Written By Phyllis Burch,
for Bridge Magazine
Do the streets in your quarter of the city empty out on Friday afternoons in summer only to refill on Sunday evening? Do you wonder where your neighbors go? If you have ever gotten past the opening lines of the Czech national anthem "Where is My Home" you know that Czechs have an intense love of their countryside.
Where is my home, where is my home?
Water burbles across the meadows,
Pine woods rustle among crags,
The orchards sparkle with spring blossoms
Earthly paradise appears to me!
It is a source of pleasure, relaxation, and adventure. It connects them with history and with nature. They return refreshed. You can do the same.
To experience burbling streams, dark woods mirrored in clear ponds, Gothic fortresses and castles, outdoor folk museums, craft fairs, and quiet star-filled nights, visit the ecologically-protected region of the Zdar Hills on the Bohemian-Moravian border. Several special events this summer will enhance your visit.
A year-long celebration marks the 35th-anniversary of the Zdar Hills (Zdarske Vrchy) becoming an ecologically-protected region. One of the premier events is a large festive "jarmark" on Sunday, June 19 from 9am to 5pm. The best craftsmen and artists of the area will be demonstrating their trades and offering their products for sale: pottery, ironworks, glass, woodwork, leather work, paintings and drawings, lace making, and more. (No commercially-made products.) Honey, local herbal teas, and roast pig will also be sold. This will be held in two villages, Snezne and Kratka, of this Highland (Vysocina) area near Zdar nad Sazavou. A horse-drawn carriage will ferry visitors between the two villages. The ecological center will feature a photo exhibit of pictures from the last 35 years, as well as a slide show.
The outdoor museum of Vesely Kopec is a half hour away. A "village" has been constructed using actual buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries which were originally located in the area or moved from nearby villages. They have been reconstructed and furnished in authentic style. The collection includes two water-driven mills, bee keeping and honey-processing cottages, flax processing, wooden shingle making, a traveling puppeteer's van, along with cottages and farmsteads showing all levels of the society. In addition, this year's seasonal exhibit is about wood crafts in the Hlinsko region. Special events include a "Pottery Saturday" on June 4 with demonstrations of potters' crafts, the "Vesely Kopec Fair" on July 16 and 17, and "How We Used to Farm in the Past" on August 20 and 21 with demonstrations of the traditional processing of various agricultural plants. All events are from 9am to 4pm. If you prefer a quieter visit, plan an early arrival.
Pernstejn Castle, the beloved Gothic fortress, is open again after the worst fire in 600 years destroyed its old granary where 100 million crowns worth of unused antique furniture and art were stored. This monumental Moravian castle, begun in the 13th century, offers four different tours. If you are over-dosed on Baroque architecture, this is the perfect antidote.
Visiting glass showrooms and factories is an option if your visit is on a weekday. Two villages just north of Zdar nad Sazavou are recommended. IWAP's glass group loves to visit Jaroslav Svoboda's studio in the village of Karlov. You can book a morning tour if you call ahead. The "seconds" shop is adjacent. Two hundred meters away on highway 37, Mr. Svoboda has built another shop, inauspiciously called "Motorest Galerie," and a good restaurant. The galerie features local crafts as well as Svoboda glass: wood sculptures, beautiful handmade leather purses, baskets, candles, paintings, and drawings. In glass, there are lamps as well as the hundreds of vases, bowls, candlesticks, and animals that he is known for.
If you have not spent your entire stash in that shop, the Beranek factory and seconds shop beckon in the very next village, Skrdlovice. The shop is always packed with goodies, and weekday tours are also possible. The "Olda Glass" atelier is in Skrdlovice at No. 191. Barely three visitors can squeeze into the former garage where the artists blow and shape animals and old-style delicate green-tinted glass vases and small drinking glasses.
In Zdar itself are several places worth an afternoon's exploration: The UNESCO site "Zelena Hora" or Green Hill features the unusual Pilgrimage Church of St John of Nepomuk. At the painstakingly restored chateau, restituted to a branch of the Kinsky family, is a museum describing the entire history of books and printing, including displays of printing presses and very old rare books. It is a surprising and fascinating branch of the National Museum. The old chapel at the chateau has been deconsecrated and made into a cafe, perfect for an afternoon break.
If you are going to see all these wonders, and fit in some cycling, hiking, a summer swim, or stargazing, you'll need to book a week or long weekend. A pension or a hotel are options, but the most relaxing choice is a cottage. Most Czechs you see leaving your neighborhood on Friday are going to the old "chalupa" they inherited from grandma or bought 30 or 40 years ago and have been restoring ever since. But unlike your Czech neighbors, instead of going every weekend to work on you own chalupa, year after year for 40 years, you can simply rent one. Many are booked well ahead for the July-August vacation season, but June is often available. So act now: the early bird gets the late worm in this earthly paradise.
For detailed on line information about sights, accommodations, restaurants, and activities in the Zdar Hills, including photos, maps, and directions to get there see: