Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Velký Dřevíč: a Weekend in a Czech-Polish Border Village

This post should probably be split up into two--even though it's all about my weekend going with my roommate Vanessa to our Czech roommate Zuzana's village Velký Dřevíč in Eastern Bohemia near the Polish border, there's a lot of content. But that also means lots of pictures! So if you get bored scrolling through, just click on the pictures and you can look at them like an album.

I'll give a brief outline here in case you don't have time to read all the captions. We left Friday afternoon; on Sunday morning we had a "cooking lesson" (fried cheese and garlic soup!) with Zuzana's mom before heading out to Poland, and then a funky Tibetan tea shop in the evening! The next day, we took a nice long walk around the village and came back in time to do a short interview about the Communism-->democracy transition with Zuzana's dad before heading back to Prague. 

When classes ended on Friday, I realized I had nothing to bring with as a gift for Zuzana's family, and I didn't know where any flower shops were (or if that's even a thing here). So, after seeing Gideon's beautiful challahs on Facebook, I realized that I had just enough time to whip up a batch. As Gideon said, it was a "good week for challah-eating friends of the family" (Mom and Grandma also made beautiful challahs).

The train! (Well, not ours, but the one next to us). The ride was about 2.5 hours, and at the end we transferred to a local commuter rail that was kind of like the Dinky in function, but not at all like the Dinky in reality because it was beautiful and new and had electronic displays and more than one car.

We passed a lot of really old, abandoned rail cars along the way. Imagine taking the train in the freezing cold in a car like that!
After a much needed sleep-in on Saturday morning, we were greeted by this beautiful scene as we walked down to the kitchen. Mom, the kitchen was orange! And it worked really well with the lighting.

The beautiful lighting in the kitchen was complemented by this incredible breakfast spread. Fruit, tea, juice, cereal, cheeses, whipped honey (the most delicious food ever), yogurts, jam, koláč fruit cake/pastry deliciousness (and apparently really popular in Texas). On the bread-plate in the center of the table is one of my challahs, cut up--funny enough, it's actually very similar to the Czech Christmas bread (minus the raisins) that's on the bread platter on the right side of the photo. It was also nice to have a reminder of Shabbat, even though I wasn't in a Shabbat-y environment.

The lighting was so pretty!

I mentioned to Zuzana a few weeks ago that I really wanted to learn how to make Czech food. As soon as we finished eating breakfast, her mom, Jana, took out what must have been 5 pounds of different kinds of cheese to teach us how to make smažený sýr, the fried cheese that's so popular here. (This picture has about a third of the total amount we made). 

This is the enormous pile of cheese right before we stuck them in the deep fryer (from the South to the Czech Republic... I must have a thing for places that like deep-fried food!). Step 1: cover the cheese in flour. Step 2: Coat in an  egg-milk mixture. Step 3: Coat in bread crumbs. Step 4: One more coat of egg-milk. Step 5: One more coat of bread crumbs. Step 5: OIL!

Halfway done with frying. It's kind of like glorified mozzarella stick, but with fancy cheese. They were so rich though, I could only eat a bite of each. We also learned how to make garlic soup, which I'm going to make all the time at home both because it's so simple and because it's so delicious!

Welcome to Poland! I was so full I could hardly walk, but there's no way I was going to pass up the chance to cross the border, only 15 minutes from Zuzana's house!
The last word on the bottom row of the sign on the right side of this picture is ridiculous. It hurts my brain just to look at it. (Ricky, how do you pronounce that?) Actually, once I could equate certain letter combinations with their Czech equivalent, I was able to read the Polish signs much better and even guess what some of them meant, which was really cool.
The polish town was Kudowa-Zdrój, and it's known as a spa town. Obviously we didn't go in the spa because a) it was (probably) expensive and b) we didn't have zlotys!

But we did get to drink some of the mineral water (from this pump)! It was warm. And bubbly. And a little salty. Which is a really weird combination. But I never really understood before why the mineral water you buy at stores is bubbly, because I'd never had natural mineral water before.

Oh yeah, there was also a water park. Mostly it was inside, but this section of the slide went outside and I'm not sure why this man wasn't frozen, because it was approximately 25 degrees out.

Piano in the park! Unfortunately, it wasn't real.

On the way back to the village we stopped in the town of Náchod, where Zuzana went to high school. There's a castle in the town (and bears living on the grounds!) but unfortunately it's under repair and the bears are all in hibernation. This building is the New Town Hall, in the main square. We went to a place called Waffle Cafe to warm up for a bit, and I had the best delicious white hot chocolate--I thought it was going to be too sweet, but it was just right, and nice and frothy. Also, the cafe was on Karlovo Náměstí  which is also the name of the square I live near in Prague!

Just something I thought was interesting, because you mostly never see satellite dishes in the States anymore. 

After dinner (food was the theme of the weekend) Zuzana, her father Jaroslav, Vanessa and I drove to the nearby town of Hronov to Čajovna U Bílého Draka (Tea House of the White Dragon); it was wonderful, if not entirely out of place in the Czech Republic. It was a full-on Tibetan/South Asian/Middle Eastern (very Infini-T esque), complete with hookah and barefoot waiters(!). It was a wonderfully relaxing evening, and we ordered 3 or 4 pots of tea.

On Sunday morning we woke up a bit earlier, so we'd have enough time to see the whole village before taking a mid-afternoon train back to Prague. The weather was chilly, the sky was foggy, and it was a bit misty, but in a romantic way I think the village was actual more picturesque like that than it would have been if there was a shining sun in a blue sky. 

I love the hazy trees in the background. 
Rooster! Chickens!

In my mind, this is what a village house looks like, which I suppose is, again, a very romanticized conception. But still. 

More natural water sources to try! This one is supposed to bring you good luck, I think. I am not joking when I say that my first thought, before convincing myself to taste a handful, was: "Oh wow. I would never drink this water on OA. I hope I don't get giardia!" So far, so good.

This is how they indicate that you're leaving a place.

We continued our walk even after we left the village, and it just made me want to go hiking! There were so many kinds of trees, mountains (okay, hills) on all sides, a brook/river below... We didn't go up into the mountains/hills at all, but I did climb up into the trees a bit when nature called. Add that view to the list.
I was only half-joking when I said I wanted to jump in, just to say I'd done it. But the air really was freezing, and I probably would have gotten hypothermia, which is no fun. Not that I know from experience, but I can imagine. 

Heading back to the village. 

Lots of the houses still use wooden stoves!
Smokestack of the factory in the town. In terms of industry and economic pursuits, there's not much else in the village. A school, one-and-a-half pubs/restaurants, a swimming pool, a post office... But even for things like grocery shopping, you have to leave the village. 

I just like reflections a lot. 

Zuzana's father carved this replica of the Easter Island moai figures in their back yard! His father was a woodworker. The other half of the tree used in this carving was used to carve the Buddha statue at the tea house mentioned earlier. 

From left to right: Me (obviously), Vanessa, Zuzana, her sister Pavla, their mother Jana, their father Jaroslav. This is right after Vanessa and I interviewed Jaroslav for one of our classes about the transition between communism and democracy. 


  1. sko-ra-chev-ski-ego
    not so bad!
    now try this one: Szczebrzeszyn

  2. So, nu, what was the name of the orange paint color?

  3. Freaking. Awesome. Pictures.