Czech Republic workaway journal

Best of czech highlight collage
Your correspondent and his spouse spent about 2-1/2 weeks in the Czech Republic mostly doing a longer and a shorter “workaways” – you help out a host working about 4-5 hours a day and they house you and provide food!

 First, we stayed with a lovely young family in Slavkov pod Hostýnem, Moravia, installing a stone pathway to the front door and enjoying yummy meals and outings with them. Then we stayed with a wonderful young woman and young daughter between Dětřichovec and Jindřichovice pod Smrkem in northern Bohemia within walking distance from the Polish border, such as it was (signs in Polish, that’s all). We cleaned up the greenhouse and garden, enjoyed excursions and yummy meals.

These highlights of our times with our great hosts and bookending our stays in Prague, your correspondent captured on video. The complete playlist is here:

An evening strolling along long and wide Wenceslaus Square with other tourists and the occasional Bolt bike delivery person.

We saw a parade of students. I asked an older guy with a bullhorn if they were protesting, but he said they were celebrating. It was the May Day (May 1) Majales parade. They dressed up funkily and were singing” Take me home country road." Online I saw on a schedule of lectures, workshops and interesting events.

The day after our arrival in Prague, we hooked up with an “alternative Prague” tour, taking buses and trains and walking lots to learn about graffiti art, ethical hackers, communist era dissident politics through neighborhoods like Holosevice and visits to artist spaces and hip hangouts. Close Up video stories here

A collage with our workaway hosts  in Slavkov pod Hostýnem

Sneezhik “the best dog” (n Slavkov pod Hostýnema) Sneezhik, the little snowflake, a large long white coated,well-behaved dog, went with us all the way on our walk up the hill toward the Basilica.  He just lay down and waited for us within eyesight when we lagged. At a restaurant in town the dog just sat next to couple of chairs near the wall, almost invisible, pretty good for a dog nearly the size of a wolf.  He’s a white Swiss shepherd- a breed bred from a German Shepherd and American German Shepherds with white coloring and somewhat different “confirmation”? Very smart, very loyal, needs a lot of exercise and grooming. Yes, one of our favorite activities was brushing the dog and there is a lot of hair that comes off this dog.

Our lovely workaway host recites a Czech tongue twister. Did we forget to ask what she is saying?

We visit the hilltop Hostýn - Basilica of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary complex on a Sunday, the most visited pilgrimage site in the Czech Republic, hoping we might see some religious observance and our hopes are realized when we join a procession along the stations of the cross with chanting and a brass band. Very beautiful and moving.

On the other side of Hostyn hilltop from Basilica of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and just visible from it is a windmill. Apparently, there was opposition to erecting such a practical energy-generating station so near the holy site but the green-minded citizens appear to have gotten the upper hand. There may also be current, renewed local opposition to replacing it with a more modern and efficient windmill.

There were vertical spinning carousels inside the station Bystřice pod Hostýnem train station with worn posters  appearing to promote vintage black-and-white photo shows. All of them peeling off, appealingly. Of course, I had to make a video with my assistant spinning the carousels.

Alternative Prague Tour.  An “alternative Prague” tour had us taking buses and trains and walking lots to learn about graffiti art, ethical hackers, communist era dissident politics through neighborhoods like Holosevice and visits to artist  spaces and hip hangouts.





Close up story:

Doktor Voda (Doctor Water) workers clean out an old 25 foot deep well at a house in the northern Czech Republic countryside. Video  Close Up story here

We went to the spa in this little village. It is a group of buildings, and some of which we didn’t see because they are farther inside the park beyond the main plaza.  People come with ailments to be treated by physical therapists and to drink the natural mineral water. There were taps on opposite sides of the fount inside a gazebo style building and people like us were drinking or filling up their water bottles with mineral water Displays tell you what it was about and even broke down all the mineral and molecular components profile of the mineral water -it tasted good and minerally.

A tour through a traditional Czech glass bead  factory in Jablonec opens a window on the facet-making part of the process in this multi-generational family business. Video here  Close Up story here:

"The Memorial to the victims of Communism (Czech: Pomník obětem komunismu) is a series of statues in Prague commemorating the victims of the communist regime in Czechoslovakia between 1948 and 1989. It is located at the base of Petřín hill, Újezd street in the Malá Strana or the Lesser Town area. It was unveiled on the 22 May 2002, twelve years after the fall of communism in the Eastern Bloc, and is the work of Czech sculptor Olbram Zoubek and architects Jan Kerel and Zdeněk Holzel. It was supported by the local council and Confederation of Political Prisoners (KPV). " from Wikipedia

We visited the spa in Libverda in the Jizera mountains, an area that also attracts cyclists traversing the popular Single Trek route. It is a group of buildings  that we strolled around and some more that we could not see, farther beyond the plaza in the park section. People come with ailments to be treated by physical therapists and to drink the natural mineral water. Inside a small round building there was a fount with taps on opposite sides. People like us came and drank or filled up their water bottles with mineral water.  Photographic displays describe all the mineral and molecular components and tout its restorative properties. Cautions are also made not to burden others by describing your own ailments. More information.

We taught the 3 year old daughter of our Czech sworkaway host how to pronounce American coin denominations in English!

Our workaway host recreated how she spoke English with simple sentences and a heavy accent when she first arrived in Australia.

We moved through a sound art exhibit outside the Rudolfinum concert hall in Prague, triggering each speaker tower to emit its unique eerie sound effect as we drew close to each tower.

At a train station in Moravia, pressing the flush button on a toilet produced a long flush of water. And it costs about 25 cents to enter the bathroom.

A Ukrainian tourist, stranded abroad by war, finds love in Paris and work as taxi driver in Prague. We connected with him at the Czerny Most station in easternmost on our way back from Liberec and he accommodated us by helping us add stops at a popular park then the Memorial to the victims of Communism and Prague Castle…on our way to the airport hotel where we were staying for our departure home the next day. Video interview Close Up story here:  

Novalis Baroque festival on the Vltava River

Gondoliers  during Baroque Festival

Charles Bridge scene during Baroque Festival

Ethical hacking, parallel police, graffiti art and more on "Alternative Prague" tour

Prague alternaitve national airport of sunset cinema
The tour, conducted by Thomas, took us to the other side of the Vltava River in Holešovice and mostly focused on young Czech artists who do graffiti and engage in expressive political activity; ethical hackers, the “parallel police” and the like. Thomas gave us a good background on what Czech thinking is relating to communism (memories of repression, suspicion of others) We traveled by foot and by tram and saw a boatload of very neat things, artist workspaces. We saw galleries being reclaimed from a massive slaughterhouse compound. Thomas explained that Czechs are not too keen on getting very friendly with strangers, a holdover from the communist era, when even a friend, coworker or family member might be an informant reporting back to the authorities on you. There was some optimism about trust in fellow human beings after liberation from the Nazis; some Czechs were hopeful about communism, but authoritarian rule from Moscow ensued. Lack of free, speech and imposed borders among other factors soured Czechs on communism. Due to these still poignant memories, they are very supportive of refugees from the Russian invasion of Ukraine. He pointed out a large mural on a building by Ukrainian artist entitled something like Red Demon. The Czech Republic has taken in about 1 million Ukrainian refugees a considerable number considering that the population is only 12 million. He said every seventh person you encounter in the city of Prague is Ukrainian.

The short version

The medium version

The longer version

Ukrainian war refugee drives taxi in Prague

Ukrainian bolt taxi driver
A young man who was a media buyer in the Ukraine was abroad when Russia invaded the Ukraine, met his Ukrainian girlfriend at the Eiffel Tower in Paris and now they are both living in Prague, Czech Republic where he drives a Bolt taxi. Were he to return, he would be drafted into the army. He bemoans the heavy casualties; some of his contemporaries have lost their lives. He thinks that the only way to solve the crisis is for Zelensky and Putin to sit down together and talk. Video interview here: