Dobrý den readers.
It's been a whirlwind the past 4 days, but also very cool. I've met and forgotten the names of so many people over the last 4 days. If you're reading this and you're one of the people I've met, I am apologizing heavily in advance for my bad memory for names. I'm sure I'll ask your name many times during this first couple of months. I am going to heavily compress my stories, but I have a few surprising or interesting things I wanted to share that I thought were worth telling, and a handful of pictures. I hope everyone reading enjoys. :)
The Flight to Prague
The flight to JFK was pretty uneventful. What was awesome was the layover in JFK, words you don't hear often. Not only did I make it in to JFK early enough to get a primo spot at the bar in the Delta Sky Club, but I was lucky enough to have several fellow RY folks from both Darien and Magellan going through JFK. Sadly JFK doesn't interlink terminals, so I didn't get to meet everyone there, but I did meet up with a handful of fellow Darien folks. In fact, two gals who ended up being roommates were on my same flight, and my roommate was on the same flight as me, so we were able to meet and greet before we ever got to Prague.
The flight to Prague was pretty long but thankfully the lady next to me was forgiving of my desire to talk with her early on before we both eventually settled down to sleep around Midnight. Thanks goes to my Prague roommate John Elston for sneaking me one of the Tumi travel comfort kits from his seats up in Delta One, it really helped me sleep and make it in good shape. During the talk with my seatmate on the flight from JFK -> PRG, I found out that there was a conference in town this week and a large number of people were attending from India who had applied for visas many months in advance. I know a lot of countries use a “bucket system” by country of origin to determine who gets an entrance visa, but I don't know if that's what the Czech Republic does or not. At any rate, our other roommate Ravi Vammi was unable to join us in Prague due to his visa being denied. I'm looking forward to meeting him in Belgrade.
Baggage was a bit of a challenge for us when we arrived, but after we found all our bags it was pretty smooth sailing getting through Customs. I have a shiny new Prague entrance stamp in my passport and hopefully by the end of this my passport will be full or close to it. Here's our group photo from our arrival:
Day 1 and the Beer Garden
I explored the city a bit with John and we found a bunch of cool little shops that I have gone back to since. We found a good butcher, an electronics store, a stationary/art supply store, and several small markets that are kind of like bodegas in NYC. The amount of art in the way people live their daily lives is incredible; the buildings, the way the streets and sidewalks are designed, the statuary and installation pieces all over the city, and even the food. Art is everywhere here in Prague and it really makes it feel homey even though I've only been here a short while and I'm very much “not from around here.”
A little cafe and patisserie is right next to our residence where I had the following for 162CZK (~$6.50)
The evening of Day One, a pretty large group of us earlier arrivals met up at a beer garden in the middle of a nice park called Riegrovy Sady, not too far from our residence areas. The beer is plentiful and cheap, many times literally cheaper than water. A half liter (17oz) pour of beer averages about 42CZK (~$1.75) and a similarly sized bottle of water is around 55CZK (~$2.25). Tap water is totally safe to drink here, but most restaurants won't serve it, although the beer garden did. In addition to beer, the beer garden had several small food stands around the outskirts where the food was very tasty and pretty cheap. In total for the food below + one beer, I paid 99CZK (~$4.00).
While at the beer garden we had a pretty large group of people. I apologize for the quality of the photo, it was dark and I was using my phone camera.
Day 2, Old Town, and the Metro
My second day in the city was a holiday in the US, Memorial Day. This provided me an opportunity to explore the city a little bit and recover from jet lag. First stop was of course breakfast, which was quite nice at the cafe right below our apartment. After that I went all around town playing tourist with my camera. I took the Metro, which is a subway system that rivals anything in the US. During the course of riding the subway around I had to stand up and use the handbars. Of course, seeing as many people touch them throughout the day when I got off at my next stop I went straight to a WC (that's a restroom) to wash my hands. I darted in, washed my hands, and attempted to dart out. Unbeknownst to me it was a pay toilet in the metro station AND you have to pay to wash your hands. An old lady came out of a little booth I had completely missed and started yelling at me in Czech and shaking her finger. Once she realized I didn't speak Czech she just repeated “You pay! You pay!” over again among other things. Long story short, I forked over 5 CZK to wash my hands, but then had to handle change since the smallest I had on me was a 100CZK note. Before I left to my next destination I found a small pharmacy and paid 85CZK for a pocket-sized bottle of hand sanitizer, which has been a wise investment.
Lest you get the wrong impression though, I should clarify that now that I understood that the WCs in the metro stations were pay I then followed the correct process the next time around and realized the reason the restrooms were so clean is that the attendant mops the floor behind you after you finish using the urinal and other such things. So given that, paying 5CZK to use the toilet and 5CZK to use the sink aren't so bad. Skipping ahead of the rest of the day to wrap up my metro experience, I ended up riding late at night back from dinner with a group and in the process found out that the metro stations are cleaned top to bottom every night with sanitizing spray and people using mops/cloths/etc. No wonder everything was so clean. I think the only time the subway in NYC gets cleaned is when it floods, and even then it mostly just fills up detritus that flows down from street level. No photos of the metro system, unfortunately, although I'll try to take some before I leave.
“Little Day” and Introduction to K10
At Noon on Day 2 we had our “Little Day” meet and greet event and to go over some basics with the RY staff. While there we got our first look at the coworking space we'll be using here in Prague. It's the former Danish Embassy and is now named K10. It's a gorgeous old world style building with a nice garden in the back and a huge park nearby which has Wi-Fi signal from K10. Here's some photos from that:
Photo of me in front of K10 taken by my roomie. If you couldn't tell, my favorite color is blue.
My roommate took a selfie accidentally because I had my phone in selfie mode when I handed it to him but it came out pretty great :)
TexMex? Yes, TexMex for Lunch!
People in Prague apparently love TexMex cuisine as restaurants serving it are commonly seen and very popular with locals. I walked by several in the process of finding a place for lunch and decided to risk it after finding a restaurant that had the names of the food in their proper Spanish but with Czech for the descriptions. I promptly ordered tacos de pollo with salsa verde and a Pilsner Urquell. I was pleasantly surprised, it was fabulous. I shared my appreciation with the owner, mentioning that I'd come in from Texas which caused him to tear up and give me a hug. Here's what was served:
Of course it wouldn't be a visit to Prague without a visit to Old Town and getting some photos of the amazing architecture and sculptures. Unfortunately I have had pretty limited opportunities to sit down and work on processing photos since I've been here. What you see in this post is pretty much what you get. :)
Of course, no visit to Old Town is complete without going to U Fleků, which is the oldest continously operating pub in Europe founded 1499 A.D. Since Old Town has become a common tourist area, the prices were much higher, but the food was pretty good and the beer of which they only have one, brewed right there on premise, was excellent. Here it is, Flekovský Tmavý Ležák 13°.
On The Way to Second Dinner
I met up with some late arrivals in our group I hadn't previously seen and had a second dinner late in the day. During the course of the day and by this point I had walked almost 12 miles and went up more than 50 flights of stairs, so I could afford the calories. We met near Žižkov Television Tower, colloquially know amongst our group as “baby tower” because of the strange installation art of babies climbing the tower. I snapped the last few pictures of the day with my phone, having left my camera at the residence before heading towards the tower. In the first photo I found a very nice park and building near the tower. And in the second photo I attempt to get the tower in the frame while still showing the babies.
Working While Traveling
I'm working local time as I travel, which is somewhat advantageous as it helps my team cover a time window that would otherwise necessitate on-call people being woken up in North America during the night. I found the process of working at K10 quite productive actually. Being able to get up and walk around the garden while thinking and then sit down and crush out code was very helpful. I would say my productivity level during Day 3 was on par or better than my productivity level when I was working at home. My team seemed happy with my work which is good, and I have a clear picture going forward of what I'm working on. One fun tidbit about timezones is my standup call with used to be at 11:30AM Central Time is at 6:30PM local time here in Prague, so I end my day with the stand up rather than more or less starting my day with the standup. It's helped me to get more done in less time in many ways and work more normal hours. I already feel less burnt out.
No photos here, since it was a work day :) I did manage to get the photos on my camera from the previous days offloaded into Lightroom at least. There just wasn't enough time to get work done, eat, and still process photos in the same day.
The Power Incident
By now pretty much everyone in my group has heard about the power incident and apparently the retelling of the story is going to be the focus of my roommate and I's introductory presentation on Saturday. I'll provide the cliff notes version here. Both myself and John brought surge protectors/power strips that were supposed to be for travel. Well it turns out they're fused and clamped so that they only work with 120V/60hz power. While I was aware it likely wouldn't work and would blow up, we decided to give it a try anyway. We found out the hard way after plugging in John's surge protector. BOOM! and out went all the lights. I called Jenna, one of our RY staffers, and got the building manager's number. After talking with him, he gave me permission to break into the electrical cabinet in the basement. I proceeded to do just that and re-enable power since we had popped our unit's main breaker as well as several others upstairs and popped the main breaker downstairs. After a bit of finangling I got everything working again and the crisis was resolved.
Day 4 - Today
Spent quite a bit more time than planned working today but managed to still break away for a late dinner / wine-tasting with a few folks in my cohort I hadn't gotten to know well yet. We had a great time talking and got to experience an interesting meal combination. We started at a wine bar and had an exceptional Valpolicella Ripasso and then realized that all the restaurants in our area had closed and the pub kitchens had already closed. So as a group we walked to the main road and found that our only option was McDonald's. I was super-hungry at this point from working long, so unfortunately I don't have the photo I wished I had taken. Nonetheless, I have experienced the combination of a McRoyal (yes, a Royale with Cheese ala Pulp Fiction) and a ~700CZK bottle of wine, it was pretty darn good to be honest.
That all brings me to here, where I leave you until next time. Before I go though I want to give my readers a heads up that I will likely only be posting photos and more extensive posts on the weekends and be concentrating on trying to write some more tech related content soon during the week. I've also finally started an Instagram account which is now in the sidebar. Feel free to follow me.
All that said, I also wanted to call attention to another member of my RY cohort, none other than Mr. Eddie Contento. Eddie has start a Vlog as part of his journey and is getting some awesome video of the group's activities this week (and hopefully throughout our trip). I really loved his intro video and I'm hoping to see more. If you like it too, definitely consider subscribing to his Youtube channel. You may see me in some of the videos although I'm usually pretty good at staying behind the camera rather than in front of it :)
Eddie also photographed this awesome sculpture today:
Till next time, hezký den.