… Ústí nad Orlicí Region, Czech Republic

June 24-June 26

EXPLORING ŠANOV, OUR TEMPORARY HOME (Friday)

Named after the Šanov creek, this tiny town did not have much to offer. Besides the already mentioned creek, there was a (most likely) closed (or soon to be closed) guest house, a restaurant with rather sporadic opening hours, a closed but well maintained church and a brand new guest house Ovčárna (meaning ‘sheepfold’) which provided a great lodging for two nights. Needless to say, such a small village has something more to provide both to visitors and its residents: peace and silence. Both being priceless.

Since a big hike was planned for Saturday, it looked like a smart idea to stretch and warm-up our muscles in advance. The destination was a nearby observation tower called Křížová hora (‘Mount of Cross’), in other words, up the hill. If I only knew how much more climbing would come in the upcoming hours and days! A late afternoon walk was a great ending of the day: it was not hot any more, wild blueberries providing enough of refreshment along the way, the valley literary bathing in the golden warming sunlight, grazing sheep talking to themselves (which I mistakenly interpreted as a greeting), surprise provided by wood carvings hidden along the way and finally, the view.

It is so great not to have to worry about anything and simply enjoy the world around!

DOLNÍ MORAVA and ČERVENÁ VODA (Saturday)

Further exploration of this region of the Czech Republic yielded the first discovery: it is a region of towns and villages with great names. First, the names make sense, second, they can be easily translated and finally, some are rather funny. On the menu for today there were ‘Lower Moravia’ (located at the very north of the country  but not too surprisingly just south of ‘Upper Moravia’) and ‘Red Water’ and we drove through a town of ‘Rabbits’ (not yet considered as a destination but this would change tomorrow).

Dolní Morava (‘Lower Moravia’) was a town of a ton of activities for people of any age. The reason for our visit was the Sky Walk, supposedly unique structure providing views of the region’s mountain ranges and maybe even all the way to Poland. Needless to say, to be ready to observe valleys and mountains, one has to get to the top of the hill first. There were two options: an aerial cableway or on foot. As we were no loosers, we decided to invest pain and sweat in return for additional views and hope of seeing MTB bikers making their way down the hill. Every single item could be checked off by noon.

In the altitude of 1,116 meters above the sea level objects down in the valley looked so tiny and the surrounding mountain ranges endless. The Sky Walk outlook structure must have consumed tons of wood to be built. Although it allowed its visitor to climb additional 55 meters, not a single step had to be dealt with. Thus the biggest challenge was the wind up there. I wonder whether it was “just normally windy” or “extremely windy.”

Another attraction was a bobsled run which relied on metal trails rather than an iced track. Right in the first curve I learned what the safety belts were meant for but other than that it was not nearly as exciting as the Sky Walk earlier in the day.

We visited Červená voda (‘Red River’) later in the afternoon and for one single purpose. Dinner. This worked out towards our big satisfaction. We even got fresh stamina for some more walking.

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KRÁLÍKY: Monastery & Museum of Internment

Sitting on the top of a hill (‘Mount of the Mother of God’), we had seen the monastery before and a rainy Sunday morning provided a perfect opportunity to visit it, too. As we navigated through hairpin turns, mist surrounding us grew thicker and thicker and whiter. When finally up there, it was drizzling as well and the monastery, which was forcibly turned into internment monastery (1950-1960), stood there as a lonesome witness of times when freedom and faith were forcibly suppressed, trials manipulated and fight for democracy was a crime. To remember this dark chapter of Czech history, a museum was opened there in 2012 (in Czech only).

I want to keep my posts as politics-free as possible and I do not intend to impose my views of the world to anyone. However, visit of this museum of exceptional and as such, calls for an exception very loudly. Everyone should visit this place to read about “approved corporal punishments” and about psychological abuse interrogators were capable of (most likely even required to perform), see conditions in which suspects and prisoners (but in fact innocent people with exceptional morality and ethical values) survived. To see scans of documents proving manipulation and lies committed only to hold the power, to see how the police power and system controlling citizens’ actions proliferated, and to read letters that the victims wrote to their loved ones but which never got delivered.

Everyone should visit. Every young person to remember what a life in totality looked like and to praise the freedom we have now and to fight to protect it. Everyone who claims that the era before the Velvet Revolution was great. Everyone who would attempt to make a country’s population uniform. Everyone who cast their votes to the communist party. Everyone who is pro-Russian oriented. Everyone who believes that people should be judged according to their religion or race. We cannot recompense the victims of communistic regime, we cannot bring lives back to those whose lives were taken by the regime but we can (and we must!) learn from history, transform their high sacrifices into our eternal fight for humanity.

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Down the alley, towards the future

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