Tag Archives: Brno

Lost in Brno- Czech Republic

I am running with this story now that Brno has become the 27th place in the world to visit out of 52 this year, according to New York Times.
I am very proud of this city. It has completely revamped itself from its communist mantra lasting until 1989. It is en par with the great cities of Vienna, Geneva, Prague and Budapest.

The architecture in the downtown area of Svoboda’s Square and the pedestrian zones is Art Nouveau, Empire and Neo-Classical. These styles are visible on the building of Janacek’s Academy of Music in the university district adjacent to the main square.

I was born in Brno, graduated from the Technical University of Brno in 1986 and I visited this gem in 2013. My friends live and work in Brno. I cherish the memories in my heart. Enjoy this city as much as I have.

emmapalova

Lowell, Michigan

I have safely returned home after travelling around several European countries including France, Spain, Czech Republic and Switzerland.

This is the eighth installment in my adventure travel series when I decided to step back into the past to fuel my memoir “Greenwich Meridian, where East meets West.”

Lost in Brno- Czech Republic

I had one entire day on Sept. 25th  to relive it all in post-revolution Brno, while my friend Jane worked her post-revolution work for  an Austrian firm.

“Just follow the tram tracks into town,” she said.

Now, that was easier said than done. Brno was and is a pulsing metropolis that has cleaned itself up, so it is completely en par with Prague, Paris and Geneva. As I got into town, I found myself caught in an entire web of pedestrian zones surrounding a big park; they all seemed to lead onto Jost Boulevard.

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Silver Sunday traditions

Silver Sunday ushers in Christmas

By Emma Palova

EW Emma’s Writings

Silver Sunday is the second Sunday before Christmas that literally makes the Christmas holiday fever rise by several degrees even though it is usually cold outside at this time of the year. It is also the third Sunday of the advent in the catholic religious year.

Outdoor Christmas markets in most European cities on major squares, are in full swing by now, and they will be open until Dec. 23rd & some on Dec. 24th. The rush is on for everything from nuts and poppy seeds for baking purposes, wooden toys and other crafts, apples and dried fruits, ornaments and keepsakes.

Christmas markets in Czech Republic
Christmas markets in Czech Republic. Photo by Adela Kobylikova

It’s also time to get a Christmas tree. Although back in Czech Republic most families decorated their tree on Christmas Eve, here in US our family has adapted to the custom of putting up the tree at least two weeks before the magical day.   Christmas Eve is a magical day, but a lot has been lost in the translation of the feast of Adam&Eve that falls on Dec. 24th in the Czech name day calendar.

In Czech language, that magical day is called “Stedry Den” which translates exactly as Bountiful Day. Families open a bounty of presents in the evening. I will write more about the customs of that day next week as we draw closer to Christmas.

And even though, I miss deeply some of the customs in Czech Republic, I have replaced them with new ones here in USA.

We cut our Christmas tree early and decorate it before Christmas Eve. Last year we took Ella with us to carry on the new tradition.

Ludek & Ella cut the Palova family Christmas tree at Horrocks Nursery
Ludek & Ella cut the Palova family Christmas tree at Horrocks Nursery

I couldn’t remember where the tree farms in the area are, so I looked it up on Google Christmas farms in Ionia County and found Horrocks Nursery Farms just north of the city of Ionia.

This year we don’t have our tree yet and I haven’t baked yet either. But my daughter-in-law Maranda Palova made our traditional nutty baskets with filling. I plan on baking chocolate flutes and chocolate mini Ischel cakes. Some Czech and European recipes come with a history. This one comes from the spa town of Ischel in Austria. The story has it that the Austro-Hungarian emperor Franz Josef used to frequent the bakery that made them in Ischel.

As with many recipes there are many variations of the mini Ischel cakes. My grandma Anna used to love them, so I always made them for her. I like to keep that tradition going.

Czech nutty baskets
Christmas nutty baskets

Now is also time to send and get cards even in the era of the web. Over the 20+ years here on the American continent, I’ve received hundreds of them, but kept only a few.

One of the few precious ones, a definite keepsake, is a card from Brno with a nativity scene and a score to a Christmas carol. One of the most precious cards that I had sent out was made from a photo at the Meijer store in Cascade.

Although I can’t find it now, I remember precisely what was on it. We were picking blueberries as a family on a farm near Ludington in the 90-degree heat. We’re all holding blue pales and shielding our heads from the scorching sun with funny hats. My daughter Emma was wearing a t-shirt with a Polar bear on it.

“Happy holidays,” the card with mistletoe clip art and snowflakes said.

Speaking about passing on traits and such; both my daughter and I have the same sense for juxtaposition.

For more information on Horrocks Christmas Tree farm go to http://www.horrocksnursery.com

To be continued with Golden Sunday

Copyright © 2014 Emma Blogs LLC All rights reserved

Silver Sunday

Silver Sunday escalates Christmas fever

By Emma Palova

Silver Sunday is the second Sunday before Christmas that literally makes the Christmas holiday fever rise by several degrees even though it is usually cold outside at this time of the year. It is also the third Sunday of the advent in the catholic religious year.

Outdoor Christmas markets in most European cities on major squares, are in full swing by now, and they will be open until Dec. 23rd & some on Dec. 24th. The rush is on for everything from nuts and poppy seeds for baking purposes, wooden toys and other crafts, apples and dried fruits, ornaments and keepsakes.

Christmas markets in Czech Republic
Christmas markets in Czech Republic. Photo by Adela Kobylikova

It’s also time to get a Christmas tree. Although back in Czech Republic most families decorated their tree on Christmas Eve, here in US our family has adapted to the custom of putting up the tree at least two weeks before the magical day.   Christmas Eve is a magical day, but a lot has been lost in the translation of the feast of Adam&Eve that falls on Dec. 24th in the Czech name day calendar.

In Czech language, that magical day is called “Stedry Den” which translates exactly as Bountiful Day. Families open a bounty of presents in the evening. I will write more about the customs of that day next week as we draw closer to Christmas.

And even though, I miss deeply some of the customs in Czech Republic, I have replaced them with new ones here in USA.

This year, we totally immersed ourselves into the tradition of cutting our own Christmas tree right after Thanksgiving because three-year old Ella from France was here. We did it many years ago when kids were little at a farm somewhere in Ionia County.

Ludek & Ella cut the Palova family Christmas tree at Horrocks Nursery
Ludek & Ella cut the Palova family Christmas tree at Horrocks Nursery

I couldn’t remember where, so I looked up on Google Christmas farms in Ionia County and found Horrocks Nursery Farms just north of the city of Ionia.

We were in for probably the best tree cutting experience in my entire life.

We waited in the pole barn for a horse-drawn wagon ride by a pair of some 2,000 pound Percheron horses named Clementine & Clodis. It was a crispy sunny Saturday, as we headed out on the tree farm. No snow yet. We found the lot with Scotch pines, and cut a beautiful Palova family Christmas tree. We chatted with a friendly guy who had the shotgun seat on the wagon.

Back, in the barn, we roasted marshmallows and hot dogs in the open fire wood stove as we helped ourselves to cider, hot chocolate and coffee, while Christmas movies and music were playing in the background.

“This is great,” I said to my husband Ludek. “Next year we’ll have Josephine with us too.”

Going back to Christmas customs both here and in Europe, now is also time to send and get cards even in the era of the web. Over the 20+ years here on the American continent, I’ve received hundreds of them, but kept only a few.

One of the few precious ones, a definite keepsake, is a card from Brno with a nativity scene and a score to a Christmas carol. One of the most precious cards that I had sent out was made from a photo at the Meijer store in Cascade.

Although I can’t find it now, I remember precisely what was on it. We were picking blueberries as a family on a farm near Ludington in the 90-degree heat. We’re all holding blue pales and shielding our heads from the scorching sun with funny hats. My daughter Emma was wearing a t-shirt with a Polar bear on it.

“Happy holidays,” the card with mistletoe clip art and snowflakes said.

Speaking about passing on traits and such; both my daughter and I have the same sense for juxtaposition.

To be continued……

Copyright © 2013 story and photo by Emma Palova

Lost in Brno- Czech Republic

Lowell, Michigan

I have safely returned home after travelling around several European countries including France, Spain, Czech Republic and Switzerland.

This is the eighth installment in my adventure travel series when I decided to step back into the past to fuel my memoir “Greenwich Meridian, where East meets West.”

Lost in Brno- Czech Republic

I had one entire day on Sept. 25th  to relive it all in post-revolution Brno, while my friend Jane worked her post-revolution work for  an Austrian firm.

“Just follow the tram tracks into town,” she said.

Now, that was easier said than done. Brno was and is a pulsing metropolis that has cleaned itself up, so it is completely en par with Prague, Paris and Geneva. As I got into town, I found myself caught in an entire web of pedestrian zones surrounding a big park; they all seemed to lead onto Jost Boulevard.

I never heard of Jost Boulevard, and I didn’t recognize any of the huge buildings that graced it. When I  asked my friend Jane about the name of the boulevard, she said it used to be Boulevard of the Freedom Defenders. I still find that fascinating the resemblance of what Alexander Dumas once wrote in reference to the French Revolution.

“The difference between patriotism and treason is only in the dates.”

Important landmark in Brno Petrov.
Important landmark in Brno Petrov.

One of Brno’s famous fashionable promenade aka corzo is Czech Street where high-end stores are located as well a high-end restaurants. I stopped at Stopkova Pivnice for classical Czech fare, that is pork, sauerkraut and dumplings. The dish is still reasonably priced compared to the other European countries that I have visited.

Just to make sure that we could find each other, Jane and I had a rendezvous at  Mc Donald’s on Svoboda’s Square. Not only did the name of that square didn’t change, it still, after all these years, served as a podium for politicians.

Socialist successes- apartment mega complexes that surround Brno.
Socialist successes apartment mega complexes that surround Brno.

As I approached the square, there were police vehicles everywhere. I paused to look what was happening. Czech president Milos Zeman was giving a speech. I remember standing in similar places during the week that led up to Velvet Revolution in 1989.

Czech Republic now is part of the European Union. The country has chosen not to have the Euro currency, but accepts Euro money for historical and cultural preservation projects such as the one we visited in Brno, that is Castle Spilberg.

I marveled at the beautiful vistas from the castle. It was a perfect bird’s eye view on a beautiful sunny evening.

Jane and I looked at each other as we took in the “Great successes of socialism,” the  apartment mega complexes at a distance that give living space to 50,000 people each. Brno is surrounded by them. They stand as quiet sentinels to socialist policies under which all people were entitled to work and housing.

Retro pub "U Jenika" with old beer taps.
Retro pub “U Jenika” with old beer taps.

That night, as we met up with our foreign student friend, Ismael, we raised the half-liter mugs of excellent Czech beer, that hasn’t changed its quality. We were in a retro pub “U Jenika” with old taps for beer, that was fully packed to the rafters with a band. We ordered some strong cheese called “tvaruzky” on bread with butter.

“To all the socialist successes, and we’re part of them,” we laughed.

Yes, we have lived the socialist dream that never quite fully materialized.

Copyright © 2013 story and photos by Emma Palova

Czech Rep. Brno-where it all started

Dijon, FR- Oct. 5

This is the seventh installment in my travel adventures series from France, Czech Republic, Spain and Switzerland. I started my trip out of Lansing, MI on Sept. 3rd to explore new cultures, and to venture into the past to Czech Republic.

My memoir “Greenwich Meridian” tracks our family immigration saga that now spans three generations.

Czech Republic, Brno, where it all started Sept. 24, 25, 26

On a chilly September night I got off the yellow StudentAgency bus in front of the Grand Hotel in Brno. I had my graduation party here in 1986 after completing my studies at the Technical University.

I realized that this was my first visit in almost three decades to the intellectual capital of Moravia.

Our immigration saga started right here in this University City. My dad professor Vaclav Konecny after graduating from Masaryk University with a degree in physics taught at the university and at the Technical Institute. My parents lived in an old apartment near the children’s hospital. Dad had to haul coal upstairs to heat the apartment.

“Your brother cried and cried, so we got yelled at by the landlord,” said mom.

At the same time, Africa gained independence from the British government, and was ready to start a path of its own.

Masaryk's University in Brno.
Masaryk’s University in Brno.

Dad was recruited by African university officials to teach math at the University of Khartoum, better known as Harvard of Africa in 1964. He spoke fluent English, and had the desire to move ahead with his career, as well as to make decent money for a new apartment.

“I was ready for this,” he said.

Dad most certainly did move ahead when he decided not to return back to Czechoslovakia after the Soviet invasion of tanks known as Prague Spring in 1968.

“We had a consensus with colleagues that we’re not going back,” he said.

This all went through my head, as I stood in front of the Masaryk’s University that regained its name back following the Velvet Revolution in 1989.

I spent stormy four years in Brno as a student mother, a wife and a daughter of expatriated parents.

I met my best lifelong friend Eva from Kromeriz here on a train to the mandatory hops brigade. I made tons of new friends, like the one I was just going to meet after all these years, Jane. At the school, we were a strange mix of slick Brno residents, and us the so-called outsiders. As outsiders, we commuted every week to Brno, and lived at the dorms. We got along well, and complimented each other in many aspects.

Bird's eye view of Brno from Spilberg Castle.
Bird’s eye view of Brno from Spilberg Castle.

Even though the Brno city slicker students knew everything, and knew where everything was, we had our so-called country wisdom. That country wisdom and broader knowledge from the secondary gymnasium guided us through many disasters. We even had a foreign student from Afghanistan, Ismael, who could hardly speak Czech, but made it through the four-year university drill.

The drill consisted of calculus, concrete and steel constructions, architectural drafting. For me, a spirited literary soul, the technical stuff was overwhelming. But, the technical studies were the only way for me to attain a university degree, after our faux pas of returning home for the presidential amnesty in 1973. The communist government punished us by not to letting my dad teach again, and I couldn’t study any humanities. Ironically, the technical studies became my vehicle out.

To be continued……Lost in Brno 

Copyright © 2013 story and photos by Emma Palova