After getting a good night’s rest in Hukvaldy, Seth and I awoke bright and early to visit the castle on top of the hill. Before beginning our mini-hike, we stopped at a kolache shop for a breakfast treat. This time, we decided to split a large prune kolache. We ate about half of our pizza-sized cake and started to walk. Although it is considered to be “in ruins,” the castle was in amazing shape. All five of its gates were still distinguishable, and nothing had been restored (at least, not too actively). We weaved in and out of the dark rooms and climbed the stairs to the watchtower. The view was absolutely breathtaking! We could see all of Hukvaldy, Horní Sklenov, and Dolní Sklenov. I definitely took advantage of the sweep panorama feature on my camera.
Feeling exhilarated, we hurried back to the hotel to pick up our things and head to Nový Hrozenkov, my grandfather’s family village. We walked at least ten kilometers to the train station—in the hot hot heat!—before finally arriving. It was a really painful experience, actually. We (read: Seth) decided to depart Hukvaldy from a station different from the one we arrived in, so we not only had to find it but we also had to make sure it was open. Surprise! It was blocked due to construction, so we had to walk to yet another train station. At this point, I was miserable and grumpy and hot and thirsty, and I just wanted to sit down and forget the whole thing! Anyway, despite my fair-weather enthusiasm, we eventually boarded the first of our four trains. Each ride lasted twenty to thirty minutes plus transfer time. Oh, and our last train was actually a bus because the tracks in that area were undergoing maintenance. Luckily, we made it to the village without any problems. You know, besides the excruciating hike, oh, and the whole we-had-no-place-to-stay bit. Yeah. We stopped by a couple of the hotels and campsites I had tried to communicate with via e-mail before arriving, but they were either closed or nonexistent. (No wonder they did not respond to my requests!) I started to panic. Fortunately, Seth thrives in high-pressure situations like these, and he was able to find someone who spoke English and ask her if there was a hotel nearby. (We had walked from the town of Hovězí to the town of Huslenky at this point.) She directed him to a restaurant across the street and said they would probably have “a room” available upstairs. While I waited outside with our things, Seth stepped into the restaurant. He spotted the waitress, pointed to some Czech phrases that I had written about rooms and numbers of people and lengths of time, and quickly secured us a room. Yes, we spent the night above a restaurant. No, it was not a restaurant-hotel. Yes, it was crazy cheap (five hundred koruna = less than thirty American dollars), and yes, it was actually pretty nice. Exhausted, we dragged our things into the bar and sat down for a pivo (beer). A nice man waved us over to sit with him, and I quickly learned that he had helped Seth to communicate with the waitress. He was a Czech policeman who spoke very broken English, Spanish, and Italian. He and his wife asked us about our journey, and we talked about our experiences thus far. It turned out he had lived and trained in Dallas for a month! He made a few “Walker, Texas Ranger” jokes and one insightful observation: Texans are to Oklahomans as Bohemians are to Moravians. The Czech cityfolk, specifically those of Prague, and the countryfolk feign superiority over one another, each claiming it is the heart of the real Czech Republic.
After our beer, Seth and I wandered around Huslenky. It was not long before we were hungry, so we walked back to the restaurant for dinner. (We were in the middle of nowhere. There were few dining options, and we kind of liked the idea of eating at the only town pub/restaurant.) The policeman and his wife were still there, so we sat with them and continued our conversation. He warned us against gypsies (He claimed he was not racist.), taught us about early Czech and Moravian history, and asked us questions about America. Once Seth and I had finished our meals of pork leg and liver, the policeman insisted on ordering us a round of vodka shots. Seriously. He argued that they would help us sleep. Oh, they did.
The next day, we visited Hovězí and Nový Hrozenkov. We spent most of our time looking around churches and cemeteries and admiring the scenery. (Although, I have to say, because these towns are located in the valley, they are not quite as beautiful as Hukvaldy.) After walking with our backpacks for a few hours, we stopped in a restaurant at the latter town for some old fashioned, country goulash. At seventy koruna a plate (about four American dollars), it was absolutely astounding. The beef had been stewed for hours, and the tomato sauce and dumplings were just right. We enjoyed being surrounded by the town workforce, who were sweaty and sunburned from toiling outside.
After a leisurely lunch, we hopped on a bus and two trains to Brno. My story will have to stop here for now, as Seth and I just returned to Paris and are pretty tired. I hope to finish everything up tomorrow.