I thought back on it and I realized that for Czechs, my original post was probably not that satisfying. It shows why I am a traveler and why I live and work abroad, but not why I’m in Czech Republic specifically. So I’m gonna fix that 😉
Let’s get the first, obvious answer to “Why are you still here?” out of the way.
Because I love a Czech
New Year’s Eve in Olomouc, 2015->2016
Again, because castles
I will never forget in my first year teaching when I was talking about the Statue of Liberty, and I said, “It was finished in 1886, so you can see it’s really old.” And every European ever, including the students in my class, let out a collective sigh, and said, “Not really, no.”
And seeing Zelená Hora – not a castle, but a church and a beautiful early 18th-century work of architecture – was one of my favorite trips.
(Ondra was trying to take a nap after our hike while I rudely photographed him.)
With castles, there are still so many more to see! Especially in South Bohemia.
Do I have to talk more about how delicious Czech food is?
There isn’t a real concept in Czech of “comfort food,” like we have in English. I like to think it’s any food that really hits your craving spot, anything you eat which makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside. For me, that’s macaroni and cheese, baked ziti, matzoh ball soup, or stir-fry.
But basically all Czech food is comfort food. Lunch is the most important meal of the day (unlike how it’s dinner in the US). You start out with soup, even in summer. I am a HUGE soup person! I love it! Then you almost invariably get a dish full of potatoes or pasta or rice with some meat and covered in sauce. (Step 1:) You have to use the carbs to absorb the sauce. (Step 2: You gain weight.) Definition of comfort food.
Also, hold on. You can go into the woods and eat mushrooms?
Because of the Communist history
I know it sounds weird, but in university I majored in literature with a personal specialization in dystopian literature. Dystopian means a vision of the future which is negative (the bad side of “utopian”). And while Communism in theory is quite a beautiful idea, in practice we’ve seen it’s actually rather dystopian.
In American history classes, we learn “COMMUNISM BAD. AMERICA GOOD. CAPITALISM GOOD.” I wanted to learn more about what people really thought and experienced.
I could talk to you about this all day, but I was shocked at what I learned. I remember the first time I asked someone, “What do you remember about living under Communism?” and they said, “Well, we couldn’t travel and we couldn’t get bananas except at Christmas, but other than that it wasn’t so bad.”
History class –> out the window.
This is not to say everyone agrees with that. I know a few people who actively fought against the Socialist regime, and at least two who were actually in Václavak in Prague when the Revolution started on November 17, 1989 (that’s right, I know my Czech dates). I know that people whose families were affected – whether they were religious and church-going, owned a business, criticized or showed any sign of rebellion – had a hard time of it (including Kundera and Havel, below). People were shunned by their colleagues and neighbors, they had their business taken away, children were banned from going to gymnázium or university, they were interrogated and in the worst case jailed.
But this is what I mean by learning about the real experience. Many people say that if they just kept their head down and focused on their family and their garden (people’s intense attachment to their personal gardens is connected with the Socialist period and another reason why I love Czech Republic), no one bothered them, everything was okay. Doctors say, “I didn’t love Socialism, but the insurance companies always paid me on time.”
We also have Socialism to thank for universal health insurance and school cafeterias. So it just goes to show that there’s a good and bad side to everything.
Because of Czech writers
Fulbright brought me to Czech Republic, but if you like me and am glad I’m here, you have Milan Kundera, Karel Čapek, and Václav Havel to thank for me wanting to come.
For the record, The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Nesnesitelná lehkost bytí) was the first Czech book I ever read, but I Served the King of England (Obsluhoval jsem anglického krále) and War with the Newts (Válka s mloky) cemented my desire to visit CZ. I never lmfao’d so hard before reading I Served… until I read Saturnin.
And before you ask, if I had never read these books, no, I would not have thought Czech Republic and Chechnya are the same place.
Because of the nature
Maybe you noticed I was a city girl?
I was absolutely shocked to learn that I’d be living in a place surrounded by hills. (And specifically, living in a house surrounded by CHICKENS.) I just think everything is gorgeous in Czech Republic. I hope I always think it’s as beautiful as I do now and never take it for granted.
Because of Czech festivals
I also celebrated my first Christmas here!
and it was better than yours, because I made my own reindeer hat.
Wine and beer
Well, I needed to mention it at some point.
I can learn whatever I want cheaply
The two highlights of my first year here were learning to dance and learning to ski. I had always been interested in these things, but never had enough money or time to do them.
Turns out, they are simply institutionalized here.
Left: me sledding in the High Tatras (Slovakia), 2015. I had never seen snow like that! Right: Stužkovák (a graduation dance, sorta but not really like prom), 2016
I am attached to the language
I obviously can’t stop when I’ve gotten so far…
I am attached to Tišnov
Despite having barely 9000 people, it is beautiful and wonderful and interesting at all times of the year and I don’t care what you think.
I have so many friends here, even thinking of leaving hurts my heart.
And the most important reason? Well, the free strudel doesn’t hurt… 😉