Jewels of Bohemia September 2016 part 7
This morning we leave Slavonice at 8:45 instead of 8:30 because we must drive to the Ceramic shop to pick up our finished projects. After enjoying the delicious buffet, we say goodbye to charming Pavel and the two hard-working women that run Dum U Ruze. I so enjoyed this charming hotel.
When we arrive at the ceramic place, Milan runs into the shop and soon returns carrying a big box filled with our ceramic projects. Milan says he must wait to pass them out as they are still hot from the oven, literally! Perhaps a half hour later, Milan opens the individual boxes and holds the item in the air, describes what it is and waits for the owner to claim it. When he holds up a flat disc and proclaims it is a Kitty cat, I call out to claim it. However, this item looks like a cat so I must let the actual artist take possession which is Ms. D. When Paul receives his polka-dotted hippo, he takes one look at it and states that “this is awful”. Ha, at least he didn’t put a lot of time and effort into it. When Milan gets to my “uco”, he says here is the carp, (yesterday I jokingly said my project was a carp since it sure didn’t look like a cat). I claim my art work and just laugh. I thought several of the other people’s projects were quite nice.
Our first stop today is in Trebic where we are going to visit the Jewish ghetto. This is another UNESCO World Heritage Site and considered one of Europe’s best preserved Jewish ghettos. We follow Milan across a bridge and then enjoy a lovely stroll along the river on our way to the Jewish ghetto. There is a man fishing across the river and as we walk by his cork begins to bob, I hope he caught that fish! As we survey the surroundings while walking down narrow streets, Milan fills us in on some of the history of Trebic. We learn that Jews were not allowed to live in Christian parts of the city but that Jews and Christians managed to co-exist from the middle ages until the 20th century. Most of the Jews were sent to concentration camps during WWII and after the war the Jewish population in Trebic was no more.
A young woman is our guide for our tour of The New Synagogue. We are escorted to the sanctuary where we take a seat on the benches. There is Hebrew writing on the sanctuary walls and the ceiling is painted with interesting designs. The young woman fills us in on the history of the Synagogue giving us information such as the Synagogue was built in the 17th century, that the last service in the synagogue was held in 1926, after which the Synagogue was used as a storehouse. I can’t recall why services ceased to be held here. The synagogue was renovated in 1995-1997 and now is used as an exhibition and concert hall.
We follow the young woman upstairs to look at the permanent exhibit which includes a model town of the Jewish quarter, old photos, and religious items from the synagogue that are kept in glass show cases. Our guide leads us to an adjoining building where several rooms are decorated to show how a Jewish family’s house would have looked in the past. There is also a room that is set up like a store with a mannequin that is a likeness of the actual owner. Perhaps the rooms we toured were also his family’s house. Hmm, I don’t remember now. I do know the tour was very interesting and sobering.
On our way to the bus we pass by a farmer’s market in the town square where flowers and vegetables are being sold. The stands, topped with colorful umbrellas, stretch for some distance through the town square. We also see a building or two whose walls are covered with the stunning sgraffito designs that was Slavonice’s claim to fame. This is one architecture design that even I can remember. I love it!
Our next destination is Lednice which ends up a longer drive than expected due to road construction. Milan and Waessik spend a lot of time conversing while they try to find their way through the convoluted detour. I believe our lunch was to be at 1:00 but due to the lengthy detour we didn’t reach the restaurant until 2:00 a.m. The late lunch just made the food that much more appreciated! Our tour has gone like clockwork up to this point but no one can do a thing about road construction! A note to sister E, I haven’t forgotten the restroom incident but didn’t know how to write about it! I hope it makes you laugh all over again now that I reminded you of it:).
After our lunch, we tour Lednice Castle a beautiful but ostentatious structure where even the stables look as though royalty might reside there! The flowers and sculptured gardens surrounding this summer home are stunning. The young guide escorting us through the mansion informs us that this is his first English led tour but you would never know it as he speaks the English language with ease. We follow the animated fellow down a hallway where enormous deer racks are mounted on the wall. We next enter a large room with an unsupported staircase, (how does that work) where some more luckless creatures are showcased on the rooms walls. From here we meander through and are told stories about the numerous grandiose rooms, all of which leave me shaking my head in wonder. There is beautiful furniture, magnificent ceilings, a stunning spiral staircase, and much more to admire. We learn from our guide that this is part of the Lichtenstein’s legacy where some of the family’s wealth and power was acquired through beneficial marriages. That was a common way in those early century’s to acquire these elements. The Lichtenstein’s reigned over 600 years and just kept amassing wealth and power throughout this time. The Lednice Castle we are touring today dates from the mid 1800’s. I still can’t get over the fact that this magnificent mansion and the park around it was just a summer home!
The weirdest, well it is actually disgusting, story our guide tells us is about the wife, (don’t recall her name), who is shown in a painting with an African boy at her side. The first thing he tells us is that it is very unusual to see a pregnant woman depicted in a painting but this woman seemed to always be with child, (could I remember correctly that she had nineteen children?). He then tells us that this woman was very close to the servant in the painting and when the fellow died she had the man stuffed! I about choked when our guide delivered that information!
When our tour is over and we thank our guide for a job well done, Milan says we have time to tour the greenhouse if we desire to. Paul declines the opportunity but most of us do walk through it, admiring the various plants and flowers. In retrospect, I would walk the hedge lined paths of the garden in front of the Castle instead of visiting the greenhouse if I had to do this over again.
We make our way back to the bus and to a smiling Waessik, load up and due to the construction detour, traffic is backed up and we slowly crawl out of Lednice. It is early evening when we cross into Slovakia. Our destination is Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, where we are staying at Hotel Devin. Waessik manages to back the bus into the only space in the hotel’s parking spot that will accommodate a bus; he truly is a professional driver! What a great location as the hotel is located next to the Danube River, well there is a street between the hotel and the river but still it is wonderful!
Milan takes us into the dining room to give us information about the breakfast buffet and our evening walking tour of Bratislava he is taking us on. He also has a treat for us before we go to our rooms; a local specialty called “Paris Balls” which some of the restaurant staff serves to us. The round chocolate shells filled with ice cream symbolize the cannon balls that Napoleon shot at the city. Once a staff person puts the dessert in front of you another server pours warm milk on it making the thin shell melt and revealing the chocolate ice cream inside. The whole concept of the dessert was great fun and the Paris ball was absolutely delicious. I got my chocolate fix for sure!
After settling in our lovely room, which has a small balcony that overlooks the Danube, we meet in the lobby at 7:30 for our evening tour of Bratislava. Milan takes a short cut through the parking lot and the first building we walk by is the American Embassy. There is a wonderful square next to the Embassy with numerous cafes, a bubbling fountain, and lots of inviting places to sit, relax and enjoy yourself. Milan leads us to the main town square where a large fountain, lit up in various colors, commands one’s attention. This area is bustling with people but I feel very comfortable here. Milan leaves the more popular areas to let us explore side streets where he relates the history of the various places we visit. One softly lit street gives us a striking night view of Bratislava Castle.
When our night tour of Bratislava is finished, Milan leaves us on our own to explore more of the city or return to the hotel. Mr. D and his wife C, Paul, Jennifer and I decide to find a café and have a light meal before retiring for the evening. We want to sit outside but what few empty tables there are around the cafes have reserved signs on them. We finally do find a place to sit. Those of us from Kansas just order appetizers while D & C have pizza with beer for all of us. The food is tasty; the beer is cold and the company is good. You can’t ask for much more than that but we get a bonus as fireworks are lighting up the skyline in the direction of the Danube. What a great ending to our day.
Next blog- exploring Bratislava in daylight plus a home visit