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Prague Blog: St. Nicholas Day!

In America, the Christmas season may begin the day after Thanksgiving, if not earlier, but most of the actual celebration of the season falls squarely on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. In the Czech Republic, there were once smaller Advent celebrations throughout December, but only one of those has remained: Mikuláš.



Mikuláš is the sort of short-hand for the Feast of St. Nicholas (Svatý Mikuláš in Czech), whose feast day is on December 6th. On the eve of his feast day (the night of December 5th) St. Nicholas visits homes or travels to public places accompanied by two figures: an angel and a demon. These sidekicks don't have names (the demon certainly comes from the same some folklore as the Germanic Krampus, but he isn't called that), and they don't travel alone. They are always accompied by St. Nicholas, and he always travels with them--always three there are.

St. Nicholas, who was the Bishop of Turkey before he died, and centuries before he transformed into Father Chris…
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Prague Blog: Christmas Markets!

I forgot to post this here! Another new holiday-themed post coming very soon.
"Christmas time is here..." Yes, the Christmas season has arrived in Prague, and I explored the city's famous Christmas markets and made a video! Enjoy!




Patrons at the $3/post or higher level get these video essays about once a month (the next video will be coming soon!), and all Patrons get access to a weekly podcast (cleverly titled the Prague Cast) with my more informal ramblings about life here. If you want to become a Patron, just go to www/patreon.com/sjcaustenite.

N.B. I have written up my thoughts about the Patreon pricing change here. Long story short, I don't like it.


Prague Blog: Patreon Fee Change

I am dismayed by the recently announced changes to Patreon's payment structure. If you haven't been following the announcement, here is a good write up.  In the interest of transparency, I get roughly 90% of the pledges Patrons make. 5% is taken by Patreon directly, and another ~5% is taken to cover processing fees from PayPal, etc. That processing fee can change from month to month, as mine has slightly, based on the number of Patrons, etc.; some creators pay a significantly higher processing fee than I do. Under the new plan, as I understand it, I would get 95% of the pledged amount, always. So, you pledge $1 a post, I get $.95 for every post. The other nickel goes to Patreon to cover their costs and generate a profit for them. That squishy ~5-10% to cover processing would be paid by the Patrons themselves. So, a $1 pledge per post would, in reality, cost $1.38 per post--$.38 for processing taken off the top (the article I linked to above breaks out how that money is charged…

Prague Blog: Thanksgiving

I have some news that may surprise you. Black Friday has spread all the way to the Czech Republic. Yup, the big retailers in the malls of Prague have had signs up for days talking about their "Black Friday" deals. I don't think Czechs have quite mastered the "crushing people in a stampede for 3 heavily discounted flat screen TVs" bit yet, but they're a smart and enterprising people--they'll get there.

What hasn't spread here is the day without which Black Friday likely wouldn't exist: Thanksgiving. We exported a day of blind shopping frenzy that serves as a prelude to Christmas, but not the most distinctly American* of US holidays about family and gratitude. Almost makes you wonder what we really care about. Hmm.

I don't like Thanksgiving. I don't think I ever really have. At least partially, it stems from the fact that, as a childhood picky eater, I found myself for a good number of years eating some turkey breast, mashed potatoes, and …

Prague Blog: Old City Tour!

I've completed my TEFL course, lined up a job (I'll need another or some private students, but all in good time), and I have a few days of down time this week. As I was in the Old City (Staré Mĕsto in Czech) anyway, I decided to take advantage of the situation and finally get some pictures for the blog. I am not the world's best photographer, but I hope you enjoy this nonetheless.

Just a few blocks from where I started was this sculpture:


Installed in 2014, this is a statue of the head of Franz Kafka by sculptor David Černý. Though certainly the greatest Czech writer who ever lived and a resident of Prague nearly all his life, Kafka actually wrote in German. He did speak Czech, however, and was clearly inspired by the great city in many of his works. But this isn't just a traditional statue...



Though much of kinetic sculpture feels like movement for movement's sake (not a bad thing, per se), this is an excellent way to capture both the image and the spirit of the g…

Prague Blog: The End of the Beginning

Yesterday was the last day of TEFL training. After wrapping up our last formal class, there was still one final item on the schedule:"The Long Arm of TEFL." There had been whispers and rumors about this final rite of passage for weeks. Some said X, others said Y--all agreed that it was the final hurdle. Having done everything else, one more barrier remained between us and our certificates--and our graduation party. What does The Long Arm entail? Ah, well, that's a secret--all I will say is that rarely have I seen so many people experience such intense momentary anxiety and then get down to doing the work at hand. I was damn proud of all of us. Needless to say, we all survived it, in body if not in soul, and the drink tickets at the graduation party went a long way toward healing the scars.

So, last night, thirty days after I arrived in Prague, I stood on a stage at a brewery (beer again) with twenty-eight other folks posing for a class photo commemorating the graduation …

Prague Blog: Pivo and Me

Ah, Prague. Praha. City of a Hundred Spires. The Golden City. The Left Bank of the Nineties. The Mother of Cities. The Heart of Europe. Prague has many names, but I think it needs one more: Pivo Prague, Capital of Beer Bohemia.

Prague is a beer city. If the national drink of American is coffee, and the national drink of France is wine, Czechia's national drink is undoubtedly beer. Or pivo, in the Czech. Czechia has the highest per capita consumption of beer in the world. More than the UK. More than Germany. Think about that for a moment. Czechia drinks about 35% more beer per captia than any other nation. The measure isn't even close: on an average day in the Czech Republic, a 12+ ounces of beer are consumed for every man, woman, and child. And yes, at pretty much every place you can get them both, beer is literally cheaper than water.*

Brewing in Czechia dates back well over a thousand years, with major bewing centers being the towns of Budweis (note the name), Pilzen (and th…