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03 May 2012 @ 09:37 pm
A day in Jindrichuv Hradec  
Word count: 0 Step count: 9941

Got two short story acceptances in yesterday's email, but I think I need to admit I'm not going to get any more writing done on this trip. Just too much mental energy is consumed by traveling.

Awake a bit before 7. Breakfast in hotel: corn flakes, muesli, and yogurt laid out on bar; plate of ham, sausage, and cheeses and basket of breads brought by waitress. Something smelled really good, probably roasting pork for tonight's dinner. (The frying fish later in the day was not nearly so appetizing.)

After breakfast we walked to a nearby bakery to pick up some local treats, and saw the Prettiest Sandwiches Ever in the display case. I'm very glad we have German, it's far more common than English here. I think I know the Czech word for "thank you" now, let's see if I can add "good day" without losing it...

Met Monika outside the hotel at 9:00. Walked around the town, saw the outside of the castle (3rd largest in the country) and the pond (a manmade lake from the 10th century, where carp are raised), and visited the town's brand-new museum of tapestry. They repair ancient tapestries here as well as making new ones, as they have done for centuries. Similar techniques of cleaning, spinning, and weaving to what we saw yesterday, but even more old-fashioned and hand-made. All information was presented in Czech by the guide but Monika translated the important bits.

For lunch, after considering several options we went back to the bakery next to our hotel for a couple of those pretty little baguettes, plus a cappuccino and a strawberry milk, then had a brief lie-down before we met up with Monika at the castle for the 1:00 tour. The interior of the castle is all Renaissance and Baroque, with many portraits of the former residents (it was owned by a total of 3 families in its history, but was grabbed by the state along with all the other nobles' property in 1945), electrical fixtures dating from the 1880s, an impressive decorative grille covering the well, and an amazing circular concert hall. In this case the Czech guide was supplemented by a handout in English as well as Monika's translation. After that we needed another nap.

We met Monika again at the city museum at 3:30. We started off with their famous mechanical Nativity, the crown of their collection of Nativity scenes, the holder of the record for world's largest mechanical Nativity. It dates from 1935, I believe, and is almost fifty feet wide all told, four or five feet high, and populated by hundreds of figures three or four inches high, most of them moving. It was like those Christmas shop-window displays with the moving elves, only raised to the third or fourth power. Tacky, yes, but actually quite charming.

The rest of the museum was also rather charming, an idiosyncratic collection including artworks by local artists, information on local famous people including artist Holub Ludens and opera singer Ema Desinnova, two rooms showing typical homes of the bourgeoisie and farmers in the mid-1800s, a collection of guild signs, a couple dozen stone saints, an entire 19th-century pharmacy interior, a room full of smashed airplane bits from a WWII air battle that took place near here, and an extensive collection of Lada sewing machines. We never even saw the collection of painted marksmen's targets. In this museum we had an English-speaking guide, but most of the artifacts were fairly self-explanatory... and for those we did not understand, the guide generally responded "we don't know what that is either!" We're always the ones to ask the difficult questions...

After the museum, we had an early dinner at an Indian restaurant, very good Indian for a small town in the Czech Republic. Yes, we should be partaking of the local cuisine, but we've been in Europe for two weeks, we'll be in the Czech Republic for another week, and we wanted VEGETABLES.

Spent the evening blogging and lazing about. Tomorrow we hit the road again, to Ceske Budejovice (aka Budweis)!

Steve Hutchisonfoomf on May 3rd, 2012 07:40 pm (UTC)
Do not run the engine while you are at the filling station.

This kind of trip is the filling station for your subconscious so that your writing engine can have fuel to run.
(Deleted comment)
David D. Levinedavidlevine on May 4th, 2012 04:44 am (UTC)
They appear to be dragons. With breasts instead of their front legs.

They were part of the detail on the interior of the rotunda dome shown in several other photos.

That's all I know!!!
kzmillerkzmiller on May 4th, 2012 04:08 pm (UTC)
They appear to be some sort of demon to me. I can't tell if the hooves are cloven, but cloven hooves on things other than what they originally belong to are frequently featured in Czech fairy and folk tales and are associated with the Devil (yes, with the big D.) Maybe you can get Monica to tell you some folk tales about the Devil. At least for my mom's generation, they were quite popular and some are told as fact, as in it was a fact that in so-and-such village that on so-and-such day there were cloven hoof prints all over the roofs one night.
David D. Levinedavidlevine on May 9th, 2012 06:21 am (UTC)
I asked Monika about this and she didn't know of any Devil tales that were considered fact, though she knew of many stories in which the Devil moved among humans and tried to trick them into doing evil or simply dragged evil people down to Hell. Apparently when the Devil comes to Earth he wears a hat to cover his horns, but it's harder to hide the cloven hooves, and if you can spot them that's a dead giveaway. Mind you, some of the horns we saw on Devil puppets we saw in the puppetry museum would take quite a hat to cover...
chiefwireheadchiefwirehead on May 4th, 2012 02:30 pm (UTC)
maybe I missed something - who is Monika, and how did you find her?
David D. Levinedavidlevine on May 4th, 2012 08:56 pm (UTC)
Re: Monika
Monika is our tour guide and translator from Rajec Travel, who is doing yeoman service (see today's blog post).
David D. Levinedavidlevine on May 4th, 2012 08:57 pm (UTC)
Re: Monika
How did we find her? Damn if we know. Web search, probably, but the original contact point has been lost in time.