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02 May 2012 @ 10:15 pm
Slavonice, Telc, Strmilov, Jindrichuv Hradec  
Word count: 0 Step count: 9266

Awake 7:00. Very nice breakfast provided by hotel, table service with choice of Continental, British, American, French, and "Fitness" (muesli, yogurt, corn flakes, fruit). "Butter is 'maslo' and cream is 'smetana'. What's yogurt, 'nietzsche'?" "Yogurt is 'yogurt' in every language. It's a loan-food." There's a huge disparity in size between teaspoons and tablespoons (all over Europe, but really noticeable here).

The overall flavor of Czech is not that dissimilar to German. I keep feeling at some level that if I just listened harder it would start to make sense.

Met Monika at 9:00; she presented us with a couple of prune kolachky (Danish), which were delicious. Drove off through pretty country on another gorgeous sunny day; stopped briefly for pix of a gorgeous castle over a river valley. Passed many lovely small villages and a line of bunkers built in the 1930s to defend against the Germans and/or Austrians -- they were state-of-the-art and might have held, but the area was ceded to Hitler without a shot being fired.

Stopped in Slavonice, a Renaissance town with Baroque facades on all the buildings (a local noble had his castle re-done by an Italian architect and everyone with money in the region decided to copy him). The facades tend to be quite flat, with black-and-white graphics depicting either the facade of a much fancier building or biblical/mythological scenes (in one case, Genesis verses linked to the New Testament). Inside the tourist info office you can see some of the original wall frescoes. Passed Dacice, with not just one but three statues honoring the sugar cube, which was invented here (this is beet country, though due to EU regulations there is today no sugar production here). Saw maypoles in each town square we passed, each looking like a Christmas tree on a stick.

Came next to Telc, another Renaissance town, this one with porticoes like Bologna, and visited the castle there. It had an interesting little rococo sepulchral chapel, and many fairy-tale movies have been filmed here. Did a little shopping in downtown Telc; Kate bought an amber bracelet and earrings. We also looked at garnets ("Granat" in Czech) -- Czech garnets are small, that and their color explains the name, which is clearly related to "pomegranate."

For lunch, according to Google Translate, we had pizza with ketchup, floodplain, and ermine. No idea what the last two were in reality, but the tomato sauce was indeed very much like ketchup... pretty good though. (Later: niva (floodplain) and hermelin (ermine) are both cheeses.) I keep seeing the word "potreby" (necessities, gear, supplies) on signs and being reminded of "Potrzebie" (non-word from Mad Magazine). It turns out the words are, in fact, related (see Wikipedia for details).

Drove to Strmilov, an otherwise-unremarkable town which is the home of the only remaining weaving mill in the Czech Republic. Kate learned of its existence from someone's blog and asked Monika to set up a tour. It's a family-run mill with only 4 employees and equipment from the 1930s. We got a tour from Dad (5th generation) and son Philip (6th generation), all in Czech with Monika translating. Many of the Czech spinning and weaving terms were unfamiliar to her, but from context we could tell her the English terms. It was very similar to Pendleton and other mills we have visited, but smaller and a lot more old-fashioned. Also they roast their own coffee. We bought a lovely blanket for 980 CKR ($50).

As we drove to Jindrichuv Hradec, the largest town we've seen since Vienna, a light drizzle began to fall. Our hotel, "Penzion Na 15. poledniku" ("Pension at 15 degrees," named for the latitude line a few dozen meters away) is a smallish guest house, our room tucked under the eaves on the 2nd (US 3rd) floor, with a great view of the church. We spotted a stork in a nest atop a chimney nearby.

TripAdvisor and other websites were very little help in locating food nearby, and there was not a lot of foot traffic downtown. One hotel restaurant looked good but was full with a Chinese tour group. We didn't want pizza or Chinese. We finally found the White Lady hotel restaurant, which looked good. As seems to be fairly typical in these tourist towns, the waiter had a smattering of German and English (mostly German) and the menu was multilingual (Czech, German, English). Appetizer: potato pancakes with smoked meat inside, nummy. Main course: I ordered the "Devil's Bite," which was described as pork with spicy peppers wrapped in a potato pancake and served with shredded cabbage. What arrived was pork and mushrooms in a (curry?) cream sauce with caraway seeds, no potato, no vegetable. Perhaps I would have been better off if I had not tried to order in Czech? Weirdly, when we looked at the menu again (thinking it might be the thing next to what I'd pointed to) we could not identify anything on the menu that might have been what I got. It was tasty though, I'm satisfied, and dinner for two cost only 350 crowns ($17). Hey, what would be the point of travel if it didn't include a few surprises? The whole production did take quite a while, we didn't get back to the room until 9:00.

 
 
 
kzmillerkzmiller on May 3rd, 2012 03:16 am (UTC)
Makes me homesick. And Rory is going to be traveling through this summer .... Something feels backwards. :-)
Kate: Amazing Racekateyule on May 3rd, 2012 05:09 am (UTC)
Homesick? where did you live?
kzmillerkzmiller on May 3rd, 2012 05:37 am (UTC)
I was born in Prague, as was my father, and my mother, grandmother and great aunt were all born in Polna, along with more extended family. I have many, many cousins there. I don't remember Prague back then (I was tiny) but I was raised Czech and didn't speak any English until age 6. I've stayed in contact with my huge family in Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic--we don't have many relatives in Slovakia) and at age 19 we stayed with friends and family for over a month. I loved it there, and that was before the Wall fell. I really, really want to go back and see what everyone's managed to accomplish without the Soviets. In the meantime, I have to be content with our relatives coming to visit us. Once that became possible with the withdrawal of the now-defunct USSR, we have relatives coming to see us every couple of years.

It doesn't help that our long vacation there was one of the last vacations we had as a family before my father was diagnosed with the brain cancer that ultimately killed him. Everyone was happy, healthy, and my cousins dealt me a lot of good-natured ribbing for my funny accent. Good times. I know I can't technically go back to that time by revisiting Prague and its environs, but in a lot of ways, it would be like a homecoming. Again.