Trieste and Miramare

by the Night Writer

Our Christmas plans took us to the Gulf of Trieste and the eastern shores of the Adriatic. The warm but foggy weather persisted, making it comfortable for walking around but limiting the views and rendering the scenery a little dull, though you could tell how spectacular it would be in season. It was during our time in Trieste that we drove down to Pula in Croatia. Closer to “home”, however, were the beautiful gardens and castle of Miramare.

Following yonder star... We were blessed with a hazy sunset on Christmas Day in our apartment near Trieste.

Following yonder star…
We were blessed with a hazy sunset on Christmas Day in our apartment overlooking the Adriatic near Trieste.


We drove to Trieste on Dec. 24 and knew we weren’t likely to find grocery stores or restaurants open on Christmas day so we picked up some food for our Christmas dinner, and the Reverend Mother and Tiger Lilly rolled, sliced and presented our feast: roast beef, salami, brie and Gorgonzola cheese, hummus, pretzel bread, almond toast, apples and kiwi. Just right.


This village is close to the border of Slovenia and Croatia. We drove through it; most of the streets would barely qualify as driveways but it was interesting to get a glimpse of life here. Old, old stone houses and buildings looming over narrow cobblestone alleys, looking like the 16th century – except for satellite dishes stuck on the sides of some of the buildings. We didn’t see any signs of dragons, or hear any Thu’um, which was kind of disappointing but probably safer.

Dragon signs might be elusive, but it’s easier to find signs of House of Habsburg in the Czech Republic, Austria, Germany, Spain and even Italy. Emperors, Dukes, Archdukes and countless princes and barons fill the family histories, which no doubt made for interesting Christmas letters: “Greetings, all – it’s been a busy year. Otto annexed Bohemia and little Max had his hands full with the Basques, but we’re all looking forward to the next family reunion so we can arrange a couple more weddings – goodness, the kids grow up so fast!”

One Habsburg, the Archduke Ferdinand Maximillian (younger brother of Franz Joseph, Emperor of Austria) came to Trieste, Italy after circumnavigating the globe and being appointed head of the Imperial Navy, and built a beautiful castle overlooking the Adriatic, Castello Miramare. Principally built between 1856 and 1860, the castle still wasn’t completely finished before duty called and Ferdinand accepted Napoloen III’s request to become Emperor of Mexico where he was ultimately captured and executed in the Mexican Revolution by Benito Juarez’s Republican forces, even though Maximillian was a progressive reformer who had instituted many populist policies. (I don’t mean to sound disrespectful to a fascinating man with an interesting life, but there’s so much intertwined history with threads leading in different directions that a slap-dash fly-by is the best I can do for the purposes of keeping this travelogue manageable.) The story of Maximillian and his wife, Charlotte of Belgium, is both romantic and tragic; it appears that constructing Miramare was truly a labor of love, with many features to delight his wife. Maximillian was only in his mid-30s when he died, and his wife – busy on the continent trying to raise funds and troops for his support at the time – suffered a nervous breakdown and lived the rest of her life in seclusion.


Maximillian loved the sea, so it was fitting that he built his castle on the coast, and ordered exotic plants to be cultivated on the rocky grounds creating a distinctive park and garden.


Miramare has its own boat landing, viewed here from one of the castle windows.

Miramare has its own boat landing, viewed here from one of the castle windows.

On the misty day that we were there, the landing was reminiscent of Tolkein's "Gray Havens".

On the misty day that we were there, the landing made me think of Tolkein’s “Gray Havens”.

I seem to be collect interesting shots of my wife and daughter near water.

I seem to collect interesting shots of my wife and daughter near water.


This is more like Maxfield Parrish than Maximillian.

I manage to get into a couple of photos from time to time.

I manage to get into a couple of photos from time to time.

On the town in Turin

by the Night Writer

We didn’t get to see Turin (Torino) at its best as the week we were there it was pretty overcast and drizzly. Still, you can see the “old bones”, so to speak, of the history and culture here. The one-time capital of Italy under the Savoys, Turin is chock-full of churches, towers, museums and galleries, both above and below ground (see the earlier post about the Pietro Micca museum). One of the neatest things, though, is just to get out in the city on a Sunday afternoon where it seems everyone is on the Via Roma, Via Garabaldi and Via Po like middle-aged teens at the (outdoor) Mall.

Turin is also where we stayed in the 3 bedroom penthouse apartment – the nicest of all the places we stayed (and we’ve stayed in some nice ones). The apartment was through the Home-Swap organization we joined prior to the trip, and not an Airbnb location. The woman who owns the apartment is a book translator and in addition to an elevator that came right to the apartment’s foyer, a Nespresso machine, two bathrooms with showers, the place was full of shelves and stacks of books. We never met the owner, but we felt as if we knew her! The master bath also had a balcony that was high enough for us to see multiple fireworks displays across the city on New Years’s Eve.


This is the Piazza Vittorio at the end of the Via Po, framing the Chiesa Gran Madre di Dio just across the River Po. The Via Po is is one of the four main streets in Turin (Torino) and leads from the Piazza Castello (the central square of Turin) down to the river. The Via Po features covered colonnades on both sides of the street all the way to the Vittorio; shops, restaurants and bookstores line both colonnades.


The Garden and Fountain of the Angels at the Piazza Solferino in Turin. It wasn’t a particularly good day to stroll in a garden or past fountains.


Duke Ferdinand of Savoy, in the Piazza Solferino. It’s not the greatest photo or most compelling image, but I liked the way the colors played off of each other.

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Getting below the surface at the Pietro Micca Museum

by the Night Writer

When you’re in a place such as Turin the number of things to see can be overwhelming. I came across this rather quirky sounding attraction, though, and I’m really glad we decided to check it out. It’s the Museum of Pietro Micca, the hero of the 1706 siege of Turin by France.

This isn’t your typical war-story, though. In this case, the most significant fighting took place underground, in the tunnels the French sappers dug to try to go under the Turin citadel, and in the tunnels dug by the Piedmont miners and brick-layers to thwart them. The defenders were also adept at digging out to where the French artillery pieces were set up to bombard the walls. They would dig out to the guns, finding their directions by using pebbles on drum-heads that bounced as the cannons and mortars fired: if the pebbles bounced right, the gun was to your left; if they bounced left, the gun was to your right; if they bounced straight up you tunneled a little closer set a couple of kegs in the ground under the emplacement, partially collapsed the tunnel to direct the blast in the proper direction, lit the fuse – and ran! The ensuing explosion would blow the artillery-men, the cannon, and their own powder sky-high. Besides the damage, it was also a form of psychological warfare because the gunners had no warning that they were about to become human cannonballs themselves. If you didn’t fire your cannon then the defenders couldn’t find you – but then what good is a cannon?

Anyway, lots of tunnels and counter-tunnels were dug by miners and brick-layers. One night, the French infiltrated the main tunnel network and were about to break through into the tunnels that would take them right inside the citadel. Pietro Micca barricaded the tunnel door, and as the French started to break it down, set a short fuse under 30 kegs of powder – killing the French, collapsing the tunnel and, unfortunately, resulting in his own demise. Before the French could recoup, the Piedmont’s Austrian and Prussian allies attacked the French rear and drove them off, a key battle in Italy’s ultimate independence.

What’s neat about the museum is that this isn’t a walk-through of exhibit halls looking at cannons and old uniforms. Instead, you go down into the tunnels themselves (there are approximately 9 kilometers of tunnels in the network, but the tour just takes through a few hundred meters worth). You see the structures, the excavated chamber that Micca blew up, and receive an interesting education from the all-volunteer guides who are dedicated to preserving this site, their history, and the memory of Pietro Micca.


The ground is very solid in this region, and the tunnels – more than 300 years old, are well preserved. The bricks extending into the tunnels along the sides served two purposes. One was as a support as the tunnel arches were put in; the second was to use as a guide (since there was little illumination) as you made your way around the network.


The tunnels aren’t as claustrophobic as you might think. My hair only brushed the top of the tunnels on one occasion; so most folks can walk easily along (the floors are also in good shape). The wall lights aren’t original, of course, but most illumination is done with the guide’s big flashlight and the flashlight issued to the volunteer who agrees to bring up the back of the line (which was Tiger Lilly in our group).


The tours can take about a dozen people at a time. The day we were there was exceptionally busy because most of the other museums in town were closed. There were multiple tours going on simultaneously in different parts of the tunnels and exhibits.

Tiger Lilly has an important question to ask you

by the Night Writer

Well, entertained or not, I’m continuing to play catch-up with the travelogue. Today’s photos are of Pula, Croatia.

We had heard that Croatia was beautiful and worth a drive. The Reverend Mother had read that Pula was a great place to visit, with lots of Roman ruins, and it was even further south than Trieste, so we thought the weather could be decent. The only problem is that you have to drive across Slovenia to get to Croatia and I’ve heard that the Slovenes like to shake you down as you’re leaving the country by saying the highway vignette (a windshield tab that covers highway tolls) you purchased from an authorized vendor is counterfeit (and heaven help you if you didn’t buy one – it could be a €150-300 fine on the spot). We did have a small problem at the Slovenia-Croatia border: Tiger Lilly had left her passport in her backpack, and her backpack in our apartment in Trieste. So we turned around and made another attempt the next day. This time the papers were in order (as was our vignette). You pass through the Slovenian guards, drive 10 feet and do it all over again with the Croatian ones. (When they’re not busy, the Slovene guards and Croat guards sit in their glass booths and make rude gestures at each other. Kind of like Packers fans and Vikings fans.)

I can’t really tell you if Croatia is beautiful or not. That’s because the entire Istia Peninsula was socked in with fog as we drove to Pula and back. It was so thick that when we crossed a bridge we couldn’t tell if the bridge spanned water or fields, except by looking on the graphic on the GPS screen.  Fortunately, the fog lifted as we hit the Pula city limits (and returned at the city limits as we were leaving). The day was still overcast, but the temperature was comfortable and the city is a great mix of (really) old and new. It’s on the Adriatic coast has a very mild climate year round (summer highs are in the 80s F and it doesn’t often drop below freezing in the winter). Making a circuit of the sights on foot only covers about 3 kilometers, so it’s a very manageable day trip if you’re in the neighborhood.


One of the cool things in town is that the historical sites are right next to everyday businesses and streets. You can be driving along, thinking, billboard, billboard, auto repair…Arena!

Pula - Arena ext 2

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Greetings from Graz (or, “leggo of my Eggenberg”)

by the Night Writer

After grazing our way around the Budejovice square it was time for Graz, Austria (pronounced “Grahts”). We turned south and headed into the Alps on our way to the capital city of Styria. Graz is only a few hundred meters above sea level, but you have to go up, over and through some mountains before you can get there. Gratz is in a basin, protected by the mountains, so it’s weather is influenced more by the Mediterranean than the colder and windier capital, Vienna. It’s much more temperate, which is good news for the college students: the city is home to six universities, in case you’re interested in studying abroad.

The warm weather followed us, so we didn’t have to contend with any snow as we navigated the mountains. We did go through some pretty long tunnels, though, which really messed with our GPS. It would lose the signal and give us instructions such as “turn left in 100 meters” – which really wouldn’t have been a very healthy thing to do since the end of the tunnel was still a couple of kilometers ahead. No doubt the tunnels made for a faster and safer trip than driving over the mountains, but they do tend to limit your view, which is too bad since we saw some pretty dramatic things when there were only clouds over our heads.

Alpine sunset.

Alpine sunset.

Graz is a relatively simple place to get around in. Essentially all public transit options run through the train station (the Haptbahnhof) and city center (Hauptplatz). The main square is very compact compared to Prague Old Town Square or the Budejovice square, but was jammed with vendors and Christmas Markets. Overlooking the square is the Schloßberg, a rocky hill that commands the area. We were told that the Schloßberg is very worth seeing, and my vestigial German vocabulary told me that “Schloß” means “Castle” so we spent some time looking for a castle. It turns out the castle no longer exists. It was such an impregnable fortress that even Napoleon couldn’t defeat it. Napoleon did manage to defeat the Austrians, though, without taking the castle – but demanded that the Austrians destroy the castle as part of the surrender terms (Treaty of Schönbrunn). The town itself paid a ransom to Napoleon to preserve the clock tower (the symbol of the town) and the bell tower. The grounds were later turned into a public park and it is a magnificent location for concerts and events, with a great view of the city. Graz clock tower


There are a few ways to get up to the Schloßberg; you can buy a ticket on the funicular, or a ticket to use the lift, or you can climb the 390 stairs on the side of the rock. (None of these options were available to Napoleon).

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Uphill all the way – our experiences in Cesky Krumlov and Ceske Budejovice

by the Night Writer

We’ve been on the move pretty much since Dec. 20. We ended our month-long residency in the 5th floor apartment in Prague and started to take little bites of Europe as we made our way, ultimately, to Turin, Italy where we are now and will remain for a few days before starting back to Prague for the rest of our adventure. With our travel schedule and varying degrees of internet access it’s been difficult to keep the blog updated, but I’ve definitely been taking lots of photos, and it’s time to work through the backlog. Today’s account features to Czech cities: Cesky Krumlov and Ceske Budojovice.

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Ice on Fire

by the Night Writer



I like hats, but most hats don’t like me. That is, most hats aren’t a good look with my over-large jug. Broad-brim fedoras work well; and I can get by with a flat cabbie-cap, but ball caps, stocking caps, Panamas, Trilbys, pork-pies – all pretty much end up looking like a wart on a pumpkin when I put them on. One of our first days in Prague, though, I saw an older guy wearing a boiled-wool hat like the one above, and I immediately thought that that style could work for me – and keep my ears warm. It took awhile to find one (I don’t know what the style is called) but I found this one in a Christmas Market in Prague, and they even had one my size. I scouted around another day or two to find the jaunty red pin like I had imagined in my mind’s eye.

Both of my daughters, however, have heads for hats; just about anything they put on looks good – even my over-sized ones. This hat is no exception. When I said I’d bought a new hat, Tiger Lilly gave an “Oh, Lord” roll of the eyes. When she saw it, though, she said, “Hey!” and put it on, and it looked so good on her that I almost didn’t want to wear it again. You can see what I mean in the photo, taken at the Prague bus station as we waited for our ride to Ceske Budejovice. When she posed for this on a gray day, the surroundings and the history I’ve felt here in the Czech Republic suddenly reminded of the old Elton John song, “Nikita”, from 1985. It’s actually a fairly mediocre video – not to mention that it gave people the impression that Nikita is a woman’s name (not the case in Russia), but it’s evocative of the last stages of the Cold War. The weather has actually been warmer than usual here, but if I have to war with the cold this winter, I’m ready.

(As a side note, the “Nikita” in the video is Anya Major, who was the of the famous Apple “1984” ad.)

Czech reality

by the Night Writer

The first and longest part of our stay in Prague is almost over. On Sunday we’ll start off on a southerly sojourn through Austria and Italy before taking up residence again in Prague in early January. Before we start the next leg of our trip I thought I’d tie-up some random notes and observations from the past month.

Kings of the road

The trams, or streetcars, are plentiful here and the system works pretty well. It takes a bit of effort to get the feel for the map (and the language) as I’ve shared before, but these are the easiest way to get around, with the three Metro (subway) lines being your best bet for covering longer distances in the city.

On the streets, the trams have undisputed right of way everywhere they go. As a driver or pedestrian you could dispute it, I suppose, but the physics really aren’t in your favor. An interesting thing, though, is that the trams, which run on rails embedded in the cobblestones and asphalt streets, don’t use bells and lights to announce themselves at stops. They show up without fanfare, in front of an audience that is expecting them. Contrast this to the Twin Cities where the light-rail trains have all the bells and whistles when stopping or pulling away – and yet some folks there lately seem to find it hard to keep from getting hit by these. Personally, I like the quieter approach. There’s a tram line about 100 feet from our apartment where I “work from home” each day. Trams pass by about every 10 minutes, and from the fifth floor I find the rumble actually kind of comforting.

Will I see you tonight, on a downtown tram?

Will I see you tonight, on a downtown tram?

If you really want a sense of power, though, you just need to be a pedestrian. The drivers here are conditioned to give pedestrians all kinds of room. The law, in fact, is pretty strict: failure to give right of way to pedestrians will get you 4 points on your license and a fine of 2500 to 5000 Kc (about $100 to $200). If you accumulate 12 points in a year you lose your license for at least a year. There are times when I’ll approach a “zebra” crossing on the street and will pause while still on the sidewalk to let an approaching car go by – only to see the car come to a stop in the middle of the street to let me pass, and all without a shaking a fist or flying a finger at me. Next to having people jump up and offer me (and my cane) a seat on the tram or subway, this is the most amazing thing I’ve seen over here.

Speeding can get you 5 points and a 5,000 to 10,000 Kc fine, but if you really want to get in trouble just drink and drive. The acceptable blood-alcohol level here is ZERO. As in 0.0. If you have from .1 to .3 percent alcohol per millilitre BAC (which is, I think, essentially what you get from cough syrup) you get docked 3 points and have to pay 10,000 to 20,000 Kc. Go over the.3 threshold and its 6 points and the same fine, but you also risk losing your driving privileges for a year, regardless of points. Refuse to take the BAC test and it’s a 7 point charge and a 25,000 to 50,000 Kc fine. Perhaps the drivers are all so careful around pedestrians because they realize that if anyone on the streets is drunk it’s likely the person on foot!

Gun laws

While the policie cast a hard eye on driving infractions, the Czech Republic is pretty laid back about gun ownership. They don’t have a Second Amendment here; gun ownership is as mundane a right as owning any type of property, and if you are a citizen and can pass a background and proficiency test similar to those in Minnesota, as well as a medical exam, you can get a permit that both allows you to purchase a gun or guns, and to carry them around with you. A reported 48% of the population have these permits. The deaths from guns ratio is at 2.0 per 100,000; not the lowest in Europe where many countries prohibit private ownership (but lower than Switzerland and France), but hardly blood running in the streets. The permits are good for 10 years, but there has been talk in Parliament of reducing this to 5 years.

The Czechs actually have a very long tradition of owning firearms, going back to the 1400s when the Hussites defended their religious freedom (very effectively) against the Pope through the use of firearms. The Czechs are actually credited with coining the word “pistol” (pistala) in those days, which roughly translates as “hand cannon”. There are only two times in history where private gun ownership has been forbidden here: under the Nazis in WWII and under the Communists until 1989.

“Ya can’t take our freedom! Well, maybe.”

Folks here still remember the yoke of Communism on their necks and in their living rooms, and since the 1989 Velvet Revolution their laws and outlook have been strongly in favor of personal liberty. You can see it most obviously in the bars and restaurants, which are usually full of cigarette smoke. Calls for laws to ban smoking have been repeatedly shot down over the years (not necessarily by the gun owners) but they keep coming back. Editorials this week have been supporting these laws and railing against “the tyranny of private interests over the good of the public.” No doubt for the children. Similar bills are in the works to limit the types of fuel you can use to heat your home, and to give the government more latitude in monitoring all electronic transactions.

AnonymouS Coffee. Motto: "Wake Up!"

AnonymouS Coffee.
Motto: “Wake Up!”

Great food, and affordable

Even if they’re a bit smoky, the restaurants are good here (and there are often “no-smoking” sections for those who choose). We haven’t had a bad or indifferent experience, food-wise, since we’ve been here. Everything has been tasty and usually pretty affordable. Even the nicest places we’ve eaten at have been priced at about what we’d spend in the U.S., while we often find good food at great prices. The other day my wife and I stopped for lunch at a place near our apartment. Their lunch specials were a 3-course meal: two fried cutlets, boiled potatoes and coleslaw salad for me; grilled tenderloin medallions, fried potatoes and slaw for her – for just under 200 Kc each ($8). On top of that, the delis, bakeries and coffee shops have been fabulous and also affordable. When Tiger Lilly did her research on cost of living, she wasn’t wrong about the Czech Republic.

Mala Strana cafe.

Mala Strana cafe.

We’ve also eaten very well in our own kitchen. The butcher shops and markets have displayed beautiful looking steaks, chops and chicken breasts – and these have tasted better than what we eat back home. I don’t know what they’re doing (or not doing) to it. The cuts aren’t as lean or as well-trimmed as we’re used to seeing, but the taste is excellent. And the bacon! Ah, the bacon…

Excuse me, where was I? Oh well, you might not be able to spell or pronounce it over here, but if you can get it into your mouth you’ll be very happy.

A little help?

An article last week in the local English-language newspaper cited a study showing that Czechs are among the least generous, least helpful and least likely to volunteer among all the peoples of the world. (No. 1 in all these categories was Myanmar, FYI. The U.S. is typically second or third in these rankings). This is not to say that the Czechs are hostile or unusually rude; just exceedingly indifferent. As good as the food and prices are in the restaurants, for example, you’re not likely to find a waiter or waitress who cares much about your experience (except the guy who served us today at the Italian place, but I think he may have been the owner).

Again, they’re not going to spit in your food, or shove it at you, but they’ll disappear for long stretches of time, which is a problem if you want to order another drink or even pay your bill. Restaurant service is just a small sample, of course, but it was interesting to read the findings of the global survey. I really don’t have a handle on why this is; if it’s a cultural hangover from the post-war era or what. Certainly the drivers and tram riders are quick to conform to certain standards, but whether out of courtesy or fear of large fines, I don’t know. I suspect it will take a long time of living here and talking to people to gain any real insight. For now, then, I just note it and move on.

The country has been adamant about not taking in refugees, and the Czech president, Milos Zeman, has been very outspoken about it. The country did agree to take in some refugees, but only Christian ones. (Even as another study shows the Czech Republic as the most atheistic in Europe. I do have some thoughts on what is behind that, which I’ll share in a later post that I’ve been working on for some time).

Anyway, we’ll be leaving Prague on Sunday. First we’re heading to a lovely spot in southern part of the country. I’d type the name, but it’s one of those that WordPress can’t comprehend the alphabet. We’ve been referring to the place as “Beetlejuice” between ourselves. We’ll move on from there to Graz and then to Trieste for Christmas. Then we’ll stop in Verona on our way to Turin where we’ll spend the week around New Year’s. When we return to Prague we’ll move into a roomy, remodeled attic – that features an elevator!

The Reverend Mother, btw, found a GREAT room for Tiger Lilly to rent. It’s a 16 x 16′ private room in a larger apartment, about one block from Wenceslas Square. She has a view of the Museum out one window and a private, tended garden out of another, and it’s just within her budget. I’m sure she’ll share more details at some point, once she finishes her program. Her certification course has been very intensive and eats up nearly every moment of her free time. Getting out of town is going to be good for all of us!


Take me to church

by the Night Writer

We may have found a church here in Prague. Of course, we couldn’t do it by just looking in the Yellow Pages or checking Trip Adviser. Setting out to “find” a church strikes me as a rather tedious process, at least if you’re trying to do it in your own understanding. You know, make a list of your important doctrines, visit multiple churches and services, judge the fellowship and donuts, and try to find a pastor that tickles your ears in the way they like to be tickled. Or you can trust God where He leads and listen with your spirit.

Last Wednesday night we decided to get dinner at a Christmas market. I prefer the look and feel of Old Town Square to the modern and stretched out Wenceslas Square, but Wenceslas was closer so we went there. As we approached the statue of King Wenceslas we could hear someone proclaiming about something in Czech to a small crowd through a loud-speaker. Since Wenceslas Square is a center for protests and demonstrations we were curious about what he was talking about but didn’t think much about it. As we were eating the Reverend Mother said, “It sounds as if he’s preaching, but I haven’t heard anything that sounded like ‘Jesus’ in what he’s saying.” A couple of minutes later, though, the speaker switched to English, and he was definitely speaking about Jesus and sharing his testimony.

We went over to investigate and met Petr, a  young man in his 30s who is with a group that is witnessing in front of the Wenceslas statue on Wednesday and Saturday nights, just a couple of blocks from the “sex district” of Prague. Petr told us of the people from all over the world – including Africa and the Middle East – who have spontaneously shown up to participate in their crusade. You could tell he was humbled by the experience. We chatted for awhile and told him we were looking for a local church and he provided a list of churches that were supporting the outreach in the square.

The Rev. Mum checked these out on a map and selected a church that looked to be the easiest to get to and didn’t involve a lot of walking. Though it took a tram, a subway and a bus to get there, the bus stopped directly in front of the church, so that’s where we went on Sunday. All we really new about the church, International Church of Prague, was it’s location but we felt right at home with the people we met and with the worship service, and we could see from their announcements where the heart of the church is and how they are engaging with the community around them. There was a guest speaker yesterday, a young man with a music ministry. Specifically, a rap music ministry, and he shared one of his music videos (see below) before he started his message. For all the rap trappings, this fella was definitely “Old School”, working in quotes and teaching from Charles Spurgeon and C.S. Lewis into his sermon about the nature of God’s mercy.

Afterwards we met the pastor and his wife and several other members who approached us. It felt good all around, and researching their web page later showed that while we may differ on a couple of points, their mission and heart is for unity and relationship (which was what I sensed in talking to the people we met). Besides, we’re called to fellowship so we can grow and be part of a body of believers, not look for reasons (or excuses) to stay away. We’re about to leave town for a few weeks but we’ll be back to Prague in January and will visit again before we return to the States. Tiger Lilly can share her own impressions and leadings about the church, but it seemed as if she liked it and would feel at home here.

Verse One:
La vida seems sombre, at least melancholic,
Not even hyperbolic when I say my generation’s fathered by Panasonic,
Electronic substitutions,
In place of formerly universal institutions,
In the midst of confusion,
The heart longs for your presence
Perhaps unaware but it’s searching transcendence,
And Material makes for an inferior foundation
Excuse me but X is missing from this equation
0+0 don’t equal civilisation,
Ya theories need room for author of creation,
We need to know our maker in order to find our purpose,
Cause there’s much more to man than what’s seen on the surface,
More than what the money in our purse can purchase,
Calvary ripped the curtain
Draw near and worship,
Son I carry the flame,
Cause he carried my blame,
It ain’t time enough to tarry to I’m
So I’m repping his name.

All our lives are shaded
The whole world is shaded
Creation groans
We long to be emancipated
Brokenness, eyes filled with hopelessness
Hypocrisy, we’re desperate for his holiness
All our lives are shaded,
The whole world is shaded,
Creation groans
We long to be emancipated
From this body of sin
From the darkness within
I’m clinging to his cross
And I’m walking with him

Verse Two:
Daily I feel the force,
Of the brokenness of our families
The affects of divorce
We need to shine our lights even if it’s like morse code,
Transcode the message to the youth on the streets and the road,
That the son of God strode through our planet,
Now the heart’s his abode,
But inside there’s a hole,
And left to our devices
We’re chained to our vices
Fiends snatch devices
And chop coke up in slices
I’m wondering what’s the price
That we’re willing to pay
We sell what makes us human, kill if you get in the way
Little hope on the horizon
Few heroes to fix our eyes on
Women sell their corpus
To men with their wives home,
Even the church is marked by hypocrisy
A mockery of how shes meant to function properly
We’re but a shadow of what God intended,
But I look forward to the day when it will all be mended.

Verse Three:
I feel the lightness to our life on earth,
A dearth of endurance from our birth to the hearse,
And what I’m meaning is its value is seeming
When we step into the real this will feel as if dreaming
From film and prose, to poems it shows,
We’re searching for the source of beauty from which our art flows
The heart knows, But when all is relative,
we lack the foundation to form meta-narrative,
Though in comparative wealth, our purpose has been stolen in a manner of stealth,
Without God’s authority all that’s left is the self
Look for personal fulfillment leave the truth on the shelf
We’re far too easily pleased,
Like children happy playing in the slum when offered holidays in the sun,
We need gravity,
I’m looking for that higher reality
And Christ is the one who can bridge the disparity

A man’s gotta eat – and shop

by the Night Writer

I’ve learned from previous overseas trips that you really don’t need as many clothes as you might think you do. When weight and space are prime concerns then two or three pairs of pants and 4-6 shirts (depending on how much you think you’ll sweat) can last you more than a week (and sometimes two) between launderings. If you have regular access to a washing machine you could get by with less. Since I was limiting myself as I packed for this trip, I naturally chose only my most favorite shirts based on color and comfort. (I was also limited by having to pack 8 pairs of Tiger Lilly’s shoes and boots into my bag, but she is staying a lot longer than I will be.)

The problem with this strategy is that since my most favorite shirts are the ones most likely to be worn, they are also the most likely to be worn out. For some reason, I don’t notice a frayed collar or sleeve when I’m at home – and neither does my wife. When we’re sitting in an airport, or on a train, however (and not in the vicinity of a George Clooney billboard), I am somehow more likely to become the object of her attention. First I may hear a little gasp, followed by a tactful pause. Then, “Dear – maybe you shouldn’t wear that shirt out in public.”

“But, I like it,” I’ll say, in a small voice.

“I can tell.”

The upshot of which is that I’m over here in Europe with few presentable garments for my upper body – and no gypsy tent-makers in sight. This might explain why my wife is so content to leave me in my tower rather than have me mingle with the public. The thing is, as I get more accustomed to the stairs, I really like getting out on the streets of Prague – especially if I’ve been cooped up in the apartment for a couple of days. Last night when we hit the streets (under cover of  darkness) I felt like a puppy turned loose in the yard, eager to sniff everything. While we were out we noticed a clothing store near the apartment, and a visit there made a good excuse for getting out at lunchtime today to see what they might have in my size. I scored two nice-looking cotton shirts for 200 krona (about $8) each, and my wife picked up some sweaters at a similar price.

That mission accomplished we went to lunch at a place called Polévky, which means “Soups”. (I wonder if they’ve trademarked that)? The Reverend Mother and Tiger Lilly discovered this place the first week we were here, and they make a great chicken and tarragon soup in a tomato base. I got mine with a big wedge of bread, about the size of a large pizza slice, filled with cheese.

The first soup is the chicken and tarragon; very savory! The other soups are, roughly translated, "beef in cream", "bean and nuts in cream", "cream of mushroom" and "potatoes and mushrooms".

The first soup is the chicken and tarragon; very savory! The other soups are, roughly translated, “beef in cream”, “bean and nuts in cream”, “cream of mushroom” and “potatoes and mushrooms”.

There is another cafe close by as well, “The Beach Cafe” that I’m going to try. The lettering on the window invites you to “sit in their pleasant surroundings” and they offer “daily breads”, stuffed baguettes, cutlets and…oh, ick…fried cauliflower. Sometimes you’ve got to live dangerously when you’re on the streets.

Beach Cafe

Here are my new shirts – cheap, but the collars and cuffs are pristine. (Diet tip: try converting your sizes to centimeters, big boy.)