“Get me a Czech wife!”
Otto has already dropped the menu, while I still haven’t made up my mind. Everything just sounds equally delicious. When my plate arrives, my eyes seem to become wider than they ever were. I feel like the piece of meat is smiling at me, singing Czech drinking songs and inviting me to take as many bites as I want. There’s a lot of meat on the plate – and a single flowery shaped thing. It has to be a carrot. Cooks always think it’s necessary to ruin a satisfying, slightly unhealthy meal by adding a bit of ‘kitchen poetry,’ a carrot shaped like a rose. This one looks a bit different though. “What is it?”, I ask Otto. He is Czech, I figure, after all he has to know about things like that. “It’s a sausage rose”, he answers much quicker than expected without even looking at my plate. “It’s a sausage?”, I ask, not sure whether he really is serious. “Of course it is a sausage rose, what else would you put on a plate of meat?”, Otto explains after taking a deep sip of the Czech “water”, which is listed in the menu as pivo. I am not sure whether it is viewed as impolite to speak on the phone while in a Czech restaurant but I am not a local, so I figure it is okay to not care. “Hannes ? It’s me. I am In Brno, eating meat and there’s a flowery shaped thing on my plate. Guess what? It is a SAUSAGE!”, I whisper into my mobile phone. “A sausage rose? Get me a Czech wife”.
The next morning I enter my first Czech supermarket. Czech supermarkets don’t look that different to the Austrian ones. However, I feel like a child when walking through this one. Everything looks so exciting because I don’t understand the writings on it. It’s not bread, apples and wine, here they sell things like mléko and pivo and rohlik. I figure it might be nice to send a Czech birthday card to my mother. While at the counter, the salesperson suddenly stops, looks at me and asks me something which sounds like a lot of sh-sounds followed by quirky r-sounds. I just look at her, stammer “Nerozumím- I don’t understand!”. The round cheeked lady just raises one eyebrow, points at the card and produces another load of sh-sounds. “Nerozumím”, I continue repeating after she shuts her mouth. Her smile begins to disappear, when she makes one final attempt to speak to me in Czech. This time I don’t even say “Nerozumím”, I just try to look as miserable as possible. I feel like it’s the closest I’ve ever looked to a puppy. Finally the lady gets up, disappears behind a shelf and returns a few seconds later with an envelope in her hands. Seems I have forgotten to take one along with my birthday card. She hands me the envelope, mumbles something in her language and actually seems to smile at me. Maybe smiles look different in the Czech Republic. I say děkuji and leave the shop.
“No Vowels in Česká republika”
I just downed half a litre of Czech mléko, when Otto finally makes it to our meaning point -Parky v Brně. The last part of this makes me believe that Czechs don’t seem to like vowels to the same extent other people do. After I left the shop I have used Nerozumím almost a dozen more times and it already seems to come out so naturally that one tiny part of me thinks I sound like a native speaker. People always get a bit weird when they travel abroad. “Otto, look what I have bought!”, I hand the birthday card to my friend. He looks at it for a moment and a tiny smile appears on his face. “Oh, so your parents have an anniversary this year? I think they will find it really sweet that you remember!” My own smile disappears. “Wait, this is an anniversary card?”, I ask him. “Well, as far as I can tell, yes. “Oh that sucks. It was supposed to be my mother’s birthday card!”, I stare at the card accusingly. “Oh, it’s not too late, we can still go to the shop and get the right one”, Otto suggests. Suddenly my brain starts to work. Why did I not realize that it’s not a birthday card? May the reason for it be that I don’t speak Czech? Goal! “Oh, never mind, actually. My mother doesn’t understand Czech anyway, so she will just be extremely happy to get a card from such an exotic country, don’t you think?”, I ask Otto. “I am sure she’ll be happy to hear from you. But I wouldn’t say the Czech republic is that much of an exotic..- “Ha, of course it is! You don’t have vowels and beer is cheaper than Coke. “, I really like to test Otto. His face gets all red and cute when he tries to argue about something. “We have vowels! Just think of..- “Otto, what city are we in?”, I interrupt him. “Brno.” “See, one point for me.”