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 moravia

27 duben (apr)
Three friends came to my flat for drinks one evening, armed with guidebooks, maps and ideas. We covered the floor of my little living room/bedroom and pointed to places of interest. Each of us had a list of sights to see, gleaned from our students. Not only were there few spots in common, but they were all over the map. It soon became obvious that we couldn't possibly hit them all and needed to determine the important ones. On the Internet, I pulled up the map of UNESCO designated sites in the Czech Republic and, from those, we plotted a realistic route for our three-day road trip around Moravia, the eastern side of the Czech Republic.

We dubbed our British-voiced GPS navigation assistant Thelma, as in "and Louise," and conversed with her as we drove. I'm sure there's a way to set these things for main roads only, but someone else had taken charge of the system. Thelma efficiently led us out of Prague, then at some point had us wandering through tiny villages in what might appear a shortcut on the map, but we suspected was a slower route in terms of time. The car resounded with questions: "Should we turn around? Does she know what she's talking about? Are these towns even on the map?" When we finally emerged into a recognizable crossroads, we retired her for the night, deciding to use maps, road signs and our own wits, old fashioned style, and using her only selectively for the rest of the weekend.

The enormous town square at Telc is known as the most impressive in all of the Czech Republic. Along one very long side, about 25 colored buildings in various styles, some embellished with details and sgraffito, some plain and provincial, sit side by side, their arches lined up over the sidewalk like soldiers. Graced at its entrance by a church, fountain and column with gold-haloed statues, it ends with the castle, or chateau, as these structures seem to be called in this area, owned by the Rosenbergs in its early years (or Rozmberks, inhabitants of Cesky Krumlov in South Bohemia), and later the Lichtensteins. Notable in the chateau were three-dimensional mythical figures who reached down from the ceilings, and the portrait of the White Lady with red gloves, an abused noblewoman who haunts the chateau.

Southern Moravia is wine country. We found a small hotel in Mikoluv and walked through the castle grounds and the old Jewish quarter with many restored buildings, before finding a pub with a passable Czech dinner and a few bottles of local red wines. The clock tower in the square dinged every quarter hour, keeping most of us up all night. Nevertheless, the next morning we hiked up a nearby hill with 15 small chapels, a pilgrimage of sorts. As we descended, Czech scouts were arriving for a treasure hunt outing on the hill.

At Lednice, the chateau is so huge there are five or six different tours to choose from, including a greenhouse tour. We toured the main rooms, had lunch and walked the extensive gardens amid numerous wedding groups, then returned to see the rooms where the Lichtensteins actually lived. Elegantly decorated, the castle was adorned with wood carved walls including a delicate carved spiral staircase. Several rooms reminded me of the colors and furnishings of the main rooms in the Hamill House (in my home town of Georgetown, Colorado). Valtice, another important nearby castle, where parts of Amadeus and one of the Indiana Jones movies were filmed, is connected to Lednice with a long green space. Its ceiling paintings were done on canvases, then mounted overhead. There's a wine tasting area in the cellar.

On to Kromeriz for the night, where we sampled the white wines in a pension with a wine cellar. The castle was closed for the filming of a movie, so we walked the grounds and headed to the Olomouc city square for lunch. We arrived in time to hear the astronomical clock toll, and watch the Communist area worker figures march around. A peek into the St Morice Cathedral rewarded us with an organ concert, up close and personal - the organist told us about his organ, the oldest in Moravia.

The small star-shaped church of St. John of Nepomuk was the highlight of our return trip. On a hill above the town of Zdar (Star) na Sazavou, a cemetery lies within its walls. After refusing to divulge the content of the king's confessions, St. John's tongue was cut out so he could speak no more. Star motifs were repeated inside the church and on the ceiling hung a red oval tongue. A choral concert was scheduled for that evening, it was a pleasure to listen to the young voices practice. On the way back, Thelma took us into some mysterious forest roads in the fog, but performed admirably when we really needed her on the Prague city streets.

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