Sunday, October 28, 2007

Spring Forward and Fall Back

This was the morning after our second night in Linz and it has only felt like we have been here a month already. How time does fly. Ron went off to church seeking a mass in a language he would not understand anyway, but it is the thought that counts, right God? I journeyed over to the train station for my breakfast and sat reading my book. When I glanced up at the clock it was strange that they had the wrong time; it was an hour earlier than it should be. Then the light went on, this is the weekend Europe changes the clocks and we had forgotten about it. The 10:00 mass Ron was headed for will be a possible 9:00 mass if there is one scheduled at all.

I was in the hotel sitting area when he returned and he greeted me with "When did you realize it?" After 14 years, w
e have an abbreviated way of speaking to each other, not quite a cryptic as the Da Vinci Code, but our nevertheless. Now the conundrum was the shuttle we had booked to transport us from here to Cesky Krumlov. Would they come at the old or new time? Did the Czech Republic change clocks at the same time or at all? Why did we have an extra hour in a city we were not enjoying when we would have loved to have it banked for some fabulous city in the future?

After checking out of the hotel, we went to our designated meeting point for the shuttle, the train station parking lot. We waited for 10 minutes around the 'old' time and no one showed up, so we went to the bakery for one last sumptuous carbo loading experience.

At 12:30 on the dot in the new time zone, the shuttle pulled up and discharged those who had just left the Czech town. It was only Ron and I going back with the driver who only spoke 5 words o
f English. Once we left Linz, the scenery was spectacular. The trees were covered in garnet, amethyst, topaz, sapphire, and emeralds that were gliding to the ground, but before they did, created a mosaic of color. Exactly what I had hoped for; I miss seeing the colors change.

Our Pension Lob
o shuttle took us to Pension Lobo where we were staying two nights. Clean, tasteful, and budget, it was exactly what we wanted. They do run the shuttle service for anyone, not just guests. The room was spacious and freshly painted in a bright yellow. We dropped our things and took off for the... Tourist Information Center. Now if you are a regular reader of this blog, you should have guessed that before it was even mentioned.

This village is larger than I anticipated, but the historic old center is still small enough to
walk around it about 20 times in a day. As can be expected of any village, town, city, or burg that has made the big time as a travel destination, the place is riddled with hotels, albeit small ones not franchises, pensions and bed and breakfasts. In every nook and cranny they are not occupying you will find hostels. Then there are the range of stores hawking their wares to the tourists with the famous "Czech" glassware and marionettes that range from real quality to the schlock probably made in China variety. Ron kept me on a short lease this afternoon, so I had to do my best window shopping scanning, without stopping. Even so, I had the feeling I would not be dragging home treasures that we could not live without having. Nothing was calling my name as we passed by. Cesky Krumlov sits by the river Vltava in South Bohemia. The city has two main districts: Latran (around the Castle) and the district on the slope between two bends of the river Vltava. The castle placed it in the UNESCO register of monuments of world significance in 1992.

The village has a long complicated history, one that I read and then quickly dismissed as nothing I will ever be tested on and if I am, I will cheat at finding the answer. We were here to soak up the atmosphere and since the castle was never for any important royalty beyond three centuries of the Lords of Rozmberk. Though they were supposedly remarkably democratic royals for their time, citizens were obliged to give contributions when there was a wedding in the Lord’s family and Jews were forbidden to reside in the town. The Rozmberk coat of arms carried a red rose, and that symbol may still be seen everywhere. When they died out, the town when to a different branch of the family tree and so on.

Within the hours of our arrival at 2:00 until 5:00 pm, we basically covered the town from the looks of the map above. The only area we did not cover was the castle, but we had a full day the next day, so save something for then. The walks along the river were beyond picturesque, they were postcard quality non-reality beautiful. It is like looking at a postcard and saying that is so beautiful, but it cannot really be that pristine. Well, here it is.

One museum caught our attention since we just had a guest who spoke about the artist Egon Schiele and they had an exhibit of his work. Some incredible painting and drawings, a most prolific artist who died at the age of 28 with the Spanish flu. They also had a special exhibit just about to end called "Five Young Artists from New York City". There was no explanation as to why they were there working or creating, but it seems they only had 3-6 weeks to produce and leave. Some captivating pieces.

We stopped at a pub recommended by the young woman at the pension. It was typically old fashioned in an authentic way, not contrived. After a beer, we dropped off unnecessary things in the room and went to the Two Marys for dinner. Once you open the door, immediately facing you is a stairwell that has many stories to tell if it could speak. Looking to be hundreds of years old, the sign pointed us upward to the restaurant. At the top, behind another humongous wood door were four over sized heavy picnic type tables with benches. Although the custom would be to join others at their table, two of the tables were occupied with a family of four (speaking Hungarian) and another with a young cutesy couple, speaking North American English. We took the third rustic table. Our waitress recommended a sampler platter with choices of meat. Ron ordered the pheasant and I had chicken. The rest was shared potato cake, potato balls, cabbage salad, and other heavy on the carbs delights. It was delectable, but weighty.

When Ron was in the tourist office, he bought tickets to a performance for this evening. The young woman assured us that it would not be language dependent; it was music and movement. The performance was held on the stage itself, with the stadium seating behind us and left unused. We had the second row, but a bear of a man with a head the size of Goliath sat in front of me blocking 85% of my view. There were still five rows behind us and being seated on a flat surface, their visibility was that of flying through clouds on a foggy day. Most of the production took place on the floor with 90% of it being spoken in Czech of course. There was no way to follow the movement and the music was interesting, but minimal in aiding our understanding of what was happening. People were speaking, throwing themselves on the floor, and at times, they all had plain unclothed wooden puppets with similar faces, who were the 'actors' of the moment. All very confusing. At the end, we had the distinct impression that the audience was made up of friends and relatives of the ensemble and not idle theater attendees. They clapped enough to require 4 curtain calls and with each more and more of the audience was up hugging those in the performance. A cultural experience for sure and an exercise in trying to see past the mountain of a man.

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