Bodacious Bohemia

What a strange title, you might think. While there are plenty of bodacious babes in Bohemia, real and sculpted,

the title was chosen for the other, original meaning: remarkable, noteworthy, admirable. The name Greater lands of Bohemia harken to the Czech royal past and is a much nicer moniker in my view, than the new, very unfortunately renamed Czechia.

Mention Czech Republic and immediately Prague comes into play. Or “Golden Prague”, as my grandmother used to call it.

As a poor factory worker she couldn’t travel, but she did get to Prague as a young woman, participating in a big Sokol gymnastic stadium exhibition.

Certainly Prague is golden when it comes to capitals of Europe and the world. Glitter of gold can be found on shiny roofs and spires, the mosaics and paintings on facades of palaces and townhouses.

If one has more than a few intense Prague days to allocate to exploration of Lands of Bohemia, there are a number of well preserved castles on hand.

All in all over a thousand were built, but of many only a few stones remain.

Another thousand chateaus in different state of disrepair dot the countryside.

Then there are smaller, provincial towns with well preserved historical centers like Česky Krumlov, which we extolled in our post “Photo Interlude of a Fairytale Medieval Town”.

But when you are stuck for two months, like we have been during this Corona time, in desperation you cast your net wider and you scratch deeper. Compared to our fellow travelers stuck in places with tight restrictions, we were very lucky and quite free to explore.

We drove all over tarnation and discovered many new things. We especially enjoyed finding little gems of Czech vernacular architecture. Ok, I haven’t meant for this post to be a linguistic lesson, but here goes:

“Vernacular architecture is architecture characterized by the use of local materials and knowledge, usually without the supervision of professional architects.”

I have always loved and admired the skill and design esthetic of indigenous people all around the world,

Sumba Island, Indonesia

who could and in some cases still can take local materials at hand (stones, bamboo, timber, grass,) and build without any advanced technology simple, useful, yet esthetically harmonious and pleasing structures.

Samosir Island, Indonesia

It is as if by living with nature they absorb the perfection of Nature’s creative hand and automatically build in the same vein. Have you noticed that no matter how strong the colors or phantasmic the designs in nature, they are always perfect and pleasing to the eye?

It takes people removed from nature, studying in concrete buildings of modern universities, toiling in ugly glass cubicles to come up with architecture that my husband calls “fist in the eye”, which is even stronger than the official translation of “sticks out as a sore thumb”. Staying away from the concrete and glass monstrosities that are inundating modern cities, we can’t believe the ugliness of many contemporary homes. The windows scattered willy-nilly on the facade, the ridiculous roofs and poisonously green or yellow or pink colors, clashing with green grass and blue sky.

Lest this becomes a ranting treatise of a frustrated art historian (yes, me), let me switch focus to our lovely local discoveries.

Driving slowly through backwater villages we found plenty of charming, well preserved cottages, now mainly used as weekend homes for city folks.

These simple, yet attractive black and white “roubenka” log cabins were all made by hand from more or less hewned logs.

I like to call them “zebra houses”.

Some of these can hardly be called cottages. In the very north there were quite prosperous farmers that expanded them to large family and cattle dwellings.

You will find care in the smallest details. Even the winter firewood is stacked just so.

I am very bold and nosy and like to peek in the little windows with lace curtains.

Or through the fence into the gardens

Geometry is the simplest way of decoration and it is fun to see how in the same village not two designs will be the same.

From very simple

to more elaborate

to more colorful

In the South a special style called Southern Czech baroque was developed and some house are downright bodacious. 😉

In the village of Holašovice the whole village square is beautifully restored and each house is slightly different and in different color combinations.

All are in gentle pastels

Except for this fire engine red door. Sore thumb and all.

In the middle of the village green is a tiny church

And like in every southern Czech village, “a kachnak”, a duck pond where carp and ducks coexist.

And where you have a pond you also have a “vodnik” – a water goblin. Parents will warn their children not to go anywhere close to the pond or the green water goblin will pull them in.

He is said to keep the souls of drowned people under the upturned cups.

There is a tradition of putting old cups on top of the fences in Czech villages, but for the life of me I can’t get anyone to explain to me why and if it has anything to do with the green vodnik.

It is cool to see the foundation dates marked on the houses and imagining the many successive generations that lived under the roof.

Oh, and if you are like me, you might be curious about the really important design feature of very house – the place where, as we say here, even the emperor goes by his own two feet.

And here is the inside of the outhouse.

In one od the future posts, I promise to finally get to the special Toilet Signs post. I have been collecting photos of the signs from all over the world and can’t believe the creativity of people. There are a myriad of ways to say Woman and Man in pictographs. And I have at leas 99 pictures to prove it.