Although I thought this week would feature much more time to relax after the stress of last week, I found myself really busy and the time definitely flew by. However, it hasn’t really hit me yet that I’m leaving in one week. Although many of my meetings with people this week have been “the lasts,” I still have the feeling like I will see everyone soon. I am glad I decided to stay these extra two weeks in Znojmo to have some time to see teachers and students outside of school and to simply enjoy life here without work or any immediate responsibilities. And so, with one more week in Znojmo as of today, I will officially state that this post will be my *last before the end.
As usually happens before I am about to leave somewhere, I find myself making a lot of plans to see people. Even though this often means I have little time to relax or be by myself, I can’t complain about all the fun things I’ve done this week. The first few days were interesting to commute to the city center for various coffee dates after living right there most of the year. Otherwise I have spent a lot of other time this week enjoying friend’s gardens and swimming pools. According to the Czech news tonight, the Czech Republic is third in the rank of number of swimming pools in countries in Europe. I guess this is to be expected for a country with no ocean/sea access. The weather this week has been hot and sunny, so naturally people flock to the pools. One day I even took a day trip to Austria to the thermal pool at Laa an der Thaya. We had perfect weather, relaxation, and really nice swimming.
One of the greatest Czech words and elements of life, with no real English/American equivalent, is pohoda. When you are entirely content and relaxed, that is pohoda. When you are taking personal time to think and recharge your batteries, that is pohoda. When you are sitting around with friends and just enjoying the atmosphere, that is pohoda. If you are having just a little pohoda it is called pohodíčka. And my favorite Czech thing that people say to tell each other to calm down and take it easy is to say pohodě. Throughout the past few months I have found myself designating time in my day for my pohoda, something that I think is unnatural for Americans who always feel the need to be getting things done and be on the go. My week has also featured a lot of pohoda time with other people–just nice relaxing time to appreciate the surroundings and each other’s companies. We’ll see how many things about life here I will incorporate into my life back in the USA, but I plan to make pohoda one of them.
On Friday I went of my last of day trips with Jana and family to several small towns in the South Bohemian regions. Our four stops included Dačice, Jindrichův Hradec, Landštejn, and Slavonice. Each was truly cooler than the next. Dačice was a smallish chateau or zámek (Jana likes to point out that we don’t have an English word to differentiate from castle) with a really nice turquoise color and English style gardens. Next wek took a tour of the zámek in Jindrichův Hradec that ended with one of the most beautiful rooms I have seen yet in the Czech Republic, called the Rondel. It was used specifically for parties and music due to perfect acoustics, and the tour even included a man playing cello to show us the effect. We ate lunch in the cutest spot nearby before heading to the castle ruins of Landštejn. We even arrived just in time to see a sword fight exhibition and then climbed the tower for a gorgeous view of the surrounding area called “Czech Canada.“ Our final stop in Slavonice included a beautiful town square with old Czech graffiti. This was only made better by some delicious gelato 🙂
I will admit I’m not the most patriotic of Americans, but I realized that it would definitely feel weird that 4th of July here would literally just be any other old day. No special aisles of supplies in CVS, no big plans, and no one to even realize what the holiday was. Czech people are not very nationalistic, so even the smallest of July 4th celebrations would seem extreme. Luckily, my friend Hana and her boyfriend, Jose, decided to get in the full spirit with me. Hana picked me up in her “4th of July Ride” and then we attempted the most stereotypical party an American, Czech and Peruvian could muster. When I arrived, I almost cried that they did so much to make me feel at home. Hana made a strand of red, white, and blue flowers and Jose even made me an Uncle Sam hat! We grilled burgers and corn, drank beer and Coca Cola, listened to Bruce Springsteen, had a mini parade (mainly for digestion) around her garden, watched fireworks on YouTube, made chocolate chip ice-cream sandwiches with red and blue Czech M&Ms and for the grand finale, we watched Forrest Gump. I would say we were pretty successful.
Three other cool things of the weekend involved some local Znojmo fun. First, I finally went in Znojmo’s famous Rotunda of St. Kateřina, which has been closed for renovations all year. It is the oldest building still standing in Znojmo and is famous for it’s painted frescoes. Although they’re faded, to stand inside was really magical! Another activity of the week was finally riding on Znojmo’s tourist train. All year I was resisting being a typical tourist and traveling around on Znojmo’s obnoxiously red train, yet it was definitely on the to-do list before leaving. I guess I had to wait until I felt enough like a local. It was nice to see Znojmo from some different angles and watch the other passengers drinking beer at 10:30am. Then today I went to my second game of the Znojmo American football team, the Znojmo Knights. This game was played in a small village and with all of the spectators sitting on the grassy hill it felt like a high school game. It was fun to explain the rules to my fellow fans and the Znojmo coach was even wearing a NY Giants hat. Of course the best part was that Znojmo won and now will go to the semi-finals next week!
My last week in Znojmo will involve working at a summer camp and going to the famous Znojmo music festival. I’m happy to be busy to take my mind off of leaving. Until my update from the States, enjoy the next 2 weeks!