Archive for May 3rd, 2012

A day in Jindrichuv Hradec

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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)!