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 znojmo

3 cervenec (jul)
My last trip in the Czech Republic was a special treat: a few days in the small city of Znojmo in southern Moravia, not far from the Austrian border, with my Czech friend who lived there during her many years of married life. At every view and church tower, art students from Brno sat with sketchpads, capturing the charm of Znojmo.

The famous roundhouse was closed and I had seen enough castles, so we stopped into art galleries and greeted old friends. The little chapel of St. Wenceslas was being restored and held an art exhibit. The curator invited us to go downstairs into the basement, actually a separate chapel, and sing. I sang out a folk song and my friend knew the tune with Czech words; the acoustics were fabulous. I never sounded so good. At the recently opened Motoring Museum, 47 old Czech cars mostly from the 1920s and 30s had been lovingly restored by a local collector in a fun display, dummies winding up cars, peeking from windows, joy-riding, even a skeleton tumbling out of a wreck.

In our pension overlooking the Dyji river, a rich chorus of birds awoke me at four in the morning. The train rattled over the bridge at 6:30. We got moving and took a hike in Dyji national park. The peaceful forest paths led us to a view of the river from the opposite hillside. We came down into the village of Havraniky, where my friend's family owned a cottage. A neighbor, Mrs. N., an 82 yr old woman on her bicycle, was proud to show us her vineyards and wine cellar. In her garden grew 400 grapevine plants in four long rows, circled by apricot, cherry and walnut trees.

She had us each hold a candle, lit them, and we followed her, descending dark stone stairs into the cellar. My eyes were slow to adjust to the lack of light, so I had to feel each step with my feet as we went. It was chilly, we could see our breath down there. She explained each batch of aging wine and keg, and poured us a couple of tasters, both reds and whites. She told stories; my friend translated; we laughed. At the end of one tunnel, she had buried a bottle of homemade slivovica (slivovitza), local plum liquor, when each of her grandchildren were born, and presented them with it when they married. She had to hide them from her late husband or he would have dug them up. There was one bottle still hiding in the ground, waiting for the next wedding. When we were ready to go up, I pointed to my candle, saying "malo, malo!"
(short!), afraid it would go out. Mrs. N. laughed and said, "Tell her not to be worried, we can fly in the dark."

________________________________

When we talked about places in the Czech Republic to visit, my students always mentioned Cesky Raj (rye), Czech Paradise, a wide area in the north. Since the Czech language doesn't use articles, they are often misused, and "going to the nature" is a common phrase. A few weeks ago a friend and I took two trains to tiny burg of Hruba Scala and went to the nature. We hiked the rolling green hills, past a lake with swans, through jutting rock column formations, to the castle ruin at Trosky.

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