Russell, in the garden of Bar-Restaurace Na Staré Fare © Ricky Yates

Russell, in the garden of Bar-Restaurace Na Staré Fare © Ricky Yates

One of the things I really enjoy about this blog is when people respond to what I’ve written and leave a genuine comment. I say ‘genuine comment’ for, despite using a CAPTCHA Code, I still have to delete between twenty and fifty ‘spam comments’ each day, whilst approving and replying to the small number of genuine ones. I am also well aware that having to decipher and then enter the CAPTCHA Code, is what puts off many genuine people from ever leaving a comment in the first place.

Most of the small number of people who comment here regularly, are friends who are already known to me. But there are several others who I only know online. These are people who, in a variety of ways, have found my blog and are interested in some of the things I write about and have kindly taken the trouble to say so. They sometimes throw greater light on a particular issue or, occasionally choose to disagree with me 🙂 A big ‘Thank you’, to all of you.

Recently, it was a great pleasure to finally get to meet one of them in person – Russell. He is one of those people who has until now, only been an occasional but very articulate commenter here, someone with whom I’ve exchanged a few emails, and more recently has interacted with me on Facebook. With his permission, this is the story of how, more than two and a half years after Russell first left a comment here, we finally met together in Prague.

Russell first left a comment on this post in January 2011. In his comment he explained that whilst he lives in England, his mother is Czech and his maternal grandmother still lives in Prague. As his comment was most observant and thoughtful, with an excellent use of vocabulary – for example, ‘paradoxically’, I assumed this had been written by someone in their mid-twenties to mid-thirties. I was therefore absolutely amazed to discover soon afterwards, that when he posted that first comment, Russell was just a few days short of his sixteenth birthday!

In July 2011 when he was on his annual visit to Prague and staying with his grandmother, Russell tried to meet up with me by coming to St. Clement’s Church one Sunday morning. Unfortunately, he had not checked our Church website, to discover it was a Sunday when I was on annual leave!

In the past twelve months, Russell has posted several more comments here, particularly when I’ve written about political issues such as the Presidential elections in both the USA and the Czech Republic. I very much admire him for not being afraid to respond and challenge the comments of several right-wing Republicans on my post about the re-election of President Obama. More recently, he also contributed to the considerable debate engendered by my post about ‘Getting over the ová‘, as well as like me, expressing his appreciation of the Czech rail network.

Knowing that this year, Russell would be eighteen, I got in contact with him by email, to ascertain when he would be visiting Prague, so we could finally meet up and talk, whilst enjoying one or two glasses of Czech beer together. In reply, Russell suggested that, not only should we meet, but also that we should walk part of the Šárka Valley together, something he knew I enjoyed doing, from reading my blog. So it was that on Monday 26th August, we finally met.

Martina, Russell's mother, with me at Bar-Restaurace Na Staré Fare © Russell Roe

Martina, Russell’s mother, with me at Bar-Restaurace Na Staré Fare © Russell Roe

Not only did I meet Russell, I also got to meet his mother Martina, and his younger brother Martin. Together, we walked part of the red route from the Divorka Šárka bus and tram stop, to the top of the Baba ridge, above where the Chaplaincy Flat is situated. Before descending down to the Podbaba bus and tram stop so Russell and his family could return to the home of Russell’s grandmother, we all enjoyed a drink together at Bar Restaurace na Staré Fare, where both of the photographs on this post were taken. I was surprised but pleased to discover that the first part of the route that we walked, was totally new to all three of them!

A week later, after Martina and Martin had returned to the UK, Russell and I met up a again, and this time we walked the longer part of the red route, around the other side of the Šárka Valley. We then descended to another of my favourite Bar-Restaurants – U topolu, where we enjoyed a meal and a beer together. For some unknown reason, I didn’t take any photographs on our second walk.

I discovered from my conversations with Russell, how proud he is of his Czech heritage, despite having lived all his life in the UK, with only regular visits to the Czech Republic for a few weeks each year. He is now the proud owner of a Czech ID card, having successfully overcome the intricacies of Czech bureaucracy in order to obtain one. He enjoys that it declares him to have been born in Brno, Czech Republic, when he was actually born in Brighton, England 😉 Part of his reasoning for obtaining a Czech ID card, is that it allows him to travel anywhere in Europe and is vastly cheaper to obtain than a British passport. Czechs are noted for being thrifty, a characteristic that Russell has clearly inherited from his mother 🙂

On our walks, Russell and I had some interesting theological conversations. He describes himself as an agnostic, another very Czech characteristic 🙂 But he is very open to listen to the opinion of others, even if he in the end, disagrees with them. As with his comments on my blog, he is highly articulate in expressing his opinions.

Having done very well in obtaining his International Baccalaureate, Russell has just started undergraduate studies at Exeter University, in politics and philosophy. I look forward to hearing of his progress, and to meeting him again when he is next in Prague. In the meantime Russell – please continue to visit my blog and leave your comments. They are and will be, highly appreciated by me.


6 comments to Russell

  • How great to get to meet one of your readers like this, Ricky. I’ve read Russell’s comments with great interest and like you was surprised at his maturity for such a young person. Here’s to future meetings and discussions.

    P.S. I well remember having drinks and/or meals at both the restaurants you mention. 🙂

    • Ricky

      Yes Perpetua – Writing this post reminded me of a couple of your posts about getting to meet two fellow bloggers in person, after previously only reading & commenting on each others blogs online. I look forward to catching up with Russell when he’s in Prague again next summer. Both Bar-Restaurace Na Staré Fare & Bar-Restaurace U topolu remain among our favourite eating & drinking venues 🙂

  • Hi, Rev. Yates,

    Glad you hear you finally got the chance to meet up with Russell! He is indeed a very pleasant young man to converse with, and it sounds like you both enjoyed yourselves. It’s always great fun to finally hook-up with pen-pals/commenters, and I just wish it happened to me more often 🙁

    One small stipulation I must make, though……

    I believe the “right-wing Republicans” were in the minority, whereas the more liberal-minded commenters were in the majority on the post to which you refer. Hence, I don’t know why anyone would have been “afraid” to engage in a discussion where a majority of the participants agreed with him and in which a spirit of mutual respect generally prevailed on all ends.

    But anyway. The last pics I saw of Russell were those from his family vacation to Greece he sent me. They still pop up on my screen ever and anon when my computer goes into the “my pics” default mode! Nice to see some new ones 😀 That looks like a very scenic beer garden you attended. Or are “beer gardens” only German?


    • Ricky

      Hi Pearl,

      As I wrote in my blog post, it was most interesting and enjoyable to meet up with Russell in person. As you say, meeting up with online commenters doesn’t happen that often – I look forward to one day, meeting you!

      Glad you enjoyed the photos. Yes – the beer garden at Na Staré Fare is a particularly attractive one. I wouldn’t say that ‘beer garden – bier garten‘ is an exclusively German term. Here the signs tend just to say zahrada which is ‘garden’ in Czech. But when talking about one of them in English, we often say ‘beer garden’.

  • Hi, Rev. Yates,

    You are officially invited to come to the Penn-Mar Borderlands for a visit whenever your time allows 😉 It’s a really nice place, scenery wise and people wise. Plus it’s not so touristy as places most people would go on a first trip to the USA. It would make a good first impression! 🙂

    Look forward to it,