Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Visit to Czech Republic

We didn't do much in the czech republic, mainly visiting my relatives. So there won't be too many pictures that are of interesting things... though I might still post pictures with people.

I did manage to stop by a haircutting place to get my hair under control, though. The price, without a shampoo, just plain old haircut, was 72 czech crowns. That's 4.6 swiss franks, or 4.20 USD, accorging to The Economist.
Compare that with the almost 100 swiss franks that I, being female, would have to pay here in Zurich for a haircut, or the 20 bucks in Fairbanks. Not bad.

What is bad though is the smoke from wood or coal rising from many a chimney in the countryside, a reminder of other problems. People who don't have stoves just put their thermostats lower, like my cousin. The reason for all that smoke is that the cheap haircut etc leads to low wages; and with diesel/gasoline/natural gas prices barely cheaper than western Europe, people do whatever it takes to keep warm without going bankrupt. Overall, heating and transportation must be a disproportionately larger part of their wages than in the west.

People are still pretty pessimistic about the future (may be just a typical czech thing to do), distrusting government officials and foreigners who buy local businesses only to either shut them down or get all the money they can out of them. Some foreign companies do apparently do a reasonable job of keeping the business open and paying a decent wage, which is still low compared to the west but higher than a typical czech wage, but those are few and far in between.

Still, nearly two decades after communism fell, things are looking better. There are new homes being built, old ones are being renovated. Roads are getting fixed. People own businesses, even if many of these are small ones. And the Czech Republic joined the EU a year or two ago, so that should help also. It will be interesting how history will look back on this era.

Talking of history, I talked a bit with my grandfather, or rather he was telling me stories. I will try to write some of those down.

My aunt walking past a reminder of communism's farming techniques, with my cousins Marketka (center) and Jana (left) and Jana's husband and daughter. Martin with Sonja are on the right side.

The girls' great grandfather.

My five dollar haircut.

The weather was sunny, except for the two days we drove back. Typical scenery in Germany.

Emilie in the fancy schmancy car we had borrowed for the trip (who knows how many free upgrades they gave us) - an Alpha Romeo. In the Czech Republic we felt like the rich relatives from the west. Everyone was checking the car out. I was worried someone was gonna steal it. For future rentals: got the best rate by calling the company directly (in the States); in Europe, the rentals tend to be much more, and all websites use that higher European rate.

The only thing we brought back form the czech republic. On the right is the one and true Budweiser.


Matt Heavner said...

An alpha romeo, good beer, and family--sounds like a great visit! And nice new haircut!

Dana said...

Thanks Matt, I think Martin would, as always, be impressed with the speediness of your replies :).