ON A WORLD BEING REBORN -- July 1997
During our three weeks away we became televison news addicts. When we were
in a hotel the first thing we would do was turn on the TV and see if they
had CNN International or EuroNews. In some places we even found BBC World.
You might chalk up our actions to wanting to stay "in touch" with events
"back home," but in fact there was very little US news.
Watching European News [or at least news tailored for a European
Audience in the case of CNN International] was instructive in two ways.
First it helped us understand where we were, i.e. NOT in the US! Perspectives
differ greatly. BBC World described our new ambassador to Vietnam as "the
bomber pilot who was responsible for more bombing runs over, then, North
Vietnam, than any other pilot." Of course WE refer to him as the "former
POW." Both are true statements. But the different emphasis is worth noting.
The wider world does not see our actions and leaders in the same way we
do.Nor should they. We also learned a great deal about the issues facing
Europe and in particular the effect of the devastating floods on the Czech
Republic as they entered NATO. The perspective on the new peace initiatives
in Northern Ireland was also given wider coverage than it would be in the
Second, we experienced news that treated us as adults capable of following
an extended story. Sure there were headlines, but on the whole stories
ran longer and focused on deeper issues than the "sound-bite" news on the
major US networks. The result? We'll be watching more Public Broadcasting
news and we will see if we can find CNN International on satellite.[The
difference is incredible!]
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An example of an iconostasis -- This
one is from Rumania, but similar in style to those we saw in Macedonia.
the capital of Macedonia -- contains information on Sveti Spas
and a link to information about St. John Bigorski. Both of these churches
contain remarkable iconostases carved by the same dedicated craftsmen.
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and Religion in Macedonia
The report in MILS
News, 21.07.97 We " happened into" the ceremony at St. Sophia's
Eating In Eastern Europe
The main meal of the day is what we call lunch and they call dinner. It
tends to be between 1 and 3 in the afternoon. The food is HEAVY, so [in
Macedonia at least] dinner is often followed by a nap! The meat tends
to be less fancy cuts than most Americans are used to. And in the moderate-priced
restaurants we frequented Sally found an occasional small piece of bone!
The emphasis is on starches [mostly potatoes in the form of dumplings
or small pasta] and, in Macedonia, on fresh vegetables. [Yes those
tomatoes!] Having said all that; you are best off with the local
specialties, rather than trying to eat what you eat at home. Just try to
eat less! [Hard to do when families are cooking their specialities for
Places we enjoyed eating...
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Brno, CZ: Modra Hvezda [Blue Star] -- Traditional Moravian
food and wine in a cellar setting. Despite catering to bus tours the food
and service were good. [The restaurant in the Grand Hotel also
has a good traditional Moravian plate.] The wine to drink here is the
Moravian red wine called Frankovka.
Prague, CZ: Zalta Ulicka -- Named after the "golden lane" in
the Castle District. It is small, looks like a luncheonette, but is a rather
unusual place. The owner was born in Skopje [!] and moved to Sarejevo after
the 1963 earthquake. The food is Yugoslav and GOOD and the price is right!
The decoration is eclectic. Well worth a visit; Metamorphosis --
On the newly reconstructed square behind Tyn Church, which is to say right
off Old Town Square. The decor is retro with a contemporary flair. The
food is "trendy" and quite good. There is a big outdoor seating area with
a good view of comings and goings.
Budapest, HU: Café Miro -- We found this slightly quirky
homage to Miro on a side street within view of Mathias Church on Castle
Hill. It serves coffee, ice cream, pastries and soft drinks.
Pecs, HU: We ate "at home" here so only the coffeeshops to report
on! To Sally's delight she discovered that "iced coffee" [in Pecs at
least] means expresso served in a parfait glass with ice cream and
whipped cream! Be sure to try the slightly salty cheese buns that seem
to arrive when you order coffee.
Vienna, AT: Tavola -- In our search for a rest from dumplings
we found this beautiful restaurant full of beautiful young Viennese who
appreciate good Italian food. So did we! Near St. Stephen's Square.
Drinking in Eastern Europe
OK upfront we're not beer drinkers [David is allergic to hops and I
haven't really drunk beer since graduate school...] so this is about
And the wine in Central Europe is one of its best-kept secrets. [The
former regime in Hungary marketed the wines of the Eger region
aggressively, but the best wines are found elsewhere in Hungary.]
The main grape for the red wines in Hungary and Czech Republic
seems to be the Cabernet Franc used in many country wines
in France. In Hungary it is called Kekfrankos, in Czech Republic
Remember this is the name of the *grape*. Quality will vary by vineyard
and producer. The name of the grape used in Macedonian red wines
eludes me. Interestingly enough many of the the labels were in English
in Macedonia. Their wines are exported to England!
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A few notes on the three hotels we stayed in...
Brno/Grandhotel Brno -- Convenient to the train station [across
the street in fact] and as a consequence*very* VERY noisy. We had a
corner room that was PALATIAL!! There was a parquet ceiling and an enormous
Soviet-style crystal chandelier, which is to say tasteless! The front desk
was stone-faced and not very helpful. We noticed a "Best Western" over
by the Moravska Galerie and will try that on our next visit.
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Budapest/Hotel Erzsbet -- A modern hotel with a seriously ugly
facade, well located on the south edge of the central area. Just a block
or two from a metro stop, the Erzsbet Bridge AND Vaci utca! [THE pedestrian
shopping street...] and the Ferrenciek terr. metro stop. It is a *tourist*
hotel... no charm, BUT an outstanding front desk! Rooms are modern, clean
and air conditioned.
Prague/Hotel Pariz --An incredibly beautiful "art-nouveau" hotel.
EVERYTHING fits the design. The rooms are high-ceilinged, air-conditioned
and have every amenity western travelers expect. Well located a stone's
throw from the nam Republiky metro stop and a 7 minute walk from Stare
Mestro [Old Town]. Expensive, particularly when you consider that
the front desk and concierge are not well-informed or particularly helpful.
Just a few notes based on our experience. First the main train station
in Prague is, to put it mildly, a *disaster* for anyone who doesn't speak
Czech. And that is before you deal with the taxi drivers outside! Solution?
Go to a Cedok Travel Agency. They can book and print your train tickets
on the spot. The best trains in Eastern Europe are the Euro-City or Inter-City
trains. [EC or IC in the schedules.] You need both a ticket
for a specific train and a seat reservation. Finding your right "car" is
pretty easy. There are, at least in Prague and Budapest, boards with little
pictures of the trains indicating car number and class. It tends to be
pretty accurate. On EC or IC 2nd class is fine. On the trains we took 2nd
class was air conditioned.
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Europe is a continent of museums. We saw only a fraction of the important
ones and "lucked" into a few special experiences off the regular tourist
list. What follows is a very personal selection!
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Moravska Galerie -- Applied Arts. While we were there an excellent
exhibit of Czech posters from the 1960s; Dum Umeni -- changing exhibits
of contemporary art. It happened that a retrospective of Klara's grandfather,
Bohdan Lacina, had just opened! The first of many serendipities on the
Csontvary Museum -- A small museum devoted to a single artist
whose work defies easy description. Surreal, primitive, many religious
themes; Vasarely Museum -- The father of "op"
art. The inclusion of precursors and followers made this museum well
worth visiting. Put on your "shades" though - op art can be hard
on the eyes!
The Hungarian National
Museum -- The historical exhibit on the second floor is outstanding.
There are some English explanations, but the maps show Hungary's territorial
fluctuations in a manner that transcends language. There are several computer
terminals that allow you to explore the collection virtually.
Ceske muzeum vytvarnych umeni -- Not sure how to translate this!
The Czech art museums are spread out over the city. This was more like
a series of galleries occupying five floors of an interestingly renovated
building near the Powder Tower. We saw an exhibit of the Cubist
influence on Czech painting and applied arts. The featured painter was
page prepared by Sarah Fowler -- last update 8/4/97 -- email: email@example.com