This is my first tipsy email from Europe. I’m not drunk, but I am feeling good after the best glass of white wine (bilé vino, for the layperson) I have ever had in my life — oh, do they know how to do wine here in Moravia! — and my first Budvar since being in the CZ. (Apparently, it’s the original Busweiser, but the American company bought out the Cesky one and made them change the name.) I just figured out how to open the windows in our really nice hotel room, so I’ve got some air flow, the sound of crickets, and a dark sky with stars outside — some things I haven’t had enough of in Praha. This trip to the country is really redeeming Europe for me.
It has been a long day of traveling and sight-seeing and touristing. We left at 9:00 this morning from the Kolej, and I fell asleep soon after. (I wasn’t out too late last night at Indie Rock Dance Night — it wasn’t all that I had hoped it would be, but it was fun — but it was late enough to feel tired this morning.) When we got on the bus, this AIFS guy named Zdenik (an awesome, at-least-tri-lingual, 65-year-old native Cech who served time in the communist army here) told us the history of Moravia, and why he thinks it is important for us to visit here. We drove for a few hours through forest that reminded me of Allegheny, lines of tall Hemlocks like at Heart’s Content, passing wilderness and trailheads along the highway. Every 10 or 15 miles, we went through a little village with red-roofed houses and laundry hanging out to dry and people on bikes on the streets. I couldn’t help thinking that my ancestors probably lived in a village just like this, not far from here, which is pretty cool. We stopped at a Cesky gas station (the selection of foods and drinks are so weird — some things are just like in the States, like Twix and Snickers and Gatorade and Cherry Coke, and some other things that are completely different, like sugar wafers filled with Nutella and digestive cookies and some kind of weird Frappuccino-like drink that comes in 0.5L cartons with straws). When we got out, it smelled like pine trees, and it made me want to hike.
Our first main stop of the day was at an old church in Green Mountain, built in the early 1700s by an Italian architect named Santini. It was gothic baroque, and dedicated to St. John Somebody, this priest who is the patron saint of Praha and Bohemia and the CZ. There is some story about how he didn’t tell on King Wenceslas’ wife when she confessed to him about cheating on the King, and the King found out and had his tongue cut out and threw him off the Charles Bridge into the Vltava. But apparently he became this really renowned guy and got sainted and whatnot, and there are statues of him and shrines to him all over Eastern Europe, and even the States, as one of the AIFS staff guys, an awesome, at-least-tri-lingual, 65-year-old native Cech named Zdenik, told us. So, the church was quite pretty; It was based on the number 5, for the 5 wounds of Christ on the cross, so the whole outer wall-type thing had 5 entrances, the church had 5 altars, there were all kinds of stars and whatnot around. It used to be a place where people would make pilgrimages to and gather, but in the late 1800s they put a graveyard in the space between the outer wall and the church, so no one does that anymore.
We drove a bit more and arrived at Tisnov and visited another church, this one with an ancient cloister that has had nuns off and on since the 13th century, and has them today. This was built in the Romanesque-baroque style, with elaborate statues and altars and stonework, the whole thing in the shape of a cross with a neat courtyard where the nuns have reflection time in the center. There are something like 8 nuns living there now, and they aren’t messing around — they don’t talk to anyone but each other, I don’t think they are even seen by anyone else, and they are in this remote town in the CZ for life, or until the next Nazi or Communist occupation or World War breaks out and the use the cloister as a factory or a warehouse or something else. We had a Cesky tour guide, whom Zdenik translated for, walk us around the complex. Quite beautiful architecture and statues and paintings. It is just cool to be at these places that have such rich history, that have been around so long, that have been through so much.
We came to our hotel outside of Brno, CZ next — the Hotel Myslivna. It feels like a hunting lodge, situated up on a hill above the city, pretty secluded from everything else. But our room is nice and big, the bed is comfy, and the bathroom has pink soap that smells like Banana Boat suntan lotion. After we checked in and dropped off our stuff, the busses took us back into Brno so we could get dinner. A bunch of us found this Italian restaurant near the town square and I had a delicious pizza for 70kc. Got some really cheap gelati on the way back, bought a couple of bottles of Budvar at Tesco, and came back to the hotel. Everyone says Praha is cheap — country-CZ is even cheaper.
Went down to the hotel bar when we got back. I wasn’t feeling very up to socializing or drinking, but I had a glass of this amazing wine and ended up having a blast. We talked a bunch with Jana, an AIFS staff person who knows everything and everyone cool in Praha; Mike and I talked about love and falling in it, I drank my Budvar. A bunch of us went outside to see what stars we could see out here in the country, and ended up crashing in on this wedding reception that was going on in the hotel restaurant. Mike and I just hopped this fence and started dancing to “Like A Prayer” (I was hoping to get a feel for Czech music here, but they pretty much only listen to bad American music from the early 90s) amidst all these celebrating Czechs. I pulled my first Classic-Megan since I’ve been here — I just turn around, saw the door, left, ran upstairs, and came to my room. There have been multiple times when I have wanted to pull that move, but didn’t until tonight.
So now I think it is time to retire, so I can get up at 9:00 and get ready for a busy day of more sightseeing tomorrow.