Into Czech homeland


 Stipa, Brno, Czech Republic, Sept. 24-25

 This is the fourth installment in my travel series from France, Spain and Czech Republic. My trip started on Sept. 3rd  in Lansing, USA. I set out to explore and absorb other new cultures, as well as to follow in the footsteps of my past in my homeland Czech Republic. I decided to venture into the past to support the writing and publication of my memoir “Greenwich Meridian where East meets West.”

In the footsteps of the past

 I am writing this fourth installment from the attic room of my cousin Brona’s house located across the cemetery in Stipa. It is a gloomy cold day out there, more like November. I can see the street now called Lesenska which leads to the popular zoo Lesna.

         As stated in the memoir, we lived in this house when we returned on presidential amnesty back into former Czechoslovakia in 1973. The house belonged to my late grandparents Anezka and Antonin Konecny, both prominent teachers in the community. I come from a big educators’ family. My dad Vaclav Konecny is a retired university professor, and my aunt Martha is a retired math and arts teacher.

         Living in Stipa played a pivotal role in my life. I went to grade school here, I met my husband Ludek here, and I got married at the pilgrimage church of Saint Mary.

         It was in Moravia that I built everlasting relationships starting in kindergarten Vizovice through university in Brno.

         To capture the flavor of all this I wanted to come back. I arrived on a CSD train line called “Velehrad” from Prague on Sept. 19th in the evening at the station in Otrokovice.

Train station  on route Prague Otrokovice
Train station on route Prague Otrokovice

         I had the entire four-hour train ride to think and map out the events of the past, present and the future. Many people in both countries USA and Czech Republic often ask me what hasn’t changed since the communist regime in Czechoslovakia toppled after Velvet Revolution in 1989.

         “You gotta buy a new  ticket,” a stout officer woman hollered at me in the seating section of the train known in Czech as kupe as I frantically searched my purse. “I don’t have time to wait until Otrokovice.”

         We were about three minutes from my final destination in the Moravian town of Otrokovice. I finally found the ticket after shoving it in my purse because a different train officer already had punched the ticket. The woman angrily turned away upset that I found the ticket, and that she couldn’t charge me again.

         Therein lies my answer; people and the entire state train system have not changed. The system is very efficient and on time, but the train cars, the stations and the train people are often not flattering  and chaotic. Nothing like the fast trains TGV in France, although a lot cheaper at 275 Czech crowns for a ticket from Prague to Otrokovice.

Emma 2013 915
Main Square in hometown Zlin.

         Hometown Zlin, formerly Gottwaldov, with population of 80,000 is an industrial and a commercial center. I went to secondary school Gymnasium Zlin here, and later I worked here at a local construction firm.

         The statues of old communist leaders were torn down after the revolution, and new ones replaced them along with architectural gems such as the glass dome Congress Center.

         However, I did recognize old mainstays such as the Big Cinema that was just showing film “Colette,” shopping center Prior and the sports hall. These facilities were all built during communism.

         New for me were cheap shops operated by Vietnamese people conveniently located by the bus stations.

Emma 2013 712
McDonalds European style, a good place to meet

         Since, the names of most places have changed, the only sure way to meet with people who I haven’t seen in decades was ironically at the train and bus stations.

 To be continued…….Abound in Czech Republic

 Copyright © 2013 story and photos by Emma Palova

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One thought on “Into Czech homeland”

  1. Through my school years of travelling from Prague to Zlin I remember the temperature in the train kupes…especially when it was winter, either you turned the heating off and it was freezing or you turned the heating on (just by putting a lever to the right instead of the left) and instantly it was 100 degrees in there. But still it was my favorite way to travel, you could stretch your legs walk around…of course under one condition that it wasn’t the Friday before Christmas break, and you weren’t squeezed standing on a tiny spot in the middle of the hallway.
    Love your talk about Zlin, there is just two more monuments that I think deserve a mention…First the Zlin Bata mrakodrap (the Zlin skyrise) when I was a kid I thought that this building was huge!!! By the way, this skyrise has 21 stories…When I returned to Zlin in the late 90’s after seeing Empire State Building in New York and Sears Tower in Chicago somehow it just didn’t seem that big anymore, but I still think it stands out as a symbol of accomplishement of one of Zlin’s first successful capitalists…
    Zlin’s second monument is Hotel Moskva (Hotel Moscow) supposedly the most prestigious hotel in town. Hard to say where these ratings come from. The architecture is very functionalist, definitely not a place you would chose for its charm. In a way it reminds me of a place in the australian outback, a town called Broken Hill, where we ate dinner in a hotel which must have looked absolutely luxourious about 100 years ago with a dinning room the size of a ballroom, which now looked like something out of a haunted mansion, with only a few tables occupied some by couple locals and some by lost tourists in the middle of nowhere.
    Just as Hotel Moskva, who long lost it’s glory but continues living through nostalgia…one of the rare places that didn’t change names after the velvet revolution.

    Anyway, love your work:-) keep it up

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