OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA(Vsetín, Zlinsky Kraj, Česká republika)- Tuesday afternoon and I am lazy. Had a wonderful relaxing lunch with a couple of students yesterday and another relaxing class in the office of another student. The latter works in the “Empire State Building” of Vsetín which in reality is a 12 story high rise built about 30 years ago. If you do a Google search for webcams for Vsetín, Czech Republic, you will find a shot from the roof top webcam of downtown. (I would put in a link, but my WordPress linking thing doesn’t work. Probably something to do with a plug-in conflict or something.) When I was living in California I would check the webcam from time to time to see if there was any life in the town I would soon be calling “home.” I would catch a few cars going up and down the two main streets and that’s about it. Also, if you are so inclined, you can see my bank in the foreground. Woo-wee! I live directly behind the webcam shot. I have two classes in the high rise, one on the 4th floor and one on the 8th floor. The views are pretty cool of the hills surrounding the town and the multi-colored high- rise flats that dot the landscape. The town has about 29,000 residents so it is smallish by American standards but it is the people that make the difference. Since I arrived in this southeast corner of Moravia, I have been exposed to terrific hospitality to the point where I actually feel “at home.” I suppose one could chalk it up to routine and familiarity, but it goes deeper than that. My novelty as a Californian from San Francisco has changed into a welcomed part of the community. The few words and phrases I have learned have helped a little, but I will never “get” the language. It is very difficult. However, that being said, I have been complimented on my pronunciation from time to time and that feels good. Perhaps they are just being nice but I will go with it. I can actually ask for an English menu in a restaurant now.

But with all my great advances in the Czech language, it will soon be over. Sad as that is, I will leave these people and this country and go back to the states. I have been mesmerized by their traditions and history, some ancient and some not so ancient and I have stories to tell. However, without context, these stories will lose something in translation. So many experiences and so many people and so many different kinds of food will have to remain with me because there is no frame of reference. I do have photos which will be good prompts as my memory begins to fade.

Freeeeedom!!!
Freeeeedom!!!

Speaking of fading, last Sunday the ever-intrepid Susan and I traveled across the border again to Trenčín in Slovakia to visit the local castle. We had seen from our train trip to Bratislava earlier and made a note to visit in the near future. Trenčín is not a big town but bigger than Vestín with 56,000 people (yes I counted them all). The castle is old and was the site of a peace treaty between the Czech, Polish and Hungarian kingdoms way back when. It is a very impressive site which can been seen for miles. Of course, I climbed the highest tower to get a look at the town below and the countryside stretching out to the horizon. Even the Romans visited here on their many conquests. There is even Roman graffiti scratched into the rocks at the base of the castle hill. I love stuff like that and immediately went into my usual “Who were they? Did they have families? What did they do for fun?” and so on. Even walking up the 700 year old narrow steps to the top of the tower, I kept thinking about soldiers running up these same steps with swords and spears and stuff to fend off whomever. I tend to do that a lot and it slows down the people behind me who just want to get to the top. Thanks to my new socialized medicine knee, I was able to make it up just fine, thank you.

At the bottom of the castle was a sort-kinda medieval market place with blacksmiths and bird keepers and what not. One of the places was a bow and arrow shop at which both Susan and I took turns learning the fine art of shooting at a target. Susan’s first shot missed the target and landed somewhere in Hungary. Her next shot hit the target. When it was my turn I felt the weight of being from the “greatest country in history…ever” and had to show up this descendant from “Braveheart” country. The instructor kept telling me to use my back muscles. I didn’t think I had any muscles, let alone back muscles. With great power and determination I was able to hit the target dead on in the middle. I thought it better to stop right there and not to push my luck. It was a fun Sunday afternoon.

and so it goes…