I really lucked out with my landlords throughout the summer.
In Split, Kristine and I had quite a few plumbing problems. Our shower drain hardly worked so it looked like there was a flood in our bathroom after each shower. The sink drain would also get backed up. And we had no idea that there was a huge water jug on our balcony connected to our air conditioner that needed emptied every few days. Our poor, old, Croatian neighbor downstairs came up one morning trying to tell us that our balcony was dripping water onto her clean clothes. It took about 20 minutes of some intense charades followed by her finally coming into the apartment and out onto the balcony to show us what was wrong.
But I reference all of that because it required multiple visits from our landlord, Andelka, who turned out to be awesome! Kristine and I spent many mornings talking to her while her husband worked on the shower and sink drain. It was so much fun getting to know her and she provided us with a local’s perspective of living in Split. (side note: she came over on our last night and gave Kristine and I each a Split keychain. I still have it on my keys and it makes me happy each time I see it)
My Italian keys and my Chicago keys
In Turin, I roomed with Kristine again and our landlords were a bit untraditional: 18-year-old and 20-year-old brothers who had just inherited the apartment from their grandma. They were so proud and we loved their touches of trying to make it welcoming for us.
My only interaction with our landlord in Barcelona was when he brought clean linens to our door halfway through our stay. Based on that 20-second interaction, he seemed like a lovely man.
In Prague, my landlord was Martin, a guy around my age whose family owns the entire building. They’ve actually owned it for 150 years, but the Russians confiscated it after WWII. They were able to get it back and now he and his fiancé live in one apartment, his sister and her boyfriend in another, his fiancé’s sister in the third apartment and they rent out mine.
I went to dinner at the beginning of the month with Martin and his fiancé, which was a lot of fun. He told me about the neighborhood soccer team and invited me to join him at their last home match. It turned out to be one of the coolest things I did in Prague!
The soccer team, Bohemians Praha 1905, was founded in, you guessed it, 1905. And has a pretty interesting history; Martin’s great-grandfather actually helped found the club. In the 1920s, the Czech National Team pulled out of a tournament in Australia and the Bohemians went in their place. To everyone’s surprise, they won the entire thing, their prize being two kangaroos. They brought them back to Prague, donated them to the zoo, and there are still kangaroos at the Prague Zoo today because of them. And to honor this, their logo is of a green kangaroo.
In 2005, the club was on the verge of bankruptcy. But the fans pulled together to collect enough money to pay off their debts. Martin said the neighborhood held an event in a bar and everyone donated their pocket change, collecting one million Czech Crowns. The neighborhood is now a 2% owner of the club so their loyalty is understandably very strong.
We started off the night by grabbing a few drinks across the street from the field, which was around the corner from our apartments. Martin’s sister’s boyfriend, Michael, joined us as well. Apparently, it’s tradition to have a beer and some green shot in honor of the Bohemians. It tasted like mouth wash.
We headed over to the field which was already packed with fans. Martin, Michael and a few of their friends have started a “club” which basically means they get a special section of the bleachers and hang up a flag on the fence. This is definitely not your standard adult-league soccer match here in the US. But it does mean that everyone in the stands knows each other and makes for a really fun environment.
The best part…the beers. It cost about $1.20 for your first beer, that includes a $0.50 deposit on the cup. At the end of the game, you can get your deposit back or, as most people do, recycle the cup and donate the $0.50 to the club. Now for the ingenious part, they designed their cups with these little clips. Why, you ask?
So you can clip it onto your pocket to free up your hands for cheering!
You can also clip the beers together for easy carrying. Meaning one person goes and gets the beers for everyone. You simply give them a 20 crown coin (about $0.70) and they return with full beers for everyone.
I think I should bring these back to the US; I’d make a killing!
The game itself was awesome! The soccer was really good and the crowd literally chants the entire time. There is a guy standing on a platform up front that leads everyone in different songs and cheers. I’m not kidding, his only break was during half time.
You can see him on his megaphone in the middle of the picture.
The Bohemians squeaked out a win at the very end, which meant fireworks were shot directly into the stands.
I have a ton of videos of the different chants uploaded here, and here, and here, and here.
It was such a fun night with Martin and Michael and again, made me so incredibly thankful that we didn’t just visit each city, we were truly immersed in the neighborhood.