The Bumpy Road to International Love in Prague

The ever-growing cosmopolitan city of Prague is home to lots of international cuisine, culture and most of all people who truly are from all over the world. It is no surprise to encounter mix-raced children, a group of friends speaking in several languages at once, and international couples and families. Being an international couple takes a lot of work, from deciding what meal to cook, what language to speak, what day to celebrate Christmas on, or whether to celebrate it at all.

The Bumpy Road to International Love was originally posted in The Bridge, a magazine belonging to the International Women’s Association of Prague.

The ever-growing cosmopolitan city of Prague is home to lots of international cuisine, culture and most of all people who truly are from all over the world. It is no surprise to encounter mix-raced children, a group of friends speaking in several languages at once, and international couples and families. Being an international couple takes a lot of work, from deciding what meal to cook, what language to speak, what day to celebrate Christmas on, or whether to celebrate it at all.

Kimberli Jo Lewis, from Rhode Island, USA met her husband in Germany. Joachim, born in Wuppertal Germany, was first introduced to Kimberli at work. Because their official first meeting Germany very brief, Kimberli considers their first meeting to be in Mallorca Spain in May 1997. As if the beach and warm weather wasn’t enough to bring two people together, the two bonded as they participated in a jeep rally together. Joachim was in lucky because “he was the only person in the event that spoke Spanish,” Kimberli says, “I actually wanted to go in (his) jeep, not because I wanted to meet him. I thought it would give us an advantage!”

After a busy few months of little contact, they ran into each other at a Christmas market. Santa must have teamed up with Cupid that December because as the two sat down together and drank German Mulled Wine or Glüwein they realized that “it was meant to be”. Their globally scattered family and friends complicated their wedding planning and resulted in a plan to have a secret wedding in the Chapel at the Monte Carlo in Las Vegas.

Arriving at the Chapel ready for a private July wedding in 1999, Kimberli and Joachim were surprised by 35 friends and family members from the U.S. and Europe – turns out Kimberli’s best friend in California had figured it out and organized for everyone to come. “So much for keeping secrets” exclaims Kimberli. But the surprise was welcomed and the wedding was beautiful. Although she and Joachim kept a double household, Kimberli returned to Prague in 2007 and they spent most of their time here. Kimberli started and registered a business in Prague and likes it because it is “small enough to meet a lot of people, but is still a capital”.

But being an international couple is hard work – but especially after meeting at a jeep rally – there are no bumps along the road that this couple can’t handle. They juggle four languages in their household (Kimberli’s sister-in-law is Ukrainian and her stepson is half Spanish) and disagree about Christmas traditions. The family is used to coming to agreements about “food, celebrations, cultural habits and even language” explains Kimberli.

On his foreign student exchange in China, Dalibor met his wife Ann who was finishing her Masters. They met to practice English and Chinese together and didn’t imagine that a language partnership turning into something more, “it wasn’t my plan or intention” says Dalibor. Ann teases him and calls a ‘cheater’ because she doesn’t believe that her Czech husband just wanted to learn Chinese. Whatever the intention, language lessons led to love and love led to three weddings!

Dalibor’s closest family witnessed his official wedding with Ann in the Czech Republic. Then followed by a traditional Chinese wedding in Ann’s homeland. Their third and for now final wedding was back in the Czech Republic and was more traditional – many guests, music and food. As if two weddings in one country didn’t suffice, they also decided to move to the Czech Republic, where Dalibor settled for Prague, which suited Ann’s needs better than his preferred choice: Brno. But Dalibor “really wanted (Ann and him) to be together” and he “took it as a new positive challenge and chance”.

Prague proved to be a great home for the international couple. Ann managed to make friends among the big expat communities and now has Chinese friends who live and work here. But it did not go without complications – Ann had a lot of visa problems and “was approached in a very cold and unwelcoming way” says Dalibor, worrying about her first impression of Prague. It took the help of a lawyer and more than 8 months to get temporary residence, which normally takes up to 60 days.

Other challenges included differences in culture – such as the Chinese standard of the man being the “sole breadwinner… and his parents should contribute a significant a significant amount of wealth to the new couple”, says Dalibor, in whose culture gender roles are more equal. He also feels for Ann who is so far away from her family and friends. Although Skype is great, it doesn’t replace personal contact and if there is need to urgently visit her family because of a problem, it is extremely difficult if not impossible.

They also find differences in how they spend their free time and interactions between strangers. Czechs cannot imagine spending a whole night in a karaoke room singing, and the Chinese have trouble with the closed-off nature of Czechs who don’t just interact and act openly with their neighbors like the Chinese do. After living in China for a year together, even Dalibor find some aspects of Czech culture frustrating. But being n international couple “is immensely enriching”, says Dalibor who has experienced “different culture, different psyche, and different ways of life”.

Anna Mazur and her husband Cyrus Skaria met in London. Anna was studying in Warsaw but decided to spend a month in London to learn English, and she met her Indian husband who was finishing his PhD at the University of London. It was love “at 2nd sight” she says smiling. She realized she was in love with him as they ate lunch together in Hyde Park on her second day in London, “I don’t know why but the whole place/situation and him seemed almost magical”. Like in every fairy tale, love led to marriage – the couple got married in India in the same location as Cyrus’s parents 35 years ago.

Moving to Prague has “changed everything in our life” explains Anna. She gave up her developing career and moved to a place they didn’t know. What was meant to be temporary has stretched into what is now two years. They left their home, family and friends and started a new life. Although Anna describes Prague as “a wonderful place” she is not sure that it is the best place for an international couple. “It looks like there are two worlds in Prague”, she says, referring to the expat circle and the “outside world”. Her husband especially struggles with the Czech language, and for Anna, who understands it a bit better still finds it her greatest issue saying, “It gives us grief sometimes”.

She doesn’t see Czechs as being very friendly, just “sad and tired”, and misses how at home, strangers would greet each other – which isn’t done in Prague. Due to his Indian origin Cyrus is often associated with the Roma and is treated with an attitude, “one lady looked at my husband then at me and then she shook her head with disapproval”. But she still thinks that Prague is a beautiful city and a good place to live, the only downside is interacting with the outside world. For her the struggles of being an international couple started with language, because she wasn’t fluent in English when they met, as well as deciding where to live and settle down, “we live in a country which is not a home country to me nor to my husband” – and they think they will have more such stops in their journey.

Wise Words from the Couples:

Kimberli believes that being part of an international couple and having an international family “is wonderful (because) it widens your perspectives and exposes you to things you might not experience otherwise”. Her secret to keeping such an international lifestyle is being “flexible and able to compromise”.

Multilingual Dalibor and Ann see overcoming challenges as “contributing positively to (their) mutual relationship,” because it requires a “special deal of commitment”. He would like to thank Ann for the three-and-a-half years they spent together – their relationship is helping him become a better man.

Anna Muzar didn’t plan on marrying a foreigner and she’s learned a lot about Indian culture, family values, life style and cuisine and sums it up as a “great experience”. She finds the diversity in their family a huge benefit and she hopes that their 3-month-old daughter will one days be multilingual, speaking Polish, English and Hindi.

This post was updated on June 14th, 2018: the text, as well as title and headline, may have been edited, proofread and optimized for search engines. The featured image may have been changed due to copyright or quality issues.

A Quick Trip to Vietnam… Without Leaving Prague

Today there are over 60,000 Vietnamese people living in the Czech Republic making them the 3rd biggest minority. Most of them can be found in Prague, where they started a market complex called Sapa, named after a region in northern Vietnam. Along with selling clothes, Asian fruit, vegetables, spices and traditional Vietnamese cuisine, they also hold celebrations and share aspects of their culture to the Czechs and foreign visitors.

Anyone living in Prague today knows that this city is practically littered with Potravinys, Vecerkas and a variety of Vietnamese owned stores and restaurants. The Vietnamese began building a community here during the communist regime in former Czechoslovakia: they worked in machine-building and light industries while students studied in technical fields, Czech literature, some even puppetry. There were almost 30,000 Vietnamese workers and students living here by the eighties, many of which had left after the Velvet Revolution in 1989. But they began immigrating again to either work here or improve their life or to do business and increase opportunities: by 1994 their community was almost 10,000 strong.

Today there are over 60,000 Vietnamese people living in the Czech Republic making them the 3rd biggest minority. Most of them can be found in Prague, where they started a market complex called Sapa, named after a region in northern Vietnam. Along with selling clothes, Asian fruit, vegetables, spices and traditional Vietnamese cuisine, they also hold celebrations and share aspects of their culture to the Czechs and foreign visitors. To a Vietnamese person, Sapa is more than just a business, it is a place where they feel welcomed, accepted and at home.

According to an article in the Prague Post published on July 11th, 2012, the Vietnamese community had increased 292% in the past 10 years. In the last two years, this increase in population was mirrored by an increased in Vietnamese cuisine. There was a rise in Chinese bistros that were run by the Vietnamese who began to gradually include national Vietnamese cuisine to the otherwise Chinese menu. A lot of them also changed their names from Chinese to Vietnamese. A big part of the increase in the popularity of Vietnamese food in Prague was Viet Food Friends, a blog launched in November 2011 by Nguyen Mai Huong and Trinh Thuy Duong. At the time of their interview, their blog had almost 2,000 Facebook followers.

These two Charles University students said that their motivation was to allow the Czechs an opportunity to discover the Vietnamese cuisine and because it wasn’t easily accessible in the past. They believed that the language barrier between the Czechs and the Vietnamese was the main reason for the lack of Vietnamese cuisine in a country with such a great residing community. Both students came to Prague at a young age and were raised in a traditional Vietnamese way while attending Czech schools; although they speak Czech fluently they still feel very close to what they refer to as their “motherland”.

The most popular dishes found in the Czech Republic are pho and bun. Phở is a noodle soup, although the name phở refers to the rice noodles and not the actual soup, other ingredients include beef or chicken, bean sprouts, lime wedges, basil, mint, cilantro, onions and covered with chili or fish sauce. Bún chả is pretty much a cold version of phở and contains grilled pork sausage patties, a variety of herbs, bean sprouts, pickled veggies and nước chấm sauce which is a combination of sweet, sour, salty and spicy.

Phở and bún are the most common in the Czech Republic, but there are many other foods that are less known here but are typical in Vietnam. There are a number of other popular dishes, but the ones to keep an eye for in Prague are bahn cam or golden-fried gooey balls speckled with sesame seeds and filled with mung paste which is a sweet bean paste. Then there is banh chung, a special meal eaten during an important Vietnamese celebration Tet, this banana leaf-wrapped parcel is filled with glutinous rice packed with fatty pork and mung bean. Tet is celebrated at the previously mentioned Sapa. Finally, there is cap he which is a Vietnamese coffee that is much more of a dessert than a drink. It consists of dark coffee that is sweetened by condensed milk and is mixed up with a raw egg.

Vietnamese food is influenced strongly by Chinese cuisine which makes sense because of the proximity between the countries, but also by the French. The French-inspired not only Vietnamese coffee but also their many baguette dishes that are filled with traditional Vietnamese ingredients such as vegetables, herbs, spices, fish, meat and of course nước chấm sauce.

The best places in Prague to experience some of these above-mentioned dishes are Pho on Slavikova 1 next to Jiriho s Podebrad park in Prague 3. Here you can sample pho, bun, fried spring-rolls and non-fried salad-rolls, but be aware that there is nowhere to sit, people come here to eat quickly and eat at standing tables or take to go. If you are looking for a more traditional restaurant with a much higher variety of meals is Red Hot Chilli at Krizikova 123/69 in Karlin. After I finished my meal, the waitress offered me the special Vietnamese coffee that was previously mentioned. Another nice restaurant can be found in Vinohrady on Slezka 57 called Ha Noi. They also have a nice variety of dishes and incredibly cheap prices.

Interview:

“To be honest I do not feel Vietnamese at all,” says Trang Dao, a second generation Vietnamese who was born and raised in the Czech Republic. “My whole life, I grew up with the habit and the culture of this country,” she says when talking about going to a Czech school until the end of middle school. Her parents taught her Vietnamese culture at home but she still “feel(s) more Czech” she “could not imagine moving to Vietnam and live there”. For her, Vietnam is a “completely different world.”

This post was updated on June 14th, 2018: the text, as well as title and headline, may have been edited, proofread and optimized for search engines. The featured image may have been changed due to copyright or quality issues.

Home in Hilo – Hawaii Travel

I didn’t know much about Hilo before coming here, but it didn’t take long to fall in love with it. The culture shock began on campus, where strangers said hello to me left and right and a friendly cleaning lady asked me to call her “Aunty” and it didn’t end there.

I didn’t know much about Hilo before coming here, but it didn’t take long to fall in love with it. The culture shock began on campus, where strangers said hello to me left and right and a friendly cleaning lady asked me to call her “Aunty.”

Five weeks later the various aspects of the laidback nature of the locals still never cease to surprise. As an exchange student for one semester, the thought of leaving in 13 weeks saddens me greatly: I can no longer imagine falling asleep without the soothing acapella of coqui frogs: or looking up at the sky back home where I’ve never seen a single shooting star; or seeing rainbows after a long warm rainfall.

What I love the most about UH Hilo are all the chances we get to explore Hawaii and Hawaiian culture on the weekends. The Outdoor EdVenture Trips like Paddle Boarding or going to Hapuna Beach are always something to look forward to during the week and they are never a letdown.

One of my favorite trips so far was a volunteering trip to the Kohala Mountains where we helped rid the rainforest of non-native ginger plants – we saw a beautiful view from the high mountain; we had a bumpy ride in a four-wheel drive through a herd of cows; we saw parts of the rainforest that not every local gets to seel and we helped native Hawaiian rainforest species by sickling away overgrown ginger plants which was oddly satisfying and relaxing.

I know that my time here will be amazing and I will go on many more trips, Hawaii can make even the most dormant of people embrace the spirit of carpe diem.

This was originally published: http://uhh.abroadoffice.net/res/saoffice_static_pages/3056/s-October%202012.pdf

This post was updated on June 14th, 2018: the text, as well as title and headline, may have been edited, proofread and optimized for search engines. The featured image may have been changed due to copyright or quality issues.

Flying with Germanwings – Europe Travel

When I decided to spend a few days of my summer vacation visiting my friend in Germany, I knew there were several different options for getting there: by car, bus or train. Looking for the cheapest one I stumbled upon Germanwings, a German airline offering roundtrip tickets for 1,500 CZK.

Flying with Germanwings was originally posted in The Bridge, a magazine belonging to the International Women’s Association of Prague. Travel in Europe has never been easier or cheaper!

When I decided to spend a few days of my summer vacation visiting my friend in Germany, I knew there were several different options for getting there: by car, bus or train. Looking for the cheapest one I stumbled upon Germanwings, a German airline offering roundtrip tickets for 1,500 CZK.

I didn’t believe it at first, but I took my chances filling in all the information, booking almost 3 months in advance and was surprised that with only hand luggage and no meal on board, the tickets did truly cost only 1,500, with an additional cost of 222 CZK for online paying; which was cheaper than any of the other options of getting all the way to Cologne/Bonn. The additional cost of bringing a suitcase or choosing the seats and a meal was also relatively cheap.

Expecting the worst sort of plane imaginable for the low price of the flight I was positively surprised by a very nice plane, looking just like a regular CSA plane, and I was even more surprised by a timely boarding and an on the dot arrival at the Cologne/Bonn airport. At my destination airport, I saw that Germanwings was indeed very popular in Germany and they had a whole section of the 1st terminal just for the Germanwings airline and they had planes taking off almost every 30 minutes. Although the boarding was delayed by 30 minutes on my way back to Prague, the plane just flew faster and reached Prague in 55 minutes, a whole 20 minutes less than it took to fly to Germany.

Most of the flights that Germanwings makes are around Europe, but you can also find flights to other continents, although only the ones around Europe are at such low prices. When I booked this flight, I also agreed to get emails about last minute offers that the airline had to offer. Although I have yet to book one of these flights, I am definitely very pleased with discovering them and will definitely use them in the future. Next time you have a trip in mind, I recommend that you check out Germanwings because they might offer just what you’re looking for at a much lower price than expected!

This post was updated on June 14th, 2018: the text, as well as title and headline, may have been edited, proofread and optimized for search engines. The featured image may have been changed due to copyright or quality issues.

Experiencing UH Hilo – Hawaii Travel

Being Ukrainian and growing up in the Czech Republic, I came to Hawaii with my head full of expectations and uneducated stereotypes. My home university, Anglo American, happened to have an exchange program in University of Hawai’I at Hilo.

I came to Hawaii to study at UH Hilo on a university exchange in 2012. Living in Hawaii for four months was an incomparable experience that is hard to put into words. But I’ve been trying to describe it since the day I set foot on the Big Island.

Being Ukrainian and growing up in the Czech Republic, I came to Hawaii with my head full of expectations and uneducated stereotypes. My home university, Anglo American, happened to have an exchange program at the University of Hawai’I at Hilo, and since coming to Hawaii has always been a dream of mine, I jumped at the opportunity to come here. I thought I would spend four months sitting on a white sand beach under a constantly blazing sun surrounded by hula dancers. And, that I’d have leis thrown over my head wherever I went by ukulele-playing locals.

Some of this did actually happen: August was really sunny, I saw a graceful hula dance at the talent show during orientation week, I bought a cheap lei in a souvenir store, and I do hear students strumming a ukulele on campus every once in a while. But, Hawaii turned out to be so much more.

Instead of white sand beaches, Hilo has many beautifully unique volcanic beaches to offer like Honoli’i and Richardson. Honoli’i has a river flowing into the ocean creating a calm area to swim in while the waves in the ocean offer a great surfing environment, and the small beach is surrounded by cliffs and palm trees. Richardson beach is completely different with lots of different enclosed areas to swim in and also lots of areas to just sit around and have picnics. It is even known as a place to spot turtles. The two beaches also showed me a lot about Hawaiian culture.

At both beaches I saw the strong bond between the Hawaiians and their natural surroundings; everyone was careful to clean up after themselves after eating and picked up every bit of litter that they dropped. There was also a great respect for the turtles, which are not to be touched, and the locals watched my friends and me carefully as we approached the turtles to photograph them, and would have probably jumped to their defense if we got too close or disturbed them

There was also a strong sense of family and community at the beaches as big families gather together and set up tents to have picnics and chill. Also, everyone would gather together and cheer whenever a child caught their first wave surfing. It was amazing to watch and the friendly locals would always make me feel included by randomly saying hello and interacting with me.

I also discovered that Hilo is far from being constantly sunny, but I have never seen a more mesmerizing rainfall. The rain here is warm and you can see it bringing life to the whole island as all sorts of critters crawl out from hiding and the plants just seem to dance as the drops hit their leaves. The rain here never seems to bring anyone’s moods down.

On Tuesday and Thursday at six P.M., the hula class at the Student Life Center continues no matter the weather, with friendly upbeat instructors for both beginners and the advanced classes. After seeing a hula dancer perform at the talent show during orientation week there were quite a few people wanting to learn this unique form of dancing.

All in all, Hawaii turned out to have much more to offer than I ever imagined possible, and UH Hilo is a big part of it. Being given weekly opportunities to travel around the Big Island and experience new activities is just one of the perks of the university. There is something here for everyone to participate in, from trying out your public speaking skills on the school radio station to volunteering to help with the beehive to pretty much any club, sport and activity that you can think of.

As an exchange student for one semester, I am truly amazed by UH Hilo. I will have many ideas to take back and suggest to Anglo American, my home university, to make it at least half as good a university as this one.

Originally published here: https://issuu.com/kekalahea/docs/issue4fall2012

This post was updated on June 14th, 2018: the text, as well as title and headline, may have been edited, proofread and optimized for search engines. The featured image may have been changed due to copyright or quality issues.

UHH Students Help Watershed Project

The Kohala Watershed Partnership is dedicated to helping rid of non-native species and helping those that are native strive. Every month volunteers go to the mountain to do a variety of tasks from planting trees to sterilizing those that shouldn’t be there.

UHH Students Help Watershed Project was originally published at 12:05 on October 10th 2012 in the Hawaii Tribune-Herald. It has since been removed from the website but below is the original article.

The Kohala Watershed Partnership is dedicated to helping rid of non-native species and helping those that are native strive. Every month volunteers go to the mountain to do a variety of tasks from planting trees to sterilizing those that shouldn’t be there.

Earlier this month, a group of the University of Hawaii at Hilo student volunteers went to the mountain with the Kohala Watershed staff and spent a few hours clearing up ginger plants that were suffocating other native species.

The work was not only rewarding but gave the students a chance to see part of Hawaii that not everyone gets to see.

The Kohala Watershed Partnership is always looking for more volunteers to help out in the mountains or in other ways. Visit http://kohalawatershed.org/ for more information on the organization and to learn how you can help.

“Kohala, known to most as an extinct volcano on the Big Island, is more than just one of the oldest volcanoes on this island. Kohala Mountain is now the home of certain species of plants and animals that cannot be found anywhere else in not just Hawaii, but the whole world,” said UHH exchange student Olena Kagui, one of the volunteers.

“It is also an important source of rainwater that supports the unique native species living on the mountain as well as providing water for human communities. There are certain species of plants and animals that are not native to the mountain that are threatening to damage the ecosystem and in doing so kill the rare species living there,” she said.

This post was updated on June 14th, 2018: the text, as well as title and headline, may have been edited, proofread and optimized for search engines. The featured image may have been changed due to copyright or quality issues.

 

Living with Pets, Nika Kagui

I will never forget the day I came home from school to find a tiny puppy sitting on the stairs. With her big eyes, wet nose and chubby pink tummy, it only took Nika one second to make me fall in love with her. She made my whole family come alive and change.

Living with Pets, Nika Kagui was originally published in The Bridge, the magazine published by IWAP – International Women’s Association of Prague. Nika Kagui was more than just a pet, she was a beloved dog that was part of our family. We still miss her every day, but the memories of her are no longer sad.

I will never forget the day I came home from school to find a tiny puppy sitting on the stairs. With her big eyes, wet nose and chubby pink tummy, it only took Nika one second to make me fall in love with her. She made my whole family come alive and change. My busy mother found time to take her on countless of walks every few hours, my neat germ-phobic father heard her howling one night and she’s slept in his bed ever since, and I discovered the true meaning of unconditional love.

But there were many sacrifices too. We couldn’t go on as many family trips, we worried too much about leaving her with others. Also, just like many other purebred Labradors, Nika had many health problems; one vet even recommended that we ‘don’t waste our time and money and put her to sleep’. She had hip problems among many others, and she was at risk of not live past 3. We decided to take our chances and vowed to keep her alive for as long as possible as long as she didn’t suffer and had the will to live – and boy did she love living.

She was always full of energy and curiosity. Among driving in the car and playing with Leia, a puppy we bought for her because she couldn’t have her own, her passion was swimming. She would climb the ladder into the blow-up pool in our garden with confidence; look at us to see if we were watching her and then jump in and swim for hours. When she got out she would dry herself on a towel that we laid out for her. Watching this regular routine never got old and always raised our spirits.

But despite the happy moments, there was also a lot of worrying involved. She underwent over 7 operations over the 8 years and 5 months of her life. Seeing her shaved in strange placed, bandaged up, limping with sleepy eyes after a long operation was always horrible. But no matter what state she was in, she would greet us warmly; wagging her tail, begging us for a treat and making us scratch her back. Her eyes always twinkled with gratefulness and happiness that made every single sacrifice worth it.

When she died in surgery a few months back, we were devastated. She was more than a dog: she was a member of the family, a friend and a reflection of ourselves. She fought for her life until the end. When her heart stopped during other surgeries, she would make it beat again. When we worried that we were selfish to put her through the operations, she showed us that she too wanted more than anything to live. Her bravery, determination, happiness and her endless supply of love is something that along with the memory of her will be with us in our hearts forever.

This post was updated on June 14th, 2018: the text, as well as title and headline, may have been edited, proofread and optimized for search engines. The featured image may have been changed due to copyright or quality issues.

Charmingly Calm Calafell, Travel Spain

Calafell, Spain – a popular European travel destination for people from all over the world. Statistics show that the yearly number of tourists is around 45 million. Calafell, situated in the Catalonian province of Tarragona, is a quiet town perfect for a calm relaxing vacation.

Calafell, Spain – a popular European travel destination for people from all over the world. Statistics show that the yearly number of tourists is around 45 million. But where do all these tourists go? Barcelona, Madrid and Valencia are among the most popular, especially during the summer.

Unfortunately, the crowds of tourists attract street vendors who will nag you until you buy something, and as soon as you get rid of one, another will pop right up. Plus half of these tourists are students looking to get drunk and make some noise all through the night. So this is why, when choosing a city in Spain, a group of friends and I opted for Calafell, a little town about 25 miles south of big and boisterous Barcelona.

Calafell, situated in the Catalonian province of Tarragona, is a quiet town perfect for a calm relaxing vacation. Being used to crowded beaches where you have to step over people to get to the sea which has more sun screen than salt water, I was surprised by how few people there were. Our first there day, June 1st 2011, we only saw a few dozen families, quite a few runners and a bunch of children from a class trip.

The atmosphere was really peaceful and we couldn’t resist spending the whole day working on our tans and enjoying the many waves from a sand bank about 40 meters into the sea. As the week progressed there were a couple of busier days, where people rented speed-boats and sailboats from a dock about 2 miles from our hotel, but there was always a relaxed air about the beach.

Our apartment-style hotel, Costa d’Or, very reasonably priced at 700 euros for a room with two double-bed rooms, a living area, a bathroom with a bathtub, a kitchen with a spacious fridge and gas stove and a balcony for a whole week. The staff was friendly and helpful but had poor English, though they were patient when communicating with and aiding us.

Additionally, the reception is open 24/7 so you can come and go as you want and you can always leave the keys there if you don’t want to risk losing them. There is also a beautiful outdoor pool that unfortunately gets little sunlight: but this shouldn’t bother you too much since the hotel is less than 55 yards from the beach. It is also walking distance from many stores, small supermarkets and even the train station.

Although there is a kitchen in the hotel, it’s still nice to eat out every once in a while. Near the breathtaking Esglesia de la Santa Creu, Calafell’s most famous landmark, I found a modest little restaurant where I got a tuna sandwich and sangria. The cheap sangria was only average-tasting yet still refreshing and ridiculously simple sandwich containing only bread with the best tuna that I’ve ever tasted. I also had dinner at a tapas bar, whose name I don’t remember, near Costa d’Or; the food and sangria were amazing and the prices were good, but we were unfortunate with a mean-spirited waiter.

Calafell is a nice town filled with friendly locals (one even let my friend come inside his apartment on the top floor of a nearby building and showed her a unique view of the town and told her the entire history). There are things to do other than swimming, like nordic walking and other group activities. No street vendors will disturb your peace on your way to the store or on the beach. But best of all, if you get bored of the tranquility of the town, you can buy cheap train tickets from the centrally-located station and go to one of the neighbor towns like Tarragona and Sitges. There’s Barcelona too of course, just 40 minutes away. I will definitely return to Calafell again someday, and who knows, I might even run into you there!

This post was updated on June 14th, 2018: the text, as well as title and headline, may have been edited, proofread and optimized for search engines. The featured image may have been changed due to copyright or quality issues.

Adolf Wölfli’s Controversial Crazy Art

Adolf Wölfli (1864 – 1930) a self-proclaimed Swiss artist, composer, writer, farm-laborer, soldier and much more was orphaned at the age of 10 after being both physically and sexually abused. He was sentenced after attempting to commit a pedophilic act and was eventually hospitalized in the Waldau Mental Asylum near Bern, Germany, where he spent nearly half his life. The Asylum was also the place where he developed his passion for creating art.

Adolf Wölfli (1864 – 1930) a self-proclaimed Swiss artist, composer, writer, farm-laborer, soldier and much more was orphaned at the age of 10 after being both physically and sexually abused. He was sentenced after attempting to commit a pedophilic act and was eventually hospitalized in the Waldau Mental Asylum near Bern, Germany, where he spent nearly half his life. The Asylum was also the place where he developed his passion for creating art, composing music and writing stories and so he combined all of these by writing books which he illustrated and wrote soundtracks to. He created art and wrote stories until he died of intestinal cancer in 1930.

This type of art is known as brut art, or raw art, which is a term used to describe art created outside the boundaries of official culture. Some artists, like Jean Debuffet, focused particularly on the art by insane-asylum inmates when regarding this particular style. Interest in this type of art grew mainly in the 1920s and Adolf Wölfli became known for his art after the publishing of his psychiatrists, Dr. Walter Morgenthaler’s book. Andre Breton, a surrealist was also very impressed with Wölfli’s art and even referred to the entire body of his work as being one of the three or four most important works of the twentieth century.

One of his best-known works is 45 volume illustrated book in which he narrates an imaginary story of his life. This 25,000 page story contains 1,600 illustrations and 1,500 collages. Wölfli also had many smaller books where he would tell stories of his imaginary travels and inventions. There are paintings in the exhibition of his interpretations of places in the world, like the Gulf of Mexico, and a list of all the things that he supposedly invented. He also produced bread-art or single-sheet drawings which were painted with the purpose to sell them, and he began painting them in 1916 and continued painting them until he died in 1930.

A majority all of his pictures have one thing in common: they are full of color and the pages are filled completely with lines, shapes, lists of numbers, words and sentences, musical notes and in some cases cut outs from newspapers. Mostly drawn in color pencil, the pictures are very chaotic and intense, and there are so many details that one could observe the pictures for hours and still not see everything that’s there. His music, which is played in the background of the exhibition, is also very intense and creates a feeling of unease and builds tension in the listener. The pictures in the exhibition will easily grab one’s attention and the uniqueness of the art and the story of the artist will truly make this an exceptional experience.

You can see some of Adolf’s works in the Adolf Wölfli Foundation in the Museum of Fine Arts Bern in Switzerland along with regular exhibitions in various art galleries all over Europe – none of which are open at the moment but keep an eye out for them. The Museum of Fine Arts Bern is definitely a place that you shouldn’t miss out on. It has over 3,000 paintings and sculptures and 48,000 drawings, lithographs, photographs, videos and films. The art in the museum varies greatly and includes both international art from all over the world as well as old Swiss art – with a multitude of genres including the unique Brut art of Adolf Wölfli.

This post was updated on June 14th, 2018: the text, as well as title and headline, may have been edited, proofread and optimized for search engines. The featured image may have been changed due to copyright or quality issues.
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Adolf Wölfli, a Swiss artist created art in a prison asylum.