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Tales of travel and adventure in Central Europe

Prague’s Expat Writers II: ‘Unnecessary Errors’

Necessary ErrorsThe publication this week of Caleb Crain’s book “Necessary Errors,” which is set in Prague in the early 1990s, gives me a good excuse to reprise my post last week on the contribution of expat writers to Prague’s literary history. There were several omissions (including Crain’s book), which I’d like to rectify here. As it turns out, post-Velvet Revolution Prague more fertile for literary creation than I thought and much more fertile than it’s been given credit for.

I’ll start with Crain’s book, which I haven’t read yet but have now downloaded to my Kindle (and saving for a trip to Greece later this month). On its face, it seems to be the standard variety “wide-eyed expat comes of age in a foreign land” story, though it’s been widely reviewed (and praised) in the United States (so it might actually be pretty good). Here’s a typical review from Vanity Fair. If it does well, it could pave the way for yet more Prague books. Read More →

Prague Literary History: The Expat Contribution

Screen Shot 2013-07-28 at 1.19.30 PMWith the Globe Bookstore and Coffeehouse turning 20 years old this week, it got my mind thinking about all the hype in the 1990s about Prague serving as some kind of literary crucible from which future classics of English literature would emerge. The text here is from an article I wrote a couple of years back on that subject. My angle was that the author community was much maligned at the time but that more than a fair number of good and very good expat writers lived and worked here at some point in their lives and that their Prague experiences affected their output.

I still feel that way now, and the titles that have come out in print since I originally wrote the article only strengthen my case: Matt Welch’s “Myth of a Maverick” (nonfiction), Leslie Chang’s “Factory Girls” (also nonfiction) and Brendan McNally’s “Germania,” among others. My apologies to anyone I have overlooked in this article. Please help me fill in the blanks by leaving a comment below. A big thanks to Ken Nash, the author of the cartoon in the upper left. He drew it in 1993, showing that Prague was “over” practically from the moment it began. Read More →

‘The Prague Post’ Calls It Quits In Print

notoveryet“Not Over Yet.” The headline of the last print edition of The Prague Post after 22 years reeks of unintended irony or maybe it’s a bit of an inside gag (it wouldn’t be the first time). At any rate, it’s a sad day for English readers in the Czech capital as well as for former staffers, including the author of this website. I was the paper’s first Business Editor, working from 1991 to 1993 at the Post’s tiny offices at Dlouha trida 2 in the center and then for a time at the paper’s second location on Politickych veznu 9, near Wenceslas Square.

At least on one level, the headline is completely accurate. According to a letter circulated this week by owner Monroe Luther, the paper will continue on as a digital-only publication, so in that sense at least the Post really is “not over yet.” It only feels that way. Read More →

The Globe Bookstore and Coffeehouse Turns 20

GlobeOpeningPartyThis photo shows the scene 20 years ago this week, when the Globe Bookstore and Coffeehouse first opened its doors in Prague’s Holesovice district. I was one of the five original partners and I can remember the details of that long and agonizing summer as we anticipated the opening as if it were yesterday.

The Prague Post published a story this week on the anniversary and plans in early August (August 2 and 3) to hold parties marking the milestone. Here is a link to another story with more details published in 2006. This week’s Post story is comprehensive and I won’t repeat bits here, other than to say it’s hard to believe so much time has gone by and that I feel very fortunate for having been part of the Globe from the very start. Read More →

Welcome and Hope You Enjoy Your Stay!

Hello,

Just a short post here to welcome readers to CentralEuropeTraveler.com and to invite you to read the posts and leave comments as you like.

I’ve been working on this website off and on for a few months now and rather than continue to build up phantom content for a launch that may never come, I’ve opted for a soft launch and the good intentions to build up content going forward.

The point of the site is to write about the region I live in (Central Europe broadly defined — please see the FAQ) and to draw on seven years of travel and guidebook writing. The topics here will mostly be ones I cannot get editors to pay me for (usually because the topics are too niche and not commercial enough). I hope you’ll find the subjects engaging and also that you’ll feel inspired to suggest topics for future posts.

Not all of the countries and topics in the drop down menus have content at the moment, but I hope to rectify that in the weeks and months to come.

All best,

Mark Baker

A Word on Prague Food and Quick Eats

parek(The following text was adapted from an article I wrote originally for the UK’s Olive magazine. It appeared in print in 2009).

Four decades of communist rule nearly finished off fine dining in Prague. That’s no exaggeration. Restaurant recipes were standardized to the last gram of flour; innovation in the kitchen was stifled. It’s taken time for the dining scene to recover, but the good news is it’s alive and kicking again. Foreign imports like Italian, Mexican and Thai were the first to arrive, and chefs are now rediscovering classic Czech recipes and giving them a modern twist.

Czechs love pork and it forms the basis of many of their best dishes. Dumplings, usually made from flour but occasionally potatoes, make for a reliable side. Add cabbage and you’ve got the national dish: vepřo-knedlo-zelo – roast pork, dumplings and sauerkraut. But look out too for more exotic entrees like duck, rabbit and venison. These can be delicious. Read More →

I [Heart] Instagram (But Not The Filters)

IG logoI love Instagram. It’s awesome for quickly taking photos on my trips and building mini-communities on the road. I’ve met more people from IG (and had better interactions with them) than with any other chat or social-media application (including Yahoo Messenger, FB and Foursquare). Photographers love to share images and comments, and are usually keen to grab a coffee or a beer if you happen to be visiting their town. IG interactions are intense … and that’s what I love most about this app.

What I don’t like much (or rather use much) are Instagram’s built-in filters. There are a few that I use now and then (such as Earlybird or Sierra), but I find most of the effects to be too strong (like Nashville or Kelvin) or to give the photos too much of an “Instagram” stamp. Instead, I prefer to use separate photo-editing apps that I’ve downloaded from the IOS apps store. Often I use more than one app to edit a photo.

Here’s a quick list of my favorites and a few words about why I like them: Read More →