“Climats” in Burgundy present a cultural landscape, a 2015 UNESCO world heritage site
Note: After my third visit to the wine region of Burgundy in France, I consider it to be my annual summer writer’s retreat amidst vineyards, exceptional gastronomy and the “Climats.”
By Emma Palova
Fixin, FR- On an early Sunday morning, I woke up to the ringing of the church bells and a local gentleman shouting at his dog, a lot louder than the dog’s barking.
From my studio, I heard the cars rolling down the narrow Rue Magnien that leads into the tiny wine village of Fixin. The walls around the estates magnify the sounds and funnel them into endless echoes.
But, just before the light broke, I could hear the chirping of the birds in the mulberry tree. The mulberry tree is the only tree that grows between the bricks in the small courtyard in front of the house.
The stone house rises three stories with “lucarnes” or windows in the roof. Sources tell me that the house was a brasserie, before getting divided. After the division, the house lost the right wing, but none of its Burgundian charm or massiveness.
Surprisingly, the house does not have an adjacent vineyard behind it. New or old vineyards in Burgundy are hard to come by, according to my daughter Dr. Emma Palova-Chavent. However, a dream to get a vineyard sometime in the future may become a reality, knowing my daughter.
The journey from the corn and soy bean fields of Michigan, USA to the vineyards of Burgundy is about 4,000 miles long across the Atlantic Ocean. After an endless flight to Paris, we took a reasonable Uber ride for 45 euros to the Gare Percy train station near the famous Lyon Station, one of seven train stations in Paris.
I have a great affinity to train travel that originates in my homeland in Czech Republic.
The local train took us swiftly into Dijon, the capital city of Burgundy, a principal wine-producing area. Travelling by train in France is a great alternative to the automobile due to the efficiency of the entire transit network.
Fixin sits on the Grands Crus Route which winds from the northernmost Chenove to Remigny in the south for a total of 57.8 kilometers.
You can ride it, bike it or walk it for a unique experience of a lifetime. Whichever you choose to do, there are accommodating facilities along the way like Hotel les Grands Crus in Gevrey-Chambertin sitting directly on the wine trail.
The “Balades en Bourgogne” app offers e-guided tours highlighting off the trail locations with châteaux, churches and wineries.
I’ve experienced the magic of this wine route during my three distinct visits to Burgundy. In 2009 with a base in Nuits-Saint-Georges, then in 2013 in Dijon and now I stay in Fixin in the north part of the Grands Crus Route.
The vineyards in the heat of the day are just as peaceful as they were a century ago when the monks established them. Perfect rows of wines in small plots that hug the slopes, are sometimes divided by stone walls, stone arches or by stone shelters known as “cabottes.” An occasional walnut tree oasis with a bench serves as an observation platform.
The UNESCO has recognized this complex magic in designating the vineyards of Burgundy as the “Climats,” a world heritage site in 2015 to be preserved for all mankind.
This small plot viticulture of vineyards that are terrain based create an impressive mosaic of more than 1,000 Climats lined up from Dijon to the Maranges.
“In Burgundy, when we speak about a Climat, we don’t look to the sky, we keep our eyes to the ground,” said Bernard Pivot, writer and president of the support committee for the Climats.
As I walk the winding path through the Climats, in the distance a church steeple in Couchey shimmers with yellow and blue tiles. Only the bell tolls the time. The time has stopped here in the vineyards and the watch seems unnecessary.
I bend down to pick a bluish purple small grape, the Pinot noir grape variety of the region of Burgundy deeply embedded in the red soil. As the sweet juices touch the palate, I realize that thousands of years of hard work have gone into this one grape to bring it to perfection.
And that this second is the same as it was one thousand years ago when the monks established the vineyards.
The monks, the Valois Dukes of Burgundy, the wine merchants and wine growers, have all carried the wine tradition over the centuries.
On the horizon to the left, I see the magnificent seat of Dijon nestling in a valley with all its museums, archaeological abbey, the Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy and the gourmet restaurants.
Walking from one wine village to the next, is like being born again with a new view on the world.
During my different stays in Burgundy, I noticed that some little things have changed, while the most remain the same. It’s that same stability that we constantly seek around us, no matter where we are.
Among the changes are: more bilingual tourist stations and chambers in the villages, greater use of the wine trails via bike tours, walking and hiking.
However, the steady constant vibrates in the romantic wine villages with stone architecture, in the gastronomy and in the exceptional Crus wines.
The Climats have given us the high quality wines sought after around the world. These include: Montrachet, Romanee-Conti, Clos de Vougeout, Corton, Musigny, Chevalier-Montrachet, Chambertin and more.
Unique and fragile, the Climats, vineyards of Burgundy, are our heritage, one that must be protected and passed on. Their inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List as a “cultural landscape” is part of this objective. This is a commitment that has been undertaken, and witnessed by the community of nations, to respect and to preserve the “Outstanding Universal Value” of the Climats, as “combined works of nature and man.”
[Article 1, paragraph 3 of the Convention of World Heritage]
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Lowell, MI- As our time together with Ella winds down, I write this with deep sadness in my heart.
Today is Ella’s last day at the Early Fives summer program at St. Patrick’s School in Parnell. I went into my husband Ludek’s experiment with butterflies in my stomach.
“Ella will stay with us this summer and you will fly back with her to France,” Ludek said back in May.
Ella Chavent with Ludek Pala on the Showboat during the Sizzlin’ Summer concert series in Lowell.
“Wow, slow down I got to work,” I said surprised.
Ella will be going to the first grade in the wine village of Fixin in Burgundy, France after the summer break in the USA. In six years, we’ve seen her six times, when she came for brief visits with her mother Emma.
“That’s the price you pay for immigration,” I said to Ludek and my friends.
And that’s when Ludek came up with the idea of having Ella here to capture the time gone by over the years, as she was growing up.
It wasn’t just the ocean of time that separated us. It was all the little things that we missed. All the firsts that had gone by: the first steps, first words, first hugs, first laughs and first tears.
I’ve never imagined that I could miss someone else’s tears or laughs.
But, the reality is different.
“I will miss your laugh,” said former publisher Val at the Ionia Sentinel-Standard when I left the paper for good in 1993.
Ella Chavent in front of St. Pat’s school in Parnell.
“How about her work,” snapped the editor also Val.
Ella has grown from the toddler that we took with us to the beach in South Haven back in 2011 to a smart and sassy girl with an artsy flair.
“Why do you get angry,” I asked her the other day in the car on the way back from school as the Queen rocked & rolled to full blast.
“Because sometimes you annoy me,” Ella said pouting.
“Really, so no more crepes or ice cream for you,” I said.
We missed all the sorries, too.
“Sorry, grandpa,” Ella apologized after refusing to follow another one of Ludek’s orders.
However, time apart brings along appreciation, deeper love and understanding.
“I miss my mommy,” Ella cried one afternoon after school as she hugged Emma’s graduation picture hanging in the living room next to Mona Lisa.
Ella’s time in America.
Ella Chavent with one of the teachers at St. Pat’s.
“I am sure she misses you too,” I said.
“I want to be with her,” Ella continued.
“You will eventually,” I said trying to comfort her.
But, Ella was inconsolable. The persistent little girls cried hours into the night.
“Alright, you’re flying back with her to France tomorrow,” I said to Ludek.
The next day was a brand new day.
“Will I see my friends today?” Ella asked on our way to school with Queen blasting in the background. “Tell me one of your stories.”
And I started telling her the story of Scheherazade and the mean king, and the story of the guy with the expensive McLaren automobile who ran a red stop sign.
“Tell me the story about the bracelet and Jake’s wedding ring,” Ella demanded more storytelling.
Ella loves the music of Queen after a Picnic Pops concert at Cannonsburg in July.
“I am like Freddie Mercury, I want it all,” she laughs as we go back home.
Throughout these six weeks, I’ve learned several big lessons. I learned that stories are soothing and healing. I learned that food which reminds you of home is comforting. I learned that the jittery music of Queen can bring on the atmosphere of home. And that the school environment is good for kids.
So, whenever Ella got homesick, I made French crepes and opened a jar of “cornichons.” We call them dills, here in America.
And I spent a perfect day with Ella doing the “Back to School Shopping” rut that was so new to me. Finally, Ella got her ears pierced at the Piercing Pagoda at the mall.
And I told her my endless stories on demand.
I will keep telling them, until I can’t speak or write anymore.
Goodbye, my friend. It was brief, but it was. It really did happen that you were here in America.
I need to assure myself.
Note: Most of my relationship stories appear in the “Greenwich Meridian” (c) memoir, as well as ethnic and travel stories. I hope to finish the memoir for publication my Mother’s Day 2017.
I’ve been increasingly using social media for my research online and for other work with clients like looking for guest speakers. Pinterest is a great research resource for collections of data. Social media continue to fascinate me for their outreach capacity.
The future “Past Online” will place the historical collections together. I feel my passion for history flourishing as it enters the technology sphere.
Note: This is the second part of a story about a former Calvin College history intern Katelyn Bosch. Bosch completed her internship at the Lowell Area Historical Museum and the Fallasburg Historical Society this summer.
Bosch has laid a foundation for future organizing and computerizing of the FHS artifacts dating back to 1839 when John W. Fallass came to the site.
Fallasburg, MI -The internship has strengthened the bond between the two like-minded organizations, FHS and LAHM, while collectively taking part in preserving, and disseminating the knowledge of the local history, according to FHS president Ken Tamke.
Calvin College intern Katelyn Bosch assisted Fallasburg with computerization of artifacts.
It is the hope that the project of cataloguing and digitalizing the FHS artifacts will continue through another internship.
“It’s been wonderful to experience the whole process of accessing the artifacts and to…
Bannister, MI- No matter how long I’ve lived in North America, I still sometimes miss my home country, the Czech Republic.
It’s hard to pin point what exactly am I missing? My whole family, except for daughter Emma Chavent, lives here in Michigan. Although, we don’t have family reunions, we often visit with each other. We all speak the Czech language including our youngest granddaughter Josephine Marie Palova. She was born in Kalamazoo in 2013 to American mother and to son Jake.
So, it isn’t just the language that I miss. Sometimes, I think it’s the food. But, that can’t be right, both my husband Ludek and I can cook any Czech meal. We usually cook Czech food on Sundays.
The perfect Czech Sunday meal are either schnitzels or pork, cabbage and dumplings.
Every August, we go to the Czechoslovak Harvest Festival held in Bannister, MI. ZCBJ Lodge #225 in Bannister organizes the annual event.
We do this to remind ourselves, our kids and grandchildren of our Czech origins. French-born Ella Chavent enjoyed the festival for the first time. She has never seen the traditional Czech and Slovak festive costumes or the dances.
Ella marveled both at the dances and the music. She loved the full Czech fare that consisted of ham, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, dumplings, cabbage, cucumber salad and Czech desserts.
As in most countries, the food and the desserts are the pride of that particular nation. The ZCBJ Bannister lodge volunteers have cooked the delicious spread since 1976. Although somewhat modified, the food carries the Czech staples of dumplings, cabbage and cucumber salad.
The dance troop celebrated 40th anniversary under the leadership of Diane and Tom Bradley. Another group played the accordions, a common instrument for the Polka music.
Every year, I am flabbergasted by the dedication of the organizers to the Czech culture. Although, they are of Czech origin, most of them have never visited Czech or Slovak republics. Their meticulous research has brought them closer to the country located in the heart of Europe, thousands of miles away from the American shore.
The dedication also shows in the compiled recipes in the Czech anniversary cookbooks. Most recipes are in memory of loved ones.
A Polka brass band accompanies the mass at the Cyril & Methodius Catholic Church. The dance troop also dances polka and other Czech dances.
What makes the Czechoslovak Harvest Festival even more special is the fact that such events are dying out in the old country as the older generation passes on.
“Lodge Michigan #225 has been fortunate to have members who willingly give of themselves, who live not in the past, but rather use the past to build for the future,” the festival program reads.
“Vitejte holka na Dozinky,” Tom Bradley greeted Ella in Czech.
I used to worry about the future of this Czech event that annually takes place in the middle nowhere, not close to Lansing and not close to Grand Rapids.
Since yesterday, I don’t worry anymore. I saw young blood everywhere; from the dancers to the accordion players. Among the visitors were a lot of young people, who probably have never seen anything like the traditional costumed dances.
The event closes with a dance for the public inside the ZCBJ Lodge. The lodge itself is a feast for the eyes. It has a traditional stage for the Polka band. Paintings from Czech history decorate the walls of the 1916 hall.
Thanks to all the volunteers for keeping the Czech tradition in Midwest alive.
The next Czechoslovak Harvest Festival in Bannister will be held on Aug. 6th, 2017.
This is the first post in a series about family relationships that have inspired me to write the memoir “Greenwich Meridian where East meets West” (c)
Some time ago, I wrote the post “Two sisters still at war” about the friction between my mother Ella and her sister Anna aka Anyna. The derogatory version of the beautiful name refers to the relationship between the two aging sisters. Notice that the word Anyna is missing on the greeting card for Anna’s Day.
Anton Chekhov’s “Three Sisters” and Leo Nikolayevich Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina” kindled my inquisitive mind to further explore relationships and psychology.
Watch as I pick up on the tension between the two sisters. Check out the post at the following link:
Lowell, MI- As I was checking Facebook for messages, I came across a greeting card for Anna from the group Czechoslovak Friends on Facebook. The greeting card wished well to all the girls and women who carry this beautiful name.
Our family celebrated Anna’s day to honor three great women: Grandmother Anna Drabkova of Vizovice, aunt and godmother Anna Chudarkova of Zlin and paternal aunt Anna Tomankova of Otrokovice.
However, not everyone thought they were great. But, time changes everything.
I spent all the summers with grandma Anna and my grandpa Joseph; first at their old dwelling “chalupa” near the river Lutoninka and later at their ranch no.111 on a hill.
Grandma Anna accompanied me to the first grade at the Vizovice Elementary School in mid 1960s. At the time my parents and brother Vas were in Sudan, Africa. Dad Vaclav Konecny was teaching physics & mathematics at the University of Khartoum.
Wallachian town Vizovice was a paradise during formative years for the future writer. My first memory goes back to Vizovice. I remember chasing after our neighbor farmer Vlada for whatever reason, as I fell on the crushed asphalt path leading to the river Lutoninka and the wheat fields.
Krnovska, Vizovice where the street was the playground.
Vizovice, where old meets new.
Main Square Vizovice with Marian Column.
I hurt my knee. A little trickle of blood came out of the scratched skin. I couldn’t get up and I desperately reached out to Vlada.
“Wait for me, wait for me,” I screamed.
Farmer Vlada kept on walking. I finally got up, turned around and ran back to the “chalupa.”
“Babiiiii, babii, I am hurt,” I whined.
“That’s nothing,” said grandpa Joseph without looking up from the sewing machine that he was just repairing.
“Look here,” I cried pointing at my first wound.
Anna bent down to me and patted me on the head and then on my hurt knee.
“Come on little one,” she soothed me.
Grandma Anna was the youngest of seven children. Some of them died prematurely. She was taking care of her two single brothers, farmers Frank and Joseph. The brothers owned the family field called “Hrabina” close to the famous plum brandy plant “Jelinek.”
The field was a fraction of what they used to own prior to the 1948 socialization of private businesses and farms.
Both grandparents spent endless hours working in the fields after work and on weekends. They worked at the local shoe factory Svedrup. Grandpa Joseph as the lead machine maintenance man.
Anna was a seamstress, who also worked at Svedrup until she got a heart attack.
That day, the family forgot to pick me up from kindergarten.