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Hi, this is Gerry and this is my Diary for Friday, 8th June, 2018. On today’s show I’m going to tell you about my holiday last week in the Czech Republic.
I’ve just been on holiday with my old friends Reinhardt and Luciano. We used to sing together in Zurich, but now we meet every year to climb a mountain and visit a new place. This year we were in the Czech Republic and we climbed Snežka, the highest mountain there. It’s right  on the border  between the Czech Republic and Poland. We had a lovely sunny day and it was a great hike . After that Luciano and I made a trip to Moravia. The Czech Republic has two provinces: Bohemia in the west and Moravia in the east. We visited Brno and Olomouc – two very nice cities. Olomouc is smaller and the old town is prettier. When we were there it was wine festival time. Bohemia is famous for its beer from places like Pilsen and Budweis, but Moravia is also wine country.
Czech history is very complicated. They had some terrible wars – especially the Thirty Year War – a religious war between Protestants and Catholics between 1616 and 1648. Later, the Czech Lands were part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until 1918 – one hundred years ago. They’re celebrating the centenary  this year, because 1918 was the first year of Czech independence. A new country, Czechoslovakia, was created, but it didn’t last  long. The Nazis came, the communists took over , and then in 1993 the Czechs and the Slovaks divorced . After the Second World War, the Czechoslovakian government took all the land and property  that belonged to Germans and other people who collaborated  with the Nazis. When I went to Moravia I learnt that the Liechtenstein family used to own a lot of land and castles there, but they lost them after World War II. I visited the chateau  of Lednice – a fabulous palace  with huge gardens. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site. And it’s an old Liechtenstein property. The Liechtenstein family would like it back but it seems that this won’t happen.
When I came home I checked the history of the Liechtenstein family. They came from Austria, and Liechtenstein is the only country in the world that’s named after  a family. Usually when a family gets control  of a country, they take the name of the country. The Stuart family were kings of Scotland and then of England, but these countries didn’t change their names to Stuart. But when a Liechtenstein became Prince of Vaduz and Schellenberg the country got a new name: Liechtenstein. It reminds me of modern branding, for example sports grounds: the Emirates Stadium, or the Allianz-Arena. And I also found out from the American Forbes Magazine that the Liechtenstein royal family is easily the richest royal family in Europe. Much richer than the British royals!
I enjoy travelling, but sometimes I am a bit disorganised. Did I tell you the story about a trip to Vienna some years ago? I had a ticket to fly home on Saturday after a meeting but I went to the airport on Sunday because I didn’t check my ticket. That was an expensive mistake! Well, this time I got to the airport in Prague on Sunday and I looked for my flight home to Manchester. I couldn’t see it on the screen . Oh no, I thought. Have I made the same mistake as in Vienna? Panic! But then I remembered… I wasn’t flying to Manchester, like I usually do, but to Liverpool. I checked the screen again and there was my flight. It was a cheap, “budget ” flight. The plane was full. I had a middle seat. Not good. I sat down. Nobody in the other two seats for the moment. Who would it be? I looked at the other passengers coming onto the plane. The very fat man? I hope not… But he wasn’t in my row . A thin young man came to sit in the aisle  seat. No problem. But still nobody for the window seat. Was it free? I didn’t think so, and then I saw a young woman with a baby. She was my neighbour. She said “Sorry!” before she even sat down. Her baby was 16 months old. A little girl, called Sama. “She’s terrible ,” the mother said. The mother was Czech and she lived in Liverpool. She was going home after a trip to see her parents. So was the little girl terrible? Not really. Terrible for the mother perhaps, because she never stopped moving. She reminded me of  my daughter when she was a baby. The mother worked in a meat factory in Liverpool. She spoke very good English, and the little girl was very entertaining . But when we got to Liverpool – 45 minutes late – the mother looked exhausted !
I got out of the airport very quickly. I just had a backpack. I had to get my car from the car park and drive home. Easy! But then I remembered: I needed my parking ticket. I remembered it was in my “English wallet ” – the one with my British money and cards. I have another one with euros and other cards. Where was my English wallet? Somewhere in the backpack, but I couldn’t feel it anywhere. Another little panic! I had to take everything out before I found it. It was safe, and I had my parking ticket to get out of the carpark. Not so bad … in the end.
Thank you to Helene, Silvia and Brigitta. You all wrote to me about my mystery plant. But nobody got the answer. It’s not angelica and it’s not lovage, and perhaps this plant doesn’t grow in Switzerland. The common English name for it is alexanders because people thought that this plant came from Alexandria in Egypt. The Latin name is Smyrnium olusatrum. The common names in German, French and Italian are, I think: “Pferdeeppich” “Gespenst-Gelbdolde” or “Alisander” in German, “maceron” in French, “corinoli comune” or “macerone” in Italian. It grows best near the sea, so perhaps not in Switzerland. The Romans brought it to Britain. And I have a friend – a botanist – who says you often find this plant near old monasteries or religious centres. Perhaps the monks liked to eat it. It tastes a bit like celery. Do you know this plant? Does it grow in Switzerland?
And here’s your new question. When I was in restaurants in the Czech Republic, they often had “American potatoes” on the menu. What do you think they were? What kind of potatoes are American potatoes? Luciano, my American friend, didn’t know!
On August 31st this year we’re going to have some special shows for you on PodClub. For my show, Owen the Wandering Son is going to interview me. If you have any questions for Owen to ask me, please send them in. You can send them to the website podclub.ch, or you can use Twitter. My Twitter address is @gerrypod. You can also find PodClub on Instagram. Use the hashtags #gerrysdiary and #podclubgerry. And don’t forget the PodClub app, with the vocabulary learning programme. I’ll be back with my Diary in four weeks on 6th July. Till then, take care!