The charm of the Czech Republic
The Czech Republic does have a curtain charm about it. I think we will all enjoy our life here. Most of the country is hilly divided by some areas of flat plains. In the north and east the hills build into mountains. The third highest peaks in all of Europe, third only to the Alps and the Piedmonts, is in Bohemia. The high lands are covered with forest. The plains are planted with crops. In the summer the fields are full of wheat, barley, rape seed, sunflowers and poppies. Most of the poppy seeds you buy in the grocery stores are produced in the Czech Republic. Rape is a seed they use for oil. The plants produce a small yellow flower. In June and July, the rape fields are blanketed in yellow. Unlike our farms in the USA, Czech’s co-op their land. A custom left over from medieval times. The fields are massive, as far as you can see to the horizon is only one crop. They cultivate the fields with enormous machinery, tractors, which take up two lanes of the road. You literally have to yield the right away to these monsters and get off the road when they move the machinery from one field to another. The farmers live in small villages instead of in the middle of their fields. A village could have twenty to hundred houses. All clustered close together. Everyone knows the business of his neighbor. They work and live together. The villages look like little islands in a sea of crops.
I first visited the Czech Republic in late November. The roads were already covered with ice and snow. Most of the fields were turned for next year’s crops. Black loam dirt replaced the flowers of summer. The farmers were harvesting sugar beets; the largest beets that I have ever seen, the size of pumpkins. Semi trucks were moving in every direction hauling beets to the sugar processing plants. The roads were black and muddy from the traffic of the fields.
Orel, where we are to live, is a village like many others, an island in the mist of fields. It is unique in the terrain. It is located in the hills of Eastern Bohemia. The hillsides were planted in vineyards in the 1700’s. The town produced wine. Our house was the local tavern. The school-house was located next door. They offered French and Italian studies. viticulture was the main subject, naturally. The vineyards failed in the early 1900’s. The vines are no longer there. Plum and apple orchards have taken their places on the hillsides today. The plums are used for making liquor. It is much like vodka, very strong, it warms the Czechs in winter and is used to celebrate every occasion. I am told it is very pretty in the spring when the plum trees bloom.
Chrudim, which is just two miles from Orel, is a cultural center for the region. Concerts are given every Friday evening in the regional theater. The most famous regional orchestra in the Czech Republic is based in Chrudim. There are also many choir groups and an opera company. One of the most famed groups is the puppeteers. Wooden puppets have been made in Chrudim for centaries. At the Puppet Theater you can see the puppeteers at work. The shows are quite elaborate. Not only do they perform classical puppet shows, but they also do experimental theater. Visual art is also well represented in Chrudim. I feel that we are very lucky to be living so close to such a town, yet still have the tranquility of the country life.