Sunday, October 26, 2014

Cesky Krumlov area - Day 22

Thursday, September 25
In addition to castles along the Czech-Austrian border are a number of monasteries tucked in to the hills. I call this "religious day" because we visited a monastery and then hiked a trail that was punctuated by the 12 Stations of the Cross.
We drove to Vyssi Brod, which is almost on the border of three countries - Czech Republic, Germany and Austria - to visit the Cisterian Monastery Abbey.
Founded in 1259 by Peter Vok Rozmberk, it was amazingly well-preserved considering the events of the last century.
Once again, we were not allowed to take pictures so I can bring home only memories. I have mixed feelings about the photo thing. On the one hand, I'm sorry I don't have tangible images of these landmarks. On the other, it is refreshing and relaxing to be relieved of others jumping around snapping photos.
Designed in French Ghothic, the interior of the church was impressive for its stark, dark wood beams and pews, very high ceilings and the lack of colorful ornamentation. At the end above the alter was an impressive organ with 2000 pipes. Like many of the historic structures, this Abbey had evolved over the centuries -- high alter dated from 1650, windows from late 19th century.
Before WW II, it was inhabited by about 70 brothers; now there are only 10. During the war, they were expelled, then came back and were expelled again by the communists.
What is really remarkable about this Abbey is its library. It is the third largest in the Czech Republic -- the first being the Strahov which we visited in Prague. It is set up exactly like the one there. In three library rooms, there are 70,000 books, most in European languages and dating from the 17th century. The oldest book is from 765 and contains letters from St. Paul. Most of the books are about theology, philosophy and medicine. One thing that was different than Strahov is that the books were all bound in white and trimmed in gold. Apparently, this monastery did bookbinding.
I asked how the monastery, considering its location, survived the 20th century intact? During 1940-45, it was inhabited by German soldiers. The monastery was used as a storage facility for art taken from the Jews to be used later for a "Museum of Extinct Races" in Linz.
Why didn't the Germans burn the books to keep warm or just to be mean? Lada explained that if you told a German not to do something, he wouldn't do it, even if he was freezing to death. However, he said, if the Russians had been there, they would have trashed it for fun. I thought that was an interesting perspective from Lada about the two nations (or rather, peoples). When the communists took it over, they kept it intact because it represented culture. However, it was not inhabited or used for years during this era, especially because of its proximity to the border, and it fell into disrepair. It has since been reclaimed by the church and has undergone a restoration in the last 25 years.
Afterwards we walked around the grounds and got some great views of the surrounding countryside.
We then took the green bus to a picnic spot before we began our walk for the day. It was still cloudy and cool and we were hoping the rain would hold off while we ate our lunch. This was our last picnic and it made us a little sad.
From our lunch spot, we headed into the woods to walk the 12 Stations of the Cross. The rain had finally relented and it left the trail with a glow.
We originally had planned to do this in the morning, beginning at Station One and ending at the Abbey. But we flipped it now and started at 12. People still do this pilgrimage three times a year -- for the assumption, the immaculate conception and the ascension. Although it is part of the recatholization of the country, it is a very social experience and people enjoy doing it.
It was a beautiful introduction through the woods,
and we soon came to a small chapel, a shrine to Virgin Mary, with an outdoor podium, perfect for addressing larger groups. Some of our members even pretended to address the masses.
We dodged the rain and intermittent sunshine along the hike
and finally came to Station One.
We then walked out of the woods into a small village and past the remains of a "maypole." (We saw several of these on our trip.)
Young men cut down a tall tree and remove the branches and bark. Then the girls decorate it and the men erect it in a deep hole. Then the men have to guard it the night before the celebration because men from another village will want to tear it down to embarrass them. Sounds like lots of sexual innuendo to me.
Thought this house was so cute and typical of many of the village homes we saw. 
Then we returned to Cesky Krumlov, where we had a couple of hours before dinner to check out the town. I explored it first from across the river, capturing this view of the castle in the background.
Then I walked to the castle park and got some great views of the river and town from the other side looking down from the castle.

I'll save the rest for tomorrow when we visit the castle.
We had dinner at another local restaurant and hit the bed after a long day.

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