Sunday, December 18, 2011

Exploration of Beauty

Saturday December 17, 2011

Saturday morning, Michal, Katerina, and I dressed in our warmest clothes, packed a lunch and set off to explore the beautiful country of South and Central Bohemia.  Our first stop was about 40 km north east of Tabor, to a village called Selmerk.

Selmerk Castle now stands as a ruins in a cultural center but it was a beautiful castle in its time.  It was probably built around the 14th century.  For me to be standing inside something that was built in the 1300's is just mind boggling.  There is nothing even that close to old in American and in essence I am standing on history.  The castle was finally abandoned in the 17th century and was destroyed during the Thirty Year War.  Michal and Katerina told me that people organize sleep overs in the ruins.  How cool is that???  I would love to camp over night in an abandoned castle ruins...
What the castle use to look like
Our next stop was to a Jewish Cemetery outside a small village Vilice.  As I have mentioned in previous posts, Jewish people were not allowed to be buried within the village walls and they had to be buried just outside the villages in the woods.  Most Jewish Cemetery's are outlined by a rock wall in the woods at a high point on the hill.  People stopped being buried in the cemetery's in the 1940's and they were never maintained until recently.

In some of my pictures you can see that the trees are "killing" the headstones and the names on most stones are barely readable.

After the cemetery we drove to Maly Blanik (small mountain).  There is a famous Czech legend about Knights of Blanik, led by St. Wenceslas,  that are sleeping in the mountain near the watch tower on Velky Blanik (big mountain).  The soldiers have been there for centuries and will come to save the Czech Republic at their end times.  According to the legend, four indicators must happen before the soldiers will awaken.  First the Czech Republic must be invaded from four different directions.  Second, what is left of the Czech Republic would be able to fit into a wagon.  Third, some pond in the Czech Republic would fill with blood. Finally the fourth indicator is that the spring on Velky Blanik will start to have water again and the water will make a giant oak tree and then the water will wake up the soldiers.

During hard times in the Czech Republic, the Knights of Blanik provided hope to the citizens.

You can easily see the watch tower of the soldiers on Velky Blanik.  We decided to hike up Maly Blanik because it wouldn't be as touristy and it would be more picturesque.  At the top of our, what seemed FOREVER, hike up, is an abandoned chapel.  Chapel of Mary Magdalena was abandoned during the 19th century.  Legend says that after it was emptied, a hermit lived there and planted two spruce trees (Velky Monk and Maly Monk) to have for friends.  The big spruce tree (Velky Monk) is said to be the largest Spruce tree in the region.    Again, it was just so surreal to be walking inside something so old.  We had our picnic lunch there inside the chapel where the Velky Monk stands.  It is so interesting that trees are now growing on the walls and there is no roof so the Spruce tree can grow as high as it wants.  The tree is said to be about 200 years old.

While there it started snowing...for me the FIRST snow is always the most exciting.  I always look forward to the first day it snows and this year it was doubly amazing.  Not only was I in this old chapel, but I was in the Czech Republic for the first time it snowed this year.  Seriously, it could not have been more picturesque.  I felt like I was living in a movie.

Katerina and me.  Velky Blanik is on the left and Maly
Blanik is on the right.
After the chapel we drove to a near by village, Votice.  Katerina had heard there was a great restaurant there but when we got there we saw that it wasn't open until 4 and we were there at 3. So.....Katerina talked to a local and he suggested that we try the restaurant, The Blue Cat.   I had a very big blonde moment as I was looking at the menu.  Katerina was translating the Czech food items and the last one I thought said cat.  I was absolutely shocked that they served cat at this restaurant.  I know some cultures have dog as their main meal, but cat???  Immediately Katerina and Michal started laughing at me.  The word I thought was "cat" was actually the word for bean.  Same pronunciation (close) but spelled completely different.  Well...just goes to prove that you can have "blonde moments" in any country :).
Old Czech Brewery.  It was right next door to the church
In this town there is   beautiful castle.  The owners use to own the Borotin Castle as well.  The original owner was a woman who had to immigrate because of Nazi occupation.  She was a big supporter of Literature and free thinking...everything opposite of Nazi belief.  

The day was filled with so much exploration of the beautiful Czech country side.  I learned a lot about Czech legends and historical context.

Learned today:  The legend of the Knights of Blanik


  1. Monika H. (exstudent, 4.D)January 4, 2012 at 12:23 AM

    Hope you liked Votice, it´s my hometown :)

  2. Very Interesting. I came here as I googled the name "Blanik" I have a German Shepherd kennel in North Wales using the same name which was a combination of the names of my two dogs-Blade and Nikki