Surrogate Santa

Last week my husband and I traveled to Olomouc, a town in the eastern part of the Czech Republic, to meet with our missionaries there who have formed a group of Czech college students to learn English.

This English Talk Group wanted to have a discussion about the traditions and meaning of Christmas, so we were invited to attend. We went to explain the theological importance of the coming of baby Jesus on Christmas.

When he opened the meeting, my husband asked the college students to explain the meaning and traditions of Czech Christmas. We needed to know where they were in their understanding so we could expand their knowledge.

We were pleased to hear that they were very familiar with the facts about the birth of Jesus - Bethlehem, Mary, Joseph, shepherds, angels singing, three kings, etc. All the churches have a nativity scene in them. Many people go to a church on Christmas Eve to see it or attend the midnight service (the only time they'd attend church all year).

The disturbin…

No Checks for Czechs

Banking in the Czech Republic is much different than we were used to back home. We were taken to our bank the day after we arrived in Prague in May. When our account was all set up, we never had to return again.

We have direct deposit of my husband's paycheck, which is very common for US banks. That isn't a surprise for us, but the main thing that we find different is that there are no checks for our Czech bank. The Czechs handle all payments for everything with either cash, debit card, or phone app payment. We had to check into this because we were confused by the no check system.

We found out that any bills that we receive come to us through an email. We've never gotten a bill in the mail since we've arrived. That's a nice change.

The invoices all have the company's bank account number on it along with a variable symbol. Of course, these words are all in Czech, so it takes Google translate to figure out what number is what. The variable symbol is most often sp…

Churches I Have Seen

We have seen so many beautiful churches since we moved over here, so this will be a picture postcard of churches in Europe.

 We visited this Lutheran church in Lithuania when my husband presented at a conference. When the Russians gave them freedom, they had to build a new church.

The stained glass windows take your breath away.  They often depict Bible stories in them.

These windows were in the cathedral in Prague. The pictures don't do justice in showing how immense this cathedral was. Here you can get an idea of the height of the ceilings with the window in the rear of the church.

This unique church was St. George's in the castle grounds. It had an upper and lower altar.

Many churches are massive looking on the outside as well as on the inside. It's sad that these large churches aren't filled with worshippers any longer. The largest crowds come for concerts.

Every church is unique to the era and location. When you are in Europe, make sure you visit the churches near yo…

A Very Special Restaurant

Prague is known for it's many and varied restaurants and cafes, but the Karvarna Slavia is one of the most famous in the city. This karvarna, or cafe, open since 1884, is located in the perfect spot. It's right on the Vtlava River front with a beautiful view of the Prague Castle across the river. It's also across the street from the National Theatre.

Because of this ideal location, Karvina Slavia has a history of being visited by famous people. The theatregoers step across the street for pre- and post-show drinks. They can enjoy the view of the river traffic as they chat with their friends.

Among these famous patrons, Vaclav Havel was often seen in the Slavia. Havel, a rebel playwright, would gather with his friends in this restaurant often in 1989. That was the tumultuous year when Communist ruled people in Eastern Europe held mass protests against the government. Havel was one of the leaders in Prague who organized the students in November, 1989, leading up to the Velve…

Troja Chateau

During the early fall in Prague, Vinobrani, or wine festivals, are held for several weeks in different locations in the city.  On the last weekend of September, my husband and I went to check one out. It was located at the Troja Palace, built in the late 1600s for a royal count.

In the sculptured chateau gardens, local vineyards set up booths where this year's wines could be tasted and sold. The Czech wines,  mostly white varieties, were very different from California wines.

Just walking around the gardens and looking at the beautiful palace made the day special for me.

Today the chateau is owned by the city of Prague and houses an art gallery. We didn't take the time that day to go through the museum. That's on our bucket list of things to do.

The area around the original riding stables was set up for tasting wine while watching entertainment. They had singers/dancers from the Medieval Era as well as the Roaring Twenties.

As we sipped our wine and listened to the lively ent…

Oldest Castle in Prague

Prague has two castles - one on either side of the Vltava River. The larger of the two has been swamped with tourist since we arrived, so we haven't been there yet. The smaller one Vysehrad is a quiet historic fort which we visited a while ago.

Vysehrad, the older of the two, was originally built in the 10th Century. It was surrounded by a wall on a steep cliff to protect the Czech sovereign. Many years later the government of the country and city of Prague moved across the river to the newer castle.

One of the towers in Vysehrad is the oldest rotunda in Prague. Built in the 11th century, the Rotunda of St. Martin was once used as a gun powder storage area. Today it is used for religious purposes by the Vysehrad ecclesiastical chapter.

Within the walls of the castle is the Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul. This beautiful church was started in the 11th century, but had additions and was remodelled in the 14th and 19th centuries. The expansive building dominates the Vysehrad fort…

Czechs Honor Their Dead

On November 2, called All Souls Day, Czechs remember family members that have passed away. It is similar to the Christian day of remembrance, All Saints Day, which is the day before, but the 2nd is set aside by all Czechs no matter what they believe.

This is the one day in the year that they go to the cemetery to clean up the plots, light candles, lay flowers and wreaths and spend a few moments with their deceased loved ones. Dusicky ("little souls") or All Souls Day might be equated to Memorial Day in the US.

Cemeteries here seem to be honored more than in the US, at least more decorated. Every plot has a small garden in front of the headstone. Some of the plants are flowering, but many are not. The pictured cemetery, called Vysehrad, is where many famous or wealthy people are buried.

Part of the cemetery has low buildings with arcades that house the more exotic looking headstones.  It is almost as if each person has a little house around his/her final resting place.