Showing posts with label Czech Easter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Czech Easter. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Easter Weekend in Plsen

One of the most beautiful times I had in the Czech Republic last year was when I went to Plsen on Easter weekend to visit Hana, my longtime pen pal of twenty years.  We had started writing letters back and forth years ago, when an organization called World Contact Network was looking for Americans to correspond with newly-freed Czechs adjusting to the West.

I had fallen in love with the Czech Republic watching the Velvet Revolution on TV and was deeply fascinated by any nation so cultured as to elect a playwright for President.  I had to know more about Czechs!  Hana and I began writing and eventually Hana's daughter, Lenka, came to live with my family for a time in America.

I took over 250 pictures of my weekend trip to Plsen! I had looked forward to this day so much. Hana and I had raised kids at the same time. We both divorced about the same time.  We taught each other so much about each other's countries.

Unfortunately, on the train back to Prague, a train employee asked everyone in my compartment to switch to a new compartment. In that move I lost my camera. I don't know if I left it on the ledge, the seat, or someone took it out of my bag.  I was sooooooo disappointed because I had such a wonderful weekend there.

Hana and her family went to great lengths to show me a fabulous time in their city. It's taken me over a year just to accept that I wouldn't have those pictures to share with this blog post because I felt the loss so deeply.

Hana and her son picked me up at the train station.  I went first to meet Hana's parents and to see her son's village home which he was renovating.  Jiri took me out to the backyard to see the animals he raised for food.

Have you ever heard of the animal Nutrea?  I hadn't.  Hana's son, Jiri, said their meat was very tender to eat.  There were four or five pens with 2-3 animals in each. I thought "wow, I'm really in a European village now.  Hana's family is actually raising their own livestock in the backyard!"  Later, I laughed about how exotic and foreign I thought this was at the time, because it turns out that a very hip, very growing trend in Madison, Wisconsin where I would subsequently move, is to grow chickens in the backyard.  Madison has a whole web site for chicken farming aficionados called "Mad City Chickens."

On Saturday, we started with a tour of the Brewery Museum.  It was fun to see how beer has been created throughout the centuries.  After a tour of the museum, everyone gets a free beer.  We had ours on the back porch of the museum and put all of our new knowledge to work tasting a rich Czech beer.

Later, we went downtown to walk around lovely Plsen.  There was a wedding outside the fascinating, centuries-old Main Hall and I tried not to take pictures but it was hard!  Everything was sunny and blue, the bride was beautiful, and I was in the middle of a picturesque town square in the middle of Europe!  Eventually, they dragged me over to the beautiful church,  St. Bartholomew Cathedral, that's right in the Main Square.  We went inside to see the baroque interior and to climb the steps to the top of the tower.  I have no idea how roofs in the Czech Republic ever get done because the steep angle would terrify me if I was a roofer (thank you to those of you who are; I appreciate how dangerous it is and am grateful that someone else takes it on).  It was fun to see all of Plsen from every side and to look down and see the Plsner beer tent and all of the other kiosks set up to celebrate Easter.  We climbed down and had a Plsner beer in the Plsen beer tent in the middle of Plsen.  Gosh darn it, I want a picture of that!

That evening, Hana and her sweetie, took me to the Plsen Opera House for an evening of opera.  It's cozier than the Prague National Theatre (I haven't been to the Prague Opera) and it's just as beautiful. Again, it kills me that I can't show you the pictures because Europeans create the most breathtakingly beautiful performance spaces. Wait, have I been in other nation's performance spaces?  No.  Let me revise that to what I have personally witnessed.  Czechs make the most gorgeous performing spaces!  Everyone was dressed up too. We looked great! It was nice.

The next day we ventured out into the countyside to see Kozel Castle.  If I could have teleported my mother from Colorado to that chateau for their tour, I would have.  It was divine! My mother would have gone absolutely nuts seeing that place.  It was a hunting chateau in the middle of an idyllic lakefront setting.  The home was beautiful, yes, but it was the lightness of the decorating that I would have loved for my mother to see.

Every room in that hunting chateau suggested "play."  The ceramics and the dishes were exquisite! In each room, there were fresh flowers in manor-sized containers.  It was worth it to go on that tour just to see a gorgeous, resplendent arrangement of flowers in each room on that elegant scale over and over again. With most tours, the tour operators wouldn't go to the trouble of giving you the feeling of being in the room as it was meant to be at the time using fresh flowers.  But the people who run this castle did.  Fantastic! The final room was the best of all.  We walked into a magical family-sized theatre.  I could just imagine the people putting on a play for each other's amusement in the 1830's.  Oh, it was painful not to have my mother by my side for that tour! She would have just appreciated it so much. And I can't even show her the pictures!

After that fabulous experience, we went into town to a new brewery and restaurant that had started in Plsen.  I would share the name of it with you but where would I get that guessed pictures.

I went home on Sunday night.  If I had been more educated about Czech Easters, I would have known I would be expected to stay through Monday.  Monday is also part of the Czech Easter holiday.  I did not know that though until Prague friends asked me why I came home early.  Now I know.

I had a WONDERFUL time at Hana's.  It was so meaningful to connect in person after all those years of letters.  It's my pen pals who really continued and built on my initial fascination with all things Czech.  If you can't see a picture of Hana and her family, I hope what you can feel is their hearts: open.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Something Better Than Valentine's Day

Yes, yes, I know ladies, you're looking at my headline with befuddlement and asking "what could be better than Valentine's Day?"

The Czechs would tell you that what's better than Valentine's Day is their day for lovers, May Day.

In recent years, the insensitive business forces of globalization have used the fact that our world is getting more and more interconnected to try and export typically American holidays like Halloween and Valentine's Day to the Czech Republic. It would never occur to me that a successful business could be made from selling people stuff for holidays not their own. That doesn't stop corporations from trying.

But they Czechs say they don't need Valentine's Day. May Day is their day for lovers. Indeed, the whole month of May is "the month for lovers." The Czech tradition is that lovers must kiss under a blossoming tree on May 1st. In Prague, they have an entire hill overlooking the city, called Petrin Hill, filled with blossoming trees that are just starting to peak.

What I love about the tradition is it is the same for students and moguls alike. It isn't about spending money. It's about spending time together. It's human. Not corporate.

So while it's easy to think yet another romantic holiday would be harmless on anyone's calendar, how would all you American ladies feel if the Czechs tried to sell you on the idea of celebrating Easter their way: with these crazy pomlazkas (braided willow branches) that are used to beat women's behinds until they hand over a colored egg! Not quite ready to adopt that idea, are we?
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