy followed Noah to sleep within minutes.

Here is Noah in the lagoon, the smaller of the two main water bodies in the park. It has waterfalls, assorted geysers and two decent water slides (oh, and multicolored lights after the sun goes down).

Here is our tent - the one dead center. In the background are the two pay per slide water slides. They are really high, but I don't like them enough to pay $5 per run.

I got up before Kathy and Noah and decided to take a stroll through the park. The park is open 24/7, and when you pay you can stay as long as you want (or can tolerate). I found that many people slept on the wooden lounge chairs on the beach. I'm sure they are made of wood to make them especially uncomfortable. One family had a queen size mattress that they had placed on top of two of these wooden lounge chairs. One guy was sleeping on the floor of one of the bars (I think alcohol may have been a factor). Lord knows what this place is like in winter when as many as 7,000 guests are in here at a time.

Here are Noah and I in front of the lagoon (his favorite place).

If you point a camera at Noah his instinctive reaction is to make bunny ears.

It was a great trip, but I am exhausted. At 6 PM last night that I had enough of swimming and the waterpark and then realized that I had 18 hours to go. Noah has a lot more energy than I do but he ignores me when I say I need to rest.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Our last trip in Europe...

We are heading today for the largest indoor water park in the world for what will be our last trip outside of Prague before we head home. It's Tropical Islands water park and it is housed in an old zeppelin hangar about an hour south of Berlin. Here is the link in English. The web site about.com says about Tropical Islands "the structure spans over 710,000 square feet and is the largest freestanding building in the world. It can accommodate up to 7000 visitors. Tropical Islands offers a variety of attractions in addition to its indoor beach and water rides. Regardless, it easily qualifies as the world's largest indoor water park".

We are doing this primarily as a reward for Noah, who has been a real trooper as we have traveled throughout Europe these past two years. Some of the places haven't been particularly kid friendly and he has blurted out "not another castle!" once or twice when we told him where we were going. Still, I think he has enjoyed everywhere we have gone though he might have thought that we stayed too long. And to be truthful, I'm looking forward to this water park trip as well.

We have decided to stay right in the park. They have tents on the beach that you can rent for the night. They have mattresses and sheets and pretty much all the comforts of home. The park is open 24/7, and when you pay it's good for as long as you stay. So if we were staying at a hotel away from the park we would have to pay twice, for Saturday and then again on Sunday, while this way we only pay the entry fee once. I am a little concerned about the noise level with kids, especially teenagers, playing all night. Oh, well, it's just one night.

Friday, May 30, 2008

A tale of two blogs...

At first blush, Michael Carøe Andersen and I don't have much in common. He is Danish, I am American. He is very young, and I am...not so young. He has grown up with the technology of computers and the internet and I was amazed with the capability of my roomate's TI-99 when he bought it in 1983.

Still, in a bow to what a new and exciting world this has become we met last night for a few beers at a local beer garden. We came to know each other through blogging. His blog, Blogging Gelle, is linked to mine and mine to his. There are a decent number of expats blogging in Prague, but Michael left a few comments on some of my posts and we began to correspond a little. When Michael learned (from my blog) that we were moving back to the States he suggested that we meet for a beer.

The beer garden is in Brevnov and adjacent to the Czech Pop Music museum. Between beers we went through the museum - it was free - and it didn't take long because it was contained in a single room about 15 x 20 feet. The current exhibit is on New Wave/Punk music in Czechoslovakia in the 1980s, but it was all in Czech except for a few paragraphs in English describing the exhibit. I mentioned to Michael that he is too young for New Wave. He agreed and asked for some examples of the genre, so we discussed the Clash, Sex Pistols and Elvis Costello. Then it was back to the garden for more beer.

Michael is a very interesting guy who has spent some time in the States, even interning with a small IT company in Ann Arbor, Michigan (where he attended a Michigan football game). His English is excellent but he also knows German (but, like me, he hasn't managed to learn czech). He has his own IT consulting firm working with clients in Denmark and the US. When I asked how he ended up in Prague when he doesn't market to the Czechs he explained that he and his partner got out a map and decided to move to Prague after also considering Budapest and Berlin. What a great world when you can live anywhere and do the job you like. He has a girlfriend in Malta and has traveled there - check out his blog for pictures. He just got back from a visit to Scandinavia (again, blog and pictures) and is leaving later tonight with some friends for Lisbon for the weekend.

It was a pleasure to have met him, and I wish him every success in the world. To be that young with so much ahead...

Michael is the young one.

I am the less young one.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A memorial for the assassins of Reichsprotektor Reinhard Heydrich...

Memorial to Heydrich's assassins to be in PragueBy ČTK / Published 28 May 2008

Prague, May 27 (CTK) - The ground-breaking ceremony for the memorial to the Operation Anthropoid in which Czechoslovak paratroopers killed acting Reichsprotektor in Bohemia and Moravia Reinhard Heydrich in 1942 took place in Prague 8 Tuesday, exactly 66 years after the attack.

The soldiers flown from London to the Nazi-occupied Bohemia and Moravia fulfilled the oath they had sworn to Edvard Benes, the Czechoslovak president-in-exile, Ales Knizek, director of the Military Historical Institute, said.

"They were real heroes of Czechoslovakia," Knizek said, adding that if it had not been for the help of domestic resistance, the mission would not have been successful.

"If it had not been for these people, we would perhaps speak German now," Knizek said.

The idea to build a memorial to the paratroopers appeared in 1946, but it will only be materialised now.

The Prague 8 town hall has put up a contest for the memorial. Deputy Mayor Vladimira Ludkova (the Civic Democratic Party, ODS) said 21 projects had been delivered.

The jury may select the winner perhaps later today, Ludkova said.

The memorial, that is to cost fewer than five million crowns, should be unveiled exactly in a year, she added.

The memorial will be built virtually at the same place where the mission took place, Ludkova said.

The paratroopers from the Anthropoid unit were sent to help Czech resistance movement from London and to kill Heydrich. They were flown to the Protectorate in December 1941.

Heydrich had been removed to Prague in order to quell the anti-Nazi resistance in the Protectorate in September 1941.

In the aftermath of Heydrich's assassination, the Nazi regime responded with brutal reprisals. It proclaimed the martial law, started mass executions and razed down two Czech villages, Lidice and Lezaky.

The paratroopers were hiding for three weeks, eventually in the crypt of an Orthodox church in Prague. They were eventually betrayed by one of them and the German police tracked them down and killed them all in an exchange of fire [ed. The official version is that the paratroopers committed suicide by shooting themselves rather than be taken prisoner by the Nazis].

Adolf Opalka, Gabcik, Kubis, Josef Valcik, Josef Bublik, Jan Hruby and Jaroslav Svarc died in the ensuing fight with the German police who also executed Orthodox Bishop Gorazd for having provided shelter to them.

It is estimated that over 5,000 people, the vast majority of whom were innocent with no connection to the Heydrich affair, were killed by the Nazis in the reprisals for the assassination. This was a very, very high price indeed, and was done to quell the resistance and prevent further such actions. I hope the new memorial makes mention of the these other victims in addition to the paratroopers.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Cesky Krumlov...

We took a trip today to Cesky Krumlov to check another item off the list of things to see before we leave Prague in a few weeks. The Garmin got us there without an y significant problems (just a little hiccup where a new section of highway was recently completed) and I was even able to bring up the closest parking lot to park in. It was really smooth.

Here we are upon our arrival at Cesky Krumlov. A nice German lady took our picture for us.

Cesky Krumlov is a UNESCO world heritage site and is an amazing place. The Vltava river - the same river that runs through Prague 150 miles to the north - surrounds teh town on three sides. This made the town more easily defended.

From Wikipedia:

Construction of the town and castle began in the late 13th century at a ford in the Vltava River, which was important in trade routes in Bohemia. In 1302 town and castle was owned by the House of Rosenberg. Emperor Rudolf II bought Krumau in 1602 and gave it to his natural son Julius d’Austria. Emperor Ferdinand II gave Krumau to the House of Eggenberg. From 1719 until 1945 the castle belonged to the House of Schwarzenberg. Most of the architecture of the old town and castle dates from the 14th through 17th centuries; the town's structures are mostly in Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque styles. The core of the old town is within a horseshoe bend of the river, with the old Latrán neighborhood and castle on the other side of the Vltava.

The town became part of the Austrian Empire in 1806 and Austria-Hungary in 1866. 8,662 inhabitants lived in Krumau an der Moldau in 1910, including 7,367 Germans and 1,295 Czechs.

After World War I, Krumau belonged from October 1918 until September 1919 to Upper Austria within the Republic of German Austria. In November 1918 Czech troops occupied the town. During the interwar era it was part of Czechoslovakia. Between 1938 and 1945 it was annexed by Nazi Germany as part of the Sudetenland. The town's German-speaking population was expelled after liberation by the American Army during World War II and it was restored to Czechoslovakia.[1]

During the Communist era of Czechoslovakia, Krumlov fell into disrepair, but since the Velvet Revolution of 1989 much of the town's former beauty has been restored, and it is now a major holiday destination popular with tourists from Germany, Austria, and beyond. In August, 2002, the town suffered from damage in the great flood of the Vltava River.

Český Krumlov Castle is unusually large for a town of Krumlov's size; within the Czech Republic it is second in extent only to the Hradčany castle complex of Prague.

Český Krumlov is home to Pivovar Eggenberg brewery. It has also been used as filming locations for movies such as the 2006 films The Illusionist and Hostel.

Part of the castle complex. In the Czech Republic it is second in size only to Prague castle. We climbed up to the area just below the dome.

Here is a picture from the castle looking back down on the town and the Vltava River.

Riding the river is a popular thing to do in Cesky Krumlov.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Starbucks in Prague - Meet the competition...

I wasn't really planning on posting anymore about Starbucks, but finding out that Starbucks will soon be opening it's fifth store already made me change my mind. I only know of four stores - the original on Malostranska namesti, the second in the Palladium Mall (which opened a day before the fateful fire there), the third in Terminal 1 at Prague airport (which opened on March 20), and a new fifth store to be opened at the Avion mall at Zlicin. I don't know yet where the fourth store opened.[Note: I know Zlicin but didn't know the name "Avion Mall". When I googled it I found a mall by that name in Bratislava. So it's possible that the name of the mall is wrong in the article.]

Anyway, the Prague Monitor today has an article on Starbucks and its Czech and other European competitors. I feel that, just like in the States, while there is room for several premium coffee chain, Starbucks will become the "big dog" in the Prague market.

Coffee chains gearing up for tough rivalry in Czech marketBy Jiří Fencl / E15 / Published 21 May 2008
Translated and adapted with permission by the Prague Daily Monitor

The world's largest coffee chain Starbucks, which entered the Czech market only in January this year, is growing fast in the country. A mere four months after it opened the first cafe in Prague's Malostranské náměstí, it is now opening its fifth branch in the Avion Shopping Park in Prague-Zličín.

But for now, local coffee chains can cope with the fierce competition of US chains, including Starbucks' sister KFC and the McDonald's network. For instance, Czech coffee chain Café Emporio more than doubled operating profits year-on-year in 2007, said Emporio chief executive Vladimír Staněk. The company is reluctant to disclose precise data for now.

"Theoretically, it is not a problem to open one shop after another. But every new cafe is a bit of a lottery, particularly as regards the choice of the location. Our chain underwent considerable restructuring in 2007, including the windup of several regional branches which failed to meet the investor's demands," Staněk said.

"Owing to this, we are able to improve our business results relatively fast this year. I think a number of rivals are still facing a similar slimming therapy," he added.

Emporio is getting ready to start another expansion wave, just like the Polish chain Coffee Heaven. The Czech market is the second most important one for this chain, whose chief executive Nikolaos Balamotis says it will not hesitate to open new cafes either.

Coffee&Co is opening new shops at the Tesco store in Karlovy Vary and at Zlaté jablko in Zlín as of May. "We are also planning to open a new cafe in the centre of Prague soon," said Miroslava Vatajová, marketing director at Coffee&Co. "Our goal is to open a new branch roughly every month," said Vatajová.

The strong McDonald's chain is aware of the new rivals, but it is planning to open its own chain, McCafé, all the same. "I think Starbucks will also attract a slightly different segment of customers," McDonald's ČR communications director Drahomíra Jiráková said in January, when Starbucks opened the first branch.

German chain Cup&Cino is allegedly also on its way to the Czech market. Incoma advisers say this is the ideal time for coffee chains to expand.

As a side note, we actually tried a McCafe when we drove to Berchtesgaden last fall. Apart from a language problem, I found the concept and experience to be intriguing. The McCafe was in the store, but its counter was completely separate from the food counter. McDonalds has so many stores that expanding into upscale coffee will cost very little and offer the opportunity of significant increases for revenue and profit. Many people go to Starbucks for not only the coffee but also the laid back atmosphere and wi-fi, but for those who are accustomed to premium coffee may start buying it at McDonalds if it's fast (and maybe a little cheaper).

Monday, May 19, 2008

Lost weekend...

It was a fairly busy weekend but I wasn't in much of a blogging mood.

Friday started with dinner that the Bohemia Bagel in Nebusice. Bohemia Bagel is a local chain started by an American that serves full breakfasts and is kown for its burgers. It also offered the first "bottomless cup of coffee" in Prague. It saw a great demographic in Nebusice, which is full of expats because the International School of Prague (Noah's school).

I met Kathy and Noah and some friends there after work. A friend of Noah's, Ryan, was sleeping over at our house on Friday night and we decided to have dinner and do the handover then. After dinner we got home and I played with the kids a bit, but the rest of the evening was uneventful after they went to bed.

On Saturday Noah had a birthday party at noon that Ryan was also going to, so Ryan's dad picked them both up at our place and took them to the party. I used the opportunity of Noah being gone to clean the house. We picked Noah up at 2:00 and went home to get ready for Noah's baseball practice. I assist in the coaching and it's pretty entertaining since most of the kids are not American and this is their first exposure to baseball. Let's just say that they haven't picked up all of the nuances of the sport. Baseball goes from 3:00 to 5:00.

After baseball I had to rush home and change because Kathy and I were invited to a garden party in Nebusice. Two Danish couple who are neighbors entertain once a year and really go all out. This wasn't a farewell party or a birthday party - it was a party just for the heck of it. They catered everything and had an open bar (with strawberry mojitos beiong the specialty) and a grill with beef, chicken, pork and shrimp. Everything was just great.

It rained at about 9:30 during the party, but they had planned ahead and had a big tent with tables and chairs - and a jukebox. Things were just starting to get wild when we left about 10:45. We don't stay out as late as we used to. But it was a great time.

Sunday was the usual - Sunday school for Noah while we sat at Starbucks, then church and home. We have been going through drawers and boxes looking for things to sell, shred or throw away before the packers come on June 17 (that date is now official).

We had brought the camera just about everywhere over the weekend but didn't take a single photo - so I have nothing to add to this rather lame summary of our weekend. I'm sure after we move back to Minnesota there will be times when I wish we could walk around Prague and stop in a sidewalk cafe for a coffee or a good Czech beer, but for now we're getting anxious to get back and on to the next phase of our lives.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Kathy tours the Krusovice brewery...

This week Kathy went on a tour of the Krusovice factory that is about 45 minutes outside of Prague. We passed it on the way to Karlovy Vary a couple of weeks ago. Krusovice is not as big or well known as some of the other Czech beers like Pilsner Urquel, Staropramen or Gambrinus, but it is a very good beer.

Kathy said that this old Czech brand was recently bought by Heinekin and the factory went from being outdated and inefficient to a model for the industry. You can see many more pictures of the modern Krusovice factory at their web site here.

Also from the Krusovice web site: A copy of the first written document concerning the establishment of the brewery decorates one of the staterooms in the original Malt House. The document dates back to 1581. Jiří Birka from Násile offered to sell the brewery to Emperor Rudolf II in 1581. We can read in the Property List that in Krušovice "17 reside in the town, the town fort and plough court are well built, nearby lies the brewery, the brewing kettle is made from stone so it may be cooked upon immediately." Two years later, the Emperor bought the brewery and it became part of the Křivoklát Estate. He grew fond of the Krušovice beer, taking a personal interest to ensure that the brewery had a sufficient supply of quality raw materials and that production continually increased. Even though the brewery was devastated by mercenaries during the Thirty Year War and partially burnt, the production of the beer was always quickly re-established.

A.J.Valdštejn bought the Krušovice Farm from the Czech Crown in 1685 and conducted a thorough maintenance on the property. After he died in 1731, his daughter Marie brought the entire property as a part of her dowry when she married into the Furstenberk Family. The brewery underwent major reconstruction during the time when it belonged to this family. For the next 200 years, the Furnstenberk Family equipped the brewery with the most modern facilities available. The brewery belonged to the family until 1945. After 1945, the Krušovice Brewery was part of many state-owned companies until 1991. Production reached a quarter of million hectolitres a year. But most of this beer was consumed in the areas nearby Rakovnik, Kladno and Slaný so other customers were not familiar with the beer. The Krušovice Brewery became a privatised company in 1991 when it broke its alliance with Central Bohemia Breweries, State Company Velké Popovice.

The brewery was fully privatised in 1993, part of an alliance with the multinational financial and industrial company Dr. Oetker. From 1993 major reconstruction commenced. The construction of large dimensioned CK tanks, new filling lines for bottles, barrels and cans, highly efficient waste water cleaners and new brewing facilities have helped to lift the brewery from its origins as a regional brewery to part of the group of the most modern producers of brandname beers in the Czech Republic. 1997 saw the brewery sell for the first time over 1 million hectoliters of beer. Natural spring water is drawn from the protected Křivoklát area and Moravian malt and hops are gathered from the Žatec area to become the founding ingredients of our beer. The age old recipes have improved over the passage of time through the work of generations of Krušovice Brewing Masters and with the most modern technology available today the way is wide open for the high quality product. The Královský Krušovice Brewery is presently placed 5th amongst producers of beer in the Czech Republic. Krušovice beer is available on tap in thousands of pubs and prestigious restaurants alike throughout Bohemia and Moravia. Several significant sites have been that chosen to serve our beer have helped to achieve success in the brand beer domestic market. These sites combine high standards with a pleasant environment in which to sit and enjoy a glass of beer. Quality service and aesthetic decorations help to create the image of 'a Czech beer fit for Kings'.

Heineken acquires Krušovice Brewery in Czech Republic

Last year Krusovice was bought by Heinekin

Date: 14 June 2007
Location: Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Publisher: Heineken N.V.

Amsterdam, 14 June 2007 - Heineken N.V. announced today the acquisition of Krušovice Brewery in the Czech Republic from Radeberger Gruppe KG. As a result of this transaction, the market share of Heineken in the Czech Republic will increase to 8%, with total volumes of over 1.6 million hectolitres, improving Heineken’s position in the market to number three.

The transaction, which will be funded from existing cash resources, is expected to be earnings enhancing in 2008 and value enhancing in 2010. The proposed acquisition will be submitted to the relevant competition authorities and is expected to be completed by 1 September 2007. Under the terms of the transaction, the acquisition price is not disclosed.

The Royal Brewery of Krušovice was founded in 1517, is situated around 70 km west of Prague and employs 300 staff. The brewery has a portfolio in the premium segment of the market, with the main Krušovice brand, one of the oldest Czech beer brands, and five variants, Svetle, Musketyr, Imperial, Cerne and Jubilejní. The state of the art Krušovice Brewery is profitable. In 2006, sales volumes were 700,000 hectolitres. Production capacity is 1 million hectoliters with the possibility to expand. The domestic market share is almost 3%.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Biking in Burgenland...

The highlight of our short vacation for Noah was the biking we did on Friday. Burgenland is a cyclist's dream, with bike paths everywhere - between every town and to and around the large lake, the Neusiedler See.

The hotel where we were staying, the Hotel Zur Post, had a collection of 10 bikes for renting and we were helped by the hotel owner, Otto. Noah couldn't find a bike small enough so we had to go the short 2 blocks to the main bike rental store. We swapped out his larger bike for one that was just the right size and we were on our way.

Our plan was to bike to the Neusiedler See and then take the ferry to the other side and bike to the Hungarian border. We had a false start by heading the wrong way on one of the bike trails, and ended up in the next town over from Illmitz further away from the lake. We retraced our way back to Illmitz and soon were on the right path to the lake.

On the way we passed a farmer with his herd of cattle, and there was much other wildlife to see. We got to the lake and quickly found where the ferries departed. It was 25 Euros (about $38) for roundtrip passage on the ferry for the three of us and our bikes. Ferries depart every 30 minutes but we were lucky and one was just about finished loading. We were the last passangers to board and off we went for the 20 minute trip across the lake to Morbisch.

Noah with his bovine friends.

Resting on the ferry crossing lake Neusiedler See to the town of Morbisch on the other side.

Everyone on the ferry had a bike. Bugenland is a paradise for bikers, even casual ones like us.

Because of recent EU rule changes, there is an open border between Austria and Hungary.

We made it to the Hungarian border, which is just a few kilometers south of Morbisch. Not much to see, really, but at least now we can say that we were in Hungary.

We went back to Morbisch and decided against biking to Rust seven kilometers further north. Instead we went back to the ferries and again got lucky with one boarding as we arrived. Upon arriving back on the east side of the lake we decided to have lunch at one of the restaurants with patios overlooking the lake. The food and service were quite good (and the prices not bad either). Then it was back to Illmitz and the end of our little ride. I figure that we travelled 25 kilometers, or about 15 miles. That's not very far for seasoned bikers, but it was the longest bike outing as a family.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The rapeseed bloometh...

After dinner yesterday evening Noah and I did our usual bike ride to the spa on the edge of town. The weather the last few days has been glorious - bright sunshine and highs in the 70s.

We stopped at one of the fields of rapeseed that we pass on our ride and I took some pictures.

Here is Noah this evening standing among the blooming rapeseed.

In a post just 10 days ago (on May 4) here is Noah in the exact same spot in the field. The plants are easily a foot taller and the golden blooms are now peaking.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The church in Andau...

After visiting Weinbau Sattler on Thursday we went to Andau and looked at the Catholic church there. I think it has an interesting architecture but Martin Sattler would say at dinner the next night that it "looks like a factory". I suppose it does, but I still like it.

The door to the church was unlocked - this surprised us since in the US it seems that churches are only open when services are being conducted.

Here is a mural on the ceiling of the church.

In front of the church there is a memorial to the Andau dead from WWI and WWII. It seems as if every town has at least one of these. There are 8 Sattler dead from WWI listed, and 20 from WWII. These numbers, from such a small village, is staggering. I know that the Martin Sattler killed in WWI is related to me since my aunt has a card, in German, with details of his death.

The surnames Peck, Pelzer and Thell are also in my Sattler line (as the maiden names of Sattler wives).

Monday, May 12, 2008

Meeting more of the Sattlers...

On Friday evening we had arranged to meet Martin Sattler for dinner. Martin is a member of the Burgenland Bunch - as I and my cousin Rick are - which has a web site devoted to researching family genealogy in Burgenland.

Martin Sattler is a common name in my genealogy, and is the name of both my great-grandfather and great-great grandfather, both born in Andau.

We were to meet at 7 PM and since we were a little early we decided to walkl through the little Illmitz cemetery that was just across the street from the restaurant. We had just entered the cemetery when Kathy heard a group of people speaking English and struck up a conversation. It turned out to be a group from Minnesota - from St. Paul no less. They were Gartners and were researching their family history in Burgenland. Al Gartner was the patriarch of the group and he is from Rice Street and knows my uncle Frank Tischler. Al's brother is Jim Gartner who ran the St. Bernard's bowling alley when I was in grade school and in a league there. Small world!

We met at the Presshaus restaurant in Illmitz, just a few doors down from our hotel (and, as noted, across the street from the cemetery). Martin brought his uncle Alfred with him. Martin spoke pretty good English but Alfed didn't speak any. Both men seemed genuinely interested in genealogy and we talked for three hours about the Sattler line and how we might be related. Unfortunately, we can't find the exact manner of how we might be related, and more work is required. I did find out that a Sattler left Burgenland for China in the 1920s and ended up farming 60,000 hectares, which is almost 150,000 acres. I may ask for more details from Martin about this since I am sure it is an interesting story.

It was a great evening. The company was wonderful as were the food and the wine at dinner. I also told Martin about Rick's probable visit next year. I have a feeling that we will meet Martin again.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Meeting the Sattlers...

Our first stop on Thursday after we settled into our hotel was the Weinbau Sattler, a little winery run by Erich Sattler in Tadten, just a couple of miles from Andau which is the area where my Sattler family came from. I assume there is some relation between me and Erich but don't know for sure.

I had looked at the Weinbau Sattler web site but had not contacted Erich ahead of time. We found the winery which is on the main street through Tadten - we had expected something out in the country. We brought with us the article from the International Wall Street Journal from February that had reported on the great Austrian wines and noted a Weinbau Sattler red as one of the best.

The sign for the Sattler winery on the main street though Tadten. In the background is the memorial for the men from Tadten who died in WWI and WWII. There are many Sattlers and a couple of Tischlers listed.

We went through a big wooden door from the street and entered the compound. We didn't see anyone and so continued to the back where we found the tasting room. We also found the door to the wine storage warehouse and rang the bell. After a few minutes an older gentleman came out and we tried to explain that we were looking for Erich. He didn't speak English but we understood that he wasn't in now but would be later. We thanked him and left to explore Andau.

We returned a couple of hours later and this time found Erich at home and I explained that I was doing some genealogy research on Sattlers and thought we might be related. His English was quite good and he graciously invited us to sit and have a chat. He brought out some of his wine (and apple juice for Noah) and I showed him a summary of my Sattler line and asked him if he recognized any or thought we were related. His answer, with a shrug, was "All Sattlers in Burgenland are related". He is a low key guy and I got the impression that he didn't really see the point of trying to find old relatives. Kathy sees a family resemblance, and I guess I do as well in the weak chin (which is nice way of saying no chin).

I asked him if business had picked up after he was mentioned in the Wall Street Journal article and he had a blank look. He was not aware that one of his reds was proclaimed one of the best in Europe by one of the best known papers in the world. We gave him the copy of the article that we had brought with us and he seemed proud and happy.

We bought 13 bottles of his wine and then returned the next day and bought 8 more. The prices were very reasonable. The red wine mentioned in the Journal was listed at $32 a bottle at retail, but at his winery it can be had for about $12 a bottle. Again he brought out wine and apple juice and we had another nice visit.

I still don't know for sure if Erich and I are related or how, but I will keep looking with the help of my cousin, Rick. Rick and his wife plan to visit Burgenland next year and I let Erich know that he would probably be having more visitors. We also got the name of Erich's distributor in the US and we hope to be able to buy more of the Weinbau Sattler wine when we get back home.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Back from Burgenland...

We just got back to Prague after spending a couple of days in eastern Austria, in the area known as Burgenland. It was both a vacation to enjoy the wonderful scenery of Burgenland and also to do some genealogical research since my paternal grandmother's family - the Sattlers - emigrated to the US from Burgenland (more on that later).

Kathy and I did a little reading on Burgenland before we left, but we still found out a couple of very interesting facts. The first is that after the end of World War II, Burgenland was part of the Soviet zone. The second is that more than 20,000 Hungarian refugees crossed the border into Austria near Andau when the Soviets crushed the Hungarian revolution in 1956 (as they would crush the Czech revolution 12 years later).

From Wikipedia:

Burgenland was...given to the Soviet forces in exchange for Steiermark (Styria), which was in turn occupied by the United Kingdom.

Under the Soviet occupation, people in Burgenland had to stand a time of serious mistreatment and an extremely slow economic progression, the latter induced by investor-discouraging presence of the Soviet troops. The Soviet occupation ended with the signing of the Austrian Independence Treaty of Vienna in 1955 by the Occupying Forces.

The brutally crushed Hungarian Revolution on October 23, 1956 resulted in a shockwave of Hungarian refugees at the Hungarian-Austrian border, especially at the Bridge of Andau (Brücke von Andau), who were received by the inhabitants of Burgenland with an overwhelming amount of hospitality.

In 1957, the construction of the "anti-Fascist Protective Barrier" resulted in a complete bulkheading of the area under Soviet influence from the rest of the world, rendering the Hungarian-Austrian border next to Burgenland a deadly zone of mine fields (on the Hungarian border) and barbed wire, referred to as the Iron Curtain. Even during the era of the Iron Curtain, local trains between the north and south of Burgenland operated as "Corridor trains" (Korridorzüge) – they had their doors locked as they traversed Hungarian territory.

Starting in 1965 and finishing in 1971, the minefields were cleansed because people were often harmed by them, even on the Austrian side of the border. This could well be taken as a sign of the Soviet Union towards opening the borders to the Western countries, starting in the late seventies.

Here is where tens of thousands of Hungarian refugees crossed into Austria in 1956.

The border between Hungary and Austria at Andau as it looks today. With Hungary and Austria both in the EU, new rules that took effect last December means that now there aren't even any border guards or any hindrance in crossing the border. It's like going from Minnesota to Wisconsin.

An interesting side note, James Michener wrote a book entitled "The Bridge at Andau" in 1957 that chronicled the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. Michener was living in Austria in the 1950s.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Off to Burgenland...

The three of us are leaving this morning for eastern Austria, which is the area known as Burgenland. This is the land of my Sattler ancestors - my dad's mother was Barbara Sattler. Anyway, I have some good information on my Sattler ancestors going back to around 1800 and had formerly posted on the topic here and here.

While we are there we are going to have dinner with Martin Sattler and we will try to figure out if or how we are related - I have a high confidence that we are kin. We are also going to visit the Sattler winery, which was lauded in the International Wall Street Journal a few months ago as having some of the best wine in Europe.

We are staying in what looks to be a nice hotel, the Hotel Zur Post, in the town of Illmitz, just east of lake Neusiedl am See. The town of my forefathers is Andau, and is located about 15 miles east of Illmitz on the border with Hungary.

I will report more but it will likely be when we return on Saturday.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The assasination of Heydrich...

I have posted in the past about the story of the town of Lidice, just outside of Prague. Reinhard Heydrich, Hitler's Reichsprotekto in Bohemia and Moravia, died on June 4, 1942 from wounds suffered in an attack by Czech partisans who had parachuted into Czechoslovakia after being trained in England. Heydrich's funeral was on June 9, and the following day all of the men of Lidice (173 in all) were executed, the women and children were sent to camps, most of them to perish, and the town itself was raised to the ground to remove all evidence that it had ever exisited. The Nazis even emptied the cemetery of its corpses. This was all to teach a lesson to the Czechs that to fight the Nazis would result in swift and incredibly cruel consequences.

After the attack on Heydrich's car that left him mortally wounded, the seven parachutists ended up at the Church of Saints Cyril and Methodius in Prague which had been arranged as a safe house and they were concealed in the crypt of the church.

With the aid of a turncoat Czech named Karel Curda, the Germans learned of the location of the parachutists and 800 soldiers surrounded the church at 2:00 am on June 18, 1942. The Germans entered the church before dawn but were met by three of the parachutists firing from the choir loft who held the Germans at bay for several hours but were eventually killed. It was discovered that the others were in the crypt and the orders were to take them alive. The Nazis tried pumping smoke and then water into the crypt to force the four remaining parachutists to surrender. Rather than be captured the four committed suicide.

Heydrich's car after the attack on May 27, 1942. He would die from his wounds on June 4.

Bullet holes from the attack on June 18, 1942 remain visible near a small window to the crypt of the church.

Inside the crypt there are many memorials to the men who killed Heydrich.

This small cross is just outside the main door to the church.

The price paid by the church for aiding the parachutists was extremely high. from the web:

The trial of the members of the Czech Orthodox Church was held on September 3, 1942, after which Bp. Gorazd, Fr. Cikl, and council chairman Sonnevend were executed by a firing squad on the next day. Fr. Petrek was executed on September 5. For aiding the parachutists, 263 Czechs were arrested, transported to the Mauthausen concentration camp, and shot to death on October 24, including nine members of the cathedral’s congregation: Marie Ciklova, wife of the dean; Marie Gruzinnova, Bp. Gorazd’s secretary; Marie Sonnevendova, wife of the council chairman; Ludmila Rysova, choir member; Vaclav Ornest, the sacristan, his wife Frantiska Ornestova, and daughter, Miluse Ornestova, a choir and youth group member; Karel Louda, choir member; and Marie Loudova, also a choir and youth group member. In all, the Orthodox Church lost 13 sons and daughters.