Socks and Sandals Socks and sandals Karl Lagerfeld could have a heart attack if he saw this. They even ain’t strictly indoor or a fair weather thing: some people are so used to them that they wear them even when it rains a little. Most people treat their shoes as something to get off at the first chance, which might explain the reason why there isn’t a great deal of good shoes on offer in Prague shops. Usually people have sandals wait under their desk at work and kiss them good bye when it’s time to go home and wear these dreadful things with laces called shoes.

Beer is cheaper than water Mineral water, although popular now, is still a recent introduction and considered somewhat superfluous. Being a man, I get the at least occasional odd look when I don’t order beer and instead order Mattoni (a specific brand which here is really a synonymous of sparkling water). A small bottle of Mattoni goes for an average of 35kc at most places, while half a liter of beer still averages at 30kc.

Colza Fields Colza fields Take the train from Prague to Bratislava and you’ll see kilometers and kilometers of beautiful yellow colza fields for almost half of the journey. Colza oil has been used extensively for public lighting in Central and Northern Europe for ages and it’s now being used to produce bio-diesel.

Poppy flowers Poppy seeds Guess what?! They are legal and used for baking. Yeah, I hear you, what a waste! The use of poppy seeds is banned in some countries due to the opium alkaloid content that can cause false positives in drug tests. In Czech Republic you can find them in pastries, bagels, cakes and they taste delicious. Don’t worry, they’re safe, you won’t develop an addiction. Now sorry, but I have to go get my daily fix!

Carp Monster in the bathtub It’s almost Christmas and you’ve been invited for a party at a friend’s place. You already had a few beers and need to use the bathroom, so you stand in front of the toilet bowl, aim, lock the target and release; but immediately you have the weird feeling you’re not alone, you look around, then look in the bathtub: a 10kg carp has been staring at you all the time! As Christmas approaches you’ll see loads of places at street corners selling monstrously big carps: they’re thought to bring luck and they’re part of the dinner menu and, while waiting unfed for their destiny in the bathtub, they’ll clear out of all the mud.

Trekking shoes Keen is the new Nike You never know when it’s time to go mushrooming, that’s why very few people wear normal trainers, while the majority wears trekking shoes. Keen is one of the popular brands and in Czech Republic these represent the standard sport shoes, complemented in the summer by the atrocious trekking sandals, supposedly worn for their comfort and durability, certainly not for their look.

Czech tram Tram etiquette Someone even wrote a book about it, taking it as a starting point to discuss about the Czech’s national character. Nowhere else I’ve seen people so promptly give up their seats to elderly or disabled people; and I’m not talking just about the reserved seats assigned to them. But what happens quite often is that, even with no disabled in sight, on a full tram, most hesitate to sit on a free seat, failing to realize that it could save everybody some space.

Pomlazka An Easter-n nightmare If you’re a woman don’t be surprised if on Easter Monday men will wake you up by pouring a bucket of water over your head and start whipping you with a pomlázka; this is a very old pagan tradition in Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia. Usual targets are unmarried girls and the whole ritual has to do with fertility and although generally conducted in a playful way I’ve heard the odd report of it being performed by the grandpa, with heaps of water and hard whipping. Ouch!

Shoes on doorstep Shoes on the doorstep You know those Southern Europeans that never take their shoes off when entering a house? Well, here you’ll find that not only you have to take off your shoes, but it’s even more appropriate to do so outside the door. When someone throws a party it’s easy to tell: there’s a mountain of shoes outside the door, which are sometimes the easy target of petty gypsy thieves.

Knight Templar Knight Templars around town You have this picture of Knight Templars on their horse… but time have changed, and now they take the metro too. Medieval reenactment here is a sport and people go around on public transport with full length swords and other weapons and then go train in some public park, such as Letna. Don’t worry, it’s all normal here, it’s not some kind of highlander freak that goes chop people’s head off until there’s only one.