Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Brno: killed by kindness

After an hour of watching my samples rinse and listening to 'Man being strangled', 'woman screaming', and 'chopping' sounds from my Halloween Tunes (my mom blasts this creepy music on her porch on Halloween night, and she wonders why she gets so few trick-or-treaters...) I have decided to continue on with the trip-I'm almost done!!!

After our fabulous tour of Prague, we headed to Brno.

Back on the road, I was driving once again (amidst all sorts of complaints from those who did not offer to drive in the back seat). Fortunately, Brno was only a quick hour and a half drive from Prague.
We arrived at Brno and stopped off at a fabulous mall. Following ice cream at O's fav shop, we took a walking tour of down town Brno, which was charming in the European way, passed like 20 H&Ms (Europeans have all the shopping luck), saw the Brno Beach (pics may be the most helpful here), and had lunch at O's fav place ever (which turned out not to be my fav svikova ever and as I had eaten it already at least 5 times that week, I consider myself something of an authority)
My mom and I did a little crystal shopping. Regrettably we turned away from the chandeliers-I could not figure out how they would fit in our backpacks, and we bought crystal pitchers instead. L told us she was never going to get married and would consequently have no need of dishes-two odd statements actually.

Please notice Brno's beach behind us

Here is a close-up, yes, there are people sitting in the middle of the town square in their swim suits, it was bizarre, however I have to respect anyone confident enough to be there.

O and I walked the parentals and L back to the car (always relieved when we see the car-recall our situation in Stratford...) and we sent them-very nervously, on their own merry way (I was extremely relieved to hear they made it to their hotel, found a place to park, and turned in the car the next day!!)

By the restaurant

I'll admit I was pretty sad to see them go, we had such a good thing going. To cheer us up, O and I went shopping! We walked through some fab stores all afternoon, then ran into O's friend at the train station (his friend from SLC who randomly haunts Brno, I swear, I'm going to have to go to the moon to vacation in a place where O doesn't know anyone-except guarantee he'll find his cousin is the Dominos worker there!) It was actually a delight to see a familiar face. We found out about an activity at the church and headed over there.
The church activity was fun. I met several of O's good friends and sat in on a missionary discussion.
That evening we headed to Karl's.

Welcome to Tichnov!
I took this pic of Tichnov from the top of a tower-you'll hear about that below...

Tichnov is a little town 20 min outside of Brno. Karl and Hannah met us at the train station at 10:30 pm, wearing American flag T shirts and waving little American flags and shouting wildly. Racing around the tiny town they honked at friends and even pulled over and jumped out to see a parent of one of the exchange students, I was sort of buzzing with all this excitement going on and my lack of sleep but suffice it to say, these two were more festive hosts than I had ever envisioned! Karl is one of the principals O worked with for his student exchange project and has become a great friend.

Lets just say if kindness could kill, I would not be here right now. Our hostess had made baklava....with raisins (which I do not believe to be edible). As soon as we entered they sat us down and dished us up rather hearty portions (the secret about America's portion control problem is out). I shoved the dessert around on my plate but could not figure out what to do. Normally, whenever hosts/hostesses turn their backs, I hurry and shove stuff onto O's plate (he has been a missionary, he knows how to eat anything!) But these people, they never turned around! Finally, I started gulping it down, not even chewing, just put it in, swallow. Hannah was watching me in the oddest way. I won't even get started on the herbal tea issues-lets just say the whole next morning I had to linger in the room pretending to get ready in order to avoid it. There is just something about hot water, with a hint of fruity flavoring, that does not do it for me.

After skipping tea the next morning, we headed out to explore.
We stopped at Martin's (our host's son-in-law) to try out the electric bikes he sells. They were fantastic! I am dying to get one and show up at Dad's next bike race. imagine me breezing past him (though the shock might give him a heart attack).

Here is O at his old apartment! I was amazed he could find it. It was fun to walk up there and see where so many of his adventures took place. We saw an old lady on her balcony that said she remembered the missionaries living there :)

After stopping off at O's place we headed to visit the town cathedral, which was lovely

Next we stopped in at the Brno museum. This seemed cool, until I realized that there was absolutely NO ENGLISH-which made this my fastest museum trip ever. O of course meandered along and took FOREVER. There were models of villages showing how Brno developed, as well as bones buried in dirt (I am crazily interested in mummies and such so whenever these came around I would ask O to translate, only he was so lost in thought that it took much too long and I ended up having to huff off on my own). From what I could gather (which was not really anything) Brno was settled before the iron/bronze age by people from Mongolia. Here O and I had a rather heated discussion when I told him that people should not have agreed to be serfs and should have demanded equal rights.  He did not manage to convince me otherwise :)

Initially I entered the museum because the pamphlet said there was a woolly mammoth there. I was completely amazed and excited-I have obviously never seen one!  (I don't even think the Field Museum has one of those!) I thought that for sure seeing a woolly mammoth would be one of the most memorable experiences of my life. Well, it turns out, it was not in there, it is in some other building in Brno (though why they have one at all is beyond me). I was disappointed to say the least but I did add a new goal to my bucket list-see a woolly mammoth with the fur still on (one that has been frozen in ice). I think my best bet is Siberia (while I'm there I'll look at the fancy pet foxes they featured in National Geographic last year)

After the museum we set out for the fortress
The fortress of Brno: Brno's claim to fame. As I mentioned above, Brno did not fall to the Swashbuckling Swedes (the same marauding armies that stole all of the statues in Prague, very strange, somehow I missed that history unit...). The Swedes were stopped at the amazing fortress by some serious ingenuity. Spies heard that the army would retreat at noon the following day if they had not taken the fortress. Those on the inside were hard pressed to keep it together and came up with the brilliant idea to ring the bells twelve times, at 11:00 am. Well, the army heard the bells chime twelve times and retreat they did. So much for army intelligence. To this day, at 11:00, the bells toll twelve times.

The fortress is on the hill in the background. Imagine this-me walking from my current spot all the way up there, on the first warm (actually blazing hot) day of the trip!

 The fortress was worth the hike. It was straight out of Merlin! (which I am still into)
After serving in the honest position of fortress, the compound was converted  (by those Hapsburgs) into a palace and later a prison (I think it may have been a monastery at one point as well). One of the Joseph Hapsburgs sent political prisoners there and they were tortured and endured all sorts of horrendous horrors.
O and I took a tour of the compound. When we were buying out tickets we faced several options. We opted for the tour of the prisons, the fortress foundations, and the torture rooms (only the torture rooms turned out to be some sort of firework display-just pictures of fireworks that is. There was a little mistranslation via O, but I cannot be too harsh, I don't suppose he often talks about torture devices in Czech)

After touring the Brno Fortress we stopped off at a hospital to visit with the mother of one of O's friends-she was staying there for cancer treatment. Here we were killed with kindess once again, and by an invalid no less! She insisted on buying us desserts and drinks. The drink was a flavored sparkling water (the Earl would have been in heaven) but it was not refridgerated! Have you ever had warm Sprite?!?!?! (I cannot figure out what Europe's aversion to ice is!). O and the couple (her husband brought us) spoke Czech while I downed about 12 glasses of liquid pixie sticks and worried if the lady's robe at the next table was going to fall off completely. After a bit O started translating and Idid get involved. The woman was just darling and I was so glad to hear that she has been doing very well with the treatments.
After visiting for a bit we headed off to our next engagement.

Pizza and Principals:
O had planned a pizza party with several students from the student exchange program he organized. We also had the two principals and their wives-including our host Karl, and Karl's daughter and husband. The husband of the woman in the hospital (their son was in the student exchange program) also came by, though his kids were out of town. In the end, it was a random group but turned out to be a total party.

We started out awkwardly sitting around, wondering where everyone was-only two students showed up. We finally accepted that this was the group and started eating. The watermelon had seeds which turned out to be puzzling. People kept eating it, but I could not see what they were doing with their seeds. Eventually I realized, they were full on eating the seeds. I tried to pick peices that had no seeds but often times I would get a piece on my sticker fork, see tons of seeds, and be forced to put them into my mouth, chew them up, and swallow!

The party really started when the elementary school principal and his wife (who is the principal of another school) came rolling in. He is wearing a tank top, baggy shorts, and plenty of bling. He gave O a "baseball" (using the term extremely loosely) hat that said Represent the Love in the most Gangsta font imaginable and asked where the chain smokers should sit. Then the high school principal, not to be outdone, puts on his captains hat (he was already wearing hot pants) and starts telling all sorts of hilarious jokes (which I could not understand but everyone was laughing uproariously so I suspect that is what was going on). I just though, what are parents thinking when they drop their children off to these wild headmasters?? I was particularly interested to hear about the enrollment in the wife's school-she is soooooo ultra conservative/reputable-looking!! (of course I then recalled how they spontaneously decided to get married on their last trip to Utah, which was likely a big shock to their children back home, and realized she must have a wild side as well). O says the kids just love them and I don't doubt that, they were tons of fun!
here is a photo of the group:

We awoke to a great breakfast prepared by Hanna. They jokingly said something about the svikova being venison. Ya, that was the last bite of that. After the mystery meat, we raced to a bell tower that their son-in-law maintains. We climbed all the way up-lets just say, I'm pretty sure no one but Martin has been in there for the past 500 years! Yes, it could not have been safe. The fire marshal would have a fit if he saw the state of the stairs. Well, they opened the door and I saw...spider webs everywhere. I thought, I'm going to be killed! But here we go again, they were being all nice, arranging this especially for me.... so I just charged in. I started bounding up the stairs, practically spanking poor Martin who was leading the way. By the top I was panting but I made it up without seeing any spiders. You should have seen me on my way down. I thought, I'm going to take a tumble and break my legs, in several places. But, that did not slow me down. I literally flew out of that place. O secretly whispered later "I saw some spider webs in there and I was nervous you would notice them." He thought I did not notice them?!?!? I am not entirely blind!! Even a blind person could have felt the creepy spider filled silence of the place.
The view from the top was nice-see my pic above :)  I noticed everyone had these little greenhouse things. When I asked about it, it turned out they are actually little swimming pools-I have never seen anything quite like them.

From there we hopped over to the train station. Our whirlwind visit of Brno was over and we were off to Bratislava!

1 comment:

Kristy said...

What a great adventure. I am so sorry we missed it, but we did get to hear (finally) a wonderful musical group in Vienna. Wow, their school officials are crazy; I did read that people in the Czech Republic drink more than any other Europeans. That might explain their lack of concern over immature school administrators. The spider tower sounds petrifying. I'm glad you made it out safely.