Arriving to the Czech Republic
On my way to the Czech Republic I had two layovers. Just a quick one in the early morning of December 19th and then a long overnight stay in Amsterdam that same day. I made the most of it by linking up with my crazy, and big hearted Dutch friend Jochem, whom I met years earlier while walking through Central America.
The next morning I arrived in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, after a terrible sleep at the Amsterdam Airport. This did not bother me one bit however, because 2 hours later Romi arrived from Key West, Florida. I hadn’t seen her since being together in October on Vancouver Island! Her friend Michael picked us up from the airport and took us the rest of the way to their hometown of Prostejov, in the south of Moravia (three hour drive from Prague).
Home in Prostejov
Romi and I took our time to adjust to being together and making ourselves comfortable in her apartment in Prostejov. For the first few days we lounged around and Romi showed me around Prostejov, with me pretending to understand Czech television. The weather was a big shock to Romi’s system, but for me it wasn’t bad since I had just spent a month in Edmonton where it was -30 C! Throughout the entire time being here in the Czech Republic I had many people look at me like I was crazy to be wearing such light clothing.
Christmas with Family
On December 24th I got to meet Romi’s family for the first time! We picked up her Grandma (Babicka Eva) and made our way to her parents place to surprise them for Christmas. Pavel and Dana (Romi’s dad and mom) welcomed me right away and made me feel like part of the family. After a big meal of soup, salmon and potato salad we finished the evening opening gifts. To my surprise there was plenty of gifts under the tree for me. The whole time I remember thinking, “I wish I knew Czech so I could truly show them my appreciation for all they are doing for me.”
Czech television, during the Christmas holiday, was full of old Czech fairy tales. Many of them involved Kings and Queens, Princesses and Princes, witches and wizards, and Castles. Since the Czech Republic had been Communist for most of the 1900’s lots of their movies were shot in the Czech Republic. While watching, Romi would point out the different regions, locations, and castles that were used in the films. On December 26th we went to visit one of these castles. Just under an hour drive north we arrived at Bouzov Castle. It felt just like I was in one of these fairy tales. As soon as we passed the gates to enter the Castle grounds there was a small Christmas Market set up and people dressed in old typical clothing. They acted out the Christmas story and we went on a tour of the Castle. Unfortunately I didn’t understand any of it, and the lighting wasn’t great so I was only able to soak up the sights for myself and make up the story in my head, but nonetheless it was magical.
To make the most of the Christmas atmosphere Romi took me to the famous city of Olomouc to see their Christmas Market. In the main square many stands were set up, a carousel twirled around full of joyous children sitting on various animals and vehicles, and the smell of different types of food filled the air while a church, famous sculptures, and different buildings towered around us. We wandered through the market along the cobblestone streets, tasting the food and watching the people enjoy the atmosphere. At the end of the market was an ice rink full of people, and beside it was a small little snow mound that children used for a very small tobogganing hill. This to me expressed the true spirit of Christmas.
Punkva Caves and Macocha
One of my Christmas gifts was a book with information on the Czech Republic. In it there was some pictures and a description of the Moravian Karst. I asked Romi about this location and if it was close, and she replied, “I already made us a reservation to visit it!” Just before New Years we picked up Mama Dana and drove about an hour and a half south towards Blansko. First we visited the Punkva Caves, but to get there we had to stop in the town of Skalni Mlyn where we got our tickets. I still wasn’t quite sure what we were doing that we needed tickets for, so I just followed along not knowing what to expect. We finally entered the caves using our tickets, and a lady lead us with a large group of people through the tour. A walkway winded its way through, and up and down, the cave system to Macocha where we stopped and took some pictures just before we reached the river (still inside the caves). Here a boat picked us up to finish up the rest of the tour via the river. Unfortunately it all felt a bit too rushed, so Romi, Dana and I felt like we weren’t able to truly enjoy the beauty. Thankfully Romi was able to use her charm and convince the boat operator to take us back through the caves on a private tour. He was happy to hear that we wanted to really enjoy the caves, so he had no problem taking us. After our private tour we drove to the other side of the park to view Macocha from the top.
Novy Rok (New Years) in Prostejov
New Years was spent with Romi’s parents at their home. We stopped by their house for a quick meal before Romi and I headed to the main square downtown for the fireworks show. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but what we got for a show I could never have imagined. Over loud speakers a woman’s voice sounded out telling a story of the history of Prostejov, while lights danced on the iconic Town Hall building. Meanwhile fireworks, timed perfectly with the story, flashed off in the sky. By the end of the show we couldn’t see much due to all the smoke, but I was already extremely impressed with the performance. Meanwhile I was dressed up in Romi’s old big puffy white jacket, her moms sparkly white toque with a fluffy ball on the top, and a leopard patterned scarf because Romi’s parents didn’t want me to be cold. I appreciated their concern, and Romi appreciated how goofy I looked.
Five Days in Prostredni Becva
For my Christmas gift Romi looked into a trip that might be something I would enjoy (even though she had concerns of her own). She decided to book 5 days in a cabin as far away from civilization as possible, while still being in the Czech Republic. She found it on AirBnB and it ended up being spectacular! To get there we drove our car as far as it would take us, which wasn’t too far as the road conditions got worse the further we got from civilization. A lady who was working for the host, escorted us the whole way, so when our car would not make it up the snowy inclined road we parked and hopped into her car. She could only take us another few miles up the hill before she then had to park at the nearest neighbors home. From there we packed up as much as we could from our supplies, and began our 45 minute hike uphill through knee high snow. Finally we made it and Romi was able to get inside to warm up while preparing the home for the next 5 days. Meanwhile I went back for the second load of supplies. Daylight was fading as I struggled to haul bags of water and food up the hillside, while trying not to get lost.
When I arrived back to the cabin I got a quick explanation of the wood and the fireplace, before the lady took off leaving Romi and I alone in the middle of nowhere. I loved the role of fire keeper and Romi could not wait to warm up.
The days were mostly spent staying warm and eating, I took plenty of pictures around the property, of the cabin and Romi, and one of the days we hiked the 1 and a half hour walk into town to get some groceries and go for dinner at a 200 year old restaurant. It was definitely an unforgettable experience, and I would recommend it to anyone!
Back in Prostejov
Once we got back to Prostejov I felt like I was returning to a familiar place and this time around the focus was different, with the intention of really creating the atmosphere of a home. Romi was able to set up a connection for me to do a talk at the local Gymnasium (high school) for the English class. This allowed me to do something of service for the community and make friends with some of the locals. Those students ended up hanging out a few more times with Romi and I before we left.
I also continued spending more quality time with Romi’s family, getting to know them better and build a stronger relationship with them. Together we played cards, ate food, and went on a few trips like a hike in a neighbouring town called Plumlov.
I also connected more with the local Baha’i family in Prostejov. I got to hear interesting stories of the Faith in the Czech Republic and how it has evolved differently from other countries due to the unique situation of the Czech Republic being communist so recently. A few days before leaving they took me to Brno, which is the second largest city in the Czech Republic, for a 19 Day Feast with the Baha’i community there. I got to play a few songs and connect with many more Baha’i friends in the area.
Since Romi is from Prostejov, I see myself returning many times to this wonderful place, and I look forward to strengthening all the bonds I have been grateful to make in the future. My biggest struggle will of course be the language.
Saying Goodbye to Romi and the Czech Republic
On January 22nd Romi and I said goodbye to her family in Prostejov and hopped on the train from Olomouc to Prague. I got to see a glimpse of the magnificent Prague, but due to timing I knew it will have to be saved for another time. Romi and I went directly to the hotel airport where we stayed the night. The next morning Romi and I said our goodbyes and she caught her flight out of the Czech Republic, while I grabbed a bus from Prague to Vienna, Austria where I spent the next few days with some friends.
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