Tony and I spent both Saturday and Sunday in the Czech Republic this weekend (Anna Grace was running 24K out in Steiermark with her XC team). Over breakfast on Sunday morning we joked that perhaps we should purchase a weekend home in Bohemia, we spend that much time across the border. We even indulged in this fantasy a bit by eyeing the offerings in real estate office windows on our walks through the villages.
So what is it that compels us to “Czech” out the goings on in our neighboring country so often? Let me count the ways…
Firstly, the Czech tourism website is as inviting and informative for weekend planning as the Austrian tourism website is not. The good people in CZ even provide an events calendar organized by region; the good folks in Austria do not offer any calendar (or, if there is one such planning tool, I have yet to find it.) So, off we were on Saturday to Znojmo, a village we have frequented considerably, on this particular weekend for its wine festival. To be fair, at this time of year one can’t toss a bunch of grapes too far in these parts without hitting a wine festival. Even “my” vineyards are buzzing with activity, as well, in preparation for the upcoming vineyard walk.
The new wine is called “Sturm” in Austria and “Burcak” in CZ.  Whether it’s served in doorways by children, in a fancy “MazHaus,” or in makeshift spaces around the town, the new wines are not to be missed.
Secondly, Czech food greatly appeals to my carnivore husband, and to my genetic disposition. Austria serves up its delicious share of meat and potatoes, too, but usually at twice, and often thrice the price. Why?  The downside, minor that it is, is that at the festivals we absorbed so much smoke from grilling meat that our eyes were stinging and our clothing reminded us of our Scouting weekends. But oh!, that food is good.

 

Our Czech vocabulary has a collective 10 phrases at best. But smiling and pointing always works.

Yes, that is a KFC booth at a Central European wine festival!  With people queuing for the “food.” I can offer no explanation.

At Saturday’s wine festival we sat for lunch and live entertainment at a restaurant on the square. Djadja was rockin’ the house.

Thirdly, we come for the genuine charm. In the Czech Republic there are few pretensions; the architecture is a little worn, the streets don’t sparkle like they do in Vienna, and the good Czech people go about their Burcak-toting without care. We feel welcome.

 

Our visit on Saturday to Znojmo held special interest. The village was celebrating not only its harvest, but was also commemorating a 1327 visit by the Czech King Johann, his wife, Elisabeth of Bohemia, and their entourage. The entire town region turned out for the processional!

 

 

Even Bacchus, the god of wine, took some time from partying to join Znojmo’s festivities.
On Sunday we strolled in the shadows of Schloss Mikulov for its village wine festival. No two festivals are alike…
Though the Czech Babas held a captive audience with their folk music, it was the Czech band who followed that rocked the crowd with covers of Kenny Rogers and The Who (oh, and rock the house they did!) The crowds were cheering and swaying, and I wouldn’t doubt there was some lingerie tossed up on that stage.
We enjoyed the music (and our meals) from a comfortable restaurant table. With, of course, a crucifix presiding over all the restaurant goers. We’d never find this in America, and that’s probably a good thing.

So there it is. Good people, good times, good food. I don’t think our love affair with the Czech Republic will ever fade.