The Quiet Country Side: Lidice & Terezin, Czech Republic

There are many towns in the Czech Republic that are worth the day trip. A trip to Lidice and Terezin will bring you to the WWII section of Czech’s history.

About 30 minutes outside the city of Prague is Lidice, or at least, where Lidice used to be.

The Nazis leveled the town to nothing, killing almost all of the inhabitants and sending Aryan looking children to SS families in Germany. This town was not Jewish if that’s what you are thinking. It was Christian.

11070962_10206384471197691_1437589520490169913_n.jpgIt was punished for hiding the assassins that took down the Protectorate Reinhardt Heydrich, the mastermind behind the “great extermination” and Hitler’s right hand man.

Lidice is now a grass valley filled with memorials. Talk a walk down the path and you will find a collection of child statues. It is for the 88 children of Lidice that were sent to Poland and gassed. At the foot of the bronze statues of children are stuffed animals and candles that people have brought in remembrance.

To say it is powerful would be an understatement. An entire community completely obliterated for selflessly all to keep their hero keep out of reach of the enemy.

Continuing onward, Terezin is about an hour from Lidice. We arrived at the ghetto museum. Terezin is a normal town, unlike what I had seen in my previous visit to Krakow’s ghetto. So it may catch you by surprise on how different it looks from other ghettos. This is because this ghetto was the beautified by the Germans to trick the Red Cross delegation to think that the ghettos were nice places for people to be kept. The Germans succeeded.

Many artists and well known and respected figures were kept here. People who would be missed if they simply vanished like many families and neighbors did during this time. After the delegation left more than half of the population was sent to Auschwitz.1900048_10206384475757805_1280837162194926976_n.jpg

The small fortress itself was interesting and worth the tour. Again different from the Auschwitz I had seen as Terezin was built in the 18th century.

It has tunnels and a sturdy foundation (If you are claustrophobic avoid the tunnels). In the cell block you may come across a wreath in remembrance of the assassin who started WWI. He is regarded as a national hero to this day in certain parts of the world.

Take your time. Take it in. If this is your first concentration camp be respectful. I always tell people I am with to picture themselves walking through a cemetery or a museum to help frame their mindset.

 

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And I will Christen thee… with bones? Kutna Hora, Czech Republic

To start a blog I thought I’d start with something eye catching that many people actually do not get the opportunity to see when traveling in the amazing country that is the Czech Republic (or Czechia, whatever they are calling themselves today.)

That would be the sleepy city of Kuta Hora located east of Prague in the Czech Republic. Although Prague is known as the “City of One Thousand” spires and Kuta Hora is known for the Gothic St. Barbara’s Church, which is adorned with medieval frescoes and flying buttresses, there is a hidden gem here.

Sedlec Ossuary.

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Also referred to by many as the Bone Church. It’s probably something you’ve seen pictures of plastered all over the Internet but never truly knew much about it none the less where in the world it is.

A little history for you about Sedlec so you know what makes this space so special.

In the 12th century an abbot returned from a mission to  the Holy Land with a small amount of earth from Golgotha, also known as Calvary, where Jesus was crucified and sprinkled it over the cemetery there. Naturally this holy aspect added to this place caused people to flock here so that when they passed they would be buried there. As one may imagine, when the plague ran through Europe the death toll rose dramatically in this area and there was no long
er any room for the 10959696_10206067237667051_8745935172628972077_n.jpgapproximately 40,000 people that were buried there. One of the abbots erected this Gothic church in the middle of the cemetery and under it a chapel which would hold the bones of unearthed graves.It was later remodeled in Czech Baroque style.

The present arrangement of the bones dates from 1870 and is the work of a Czech wood-carver, František Rint
(you can see his name, put together from bones, on the right-hand wall over the last bench).
Also out here is the Czech Museum of Silver. Kuta Hora gained its wealth from the Silver mines. The minting of local currency took place here for over 200 years here, beginning in the 13th century before plague, war and later fire closed the mines down for good in the late 18th century. You can still go down into the mines today to explore on tours but also take a look into the museum as they have an Old  Master of Coin there that will demonstrate how they actually minted coins back in the day. And hey if you’re lucky you might even get a chance to do it yourself.

Now Kuta Hora is not difficult to get to from Prague. There are buses that go out there every so often. I’d recommend spending a day out there as you can fill your day up there, grab some local food and beer for lunch and that’s what I’d call a ‘Prekrásny Den’.

A Taste of Home: Classic Italian Cheesecake

My mother’s family is Italian and if there is one thing that is always on the table for the holidays it is the cheesecake from my great grandmother’s recipe. It is also a terrible but quirky tradition that anyone that gives out the recipe to friends should leave out one special ingredient so they can keep their cheesecake unique and the recipe itself can be improved upon.

So naturally following family tradition I will be leaving out one ingredient/technique from my recipe. Don’t worry you’ll still get a good cheesecake out of it.

I like to say that the process for this cheesecake from raw to ready is 8 hours.

Official time is about 2 hours though. It will become apparent as we go through the motions.

 

What you need (In Order of Appearance):

  • 1 cup Graham Cracker Crumbs ( You can use vanilla wafers, or oreos, etc.)
  • 3 Tbsp. butter or margarine, melted
  • 2 Tbsp. Sugar
  • 4 Ricotta Cheese
  • 1 1/4 Cups of Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Flour
  • 1/2 Cup Whipping Cream (Aka Heavy Cream)
  • 2 Tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Tsp. Grated Lemon Zest
  • 5 Eggs, cracked one at a time

PREHEAT oven to 350F if using a silver 9in springform pan (or 325F if using a dark nonstick 9in springform pan). Spray pan with cooking spray or oil the pan, especially the sides. This is very important. You will be using the spray to stick the crust to the pan to form a mold to hold the batter but also forms a barrier between the cake and the side of the pan so hen you release the pan nothing comes off your beautiful, fragile cheesecake.

MIX crumbs, butter, and 2 Tbsp sugar. Press firmly onto bottom and sides of the pan. I always start on the sides and work my way to the base. Bake 10 minutes.

MEANWHILE, beat ricotta cheese (* for about 10 minutes until very light*) Then, add, 1 1/4 cups sugar and flour in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Add whipping cream, vanilla and zest; mix well. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing just until blended after each addition. Pour over crust.

Place a pan of water on the lower rack under the cake pan so it will steam the cake while it bakes. 

BAKE approximately 1 hour and 10 minutes or until the top of the cake begins to turn light golden brown.  Turn off the oven but DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DOOR.  AFTER ABOUT 30 MINUTES OR SO, OPEN THE OVEN DOOR JUST A CRACK.

After another 30 minutes or so, open it a little more and after 30 minutes open door and let the cake cool in the oven. If you take it out too early, it might fall. Run knife or metal spatula around rim of pan to loosen cake; cool before removing rim of pan.

REFRIGERATE 4 hours or overnight. Store leftover cheesecake in refrigerator.

Now this process may seem paranoid or may not have much sense to it but you’ll have a very nice and fluffy cheesecake as your result. There is a method to the madness. Also when it is humid out the cake doesn’t seem to rise as much and will be denser.

A toast to the end of the rainbow, a destination not to be found.