Showing posts with label Czech Culture. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Czech Culture. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Czech Funeral Etiquette



Hi Everyone,
Today’s post deals with Czech funeral etiquette and some of the issues you may face if you find yourself attending a funeral here. This post comes from the recent loss of my sister-in-law, Světlana. Světlana fought a long battle with cancer.  She went through quite a lot in the last 3-4 years, but now she’s in a much better place—she’s no longer suffering. We have this assurance from God.

No Idea about Czech Funerals and the Required Etiquette
 Světlana's was the first funeral I’ve attended in the Czech Republic, since moving here just over ten years ago. Being a foreigner married to a Czech, I always try to adapt to the ways of being and doing here, as much as possible. However, I had no idea about Czech funerals or the required etiquette, and there wasn’t much information online. Jiří was the best source of information, so I’ll share with you what he told me about Czech funerals in general. My goal is to help other foreigners with basic funeral etiquette--those who may need or want to attend a Czech funeral. But first, we’ll take a look at cemeteries here and grave rentals.

Czech Cemetery

Czech Cemeteries
Cemeteries can seem like creepy places--as they’re often portrayed in horror films. I always had a fear of cemeteries when I was a little girl. As an adult, I’ve been OK with cemeteries, but they were still not my favorite places to visit. My feelings towards cemeteries finally changed after visiting some of the very old cemeteries here and in other parts of Europe. 

Czech cemeteries are some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. They aren’t creepy—just very old. You’ll find headstones, graves covered by slabs and with ornate headstones, beautiful mausoleums, etc. Every holiday you’ll see some family member tending their family graves—cleaning them, laying fresh flowers and even leaving candles. One of my favorite Czech holidays (as in holy day) is Všech svatých (All Saints Day). On this day, the cemeteries are aglow with beautiful flowers and candles.


Renting Grave Plots 
Just as in cemeteries around the world, Czech cemeteries offer spaces for urns, traditional burials, and also special sections where ashes can be scattered. This is normal and understood. However, there was one new idea that I encountered with Czech burials (which may be common in Europe)—it came as quite a shock. The shock was learning that you don’t buy a grave plot. Instead, a plot is somehow chosen, and then the family of the dearly departed pays “rent” for this grave as long as they live or are able to pay. 

Once the family or responsible persons no longer pay rent, the grave is opened and the remains are removed, to be cremated in common with other remains of those whose families no longer pay to rent a plot. This whole idea came as quite a shock to me when I first moved here. (Back home, you buy a plot and it’s yours forever, unless the cemetery is moved, then you’re moved with it—it most cases). Once the remains are removed the entire grave is re-used, possibly including the headstone and any slab that covers the grave. 

While this can be shocking for some foreigners, after living here for just over a decade, you begin to understand the pragmatic thinking of Czech people. This country is small—there’s only so much land available to use for cemeteries. So renting a plot makes sense. However, I’m not comfortable with the thought of loved ones being put into a common cremation once the rent’s not paid. 

The best option may be to just go ahead and opt for cremation when a loved one dies. Cremation is quite common here—for atheists, Christians and others. The main reasons for choosing cremation are the costs of the funeral and grave rental, and the fact that it’s hard to find space in many cemeteries in this country.

For cremations you can rent a spot in the cemetery for the urn, or you can keep it at home. There’s also the option of discretely spreading the ashes in a favorite place of the deceased. If you keep the urn and/or spread the ashes, you won’t have to worry about paying the grave rent. I’m not sure if there are fees involved for spreading ashes in a public or national park, as I wasn’t able to find this information online (at least in English). 

Funeral Dress Code for Men and Women
The funeral dress code is fairly simple and applies to everyone going to a funeral—natives and foreigners of both genders, and it even applies to kids. Everyone comes in their Sunday-best, though casual office attire is OK, too. Jeans are frowned upon, as are dirty shoes, etc. Men, women and children should dress in dark clothes—black is best, however navy blue also works. For my sister-in-law’s funeral, I wanted to wear a white shirt under a black sweater with black dress slacks, but Jiří said that wasn’t acceptable. There should be no white or other colors. So, I was dressed in black from head to toe (aside from my red hair). 

Men can wear a nice shirt and slacks; some opt for a suit, though that’s not always necessary. Women can wear dresses, skirts or dress slacks with blouses, etc.—all must be dark. Shoes should be in good repair and clean. I can’t stress this enough—be sure your shoes are clean. If you go anywhere (other than hiking or working on the farm or in the garden) with dirty shoes, people will see you as lazy, sloppy and careless. You don’t want to give anyone this impression, especially at formal occasions such as weddings and funerals. (You also need clean shoes for job interviews, etc.)

Carnations 

Funeral Flowers and Wreaths
The type of arrangement you bring depends on how close you were to the one who passed away and your budget. Typical floral arrangements include a bouquet, a wreath or single flowers. The most common flowers for Czech funerals are calla lilies, roses, carnations and chrysanthemums. Flower colors will depend on the season and what’s available. You can choose to buy one rose and lay it on the coffin or in the grave, depending on the type of funeral service. The only rule is that a bouquet (I’m not sure if this applies to wreaths) must have an even number of flowers (unless you chose just one rose). This rule is strictly applied by Czechs. You can choose real or artificial flowers, though real flowers are often more appreciated. 

Jiří and I ordered a wreath with a base of evergreens, with white daisy-type flowers and white carnations that were tipped in a deep mauve. The wreath’s ribbon matched the mauve of the carnations. The florist asked what we would like printed on the ribbon in gold leaf. Jiří said, “Farewell, beloved sister (fill in the name here).” I was horrified (not at all the appropriate text for funeral arrangement ribbons back where I come from)! However, Jiří explained that they say this here and that it’s not disrespectful or hurtful.  

One note—we went to a florist and ordered the wreath with no problems. However, we had to it pick up the morning of the funeral and take it ourselves. I’m not sure if this is how it works in larger cities, such as Prague. The wreath was a good size and turned out beautifully. Thankfully family members gave us a ride to my sister-in-law's service—we didn’t have to manage the wreath on public transport. 

Funeral and Memorial Services
Czech funeral and memorial services vary widely—as in the U.S. and other countries. The type of service will depend on whether or not the deceased was a Christian, their own requests for the service, etc. You’ll find traditional funerals, with an open or closed casket and burial service, or memorial services only. It varies widely.

My Sister-in-Law’s Memorial Service
My sister-in-law, Světlana, had asked to be cremated, so my brother-in-law arranged a Christian memorial service for her in a chapel provided by the crematorium.  The day was beautiful—it started out cloudy, but later turned sunny, while the temperature remained cold. The chapel was decorated in a Christian manner, with beautiful stained glass windows and a very pretty altar in the front. The service was led by my brother-in-law’s priest.

My sister-in-law’s casket was placed directly in front of the altar, with tall white candles at the head and foot of the casket. They had also placed other candles around the casket—it was all quite pretty and very formal. There was some music playing—some songs that had deep meaning for my sister-in-law. The songs were by Queen, Enya and some others—very pretty and respectful songs, which struck us all to the heart. 


As the family started to enter the chapel, we each had to place our flower arrangements around the casket. There was a lady guiding everyone, suggesting where to place the flowers—she was very respectful. After everyone had placed their flowers, the scene was surprisingly beautiful—a rainbow of colors and types of flowers—just beautiful. It looked like a garden with Světlana’s casket in the middle of all the flowers, with the candles all around. 

The service itself was about 30 minutes long. The priest gave a beautiful message—he’d been close to my brother-in-law and Světlana during her battle with cancer. One note—when the service started, it was cloudy; but as the service commenced, the sun came out and brilliantly lit up the window showing the risen Christ. So beautiful and moving!

When it was over, we all slowly left the chapel and headed outside. It was chilly—we stood in knots of 3-5 people, softly talking as we waited for my brother-in-law and his parents-in-law. There was no graveside service since my sister-in-law was to be cremated. My brother-in-law will later take her ashes to be interred in a cemetery in the town where Světlana grew up. 

After the Service
Once the service was over, our family went out to have lunch together in a restaurant nearby. It was a small place and had great food. We had a really nice visit, in spite of the reason for our gathering. We all toasted Světlana. Since then, our family has tried to be a support for my brother-in-law as he grieves.


My Thoughts
I have to say that my sister-in-law’s memorial service was beautiful—as beautiful as any other Christian service I’ve attended back home. According to Jiří, this funeral wasn’t typical for here—many people are atheists and funeral services are usually for family and friends to have closure—to say their farewells. There’s no talk or thought of a soul living on, etc. However, it is interesting to note that even if someone claims to be an atheist, they may still opt for a Christian funeral or memorial service. These services are usually done in the Roman Catholic tradition, as this is the most prominent church in the Czech Republic.

My sister-in-law’s passing has left a hole in our family; however God has given us the assurance that Světlana is with Him. God was very present in the midst of this family—His presence was so strong at the service—I can’t describe it—there are no words, but He was there with each of us. He continues to comfort and console our family and my brother-in-law. God is good. 

This is a short take on funeral etiquette in the Czech Republic and the types of funeral issues foreigners may face here. The information I’ve provided is only a small bit from my one experience with funerals here. Still, I hope this basic information may help others who have to attend funerals here. 

That's all for today! 

Have a great day!

God bless,
Sher

RIP Světlana--you're loved and missed. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Tale of Kutná Hora

Map of Medieval Kutná Hora

Jiří and I recently took a trip to the city of Kutná Hora, which is about 52 miles (83.7 km) southeast of Prague. It’s an easy day trip from the capital, making Kutná Hora a popular tourist destination. I was completely charmed by this place—it captures your imagination in a vivid way with the beautiful architecture, medieval winding streets and its wealth of history.

 Kutna Hora Cityscape from the 1600s

The city is widely known for its famous Kostince (Bone Church), but there’s so much more to see and experience. The city center became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1995, and is the 4th largest UNESCO site in the Czech Republic. Just walking through the old city it soon becomes evident Kutná Hora was a place of wealth and importance.

Highlights from Kutná Hora's History


A Mining Town


Kutná Hora, Czech for “Mining/Digging Mountain,” is named after the famous silver mines from its medieval past. Silver mining dates back to at least 985 when silver ore surface deposits were discovered by the Slavníks (one of the oldest Czech tribes, who competed with the Přemyslids for ruling Bohemia). The Slavníks used the silver ore to mint silver coins in Malín (now a part of Kutná Hora). The coins were stamped with the words “Malin Civitas” and were minted between 985 and 995.

Silver Mining

The Kutná Hora Silver Rush

Fast forward to the 1200s and we come to the big silver rush of the Kutná Hora area. Rich silver ore was found deposited on the surface of the land, causing a rush of new settlers (mostly Germans from Germanic areas and other nearby Czech mines) to move to the area. One resource suggests that in the beginning of the silver rush, the area was similar to those gold rush settlements in the U.S. In other words, Kutná Hora was a wild and chaotic place, with no law--it was where you could take a stab at making your fortune in silver.

These medieval silver mines were the main supply of silver for Europe. Near the end of the 13th century, the area supplied one third of Europe’s silver production.




Prague Groschen (groš) (Front & Back)

Seat of the Royal Mint

Order came to the area when King Wenceslas II (1278-1305) issued a new royal mining code: the Ius Regale Montanorum. This was a legal document that set up all the administrative and technical terms and conditions needed for the operation of the silver mines. In addition, the city became the seat of the royal mint for the Czech lands.

The new mining code brought law and order, affluence, culture, and society to the wild silver rush town of Kutná Hora. New Germanic settlers also brought advanced manufacturing methods and social systems, which made these people dominant in the region for years to come.

Master Italian minters were brought in to create a new coin, known as the Prague Groschen (groš), which was minted from 1300 until about 1547. The royal mint was set up in a small castle, named the Italian Court in honor of the Italian minters. The formation of the royal mint made Kutná Hora the second most important city in the Czech lands only after Prague.

Jan Hus

The Hussite Wars & the Battle of Kutná Hora

In 1421, one of the first battles of the Hussite wars was fought in Kutná Hora. The battle was fought on December 21 & 22, 1421 between the troops of the Holy Roman Empire and the Hussites. The Hussites were followers of Jan Hus, a Catholic priest who wanted to reform the church. Hus was burned at the stake by the Council of Constance on July 5, 1415. It was after his death that his followers began to revolt, as the Catholic monarchs tried to force the Hussites to rejoin the Catholic Church.

During this time, Kutná Hora was also the scene of Hussite martyrdom. Those who were considered heretics were cast down mine shafts to their deaths. Bounties were paid for each heretic brought in.

 The Italian Court

Economic Ups & Downs
Just as modern mining towns experience economic ups and downs, so did Kutná Hora. The city became embroiled in the Hussite religious wars, which brought tragedy and death to this prosperous area. Many of the German magistrates and miners were either killed or quickly left the area during the wars. This led to the closing of the mint and most of the mines. Czechs moved in and restored the mines, which lead to renewed prosperity. However, silver mining again declined by the early 15th century.

The area’s decline continued into the 1600s when the mines eventually played out. At this point, Kutná Hora became a sleepy, backwater town until the coming of the railroad and modern industry in the late 1800s.

Walking in the Old City Center
Back to the present, you’ll see some evidence of the Kutná Hora’s past wealth when walking through the old city center. You’ll notice some very old buildings—most of these have been restored from former times. You can see in the pictures how some of the buildings may have looked before restoration. Becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site brought money into the city and they’ve done a beautiful job of restoring many buildings to their former glory.

Beautiful Building in Disrepair


A Building That Has Been Restored

This is a brief look at the historical highlights of Kutná Hora. It’s a charming city, easily reached by bus or train from Prague. I highly recommend you visit this beautiful place—you won’t be disappointed.

Map by Google

In the next post, I’ll share some pictures and details of three famous landmarks in Kutná Hora, including the Kostnice (Bone Church).

Thanks for stopping by!

Have a great day!

God bless,

Sher

(c) 2015 by Sher Vacik. All rights reserved.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy 8th Anniversary Czech Off the Beaten Path


Czech Off the Beaten Path was established back in 2007--eight years ago! The time's passed quickly and I've had many adventures since moving to the Czech Republic. This blog was started as a project to share my expat experiences, along with life married to a handsome Czech.

The Blogging Adventure

When I started writing CZOBP, I had no idea what direction the blog would take. It's become a mixture of travelogue, life experiences and funny "foreigner" stories (me--as the foreigner!) and more.

Czech Off the Beaten Path has not only provided me with a place to share stories, but it's also been a place where I continue to connect with readers and meet new people. Some readers are fellow expats in the Czech Republic and other countries, while others are back in the U.S. wondering what life is like out in the world. Along with meeting people, the blog has been a way to find freelance work and network with other freelancers.

In addition, writing this blog led me to writing for BellaOnline's Asthma site, along with writing my first ebook about asthma and working on my own freelance website.

The Past Year

Loss of Loved Ones


The past few months have been pretty busy with freelance work, but I've not been able to write much. Family matters have come to the fore.

My grandma passed away (at 100 years 11 months) and I lost my eldest daughter to PTSD (she's chosen to distance herself from everyone in our family. I hope and pray that we'll all be reunited one day). These two losses have hit me pretty hard.

Health Issues


My mother-in-law suffered a severe stroke back in June. This has had a profound effect on life for Jiri and I, but we continue to work through this situation together. I've also had to deal with my own health issues that are not life-threatening (nothing serious--just make you not feel so great).

Writing Came to a Stop


With all of this, writing just came to a stop. It's not writer's block, at least not in the traditional sense. I've had so much to write about, but just couldn't sit down and get it out. This has been more of an emotional issue--working through everything had to take precedence. However, I've finally gotten to a place where I've started writing again, and it sure feels good!


The Future


The future looks bright--my brother is marrying the love of his life this summer! I see his bride as the sister I've been waiting for--this has been in the making for 30 years or so! This is a very joyous time for our whole family!

My youngest daughter graduated with her master's degree this past May. She's back to work and happy with her new life. We're all very proud of her accomplishments. I have to say I'm one very proud mother!

Jirka and I continue to work on our cross-cultural marriage--there are always new experiences to deal with together. Each new experience points out some area that needs tending in our relationship. At times this leads to cross-cultural misunderstandings, but we keep working through together. We'll soon be celebrating our 11th anniversary, which is also the 9th anniversary of when I moved to the Czech Republic!

I'm also working on an update to my asthma ebook, along with another book to create an asthma series. I also have ideas for other books based on my expat experiences, etc. The future is bright, indeed!

What's Next on CZOBP


Kutna Hora

Jiri and I took a trip to Kutná Hora this past Wednesday. We had a wonderful time in that beautiful, ancient city. I'm working on a blog post about our trip and the things we saw, so be sure to check back for that post!

Thanks to all of you who continue to come by and visit--thanks for also visiting the CZOBP Facebook page and connecting on Twitter! It's been great meeting you all and I look forward to connecting with new people as the blog continues!

Thanks, again, and have a wonderful day!

God bless,

Sherry

Friday, February 6, 2015

The Trouble with Language

Danger: Keep Off Bridge!
Language Problems at Work!
The language in a cross-cultural marriage can be frustrating, but also funny. When a couple marries, they become one; in a cross-cultural marriage, this oneness generally brings together two different languages and the culture of language. By the culture of language, I mean all the nuances and turns of phrase that come with a person’s mother tongue. Idioms, jokes, etc. occasionally don’t cross over too well.

For Example

Just this morning my husband called from the office to ask what "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" means. A few months ago this word had come up in conversation—I can’t remember why. When we had the discussion, Jiri latched onto this tongue-twisting word with wonder and confusion. When he called this morning about the tongue-twister, I looked it up and explained it…which wasn't easy. This reminded me of the trouble we sometimes have between Jiri’s Czech and my English.

Try giving a definition of this word off the top of your head to someone who speaks the same language you do. Now, consider the difficulty level going up by 100% when trying to explain such a definition to a person not from your culture or country, who speaks English as a second (third, fourth, etc.) language. Not an easy job. When Jiri and I first discussed this word, he asked why it even exists? I had no idea—aside from hearing it in the song from the movie “Mary Poppins,” I’d never heard the word used anywhere else.


Slang

Slang is another area in language that can cause problems—sometimes serious problems. I hear words on Czech TV, or hear Jiri and other Czechs using words. Sometimes these words stick in my brain because they sound interesting, or sound similar to another Czech word I know, etc. So, I’ll ask Jiri about it later, and sometimes he’s shocked that I picked up certains words These are typically bad words, but I had no idea the word(s) were bad. He asks where I heard it, and then Jiri’ll tell me never to say that word, or that it should only be used in a special context. (Of course, these bad words are the ones you more easily remember).

Slang Gone Bad

I’ve shocked him on numerous occasions since moving here eight years ago. A recent example is the place name Machu Picchu. Mach Picchu is an ancient, abandoned Incan city located high in the mountains of Peru. One day I’d seen an interesting documentary about this site, and wanted to tell Jiri about it. When I told him the name of the place, he was horrified and shocked! It was as if I’d slapped him in the face! This caused me some consternation because all I’d said was a place name.

Don't Say That!

What’s the Problem?

After recovering from the initial shock of hearing this place name come from my mouth, Jiri explained there is a Czech word which sounds very similar to Picchu. (I won’t use it here, so as not to offend anyone; this word is bad slang for a woman’s body part. That’s all I’ll say). Once he had explained it, I understood, for the same word in English is crass and bad.

My husband went on to explain that Czechs pronounce this Incan city name as “Machu Pikchu,” in order to avoid the bad Czech word. Pronouncing the site name with the “k” before the “ch” is a little difficult for me. Try it—you’ll see what I mean. You can’t squish the sounds together, either—each one must be pronounced in order to be correctly understood.

Proper Pronunciation to Avoid Misinterpretation

Czechs are familiar with this type of pronunciation, as the Czech language has many words almost completely made of consonants. For instance “krk” (neck)—the first time I saw this word I had no idea how to say it. “Krk” is now easy for me, while other combinations of consonants are still quite difficult. Foreigners must learn the proper pronunciation of Czech in order to be understood by Czechs. This applies to all languages, not only Czech.

Jiri’s reaction to Machu Picchu has reinforced the need for proper pronunciation when I (try to) speak Czech. I can’t imagine what would happen if I said Machu Picchu (in the English way) to another Czech! Hopefully they would understand I’m a foreigner and would correctly interpret my mispronunciation as the place name, and not bad slang word.

Cross-Cultural Marriage Bridge of Love

Have a Sense of Humor

Jiri and I have found the best way to deal with these language issues is with a sense of humor. We have some great laughs over English and Czech slang. Our discussions are at times quite lively, and sometimes one of us will be frustrated at the lack of understanding—our own or our spouse’s. Mostly we laugh, but do understand that language trouble does crop up occasionally—and that’s OK. Language issues deepen and refresh our cross-cultural marriage (at least most of the time!). In the end, it all comes down to love—love bridges the gap in our cross-cultural marriage.

That’s all for today!

Have a great day!

God bless,
Sherry

(c) 2015 by Sher Vacik. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Gluten Free Guide to Prague


Hi Everyone,
For the longest time I’ve intended to put together a gluten free guide for Prague. I’m very familiar with the gluten free life, as I’m allergic to gluten/wheat. I’ve been living gluten free for just over 14 years.

Czech Cuisine

Czech cuisine is not conducive to a gluten free diet. The traditional Czech diet is saturated with wonderful breads, dumplings, desserts and so much more. Many of their traditional dishes have dumplings on the side. What torture it is for those of us who are gluten free! 

Soups and sauces are also part of traditional Czech cuisine. Many dishes make use of some type of sauce, as Czechs don’t enjoy eating their meat dry. Delicious sauces are another hazard for those of us who are gluten free. 


Additional foods that may contain gluten are parký and klobasa (two types of sausages). It’s best to avoid these, as they generally use fillers that are not gluten free. I have personal experience with this one! A couple of the grocery stores do sell gluten free versions of these traditional Czech sausages.

Gluten Free Living in 2006
When I moved to the Czech Republic in 2006, it was possible to find a few gluten free products in the stores. Rice cakes were prevalent at the grocery stores, and some health food stores carried gluten free flour. However, the variety of gluten free products I had been used to back in the States didn’t exist here when I first arrived.

Current Availability of Gluten Free Products

Since then, gluten free products have become more numerous and easier to find. We still lack the variety that’s available back in the U.S., but you can find a wider variety of gluten free products in Prague these days.

Not only is there a greater variety of gluten free products in the stores, but you’ll also find restaurants that have gluten free menu items. There’s even a pizza place, with several locations in Prague that serves gluten free pasta dishes. I wish they also served gluten free pizza--but I’m happy with the pasta!

I’ve put together a list of gluten free resources on my Czech Off the Beaten Path website. This is a PDF that’s free to download--you don’t have to sign anything or leave your email, etc. It’s completely free, with no-strings attached!

While creating this list, I was saddened to find out that one of my ultimate gluten free restaurants has gone out of business--Na Zlaté Křižovacte. This place was completely gluten free and had the most wonderful food. I had my first taste of svíčková na smetaně there--including dumplings. They also served gf streudal that was heavenly. It’s too bad they had to close. You would have loved it.

Please let me know if you find additional gluten free resources in Prague and the Czech Republic. I’d like to keep this list updated for people who visit or come to live in Prague.

If you’re interested in gluten free living, be sure to check out my new blog:  Thrifty and GlutenFree. The blog’s goal is to help people live a gluten free life, while keeping the costs low. The gluten free diet is expensive, but there are ways you can hold down the costs, while enjoying healthy gluten free cooking!


Here's the link, again, to the free gluten free guide to Prague! If you don't feel comfortable downloading the guide, just send me an email with "Gluten Free Prague Guide" in the subject  line, and I'll send you a free copy!

Have a great day!

God bless,
Sher

Asthma’s Nothing toWheeze At!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Páter František Ferda—Clairvoyant Healer

Páter František Ferda


Hi Everyone,
Today I’m going to tell you about Páter František Ferda (March 31, 1915-July 7, 1991), a Roman Catholic priest, who was known as a clairvoyant healer in then Czechoslovkia. Páter Ferda recently came to my attention after Jiří attended a class reunion in Sušice (see map). One of Jiří’s classmates told him about an herb recommended by Ferda; an herb that would help me with the pain and spasms in my back and legs. Jiří then related to me the story of Páter Ferda and his healing abilities. 

Early Life of Páter Ferda

Páter František Ferda was born on March 31, 1915 on his family’s farm near Dražkovice , between Spálené Pořičí and Struhaře. As a child, Ferda was had a deep interest in music and nature. He graduated from the Prague Archbishop high school, and then graduated from the Theological Faculty in Prague-Bubeneč on June 29, 1939. He was an ordained priest just around the time the Nazi’s regime began. Ferda worked as a chaplain in Petrovice Sedlčany and then in Nechvalice. Along with his work as a priest, Páter Ferda studied medicinal herb and plant remedies—knowledge he would later use as part of his healing work.

Arrest and Development of Clairvoyant and Healing Abilities
While serving as a priest in Nechvalice, Páter Ferda (along with other priests) was arrested by the Communists in 1951, and then served 9 years in prison. Ferda served prison time in Ostrava, Opava, Mírové, Jáchymov (where prisoners were forced to mine uranium), Leopold, and Valdice Bory. 

It was during this time in prison that Ferda discovered his clairvoyant and healing abilities, which he believed were inherited. He put his healing abilities to work by helping his fellow prisoners with their health issues. 

Páter Ferda was released from prison on May 11, 1960. At that time, he was not allowed to resume his work as a Roman Catholic priest. Ferda spent the next 18 years working at a brewery in Plzň, after which he was allowed to again take up his duties as priest. He worked as a spiritual administrator at a retirement home for nuns in Klatovy Újezdec. 

At this time, Páter Ferda was already using his clairvoyant and healing abilities to help parishioners and others who sought his help. In 1978, he moved to Sušice, where he lived and worked until he died in 1991. Patients came from far and wide to seek Ferda’s help with their health.

Famous Healer Páter Ferda

Ferda’s healing and clairvoyant abilities were finely tuned and developed to the point where he could diagnose patients from “hundreds of kilometers away.” He was able to diagnose illness by looking in the patient’s eyes, but he could also make a diagnosis from a photograph or a letter written by the patient. After a minute or two, Páter Ferda was able to make a diagnosis, and would begin writing down the details of the illness, along with a prescription of herbal and diet remedies that would heal his patient. He would often see as many as 30 patients a day.

Páter Ferda described his healing ability is this way, “Subjectively, I feel, and also consciously I feel like I sent a beam of himself, I see it as a green beam that moves quickly, zig-zag, zig zag, it takes some time. Then suddenly stops moving and I was using the beam combined with the person for whom I have already made ​​a diagnosis and obtain the necessary information and write. Then I have a feeling of relief and joy. "


Skeptics Test Ferda’s Abilities

As Páter Ferda’s reputation spread farther, even beyond Czech borders, many in the medical community were skeptic of his clairvoyant and healing abilities. Doctors examined Ferda’s patients and came to the conclusion, after scientific studies and tests, that Ferda’s diagnosis and treatment for each patient was correct. Ferda was invited to a medical conference in Russia where his abilities were further tested; Russian doctors confirmed what others had already proven-- Páter Ferda’s abilities were real.

Ferda’s Healing Philosophy

Ferda’s healing philosophy centered on the idea that “everything inside is harmful and should be pulled out.” He believed chemicals and toxins in foods and the enviornment led to physical ailments in his patients, including cancer. Páter Ferda recognized the healing properties of plants and herbs, and recommended a diet free of dairy, fats and meat, among other things.  He also developed an anti-cancer diet, called bezbílkovinnou dietu, or the Total Cancer Cure (TPK). Ferda wrote books about his healing philosophy; today, it’s still possible to find his books of herbal and plant remedies on sale in the Czech Republic.

Páter Ferda—Healer of Body and Soul

Páter Ferda died on July 7, 1991, and was buried in Sušice. Ferda was a phenomenal diagnostician and healer, whose abilities are still remembered in the Czech Republic. I’m sure there are people still living who were healed by Páter Ferda—it would be interesting to talk with them about their healing experience. I am happy to have the privilege to share his story with you. We could all benefit from Ferda’s knowledge of natural medicines and a healthy diet. Beyond that, Ferda is an interesting combination of a holy man and clairvoyant healer who wanted nothing more than to heal people’s bodies and souls. You can find commemorative plaques honoring him in Sušice and Spálené Pořičí.

Commemorative Plaque 
in honorof Páter Ferda

That’s all for today!

Have a great day!

God bless,
Sher :0) 

PS To my Entrecard Visitors,
I want to thank you for all your support and visits these past years. I've enjoyed Entrecard and the new people I've met there. Entreard has been a big help in getting new readers over the years, too. Even so, I have found that I no longer have time to reciprocate the visits from Entrecard visitors. I feel badly about that and thought it was time to take down the Entrecard link in the sidebar. 

Again, thank you for your support and visits over the years! I wish you all the best of luck!
Sher :0)  


Sher’s Stuff 

(c) 2012 by Sher Vacik. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Divoká Šárka (Wild Šárka) Nature Reserve




Dzban Hill

Hi Everyone,
Spring is coming along nicely in Prague; this is the time of year Czechs love to get in touch with the sun and nature. Czechs love being out in nature; weekend jaunts are part of Czech culture in spring and summer. Many families have a chata (a cottage or cabin) located in the mountains around the country, or in the forests and hills not far from Prague. 

Cities and towns, including Prague, empty out on the weekends, as many people head out of town to enjoy the beauty and serenity of Nature in this beautiful country. However, if you can't get out of Prague, there are beautiful parks in the city where you feel as if you're completely out of Prague. One of my favorite Prague parks is Divoká Šárka. 


Divoká Šárka Park Location

Divoká Šárka sits on the northwestern outskirts of Prague 6, on the way to Ruzynĕ Airport. Divoká Šárka, or Wild Šárka, is a nature preserve famous for its forests, lake, rocky cliffs, high bluffs and deep valley. The park is one of the largest within the city of Prague. 

Šárka and Ctirad

Divoká Šárka—A Czech Legend

Divoká Šárka is named after Šárka, a mythical female Slavic warrior. Šárka was one of the main characters in the mythical story of The Maidens’ War —which is an interesting tale about a war between men and women. The story takes place in about the 6th century, before Prague existed. 

At this time, according to legend, Czech society was based on the matriarchal system (women were in charge, rather than men). In the story, after Libuse’s rule and death, the men gain the upper hand and rule in place of the women.  The women become unhappy with this arrangement, and plan to once again rule over the men. 

Šárka, one of the top warrior leaders for the women, tries to entrap the men’s warrior leader, Ctirad, and kill him. Šárka succeeds in catching Ctirad with her feminine wiles and kills him. After Ctirad’s death, the women warriors gain the upper hand, but later the men win the Maiden’s War, and women are thereafter ruled by men.  Rather than be ruled by men, the legend says that Šárka jumped from a cliff, in the current park, to her death.  Divoká Šárka, the park, is named after this famous, legendary woman warrior. 

Park's History

The first recorded settlement of Divoká Šárka dates back to the Paleolithic era (prehistoric times), with archeological evidence also showing human settlement from the Neolithic era, the Bronze Age, through to modern times, when farming and settlement of the area was ended just after WWII.  You can find the remains of an ancient hrad (castle fortress), which was used from the 7th to the 9th century.





What to Do in Divoká Šárka

Divoká Šárka is full of paths where you can walk, hike and bike. The paths run through the entire valley, affording beautiful views of rocky cliffs, forests, a reservoir and stream. Some parts of the park’s sides are steep; making them popular with mountain climbers of all ages who go there to train. Jiri spent many years climbing the cliff walls in Divoká Šárka, in preparation for his many mountain climbing expeditions.You’ll also find a beautiful lake in the midst of the park, Lake Džbán. Swimming is allowed in this lake, which is refreshing after a hot day’s walk. Another popular swimming site is Divoká Šárka’s swimming pool. The water in both the lake and pool are spring-fed and cold. There’s also a beautiful stream that runs through the park’s valley. 


A Refreshing Stop and Animal Life
Meandering along the walkways of Šárka, you’ll also come across a lovely pub, where you can have lunch and pivo (beer), the favorite Czech drink. The pub makes a nice place to take a break on a warm day. Along with the beautiful scenery in Divoká Šárka, you’ll encounter many types of animal life. The park is popular with bird watchers, as you can see more than 80 types of birds there. You can occasionally see free operas and plays in the park, as well.


Divoká Šárka One of My Favorite Places
Divoká Šárka is one of my most favorite parks to visit in Prague. You actually feel as if you’re in the middle of nature, far from the busy, noisy city. You hear less and less of the city’s noise the farther down into the park’s valley you go. The forest, plants and animals refresh your mind and spirit, all without having to venture out of the city. I highly recommend a visit to Divoká Šárka when you come to Prague. The park will give you a break from the city’s popular tourist sites--you won’t be disappointed.

That’s all for now. Have a great day!

God bless,
Sher :0) 


Image credits:  Wikipedia

(c) 2012 by Sher Vacik, all rights reserved.




Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Slivovice o Jirko?

Hi Everyone,
When I was reading through some expat blogs the other day, I came across this post from the DISPLACED NATION: Q: What is the Weirdest Multi-Cultural Celebration You’ve Ever Attended? This article is a great read—be sure to check it out. After reading the article, it got me to thinking. What was the weirdest celebration I’ve ever attended in the Czech Republic? A couple of memories came to mind (link to past posts). But there is one I’ve never told you about before: the first meeting with my in-laws-to-be. Now, that’s a good, funny story, though maybe not too weird.


First Visit to the Czech Republic

My very first visit to the Czech Republic was after Jiří and I became engaged in 2002. Jiří and I decided spring would be a good time for me to travel to the Czech Republic; Spring is a beautiful time of year—everything is blooming and growing. We also decided it was time for me to meet Jiří’s family and friends, along with me getting my first taste of what would later become my new home—the Czech Republic.

This was my third overseas trip—the first two were to Japan to visit Jiri while he lived and worked there. Thankfully, traveling to the Czech Republic wasn’t quite as traumatic as my first trip to Japan had been. I at least had a little bit of travel experience under my belt.My trip over to the Czech Republic was fairly easy that time, with planes on schedule, no bad weather or Icelandic volcanoes erupting.

I arrived to Prague tired, but safe and very happy to see my then fiancé, Jiří. He met me at the airport and what a joyous reunion we had. We stayed in Prague for a few days before going to Strakonice for my first meeting with Jiří’s mother. We were to spend the Easter holiday with Jiří’s mother and his family.


Meeting My Future In-Laws

After spending a day or two in Strakonice with Jiří’s mother and experiencing my first Easter beating with the pomlázka, we three traveled to where one of Jiří’s brother’s has a big house and a beautiful garden. The weather was pretty that year—not too hot and not too chilly. It was a perfect Easter to stay out in the family garden and talk and get to know one another. I was very nervous about this first meeting, as none of Jiri’s family spoke English. I wasn’t sure how things would go, or if I would be included in the family activities or not.


Introductions and Easter Dinner

Once all the introductions were finished--and there were many of these--we all sat down for a traditional Czech Easter dinner. We had the beranek (lamb-shaped cake), ham and other meats, along with so many side dishes I thought the table would collapse. As it was, the table was groaning with all that delicious Czech food.During our dinner, everyone was very nice to me and were asking questions about me, my kids, etc. Jiri did the translating back and forth, poor guy. He was a real trouper that day. During and after the dinner there were copious amounts of alcohol (which is also traditional for most Czech gatherings), though I didn't have too much to drink. I was grateful for that when we went outside to sit in the garden.


Fun and Games in the Garden

While we were in the garden, Jiri's sister wanted to get me involved with the family. My sister-in-law, Alena, is a wonderful person who just happens to be a real tease and funny. Alena stood up in the middle of the family gathering and motioned for me to stand up with her. Oh no, the fear ran through me...what was Alena planning to do?

I couldn't understand her too well and was afraid of making a fool of myself in front of Jiri's family on this first visit. Wanting to be a good sport, I stood up with Alena, in spite of my fear. We were standing in the middle of the family when Alena asked for some glasses. These were two small shot glasses that were about the size of a shot glass in the US. Along with the glasses, my brother-in-law brought out a pretty fancy, rounded bottle of some clear liquor. I had no idea what it was, but I figured that they were going to have some sport with me. I wasn't sure what form this sport was going to take.


Unidentified Clear Liquor

Alena filled both the glasses, to the brim, with this clear liquor. Then she proceeded to tilt her head back and chug down the entire contents of her glass. Alena then motioned for me to do the same. I was caught between a rock and a hard place in that moment. She expected me to down this unidentified liquor just as she had done.I wanted to make a good impression on my new Czech family-to-be, and wasn't sure how best to proceed. I decided it was best to follow the saying, "When in Rome..." I downed the liquor as Alena had done, and then started choking. That was embarrassing, but everyone clapped and cheered. They could see I wasn't a stick-in-the-mud American, and that I would adapt to Czech ways...at least in something!

Slivovice o Jirko?

After this first downing of the Slivovice, Alena proceeded to do another shot and I followed suit. It didn't take too long before I was having trouble standing. Come to find out, Slivovice is a hard alcohol typically made from plums. It's very good, though not many foreigners appreciate the taste. Back to the garden and Jiri's family, I was having trouble standing up and everyone was happy I was participating in this fun with Alena. Finally, just before our last shot together, Jiri's family began to ask me, "Jirko o Slivovice?" They were asking which one I wanted most--Jiri or Slivovice. I first answered Slivovice, but then added Jiri, too. My new Czech family was very happy, Jiri's mother said he was marrying the right girl, and I was from that time completely accepted into my Czech family. My brother-in-law to be then presented me with a huge new bottle of Slivovice. I still have this bottle at home in New Mexico.


Added Note

When I wrote this post yesterday, it didn't occur to me that some people just might take this event as more like some type of family hazing. I'm here to tell you this first meeting with my Czech family was not a hazing event at all. It was, indeed, a warm and fun gathering. You could say this Easter gathering with my new Czech family was more of a "let's see what the foreigner's made of" event.
This was my first introduction to my Czech family, and it was a fun, warm gathering. This was probably one of the strangest Easter celebrations I'd ever experienced (up to that point), but what fun we had.

From the beginning and over the years, my love for Jiri has surpassed my liking of Slivovice!

That's all for now! Have a great day!
God bless,
Sher :0)

(c) 2012 by Sher Vacik. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Miscellaneous Things and a Bin Fire

Just before fire really got going.


Hi Everyone,
Things have been going along OK, for the most part, since my last post. We’ve gone through a Siberian cold snap which killed about 300 people across Europe. This is not the worst cold I’ve experienced. Being a Minnesotan and then living for years in the Rockies, you are accustomed to much worse cold and more snow. Still, it was pretty cold. 

Along with that, my back/leg trouble is still in process. The neurologist ordered another, more extensive MRI, to see what it might show. We’ll have the results of that later this week. They aren’t completely sure what’s going on, aside from the herniated disk. I’m hoping we’ll have some resolution soon as it’s been nearly eight months of severe chronic pain. I was ready to be fixed several months ago. Anyway, we’ll see how this will all come out. One real positive is that I’ve lost about 27 lbs. I still have more to lose, but am working on that.

Exciting Morning

There was some excitement around here this morning. I woke up around 1:30AM from smoke. It was strong, thick, acrid smoke that got my asthma going. I got up and thought we had a fire in our flat, but couldn’t find anything wrong. Then I stepped out onto the balcony and saw that acrid smoke pouring from a garbage bin on the corner near our building. Jiri was sleeping, so I woke him up to ask if we should call the fire department. He said no…it was only a bin smoldering from a cigarette, it was nothing. Jiri said he’s seen many of these over the years. Then he went back to sleep. I couldn’t sleep, so stayed out on the balcony to keep watch for a bit.

About fifteen minutes after Jiri went back to sleep, the bin burst into flames! That was something to see. The fire and smoke resembled one of our chase and smash-em movies from back home! Only this was a real fire. Once the flames became evident, I woke Jiri up again, and told him the bin was now on fire. He got up and looked and said it was nothing and went back to sleep. Here you have a funny picture—one housewife watching a bin explode into flames, and husband who says it’s nothing and goes back to sleep!

Incomprehensible Reaction

My husband’s reaction was quite incomprehensible to me, even at 2AM, when none of us is usually too coherent. Why on earth would he not want to call the fire department? Back where I come from, we would try to fight the fire (if we have the means on hand) and/or call the fire department right away. 

Most of my life has been spent in drier places, where even a spark from a truck’s exhaust pipe can start a fire. Of course, my reaction is we need to do something before the fire spreads. However, my husband was also correct. Right now, it’s still cold and the ground’s wet from melting snow and rain. The bin was on a concrete sidewalk, not close to the building. Still, it could have spread under the right conditions…thankfully it didn’t!

Police and Firemen to the Rescue

When the fire really got to going good, a car drove by. The driver stopped and watched the fire for several minutes, and then must have called the police. The police came and tried to use a fire extinguisher to put out the by now 10 ft. flames, but they couldn’t get the fire out. The police then called the fire department. In the mean time, two more police cars came to join the “fun.”

The firemen came in a medium-sized fire truck and doused the flames for several minutes. The bin was melted down to just an outline of plastic, still on fire. The firemen then took some sand and more water to the fire; then spread out the embers and soaked them down again. It was quite exhilarating to watch all of this from our balcony while Jiri slept.

Bin Fires are Common

Bin fires do happen here occasionally. I’ve seen the results of these fires before—not far from where we live. It’s a wonder that more buildings don’t become involved in the flames! We suspect “our” bin fire was started by someone who tossed in a smoldering cigarette. That’s typically the case with bin fires in this country. Sometimes, you’ll come across the small bins, on the light poles, smoking away for the same reason—someone tossed in a cigarette. No one seems to take much notice—it’s surreal for me.

Cross-Cultural Misunderstanding

You could say this is another example of a cross-cultural misunderstanding between Jiri and I. To Jiri, the fire was just a small thing and nothing to worry about; on the other hand, to me, the 10 ft flames were something to be concerned about and professionals should have been called. 

We have different perspectives due to coming from different places and having different experiences with fire. Thankfully everything turned out OK. It was amusing when the dustmen (garbage truck guys) came to empty our bins this morning. They saw the destroyed bin and were amazed, wondering what had happened. But I think they were happy to have one less bin to empty today!

That’s all for today! Have a great day!

God bless,
Sher :0)