Saturday, June 27, 2009

An American in Prague

I've started becoming a bit homesick for all things American, even American things I don't particularly care for, like Wal-Mart.  Little did I know that I would find enough America in a place like Prague to cure that part of my homesickness.

I stayed at the Andel's Hotel, which was nice, reasonably priced and centrally located to take the Metro and trams.  I also later learned that it was located right by a large mall.  A real American'esque mall (something I had yet to see in Europe), complete with Sephora and H&M and a food court and movie theatre. I'm a little ashamed to admit the rush of excitement I had upon learning this, but instead of denying myself, I jumped right in and headed over.  There wasn't anything magical about it, but it was somehow comforting and familiar.  Just in case you are wondering, I didn't buy anything while I was there.

At the mall was Tesco, their version of Wal-Mart.  As I went down the aisles, which were marked overhead with what was on each one, just like at Wal-Mart, one thing I noticed was that many Czech words were English words with a "y" on the end, which I found funny.  For example, chips are chipsy, crackers are crackery and liquor is likery (spelled different but phonetically the same).

I also discovered that I could watch NBC News at the hotel.  I mentioned in a previous blog that I hadn't been following the news or watching a lot of TV, but I did both in Prague.  The news started at 6:30 Eastern, so 12:30 am in Prague, and I would stay up to watch.  One night I caught a bit of Conan.  I understand he officially took over Leno's spot since I've been gone, and I could tell a difference.  I usually like Conan, but what I saw (part of his monologue) seemed different - awkward and almost forced.  

Yes, I tore myself away from the mall long enough to see the major sites to see in Prague - Wenceslas Square, the Charles Bridge, the Mala Strana neighborhood, Old Town Square and the astronomical clock.  I tried to go to Prague Castle one day, but as I was walking toward it from the Metro it started storming, so I had to go back.  The storm didn't let up for several hours, and that was my last day there.  Thankfully that was the only day it stormed, though it did rain everyday.  It was also chilly, and I was wishing I had my Ireland clothes with me again that I had shipped back from London in my first wave of clothes shipments.  The people in Prague were so nice, and everyone I met spoke English.  I loved Prague - it was a beautiful city and is definitely in the top five places I've been so far in Europe.     

A random fact about Prague: The escalators in the Metro are TALL.  One of the tallest escalators in the world is said to be in Prague.  They are also super fast, which is a little scary considering how tall they are and how far you would have to fall. 

I went to the Depeche Mode concert on Thursday, my last night in Prague.  The concert was at Eden Stadium, the city's new soccer stadium.  Everything on the ground was general admission, and the stands where I was sitting were almost all covered with an awning, which turned out to be great because it rained off and on all night.  The rain didn't stop what seemed like half the crowd from going down to the general admission area - it was packed.  Depeche Mode played for a little over two hours, nearly all the songs I wanted to hear and put on an awesome show.  I included a short video excerpt below of "Enjoy the Silence" - enjoy! 

Earlier in the day, Honey had emailed me that Farrah Fawcett had passed away. Considering I had heard about Ed McMahon the night before (NBC News), I emailed her back and said:  "Bad things happen in threes.  Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett.  I bet there will be another big name celebrity in the next week or so." So sure enough, when I got back to the hotel that night I had an email from Honey that said: "#3 - Michael Jackson."  I couldn't believe it and turned on NBC News and sure enough they were just reporting it.  After NBC news ended, I flipped over to the BBC, and I couldn't believe how shoddy the reporting was.  It was such a train wreck, though, that I couldn't stop watching for fear I might miss something highly entertaining such as one of these snippets:

BBC Anchor to President of Michael Jackson fan club: "He was known to be a very tall man and have a firm handshake."  (Really, is this the best you've got?)

President of Michael Jackson fan club:  "No actually he was quite short.  I'm 5'10", and when we met I noticed he was quite a bit shorter than me."  (And while he didn't comment on it, who thinks MJ had a firm handshake?  Not me!)

* * *

BBC:  "He liked to play with monkeys and climb trees." (Hmmm... maybe so, but he just passed away.  Give the guy some dignity!  Ok, yeah, never mind, it's Michael Jackson...)

* * *

BBC:  "What the Spice Girls were to the 90s, Michael Jackson was to the 80s."  (Oh now, come on.  That is just ludicrous.)

Other than the reporting, I haven't heard too much about his death over here, though I did hear someone blaring "Wanna Be Starting Something" today and I saw a record shop window hanging a Michael Jackson display. Personally, I was a bit shaken up by his death, which sounds funny even for me to say considering that as a person I think he was creepy.  But Thriller was the first album I really took an interest in when I was 8 years old.  The first concert I ever saw was Michael Jackson in 1984 at Neyland Stadium.  And of course any time I hear Billie Jean I have to get up and dance!  

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