Tuesday, June 19, 2012

 Air Raid sign original from WW2

Thank you America in square in Pilzen

30Kc is about $1.40 USD for 1/2 L of beer.  Coke is more expensive

Monument in Prague for outgoing team leader's brother who set himself on fire to protest
Soviet occupation in 1969.  How little we really know about loss of freedom

Marker at Terazin

Last Presentation at Prague Club the home of the GSE Energizer Bunny: George

At the conclusion of the trip, I have to echo the sentiments of WOW, what a trip. As the leader, I could not have asked for a better team of professionals to represent both our district and the US. I look forward to our next meeting at the district conference next March. Until then, will never forget the hospitality of our hosts.

Please note in the pictures below, a couple of interesting features. The red arrow is a real sign left over from WW2 in the city of Pilzen. Also, you can see the monument in downtown that says Thanks America. We have a great time visiting the Urqual brewery and the underground storage for the beer as it ages. Prague—what a great city and so easy to get around on public transportation. Buy a ticket for a period of time and move from subway to tram on the same ticket. You can also see our final presentation at George's club in Prague. We decided to wear our Czech Republic T shirts for the last presentation. On the day before we left, I had the experience of visiting a small research nuclear reactor and looking down into the core and seeing the blue water that comes. What an event that was.

To Aaron, Joey, Leslie, and Andrea, I know we are forever changed a bit and I hope our paths will cross many times in the future. 


Monday, June 11, 2012

Prague - and the surrounding areas

Hello everyone! We have all made it safely back to the United States and have many great memories that we will treasure forever from our trip.

Our last few days were spent in the capital city of the Czech Republic - Prague. Our time in Prague was absolutely amazing where we spent a lot ot time seeing the city (which we are now very familiar with and can safely navigate by ourselves - well mostly!) We had previously toured the Old Town of Prague on our first day, but Marcela didn't disappoint in her tour she gave us.

We also visited a few towns outside the city including Terezin which was constructed in the late 18th century but is mostly known as being used during World War II as a ghetto, concentrating Jews from Czechoslovakia, as well as many from Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and Denmark. More than 150,000 Jews were sent there, and although it was not an extermination camp about 33,000 died in the ghetto itself, mostly because of the appalling conditions arising out of extreme population density. About 88,000 inhabitants were deported to Auschwitz and other extermination camps. At the end of the war there were 17,247 survivors. This was very difficult for many of us to see and to understand the conditions that these people had to face - only getting one cup of water and one piece of bread a day, then working extremely physical jobs for 12 hours a day only to then be crammed into a tiny room with hundreds of other people to sleep. It was also very difficult for us to see the execution wall where the bullet holes are numerous and still visible.

On a happier note - we also really enjoyed our time in "The Pub" which is a bar where you serve yourself your own beer  and are in a competition not only with your table to drink the most beer, but also with every table in the bar -- which is displayed on a huge screen so everyone can see who has drank the most and where your table stands. This is also connected across the country to other Pubs across the country to see where your table and your current bar stands. Very unique! We also had another very interesting experience here....but that is for a completely different blog post :)

We saw so much more -- and I hope another team member will post about some of our other experiences as well!

I cannot believe that our trip has ended. What is the opposite of home sick -- because that is what I am. I will visit the Czech Republic and Slovakia again!

On a final note -- we cannot thank the GSE team from the Czech Republic and Slovakia enough. The time you spent with us and the amazing things you planned for us were remarkable. I know I can speak for every team member when I say that we miss you already and hope to see each of you again soon! And also, a HUGE thank you to George -- who kept us in line and did everything in his power to make sure we were happy.


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

České Budějovice

This week the team has been spending most of our time in and around České Budějovice. What an amazing area of the Czech Republic...we have had so much fun here in the southern part of the country. The credit goes to our great hosts this week, Jan Vebr and his family. Thanks for hosting the team and showing us such a good time.

Saturday was our day of traveling. We went from Ostrava to Prague and then from Prague to České Budějovice by train. I think everyone tried to use this time to catch up some sleep. The rest of the evening was a nice relaxing evening walking around the town and spending some quality time together at the house.

Sunday was full of sight seeing around the area. I can not decide what was better...everything we saw or getting to sleep in some. We spent the day in Český Krumlov, Lipno Lake, doing a little hiking through the woods and visiting Dívčí Kámen.

Český Krumlov is an amazing town in the Southern Bohemian region of the country and is home to the second largest castle in the country. In addition, the old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The town is amazing. We heard from everyone before coming that this was a must visit place and now I see why. If you ever get to the Czech Republic, make a stop here.

Lipno Lake and the visit to Dívčí Kámen were a great change in scenery. I think the entire team has enjoyed the days we have been able to get outside and enjoy some fresh air in the woods.

While most of you were celebrating Memorial Day back in the US, we went back to work on Monday (a very hard job). We spent the morning visiting the monastery in Milevsko, dodged the storm while visiting Zvíkov Castle, and then spent some time visiting Písek.

The first mention of Milevsko was in 1184. Several years later the monastery was built. It is one of only a few left in the country and the spaces are still used today for weddings and funerals.

Zvíkov Castle dates back to before 1250 and sits on the Vltava and Otava rivers. The castle is beautiful, but the best image of it is an arial image that shows the entire terrain.

Písek is a very nice small town. Several people in other places in the country responded to us, when we told them we were going to Písek, that it was sandy there. Apparently the name means sand. As luck would have it, they actually had a sand sculpture display up celebrating international films that had been filmed in the town. We spent some time touring the town, met with their mayor briefly, and had a chance to spend some time with some of the exchange students from Mexico, Canada, and Oregon while we were there. After that we attend our first of three Rotary meetings in the area.

Zvíkov Castle


Tuesday was a fascinating day. I think everyone was looking forward to it. We had the unique chance, thanks to Jan's father Vladimir, to spend the morning touring the Tremelin Nuclear Power Plant. It was a first for the entire team. We had a great tour in the morning, had lunch at the facility, and then sat in on a presentation about nuclear power in Europe and the future of the nuclear facilities. I do not think we were prepared for the security on this place....we thought the embassy in Bratislava was bad, but this was much more involved. Only Vladimir was able to take a camera into the facility. Once we see some photos I will get the, posted.

We spent the afternoon touring Hulboka Castle. The castle is beautiful and sits on top of a hill. All though the original castle dates back to before 1300, the current look of the castle is inspired by the design of several castles in England, especially Windsor.

We finished our day with the Rotary Club of Hulboka. It was a fun evening. Our most popular questions from those watching the presentation...
Does Winchester VA (Andrea's home) have anything to do with Winchester guns?
What have we liked the best about the trip?
What things have surprised us on the trip?

And some of the random ones...
Why does Tennessee have three stars in the flag?
Why does Jack Daniels have two empty chairs on his grave?
And finally....can we please end discrimination of Czech's in the US...so many places have "No Checks Accepted".

Wednesday was our vocational day and the tour of the Budweiser/Budvar plant. I spent the day with the staff at the University of South Bohemia. It is a fairly new school, just celebrated the 20 year anniversary, with about 13,000 students. The campus had a great feel to it...felt like many of our campuses back home in the US. I spent the morning with the former and current vice rector and then the rest of the day with some f the staff members in the international studies program. I wish I could find a copy of their pr video online. It was great and shows a lot of info about the school.

This afternoon we spent time touring the Budvar plant, the original Budweiser. It was a great tour and the tasting was also fun. They actually do export the main beer to the US, but because of current litigation over the name, it is sold as Czechvar beer in the US.

Ok...I think that is all for now. Tomorrow we are heading to Pilsen and then on to Prague for the final few days of the trip.