|Bright and early on Friday morning, Cat, Bari, KK, and I hopped on a train with Maria to visit her home in Moravia. The Czech Republic is split into 2 regions: Bohemia and Moravia. The distinct differences between the two are that Bohemia is the Western half of the country and is known for its beer, compared to Moravia which is the eastern part of the county and known for its wine. Prague is the capital of Bohemia. Brno is the capital of Moravia.
Anyway, Maria's town, Vizovice, is a 6 hour train ride away. It is nearly on the border of Slokavia which is appropriate because her family is actually from Slovakia. (Historical side note: there no longer exists a country "Czechoslovakia" as many people still think. On January 1, 1993 the two countries split into independent nations in what is known as the "velvet divorce." What exists now is the Czech Republic and Slovakia.) Once the train arrived in Luhachovice, a famous spa town, we then had to take a bus through the woods and hills and snow to her town. From there we had to walk 2 miles up the hill, in the snow, with no shoes...haha ok so I am exaggerating! But I think you understand that it is pretty far out there!
Upon arriving to Maria's small wooden cottage we were greeted by her loving pup Ricky. Maria's family is lovely. Her dad is a Forrest ranger, her mom stays at home, and her sister is 17 years old and a sophomore in high school (very typical for students to start school later here). Their house is lovely inside: 2 bedrooms, living room, kitchen, and 1 bathroom. Very modern inside, warm, and cozy.
We had an amazing homemade lunch of cabbage soup, potatoes that you dip in sour cream, and this delicious Czech version of apple pie. Now I will explain about Slivovice. Slivovice is the Czech equivalent of water (I am hardly kidding!). It is actually a plum brandy that you drink to stay warm. But you are offered a shot nearly everywhere you go and it is an insult not to drink it! Therefore....we had our shots of slivovice and were off to the Christmas market.
Tonight they were celebrating the lighting of the Christmas tree. Therefore this was the one day that they had this huge festival with booths selling toys and ornaments and yummy homemade baked goods. The longest lines are always for the hot wine or grog. The idea of hot wine always seemed silly to me....until tonight! It is so DARN COLD here that you will do anything to stay warm. So since Moravians are known for their wine, they just figure, why not kill two birds with one stone; get drunk and stay warm!
The tree was lit at 5pm followed by firewords display that I think my cousins Ryan and Taylor (who I believe are the greatest living experts on fireworks displays) probably could have orchestrated. Nonetheless, it was still fun and put me right in the Christmas spirit.
To warm up, we went over to Maria's friend Eva's house. All of the children in the Czech Republic live with their parents until they get married. Therefore Eva, 23, and her brother David, 27, live at home with their parents when they are not at school or work. We sat around in the living room as Eva's parents brought tons and tons of food for us. Cheeses, meats, tomatoes, bread, fruits, and of course....many shots of slivovice. What was a little get together turned into a mini concert. Eva sings, plays the recorder and the tamborine, David sings and plays the guitar, and Maria plays the violin. So we sat around the entire night singing Beatle's songs among other random American classics that the three knew by heart.
Coming home to Maria's house, we were greeted with a salad for dinner. Salad here is very different. It is almost like coleslaw but better and hardier. We set up camp in Maria's room and fell fast asleep (even though my allegies were aggervating me). :(
The next morning we woke up to a traditional Slovakian breakfast of peppers and sausage. We also had homemade tea. When I say homemade, I really mean HOMEMADE! Maria's parents actually picked the flowers in the forrest and although her parents do not speak one word of English, her father managed to pull a book from the shelf and show me the type of flower it was that we were drinking.
Today we went to another town that was celebrating St. Nicholas Day. This is to celebrate the day that St. Nicholas came down from heaven on a rope with an angel and a devil. This translates into a day where all the little kids dress up as either angels or devils and they all come together in the town to celebrate, eat, drink, and buy gifts for the holidays.
More little booths and homemade crafts to explore. We bought one of our favorite dishes, a pear and plum pie/cake thing that is delicious. Walking through the market you hit a row of houses that have been opened up to the public. They are all VERY old and VERY tiny. But lord you can cram a lot of people into them! You walk in and are immediately greeted by food, music, and of course....more slivovice! You just walk in and out of all of these houses and visit with all of your friends.
We made some friends along the way that were fascinated by us being American. I found the people in Moravia very friendly and more laid back (maybe it was just all the slivovice! haha). Perhaps it is just that Praggers have the typical "city mentality" but the people here just seem very content and happy with life. Happy to share and learn and be merry.
We drove back to Maria's house and had yes...another homemade Slovakian dish called halushki. Basically it is cottage cheese warmed and mixed with potatoes. We also had cabbage mixed with ham and onion and garlic. All was interesting and very yummy.
KK and I caught the train back to Prague. The others stayed around town for another night but I wanted to come back to Prague and catch up on my work and my sleep! I am so glad that I went though. There is nothing quite as authentic as this experience which was eye opening, enjoyable, and relaxing.