Away from Prague, the Czech Republic opens into beautiful hills and sweeping fields dissected by streams and rivers. Moravia, the southeast corner of the country, is known not only for the natural beauty of its highlands, but also as a hub of traditional Czech culture and especially music, full of folk songs, cimbaloms, and dancing.
Apparently, going away for the weekend is very typical in Prague. After succeeding in acquiring a roof over our heads, the first order of business was to abandon it in favour of a weekend in Moravia to celebrate my boyfriend’s mother Zuzka’s birthday.
Having in the past only narrowly survived experiences of hurtling down winding Czech country roads at breakneck speed, accelerating alarmingly close to cars ahead and clinging on to the “Jesus handles” for dear life while overtaking at the last minute, I looked forward to what winter weather conditions might add to the whole adventure. Unfortunately, dark, wet roads and fog have no noticeable effect on Zuzka’s speed or willingness to use her mirrors.
Nevertheless, we arrived safely and I gratefully extricated myself from the vehicle of doom.
We stayed in a large inn in Rožnov pod Radhoštěm called Koliba Pod Horů, where the food, a robust supply of various cuts of meat, dumplings and potatoes, tastes fantastic and, of course, the beer flows ceaselessly. The nightly entertainment started shortly after we arrived in the form of a cimbalom band led by Jaroslav, the inn owner and feted cimbalom player, whereupon tables were pushed aside to make a dance floor instantly filled with merry customers. Here apparently, where co Čech, to muzikant (every Czech is a musician), no one is burdened by the panic and inexplicable lack of rhythm that accompanies most British men when faced with the prospect of moving in time to music. Unfortunately no one aside from the musicians was wearing traditional costumes, but, according to Jaroslav, summer months see them on full display.
Daytime activities in Rožnov are plentiful. Even in the grip of a slushy winter in the run-up to Christmas, the Moravian-Silesian Beskydy Mountains form a beautiful backdrop to the spidery woods along the banks of the Rožnovská Bečva river. What now constitutes most of the town of Rožnov (pop. ± 17,000) is not particularly scenic. However, its mediaeval history is exhibited in the museum vivum the Wallachian Open Air Museum, where we wandered around a reconstructed mediaeval village, complete with furnished houses, shops and a hospoda, and watched a traditional wood-carver make exquisite and more or less useless trinkets it was almost impossible to resist purchasing.
Zuzka told us about a nearby world-famous candle shop so, quelling my doubts about how an international candle exporter came to be based in a small town in Moravia, we sallied forth to check it out. Unipar is amazing. We were greeted by a giant advent wreath in the courtyard, and the shop itself felt like candle heaven, with candles of all different shapes and sizes, some scented, some patterned, some fantastically shaped. I think Kuba was a little alarmed by the total our candle purchase came to, but it was a major sacrifice to dissuade myself from buying one of everything. The owner invited us upstairs to see next year’s collection and showed us candles destined for various 5 star hotels in the Middle East, spas and wellness centres all over Europe and America, promotional candles in the shape of beer bottles and Christmas candles that made me want to throw fire hazard caution to the wind and risk blowing up our new flat in order to light every single one of them.
We walked back to the inn along the river, parts of which were frozen and picturesque, and debated going to the Christmas market so that Kuba could indulge his hot wine addiction, until we saw the hordes of people queuing outside the entrance. Instead we ploughed home through the snow. Or rather, Kuba walked lightly while I struggled to lift my booted feet out of the slush without crashing to the ground on a covered sheet of ice. The ordeal lasted about 45 minutes. For someone who prefers sport to be practiced on a yoga mat in the warmth of a heated gym, the whole thing was a bit much. High time to warm up in a spa.
Nearby Hotel Eroplan has a beautiful wellness centre, complete with Jacuzzi, 100 degree Finnish sauna, steam room, infra sauna, freezing outdoor terrace to cool down and resting room with massage chairs. There is also, rather bizarrely, an exercise bike in the corner of the resting room. No thanks; I’ll take the hot tub! I am not yet totally accustomed to parading between sauna and steam room in the buff alongside total strangers of both sexes, but it is the done thing so doing my best to put my western prudishness aside we settled in to relax and enjoy. After all, with another car trip with Zuzka ahead of me tomorrow, I needed all the relaxation I could muster!
Katia is a Belgian native who studied in Scotland and went to work in America, where she met her Czech boyfriend. In September 2012 she moved to Prague to live with him and is quickly falling in love with the city as well. Her passions are travel and adventure and reading and writing about them!