I think I made it through my whole visit in Czech-land without accidentally referring to Czechoslovakia, but it definitely slipped my mind a few times. Its cumbersome to say ‘the Czech Republic’ every time you ask a question, so I came up with Czech-land which was maybe an equally stupid tourist thing to say.
Czech land is a wonderful land, a green and charming place where summer love is in the air. PDA is out of control here, with frisky couples making out in the central squares and casually having sex in public parks, hidden only by the girl’s flowy skirt and not the broad daylight shining down on their bench of choice.
My allergies have confirmed that its really summer, but never get in the way of spending more time outside lying in freshly cut grass. There’s so much green space around Brno, the second largest city, and its by far the dog-friendliest city I’ve ever visited. People take everything from toy-dogs in purses to rottweilers yielding teeth guards on public transport and inside the bars and restaurants. Prague had less dogs but a bazillion more tourists, since I ended up there over a long-weekend without knowing it and got lucky enough to find probably the last possible couch on couchsurfing to surf. Every hostel and hotel was fully booked, and the central square in Prague bustled like a circus fair, attended by every nation in Europe to see the bubble blowers, snake charmers and horse carriages parade around. My Czech host was a tango dancer, and we avoided the crowds by spending our nights tangoing and ballroom dancing, where I learned the not-so-significant difference between English and Viennese waltz.
The Czech Republic is a very outdoorsy-kinda place; its popular among the locals to take camping, hiking, climbing, or biking trips around Czech-land, and even horse back riding and yoga is easy to find. This also means people walk around with big, back-packing back packs all the time, so I really felt like I fit in when I was wandering around the train and bus stations lugging my life around. Other things that were popular were not very Czech, like shisha bars, tea, and lemonade that’s usually made without any lemons. They think that if its fruity and carbonated it counts as lemonade, but whatever they want to call, its damn good, home-made stuff. Even more wonderful than that is the fact that vineyards cover the south-east countryside with delicious, affordable wines, and beer is actually cheaper than water. I heard they tried to pass a law against it, stating that beer could not be the cheapest drink on a restaurant menu, but as far as I noticed, this was rarely true.
My couchsurf host in Brno was not a local, but for a Jewish American guy he spoke pretty good Czech and had a hold on all the restaurants and local food culture (and makes killer bbq’d burgers). We were pretty active too, as I followed him through his various work-out days at yoga and the swimming pool. I met a dutch guy who took me horse back riding on his big dutch warm blood, and I spent all my free time hiking around little Czech villages, churches, castles and caves. The Moravian caves were magical and wonderful for many reasons, although they kind of smelled like bad breath and I never figured out if that was the odour of the cold, underground humidity or the wafts of air leaving the tour guides’ mouth. The more famous Punkva cave included a boat ride on a river through the cave, after standing at the bottom of a 200m sunken-cave hole, and then there was my very own name-sake cave, ‘Kateřinská jeskyně’ which literally translates to ‘Katrin’s cave’. I pretended they knew I was coming, but they didn’t get the joke. They don’t joke much in Czech-land, so I’ve also stopped calling it Czech-land, but if people did smile a bit more and spoke a language that wasn’t impossible, I could easily find myself staying here forever.