Friday, February 6, 2009

Stop And Taste The Rose Hips

Rose hips dusted with snow.

I went out for a hike the other day. The sun was shining, and I needed to clear my head.

While I was walking through the snow, I came across bush after bush full of rose hips.

Now, it wasn't until a few weeks ago, while we were sledding, that I even knew what rose hips were.

Of course, I'd heard of rose hips -- used in tea, jam, wine, and soup -- but I guess I'd never really come across any, or realized that I'd come across any.

It was our good friend Tanya Kancheva who, between sledding runs, plucked a few rose hips from a bush and told us to try them.

It's pretty amazing how many rose hips there are out in the wilds of Prague.

Almost every other bush seems to be filled with rose hips. Frankly, I don't remember seeing that many rose bushes in the wild when I've been out riding. Weird.

And I guess they stay firmly glued to the bush almost all winter. Even today, the rose bushes are filled with them. You'd think they'd either fall off or get eaten by birds or something.

The rose hips were incredibly sweet. I could definitely taste the possibilities for jam or marmelade. Not sure about the wine, but I wouldn't pass a glass up, that's for sure.

I wonder how hard rose hip wine is to make.

The only problem is that each hip has about 1,500 seeds. The pulp-to-seed ratio is nothing to write home about. It's like a mini-pomegranate.

But I love the fact that you can be out walking in the middle of winter and pick a few rose hips off a bush and experience a little sweetness on your tongue.

Bushes covered with rose hips are everywhere out in the woods. I just don't remember seeing so many roses in nice weather.

A church in Únětice, a neighboring village.

The path from my house in Černý Vůl to Únětice.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A Long, Coal Winter

Our neighbor's house is engulfed in coal smoke.

All I wanted was to barbecue.

We moved out to the country in September 2007, after having lived in the center of Prague, for many reasons -- in order to have a garden and a terrace and place to host a barbecue or two, and to be nearer to Emma's school, the International School of Prague.

The advantages are, indeed, many.

There are a few disadvantages, however.

It's a longer commute to work. It's hard to do anything in central Prague - go to a movie or dinner, for instance -- on the spur of the moment, especially if alcohol is involved. The nearest grocery store is, well, there isn't really a grocery store nearby.

At the top of the list of my minuses, however, is coal smoke.

Many of the houses out here in the boondocks still heat using coal furnaces.

Now I'm no expert, but as far as I can tell, there are two basic types of coal -- black coal and brown coal. And brown coal is much dirtier and stinkier. And that's the type of coal that seems to predominate around here.

I've seen piles of coal outside of houses around here, and they definitely seem to be in two distinct colors.

We live on the crest of a ridge, and during the winter, if the winds are just right, it's not uncommon for thick coal smoke from some of the houses below us to waft upwards and engulf our house. But we don't get it as bad as our neighbor's house, which seems to attract the coal smoke like iron filings adhere to a magnet.

A pile of, I assume, black -- not brown -- coal, outside a home near my house.

Most of the time, the smoke ascends fairly straight into the sky, but you can still see it, and you can definitely smell it -- a stinging, acrid smell that I find unpleasant.

I've heard of some who don't mind the smell -- in fact, they say the odor is tinged with a bit of nostagia for their childhoods -- but not me.

I do like the smell of burning peat when I travel to Ireland. But peat smells sweet to me, and reminds me of waves crashing on the Connemara coast.

Just one more reason to look forward to the first signs of another Prague spring.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Toilet Training

Daisy was in the bathroom (or toilet, as they say around these parts) of the Czech Foreigner's Police in the Smichov area of Prague, renewing her residence permit recently, when she saw the sign above, which was hanging above the sinks.

She used her cell-phone camera to take a picture of it.

It's in Ukrainian, and it says something to the effect of:


This sign raises a couple of interesting questions.

1. What do the Czechs have against Ukrainians exactly? I know there are a lot of Ukrainians in Prague, working on construction sites and in hotels as maids, etc.

But still.

And more importantly:

2. How in the world would a woman -- Ukrainian or otherwise -- possibly use a sink as a toilet, even if she wanted to?

I can understand how a guy could do it, but it seems like that would be quite a dangerous, precarious balancing act for a lady.

And can you imagine walking in unexpectedly on someone using the sink in that fashion?

Would you then wash your hands in the sink after going to the bathroom?!