Tuesday, March 29, 2016

no curtains in moravia

statue in Litomysl
We stood in line at the U Veterana cukrarna, or sweets shop. It seemed to be the busiest sweets shop in the entire village of Slatinice, families and crowds pouring in and out of the place, weaving through the tables, forming the worlds’ longest cukrarna line in the short history of the Czech Republic. It was understandably long, as this was truly the center of this small village’s life. Not only was it a cukrarna, but it was also a hotel, an automobile museum, and a wellness center. It was massively understaffed – the only employees there were in the cukrarna, but otherwise clean. When we went up to the room, which had beautiful wood paneling and quality wood furniture, but there were no curtains and the room faced directly into the street from the second floor.

In my broken Czech I made the complaint, “There are no curtains.” But the lady didn’t understand. “No curtains,” I repeated, showing her the word in my dictionary. But it didn’t seem that that was a huge problem for her. Still speaking in Czech, I explained, "People from the street can see into the room."

She nodded. Claimed she would ask about it. But did nothing.

So we inquired about the pool. We came to this hotel specifically for the pool and hot tub. Apparently the pool was full and closing at 5 – it was already 4:45 – and the hot tub cost 25 euros. It was a basic whirlpool that was in the same room as the pool. But anyway, that wasn’t open past 5 anyway. All the hours listed in the brochure that we had from hotel room were for the “summer hours”. Why it made a difference for a hot tub and indoor pool was beyond me.

How did we get there?

We decided to make the trip by using my new obsession. Get a big destination – in this instance Olomouc – find some interesting things to see on the way there and repeat the process for the way back. To do this I was entirely at the mercy of Google maps. I just tapped on random places that seemed to divide up the driving time pretty well. So the route there was decided – Hradec Kralove, Litomysl, Slatinice (only for the hotel), and finally Olomouc.

Hradec Kralove

Main square
Driving into Hradec Kralove, I was kind of reminded of Kutaisi back in Georgia. It was a city that for a long time was a bit forgotten and outshone by the main city of the country. Now there’s some re-invigoration there – there are lots of huge music festivals centered there, like Rock for People and Hip Hop Kemp. But on the hole, it’s a bit run down and untouched, as though that’s how Prague probably looked just after Communism fell. It’s market square depressed us. Of course, we were there on Easter Sunday, so it was altogether as barren as an old maid. But it was mainly just a giant parking lot with chipped concrete everywhere, a far cry from the typically beautiful Czech square paved with cobblestones.

street in Hradec Kralove
The name of the city means “Castle of the Queen” and was a dowry town of Elisabeth Richeza of Poland, who lived there as the wife of two different Kings of Bohemia back in the 13th and 14th centuries. It was a strongly Catholic Bohemian city throughout the 30 Years War, with a brief occupation during the Great Swedish Landgrab. The German name of the city was Koniggratz, which is where the name of the famous battle between Austria and Prussia took place that decided the dominance of Prussia in the newborn German Empire.


Row of buildings in main square in Litomysl
The land here was flat and on going. The villages seemed to repeat themselves, crowded and huddled together with a church always somewhere in the middle. Finally, we came to Litomysl, which seemed to open like a flower before us. We stopped for a nice walkabout from the main square, all the way up and down, and then up to a massive Baroque palace. The main square was interesting as both sides had covered walks, the buildings overlapping over the pavements. We first spent some time at a chocoleterie, where I drank what seemed to be a melted chocolate bar. We ended at the castle, which was a truly impressive site.

Litomysl Castle
In the 12th century, Litomysl became an important religious center of the Premonstratensian Order, which had famous monasteries throughout Bohemia and Moravia. A monastery was founded on the central hill of the town, which became known as the Mount of Olives, and it became important enough to attract the attention of the noble family of Persnstejn, namely Vratislav, who had spent much time in Italy. He later met a Spanish noblewoman who he married and had the Italian-styled palace built in her name.

The galleries inside the castle
Litomysl Castle became especially famous as the birthplace of a certain composer born in its brewery. Bedrich Smetana was born in the hop scented vaults under the castle brewery, where his father worked as the chief brewer under Count Waldstein. He had a nearly uncountable amount of brothers and sisters and was early on brought to Jindrichuv Hradec in the south. He later moved to Prague to take part in the 1848 uprising and became a noted composer of the Czech national spirit.

After Litomysl, we made our way to the hotel, where we discovered it was too late for the pool and too early to enjoy a curtain-less night.

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