Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Czech Moravian Highlands

Our area is the Czech-Moravian Highlands, a classical vacation area, especially for people from Prague. It's cooler here. It's also cooler in the winter, but that's another story.

It's an area of rolling hills, fields, streams, woodlands, small towns. Every side road traveled and every hillside climbed open vistas of fields of ripening crops set off by dark green woodlands. Many people have vacation cabins near a fish pond; others spend time with relatives in the villages and towns. There are rooms to be had in pensions and small hotels, also.

Living is easy after you've taken care of your guests, weeded the garden, and bought more refreshments. When you've sat long enough, with a glass in your hand, on your lawn furniture, or your neighbors' you might go for day trips to visit castles and fortresses - Cesky Krumlov, Cervena Lhota, Orlik, Tabor, Lipnice. Or you might just enjoy the countryside, going for picnics, gathering basketfuls of fresh fruit, especially bilberries, cherries and blackberries, going swimming or wading.

Did you ever have opeceny bonbony [roasted bonbons]? That's what several little girls named toasted marshmallows after I'd introduced this treat to them at our Fourth of July party. I love fireworks and really enjoy that there is no problem in their private use here! It does make me nervous so I issue a stream of cautions to the already careful and responsible persons who are setting them off. As well as planning food, moving furniture around, decorating with flags and patriotic themed tablecloths, I have learned to have handy several vases, with water; many guests bring flowers with a clever red/white/blue theme.

Everything is easier to get to in the summer. Daylight lasts long; roads are ice-free. The Pacov zamek chapel has an exhibition of crafts done by inhabitants of retirement homes; we go and buy a few presents. The Zeliv monastery has an evening concert and I go. There are special festivals. Goat Mountain - Kozimberk - a hilly section of Pacov, itself a small town, has a parade of real and papier mache goats with carts, and people in dress of long ago; a campaign for the [spurious] mayor of Kozimberk; dancing and an evening in the pub on the hill. When we first came the festival occupied one afternoon and evening. Now it's three days - 13-15 of August this year. Lipnice, near Svetla nad Sazava, has a medieval festival every year in its fortress castle. There's a parade, marvelous costumes, medieval music, maybe lunch in Hasek's Inn where he wrote "Good Soldier Svejch".

From the end of April until late September or early October is the season of the "pou't". As each person has a svatek, a namesday, so each church has its svatek called the pou't, or pilgrimage, when everyone comes home for an excellent lunch at grandma's after mass in a completely packed church. Any largish town plot boasts bumper cars, merry-go-rounds, and other rides, while up and down the streets and covering the town square are tables of goods for sale. There are always a few handmade items - decorated gingerbread cookies, maybe some wooden utensils and toys. But I want to tell you about a pou't where everything is handmade. [Well, except for the ice cream.]

The village of Mlade Briste will have its pou't on Sunday, June 27th, one day only unlike most pou't (s). Masses are at 7:30 and 10:30 in a little church originally decorated by [or, "after"] Mikolas Ales. There should be special music on the fine, recently renovated organ. The lawn between church and parish hall is filled with handmade items and their craftsmen and women - there's leather, ceramic, knit and crocheted lace, wrought iron, painted works, straw ornaments, wooden objects. Every time I've gone I've purchased Christmas gifts - straw bells and crocheted snowflakes for daughters, small stick puppets of leather for a granddaughter, a typical Czech block puzzle, but hand painted. A knitted lace tablecloth is a perfect wedding gift. Take the waist measurements of your menfolk, in order to be able to purchase hand-tooled belts. [I forget to do this.] Somewhere, probably in the shed at the back, you should be able to find sausages, gulas, and drinks. Village children give a playlet. The one I saw was about a vodnik, a water sprite, presented right at the edge of the pond. You might hop into a horsedrawn carriage or a wagon for a ride.

How to get there: Take Dalnice 1 to Humpolec. Get off at Exit 90, turning in the direction of Pelhrimov. Take the first left turn, about 1 km, and go three more kilometers almost directly south to Mlade Briste. Find a place to park, and enjoy yourselves!