It’s that time again…
The leaves are yellowing and falling to the ground…
My Czech grandma has new bunnies,
and new pumpkins!
Everywhere is our last snatch of sunlight, our last snatch of green before winter comes.
A few months ago I read about a Husí Slavnost, or Goose Festival, happening in Boskovice, a town of 11,600 not far from Brno.
These days I’m on the lookout for anything I haven’t done yet, so I had to go see what it was.
Boskovice is a really pleasant place with a Jewish past. Though we didn’t spend much time on that this time, with our hosts for the day, Anna and Petr, we took a walking tour of the Jewish quarter. They pointed out two historical mikvehs – a natural springwater ritual bath for Jews, the Jewish community center and synagogue.
The Jewish Quarter (a historical ghetto) is an officially preserved zone of the town. You can see through to this part of the town through the “Jewish Gate.”
Nearby you can see a small exhibit of the way the Boskovice Jewish Quarter looked in the late 19th century and early 20th century at Zwicker Mini-gallery, which is walk-in, donation-based. I only wished they included the specific years the photographs were taken, but perhaps they don’t know.
The Maior Synagogue was built by Italian architect Silvestr Fiota in the 1600s, and is one of the best preserved in Czech Republic. There is a well-preserved Jewish cemetery too.
Ondra thought he could hide behind the pole, but it turns out he’s not that skinny.
Boskovice was also the home of a few famous Jews, including
the oculist Abraham Albert Ticho (1883-1960 Jerusalem) and of the writer Hermann Ungar (1893-1929 Prague). Ungar was one of the Prague circle of writers associated with Franz Kafka.
There are plaques memorializing these figures where they used to live. Going back further, the first mention of Jews in Boskovice was in 1343. Sadly,
In the Second World War, only 14 of the 458 Boskovice Jews survived a forced deportation to Terezín and other concentration camps.
I’ve been working on a post about my visit to Terezín (Theresienstadt) for a while, which is coming soon.
A short walk away from the Jewish Quarter is the town’s main church, Sv. Jakub the Elder, which is very tall and grand and has a nice courtyard (used also by students from the nearby high school). The other side of the church is on the main square.
We made our way to the main square and town hall for the festival. There were a couple geese in a cage and people appeared to be doing some performance about them.
The town hosted a chovatelské výstava (well-bred animal exhibit) like we had in the courtyard of my schools during the hody, but this one had a larger variety of wacky animals. The purpose of the exhibit is to show off exemplary *specimens* of rabbits and birds, which are judged by specialists and given scores. (This is obviously more an honor for the owner than for the animal…)
There, I saw something I’ve never seen before – a cage with pheasants, parakeets, and guinea pigs all running around together. To be fair, the pheasants were just chilling at the top, but the parakeets and guinea pigs mingled together on the grass.
There were also some really weird pigeons, ruffled ones that were bred to look like their feathers were pencil shavings, and others that have feathers on their feet like the pants of Olympic ice skaters.
I made a lot of animal friends this day, the first of which was a slightly disagreeable donkey:
We entered the outdoor market through the nearby arch:
There were some goose-themed stands, although I expected more. There were culinary goose specialties, including goose sádlo (fat, lard), paštika (meat spread), and liver on bread. Elsewhere in the market, they were also selling ostrich specialties (so as not to make the other birds feel left out… I guess…)!
After we finished some gift shopping and eating, the day took an unexpected turn. Anna and Peter suggested we visit “Western Town,” a special open-air version of the Wild West at the edge of Boskovice. As we approached, a lot of signs advised us that we were leaving our own reality and entering theirs….
“Hotel at the Dark-Haired Blonde”
They had their own currency for refreshments in the Saloon, and games for kids like shooting at targets and leading around goats, the latter of which Ondra tried
(this photo looks weird, but that goat really loved eating those leaves)
while I made best friends with a Wild West kitten:
My favorite part was a Zoo-Gallery of animal sculptures made from metalworking, like this band of bear musicians, Bear Boys:
They had all animals, including crocodiles, snakes, ostriches, cats, horses, sheep…
By the koi pond, we had the luck of seeing a beautiful dragonfly!
In the afternoon, we took a walk through the woods at the other edge of town to the local dam – which is super low right now – and tried skipping rocks (which I am very bad at).
We ended our really pleasant day at a wonderful little coffee shop, Kafírna Dogvill, which has a selection of international coffees and even their own coffee cocktails, including the cafe’s own Coffee Dogvill and kosher-certified coffee! (which is probably exactly the same as regular coffee, just blessed by a Jewish rabbi)
Coincidentally, the day after our Boskovice trip, Ondra was playing sax in one of his bands in Kuřim at a festival called Medové dny, or Honey Days.
From this stand I bought the most delicious medovina (honey mead), which was cherry and almond-flavored. YUM.
It was 50czk/glass compared to a *much cheaper* 40czk/glass at another stand, but quality-wise, it blew the second out of the water. Don’t buy medovina cheap, folks.
Crepes somehow found their way into the honey festival.
With my medovina, I bought a sort of nasty, healthy honey cookie.
Sorry for the terrible picture quality here. I was disappointed to see this was the only stand selling homemade honey!!
For his participation as a musician, Ondra got the festival’s themed gingerbread cookie 🙂
We ended our day in the natural area on the outskirts of the town near the manmade Lake Srpek as Ondra flew his quadcopter on this beautiful, sunny Sunday. An example of his work:
Finally, I visited the Dýňová Slavnost (Pumpkin Festival) at Malá Amerika in Brno. To be honest, it wasn’t much of a festival, just a few stands selling overpriced pumpkin-themed three-course lunches. I chose the first of three stands, the menu of which looked most appetizing to me:
L to R: pumpkin soup with maple syrup, lasagne with pumpkin “béchamel,” pumpkin cheesecake
The food doesn’t look super appetizing but it was quite nice. ESPECIALLY the cheesecake. Mňam!
Pumpkin love around the world!
Another great story.