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Maria & Brett's HUGE Trip 06-07-08-09-? ok, so the Socceroos lost in 'that' penalty against Italy; Adriatic summers aren't long enough (bliss!); and we found that you should never use the term "Eastern Bloc" when talking to a Czech (Central Europe, please).

Winter Wonderland

CZECH REPUBLIC | Saturday, 27 January 2007 | Views [1534] | Comments [1]

At the beach on Australia Day.

At the beach on Australia Day.

Walking around Prague last week we were blessed with crisp 14 degree days, gorgeous blue skies, clean air and miniskirts. Wait a minute! What?! Miniskirts? Someone tell me what month it is again? January. Oh ok, summertime. That makes sense: Australian Open, 40 degree days, fresh fish ‘n’ chips on the beach, sticky humidity, beers ‘n’ barbie’s and Triple J’s Hottest One Hundred blaring on someone’s radio in the backyard, lazy lethargic days, long balmy nights, festivals…. Hang on….. What’s that? Oh, apparently it’s actually winter. (Can someone check that, please?) We have to take into account the whole other-side-of-the-world thing. We’re not in the Southern Hemisphere anymore, Toto.

The full-body all-weather feather down jackets were put away last week after a false start to the winter a couple of weeks ago, replaced by as much clothing that would reveal as little flesh. Miniskirts – no, actually microskirts – in the middle of what should-be Central European winter. This is hardcore evidence that global warming is here, folks. (Maria: Can I just add that even when it has been 5 degrees the women were still wearing their micro-mini skirts! I think I am the most covered woman in Prague with about 10 layers on at least!  Comfort over fashion ladies!)

The visual feast was accompanied by a soundtrack played mostly by our students that went something like “This winter is soooo unusual. There’s no snow, and it looks like winter won’t come at all. We’re so depressed. We have cottages (and most Czechs have access to some kind of family cottage) and there’s no point going there unless there’s snow.” I started putting it to students that the Czechs only tell us that the temperature can get down to minus 20 during winter just so they can have Prague to themselves for a month or two without tourists – and of course foreign teachers from downunda who run for cover at the mention of “minus something”. 

Every day we’d find photos in the daily street press of whole beds of flowers that were actually flowering. Never mind the fact that they should’ve been sleeping for at least another three months. And ski resorts with barely a pinch of snow cover – and these were supposed to be hosting championship cross-country skiing competitions. One of my lawyer students was disheartened when he realised he wouldn’t be getting his cross-country skis out, for at least another weekend. We’ve said before that the Czechs are a sporty bunch, and this is true in all seasons, as long as there’s snow.

But it would last as briefly as the miniskirts were long. By Tuesday the first snowflakes began to fall from…. well, nowhere. You looked up and there they were. Actually if you looked up you copped an eyeful of snowflake. What surprised me was the fact that it didn’t last only a couple of seconds – like the snow that you see when you change between channels on the television – but went on for hours, and hours, and… well everything was bloody white and cold the next day. Within a few days the mercury dropped from 14 to -5. Forecasters (who had been predicting minus temperatures for months now) began confidently predicting we’d be getting -13 by the end of the week.

For all the complaining that we heard during the “where’s the snow” time, it was odd to turn to the papers again and discover that one of the most used words to describe the sudden downfall was ‘kalamita’. Why was the snow now a calamity? Weren’t people jumping for joy? We did a quick vox pop on the streets and found out that, yes, everyone was happy. If we weren’t convinced we only needed to look at our attendance records and discover that about 20% of our students had actually taken off for the weekend to go skiing, hiking, ice sculpting, igloo building or trekking to the North Pole with a team of trained Huskies (it’s a national sport here).

Instead we turned to the picture page again and found that ‘kalamita’ referred to the downright chaos that ensued across this part of Europe after the snow fell quicker than the snow-clearing teams (in their modern machines) could clear the roads of the stuff. As a result, semi-trailers jacknifed in the middle of the night on highways that serve as important arteries through much of Central Europe, trams couldn’t deliver people to work (see our comments on the efficient transport system in Prague – it’s amazing!), people in their cars were driving as usual. That is, as if they were racing in a Formula One race with pedal to the metal but coming to a halt as soon as they hit another car. And it was just downright cold and slushy outside.

A whole new world of winter living suddenly opened up to us. People, young and the very old, came out onto the streets carrying huge snow shovels and began immediately carving out paths between door and tram stop for all the busy worker ants to follow on their way into town. Huge vehicles with flashing orange lights and attached snowploughs would groom street after street, spraying a fine layer of salt over the ground as they passed. Within 24 hours, 2800 tonnes of salt had been sprayed over Prague. Of course the melting snow caused havoc with crashing cars and off-balance pedestrians, and of course their designer shoes which were now encased in multiple layers of dirty, slushy melting snow.

We quickly discovered our talent for skidding along sheets of ice without proper skates, and the fact that snow just doesn’t hermetically seal off all the thousands of dog presents that line footpaths all over Prague. Not even a patch of brown coloured snow would appear to alert the would-be poo-stepper-in-erer that he or she is approaching an impending dog deposit bomb.

All in all, the falling temperatures haven’t decreased our spirits. If anything we’re renewed by this magical fairytale that’s playing itself out right outside our window in real-time and we are waiting to see who wins our bet of being the first to slip on the ice and fall on their bum.  Bonus points for landing on brown snow, half a point for yellow!

(Maria: Given that I’ve just bought a pair of super grip boots, Brett’s on his way to losing and the odds are 2-5 in favour of him falling first).

With almost every news broadcast and headline increasingly reminding us of the stark realities we face as a result of global warming, it’s nice to see that the world has remembered how to cool itself down again. Interestingly, after an unusually warm start to the winter we discovered that the hottest recorded temperature for this time of year was in 1834 – a balmy 13.3 degrees. Could we just be witnessing the natural fluctuations of our Earth’s weather systems, or are we staring Global Warming right in the deadly eye?

As the snow continues to fall outside we’re happy to tune out of this debate for now as we go back to steaming mugs of hot Milo and Anzac biscuits.

Tags: Snow



Hello Brett and Maria

Loved the article, just in the throes of preparing my own departure to Prague at the beginning of April, now i'm sure to pack as many sets of thermals as I can fine! Oh yes, my name is Drew, pleased to meet you :) I'm currently making the most of a delightful summer in New Zealand and trying to do to much in the process. A holiday is definately what's needed. Make that a working holiday, as i'm hoping to pick up some teaching English work, if i'm lucky, so any advice or suggestions would be greatfully appreciated. Okay, off now to soak up the sunshine and work on my tan. Have a pivo for me.



  Drew Feb 3, 2007 5:55 PM

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