Burleith: Foreign but Familiar

By Martin Reznicek, martin.reznicek1@gmail.com

Spending endless hours of our best years on European highways trying to reach dehumanized malls was never my family’s cup of tea. In Prague, we lived almost downtown with farmers’ markets, cafes, pubs, and a bunch of grocery stores just a stone’s throw away from our apartment.

So when my wife, Hana, and I learned that we’d be moving to the U.S. as my dream of becoming Czech TV’s Washington correspondent for several years came true, one of her first worries was—are we going to be able to keep up our European lifestyle of having all important services available to us literally next door? Since I had a chance to get to know Burleith from my previous visits, my answer was an unequivocal "yes." However, we do miss the little European bakeries and butcheries on every corner whose owners we knew so well that even from the doorstep we could tell what mood they were in, who gave us recommendations on what to buy and even what to avoid—in their own store!

Otherwise this neighborhood is great thanks to its just off-downtown location. Yet it keeps the spirit of a small town where people know each other and are not afraid to knock on someone else’s door when they want to share or ask for something. We have such wonderful neighbors here; we couldn’t really ask for better.

Since my wife is most likely going to come across these lines, I have to admit her first worry was obviously not the proximity of food (or fashion) stores, but everything related to the education of our beloved kids, Klara and Marek. We had a very good school in Prague and didn’t really know what to expect here. Our doubts turned out to be unjustified because Stoddert Elementary, which our children attend, is a wonderful school with great teachers and involved parents, some of whom happen to be our valued neighbors, too.

My assignments all over the United States eat a big chunk of my time here, but it’s always nice to come back home to Burleith. I enjoy experiencing the immense difference between getting in the car in Manhattan and getting out of it 5 hours later here. Maybe it’s the inevitable reality of my age, but the older I get, the more I tend to prefer your calm, leafy, and tidy streets.

There’s one advantage of living in Burleith that I particularly appreciate due to my job. Almost every house here and in the wider Georgetown area seems to be inhabited by someone with a great story to tell that somehow relates to topics I cover. It was pure coincidence (well, rather a researched coincidence) that I had the honor to talk to so many wonderful and interesting interviewees here—a mother who was lucky to have had adopted one of the last children from Russia before the government in Moscow banned foreign adoptions and another woman who knew Jacqueline Kennedy, to name just a few.

I’m planning to do a piece on Georgetown spy history in the Cold War era in a few months, so if any dear Burleith Bell readers have a story to tell, I’d be more than happy to hear it. Please track me down by email or in person. You can easily recognize me. I’m usually mowing the grass rather clumsily on T street between 37th and 38th, fortified by a small dewy glass of excellent Czech beer inside my door, especially when it’s baking hot outside. I’m happy to share it with whomever drops by for a chat!