Friday, September 01, 2006

September 2006 - Hunting Parties

Everyone looked forward to autumn hunting parties. The Zamek was filled with people, some of whom spent the night; hot soup lunches were taken out on a farm
wagon, or sometimes held at a hunting lodge; there was a gala dinner in the evening, followed by hours of singing folk songs. From the game bag, what wasn't to be eaten soon, or given to participants, was taken to a Prague restaurant featuring game. The little boy gloried in the visitors, the hunt, the dinner, and learned countless songs.

His mother went on the hunt unless there was a very large party, in which case she
spent the day at the Zamek helping his aunt and grandmother prepare dinner. Fires in tile stoves had been lit and fed - from an unobtrusive corridor - for most of the week. It the party would be in the smaller room, seating 12, the table was set with hearts and onions china. [Finding broken pieces in the park, I gave them to a daughter who collects this china.] When the party was in the Grand Dining Room they used blue flowered china with delicate gold accents, a service for 24. [In 1991 my husband found the gravy boat lid.]

The forester organized the hunt, sending invitations, and planning where each person must stand to shot. He sent invitations to people he wanted as well as to those whom the owners wanted. He made certain that inexperienced hunters were
kept out of the way of danger. Deer hunting was in October with only a few hunters, one of whom skillfully blew a hunting horn. Other hunts were for grouse, hare, and pheasant. The forester kept a careful account of who shot what.

After the hunt everyone came to the Zamek from forest and field to change out of possibly muddy hunting clothes. Ladies left aprons in the kitchen to don something elegant. All gathered in salon or dining room for the evenings festivities

The person who'd shot the most game became King of the Hunt, but the second in line became the king's fag. He might have to pour wine for everyone, chuck out the jester, or crawl under the tables pretending to bite people. Perhaps sometimes the
forester skewed the numbers a little?

The last great hunting party was on December 15, 1947. A very honored guest was General Heliodor Pike. One year later everyone who'd been present had escaped, or had been imprisoned or executed. Recently my husband commissioned the art restorer and painter Petr Hempl to do a portrait, nowin our Grand Dining Room of General Pika. Hempl painted him in uniform, although he had actually worn battle dress. Pika greatly impressed the boy during the hunting party, and afterwards when he read of Pika's trial, sentencing, and death. Pika's name has been restored. General Heliodor Pika Street is the street behind the Diplomat Hotel leading past the military buildings.