Tag Archives: Moravia

Abound in Czech Republic

Dijon, FR- Sept. 29

 This is the fifth installment in my travel adventure series that covers three European countries including France, Spain and Czech Republic. I  followed  the footsteps of my past into Czech homeland as I visited places, friends and relatives that have had impact on our family immigration. I am currently working on my memoir “Greenwich Meridian” about the three-generation saga.


Zlin, Moravia- Sept.16th through Sept.24th

 The names of many places, buildings and universities have changed since the fall of communism in 1989. So, as a rule, we had to meet with old friends and relatives best at train stations, because tracks haven’t moved or at bus stations.

In some cases, we even had to set up clues, marks and signs to recognize each other. Some of us had dyed, cut our hair or just plain have grown old and gray.

I easily recognized my friend Liba Hlavenka from Canada whom I haven’t seen in more than two decades in spite of the fact that we live in two neighboring countries.

“You live next to each other,” relatives asked, “That’s crazy you’re going to meet her here.”

Emma Palova with longtime friend Liba Hlavenka in front of train station Zlin.
Emma Palova with longtime friend Liba Hlavenka in front of train station Zlin.

Well, the distance between Montreal, where Liba lives, and Grand Rapids, where I live, is around 1,000 miles. It was a pure coincidence that we both happened to be in Zlin, Czech Republic, at the same time and in the same year. I wasn’t that lucky with my other classmates who too have immigrated; one also to Canada, the other to Sweden.

The other factor that plays a big role in brief rendezvous in the old country is that we all usually come back only for social occasions. That is most often for funerals, graduations, and rarely for weddings or school reunions. There just never seems to be enough time, money or energy.

I missed all the reunions from the elementary school in Stipa, from the secondary school in Zlin, and finally from the university in Brno. It wasn’t by my own choice. Thanks to modern technology, we could use Skype to communicate during our last elementary school reunion in 2011. However, it is not quite the same thing, as seeing your classmates in their true flesh and blood.

I always say that’s the price we pay for leaving the country where we were born, raised and went to school. We have left behind our living and dead relatives, a different culture and a way of life. Our family ancestors are buried at the local cemeteries, and usually we only get to see the inscription on their headstones.

I tried to recapture all that I have missed over the decades in a flurry of six days visiting the communities of my past: Zlin, Stipa, Vizovice, Kromeriz and Brno.

Kromeriz, UNESCO World Heritage Center.
Kromeriz, UNESCO World Heritage Center.

I met up with my longtime university friend Eva Petrikova-Laurencikova in the beautiful city of Kromeriz on a rainy Saturday. All of my friendships have survived the revolution, the European Union, changes both in politics and economics, changes in careers and partners, as well as the distance across the Atlantic Ocean.

“Do you remember how we used to eat beer cheese in a cup with onions?” Eva asked.

I could not remember the beer cheese, but I did remember the smoked pork knee we used to order in cheap student joints that smelled of beer in Brno.

Here we were, 27 years after graduation; Eva with her two grown children, Emma and John, and me feasting on a smoked pork knee at Velky Orel (Big Eagle) restaurant located on the main Big Square in Kromeriz. Each friend that I managed to see again, wanted to showcase something from the towns where we used to hang out.

“They brew their own beer here,” Eva said.

A lot of the pubs in Czech Republic have jumped on the bandwagon of the microbrewery trend crafting their own spectrum of beers.

Inside Big Eagle restaurant, microbrewery.
Inside Big Eagle restaurant, microbrewery.

We walked the cobblestone streets and squares in Kromeriz that has been designated as the UNESCO World Heritage Center protected for its historical value. Eva showed me the catholic school, where she teaches math. Interestingly enough, each one of us ended up doing something totally different than what we studied, that is construction engineering.

“Since I’ve overseen the construction of our summer house in Velke Losiny, I might go back into engineering,” Eva laughed. “You have to come and write from there. Losiny is a beautiful town with thermal springs close by.”

Flower Garden, part of the Archbishp's Palace complex in Kromeriz.
Flower Garden, part of the Archbishop’s Palace complex in Kromeriz.

We also toured the main grounds of the Archbishop Palace where some scenes from the film “Amadeus” and “Immortal Beloved” were shot. The Archbishop’s Palace boasts a unique arts collection including the prized painting by Venetian master Tiziano Vecelli. I remember when we wanted to go and audition for extras in the movie with my grandpa Joseph for 100 Czech crowns a day. Today, I wish we had. As always, I only regret the things I haven’t done.

As a special treat, we walked on top of the Flower Garden colonnade taking in the perfect symmetry of the gardens and the labyrinths below us.

It is said that if a person speaks at one end of the colonnade, the words echo clearly through to the other side.

I picked up a few long coveted deli items at the local Carrefour before we said goodbye, strangely enough at the parking lot by the cemetery since there is no parking along Lesenska Road in Stipa.

We sent butterfly kisses to each other; hardened by our past, discontent in the present, oblivious to the future.

For more information on Kromeriz go to www.mesto-kromeriz.cz. The info center is located at 50/45 Big Square in town. For more information on Czech Republic go to www. czechtourism.com

To be continued…….Abound in Czech Republic II

Copyright © 2013 story and photos by Emma Palova


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