All that is important

A common feature of the hitherto presented war phrasebooks is that sixty or seventy years later these volumes were rare guests on the shelves of second-hand book stores – and those published in the Soviet Union were even quickly destroyed. Would you have believed that there is at least one, which has been in use for generations to learn language, right up until today?

The Polish phrasebook by István Varsányi is well known to Hungarian students of Polish. If you leaf through it until the list of sources on the last page, the first book and its year of publication will immediately strike your eye.

Wladysław Szabliński: Wszystko co ważne. Minden ami fontos (“All that is important”). Debrecen, Városi nyomda, 1940

My friend József Mudrák, who works at the University of Debrecen, shared with me accurate and interesting information on the author. Wladysław Szabliński vel Krawczyk was the Polish lector of the Tisza István University in Debrecen from the thirties. He was born in Warsaw on 7 December 1912. On 1 September 1935 he was already teaching at the university, and took an active part in the work of the summer university, too. He had an excellent command of Hungarian, many people only knew him as “Szablinski László”, and he had a Hungarian wife, Ágnes Juhász. The example sentences of his phrasebook make you understand why the Nazi cultural attaché demanded his dismissal in the summer of 1941. Of course, Szabliński was not fired by the university, he was allowed to stay, although in a different position, as a librarian, from February 1942.

RADIO / we listen to the radio / let us look for London / let us listen to what Budapest broadcasts

In February 1944 Professor Adorján Divéky (the former Hungarian lector of the Warsaw University and former director of the Hungarian Institute in Warsaw) proposed his renewed appointment as a lector, because “the Hungarian government for its own part still considers valid the Hungarian-Polish cultural convention”. However, one month later, after the German occupation of Hungary, this could not take place, and Szabliński coul dnot have written example sentences like the ones above without retaliation.

“Attention! The unauthorized possession or operation of any radio station – even VHF – is a crime, which will be judged by the summary court.”

“In terms of the decree of the government, listening to hostile or foreign radio stations is forbidden and severely punished”. Villám, 15 June 1944

Szabliński fulfilled his task as librarian until 17 June 1944.

After the above, you will not be surprised by the currency of the topics that he gave to his students.

WAR / the British government sent an ultimatum to the German government / the German government rejected the ultimatum / England declared war on Germany / the Germans invaded Poland without ultimatum / the technical superiority was on the German side / defense reports / our army is rapidly advancing

our troops repulsed the hostile attack / there is tranquility on the front / the enemy was lured into a trap / the French troops went on counterattack / the soldiers dug trenches and forced the taken positions / the German troops retreated to the previously chosen positions / the hostile troops fled in disorder / we have won the battle! / the enemy’s defeat is unavoidable / the Siegfried Line was broken through / an air attack was ordered against Warsaw / the anti-aircraft artillery shot down two planes / they dropped twenty bombs / the public buildings were bombed / the civilians suffered the most / they bombed the Red Cross hospital / we had ten casualties and forty-three wounded / the losses of the enemy are unknown / the troops encamped / the siege of Warsaw lasted nearly a month / the fort garison surrendered

A glorious alternative history unfolds from the example sentences of the book. Britain and France did not let down their ally in a shameful way, as they did in reality, but, as they previously agreed, they immediately attacked the German aggressor. Thus, Poland came out of the war as a winner.

Britain successfully continues his anti-submarine campaign / the resources of the enemy are exhausted / they signed an armistice / peace talks began / they made peace / the defeated enemy had to sign the peace treaty

The Hungarians also shed blood for their independence / now the fourth division of Poland took place / now the Poles took over the Hungarian watchword: no, no, never! / We won’t let ourselves!

One thing is sure: Wladysław Szabliński was a courageous person. Professor István Varsányi, whose life was also adventurous and would make a good movie, had a good reason to refer to this booklet as his source in the last page of his book. He was a courageous person, too: in May 1957, just a few months after the suppressed revolution of 1956, to explicitly refer to this volume as a source, which included, among others, the following two pages, meant no little risk. Perhaps he only wanted to commemorate Szabliński, but it is also possible, that, like Szabliński, he wanted to recall the disaster of downtrodden Hungary, and to remind readers that Poland could rise up from a much more difficult situation, and rebuild itself. Here is, therefore, an example showing that anything can succeed, nothing is impossible.

And this is all that is important.

Map of interwar Poland (maked in dots and, subsequently, in red, the Ribbentrop-Molotov line of 1939 dividing the country between the Nazis and the Soviets), and the borders of Hungary between the recapture of Subcarpathia (15 March 1939) and the Second Vienna Award (30 August 1940) – that is, in the period, when the little guide leads Sándor Török to the common Hungarian-Polish border.

The Anthem of Poland / “Poland is not yet lost, as long as we live!” / “Long live Poland!”

In search of Adolf Guttmann. 1. A survey

Two sisters with a friend. Left, the youngest, Salomina Franciska Guttmann, called Myra, and in the middle the eldest, Magdalena Elizabeth Guttmann, called Madge

Family album:
Alba, 1867
Jo’burg, 1880
Hong Kong, 1897
Marseille, 1900
Paris, 1904
Valenciennes, 1918
Buenos Aires, 1930
Two sisters posing in the photo. We left them in the year of 1900 in Marseille. With the exile that lay before them after the Boer War, a page of history was closed to them: they returned to Europe, the continent their mother’s ancestors had left more than two centuries earlier, in 1685, after the revocation of the edict of Nantes and the expulsion of the Protestants by Louis XIV. They left Motte-d’Aigue of Provence, La Rochelle, Poitou, Normandy, they fled to the Netherlands, and from there in 1688 they were shipped to the colony of the Cape of Good Hope.

Two sisters. Their mother, a descendant of French Huguenots, had died five years earlier. We will not speak about her now.
Their father was born somewhere in Poland – or Germany – in the mid-nineteenth century, and nothing was known about him: neither where he came from, nor where he disappeared.
About this man we had not known anything sure for a long time. He was sometimes German, sometimes Polish, and sometimes – there my grandmother lowered her voice – a Jew. The only Jew in the family, and we did not even know who he was – a Pole, a German? Anyway – the voice of my grandmother turned normal – he converted, so he was not a real Jew any more.
She told me that this man was the father of my great-grandmother, and that later they chased him away by whip – this “they” might have been his wife, but also his daughter Madge, the elder sister of my great-grandmother, or even Myra herself. I do not know, I have heard this story so many times, without really believing it.

About him, we have nothing, not a single picture, no story beyond the fact that they chased him away, no explanation. No date or place of birth or death. Just a name: Adolf Guttmann or Gutmann, born in the mid-nineteenth century somewhere between Berlin and Warsaw, and died after 1900 somewhere in Africa.

Map of the European part of the Russian Empire. Atlas of the World, James Wyld, 1864

For a long time I have not wanted to know anything about this South African story. For a long time, research has produced only very meager clues.
And then gradually the pieces of the puzzle have begun to fit.

guttmann1 guttmann1 guttmann1

The first path leads to England, Sheffield. In the mid-nineteenth century, the brothers Tobias and Isaac Guttmann embark upon watchmaking and cutlery. Tobias had his shop at 22 High Street, and Isaac’s was at 21 Fargate, where he also had a jewelry store. Both were respected members of the Jewish community of the city. Both had many children: Joseph, Alexandra, Florence, Bertha, Jeannette Marie to Isaac, another Bertha, Leonora, another Joseph, Rosie, Philip and Edith to Tobias – and these are only the children who survived. Probably not everything works marvelously for the two brothers: Isaac unfortunately went bankrupt in 1860 – but then he went into business with his brother, and they founded the Guttmann Brothers watchmaker’s house, this time, a success.

guttmann2 guttmann2 guttmann2 guttmann2 guttmann2 guttmann2 guttmann2 guttmann2

But neither Isaac, nor Tobias were from England. Although the date of their immigration remains unknown, we know they were born in 1833 and 1835, respectively, in Kalisz, Russian Poland, a few miles from the Prussian border, one of the westernmost shtetls of the Russian Empire.

Kalisz, the Jewish quarter Chmielnik on a postcard sent in 1904 (the double date – 3/16 June – refers to the Russian/Julian and the European/Gregorian calendar). “The Khmelnik suburb”, describes the sender in somewhat confused French, “whose name comes from Russian and Polish khmel, ʻhops’, is a street flanked by cabarets de l’eau de vie [brandy pubs].”

When Adolf, around 1880, arrived in South Africa with a lot of knives to start his small business as a peddler, he came directly from Sheffield, 22 High Street, Guttmann Brothers, watchmakers-cutlers. But then, neither Tobias, nor Isaac had any such son named Adolf, and no Adolf Guttmann figures in the birth records in Britain.

What was, then, the Adolf’s real family? And how was he related to these Guttmanns of Sheffield?
The tracks have long been blurred. So little has been left about Adolf: a document of marriage, a name on the birth certificates of his children, some allusions apropos of a letter, and his death certificate – finally, a clue.
Apparently, he died in Johannesburg in 1922, “at the age of 74”.
Well, then he was born somewhere between Berlin and Warsaw, around 1848.
But then, among all Guttmanns, whose birth certificates have been preserved here or there, from the east to the west of Europe, there is no Adolf Guttmann, either in, or before, or after 1848. None.
Yet Adolf, at a very small scale, became one of the links of the small South African politics on the eve of the Boer War – a small link between the Jews and Afrikaners of Johannesburg, who were convinced of their racial superiority. A link well enough placed to make his daughters in 1902 the heroines of the Boer War in a Hungarian periodical, which wrongly considers them as the granddaughters of President Kruger.

“Boer women in arms.
The combativeness of the Boers from the very beginning is well shown by the fact, that in addition to men, not only old people and children, but even women take up arms.
Namely, an Amazon unit in uniforms was formed in Pretoria. Here we present three of their members, who all are granddaughters of Kruger. They are Mrs. Eloff, Miss Mira Guttmann and Miss Flanagan.
These ladies have now accompanied their old grandfather on his European tour.”

Photo published in the Hungarian journal Vasárnapi Újság on 30 december 1900.
The image is different from, and nevertheless similar to the one above: Madge has just turned her head. But the image quality is much lower, so that possibly a second photo, taken during the same session, was touched and engraved, was used for the publication.


However weak the traces are, you feel good when one day you finally come upon them. A phrase in an article, an allusion which opens new routes, and finally it is there.

This second trail follows a winding path as far as to Poland. It all starts with a letter sent from Warsaw, and stored in an archive file somewhere in Pretoria.
According to this one, Adolf had a sister, Franciszka Goldberg, née Guttmann, who lived in Warsaw, and who, around 1902, at the end of the Boer War, wrote to the South African authorities to obtain news of her two brothers, Adolf and Izidore Olympius.

This Franciszka, the sister of Adolf, was easy to find. She was born in October 1860 in Warsaw, a daughter of Henryk Guttmann and his wife Salomé Redlich. Henryk and Salomé married in 1857 in Kalisz, where both of them were born. This time the archive records are quite clear. Henryk turns out to be the third Guttmann brother, the one who stayed in Poland. He appeared as Henry in the English sources, and as Henryk in the birth certificate of his daughter in Warsaw.

This is, then, the father of Adolf, Henryk Guttmann.

Henryk Guttmann in 1864 – I cannot identify the object in his left hand

Among the three Guttmann brothers, he is the only who does not bear a Jewish first name. In fact, he took the name Henryk at the moment of moving to Warsaw. At his birth, in 1824 in Kalisz, he was registered as Hajman Nuchem Guttman, and it was under this name that he married Salomé Redlich in 1857.
The birth certificate of his daughter, born in Warsaw in 1860, bears the name Henryk – but he had already two sons in Kalisz, in 1858 and 1859, whom he registered under his previous name, Hajman Nuchem Guttman: they are Joseph and Izidore, the two brothers of Franciszka.

And Adolf? Our Adolf, who died in 1922 at the age of 74, and thus had to be born in 1848?

One. This is only a hypothesis, but it may be that Adolf’s death certificate had an error, or it was misread by the one who transcribed it, and that his age at death was 64 instead of 74, and thus he was born not in 1848, but in 1858.

Two. Hajman Nuchem Guttmann and Salomé Redlich had two sons in Kalisz, in 1858 and 1859. This is, of course, also a hypothesis, but as Hajman could change his name to Henryk, he could also choose for his firstborn, Joseph, another, less Jewish, and more modern and European first name, Adolf.

Let us sum it up. Thus, a Jewish child from the shtetl of Kalisz, in Russian Poland, moved to Warsaw at the age of two, and albeit born as Joseph in 1858, he became Adolf for the rest of his life. This Adolf went then to Sheffield to meet there his uncles, Isaac and Tobias, and his cousins, Joseph and Joseph, all of them watchmakers, jewelers and cutlers. From there he set out in the late 1870s, in the company of a cousin Joseph, to South Africa, and there, by virtue of a big jump, about which we do not know much, some years later he became a small link between the Jews of Johannesburg and the Pretorian Afrikaners, closer to the political and economic power. Perhaps also closer to fortune?

A case to be followed.

A la recherche d'Adolf Guttmann (1) : une enquête

Deux sœurs côte à côte avec une amie : à gauche la cadette, Salomina Franciska Guttmann dite Myra, et au centre l’aînée, Magdalena Elizabeth Guttmann dite Madge

Album de famille:
Alba 1867
Jo’burg, 1880
Hong-Kong, 1897
Marseille, 1900
Paris, 1904
Valenciennes, 1918
Buenos Aires, 1930
Deux sœurs qui prennent la pose. On les avait laissées là à la fin de l’année 1900 à Marseille. Avec cet exil qui s’ouvrait devant elles après la guerre des Boers, une page d’histoire se refermait : elles rentraient en Europe, ce continent que les ancêtres de leur mère avaient quitté plus de deux siècles auparavant lors de la révocation de l’édit de Nantes et l’expulsion des protestants de France par Louis XIV en 1685. Ils avaient quitté la Motte-d’Aigue en Provence, La Rochelle, le Poitou, la Normandie, ils avaient fui en Hollande et de là, en 1688, ils s’étaient embarqués pour la colonie du Cap de Bonne-Espérance.

Deux sœurs. Leur mère, la descendante de huguenots français, était morte cinq ans plus tôt. D’elle, pas un mot pour l’instant.
Leur père, lui, était né quelque part en Pologne — ou en Allemagne — vers le milieu du XIXe siècle, et nul ne savait rien de lui : ni d’où il venait, ni où il avait disparu.
De cet homme, longtemps, nous n’avons rien su ou presque. Il était parfois Allemand, parfois Polonais et — là ma grand-mère baissait la voix — juif. Le seul juif de la famille et on ne savait même pas ce qu’il était — un Polonais, un Allemand ? La voix de ma grand-mère remontait — converti tout de même, plus vraiment juif non plus.
Elle me racontait que cet homme avait été le père de mon arrière-grand-mère et qu’ensuite on l’avait chassé à coups de cravache — « on » était peut-être sa femme mais « on » pouvait également être sa fille, Madge, la sœur aînée de mon arrière-grand-mère, peut-être Myra également, je n’ai jamais bien su : j’ai entendu tant de fois cette histoire sans y attacher foi.

De lui, rien ne semblait avoir survécu, pas une seule photo de lui, pas une anecdote au-delà du fait qu’on l’ait chassé, pas une explication. Ni date ni lieu de naissance, ni date ni lieu de décès. Juste un nom : Adolf Guttmann ou Gutmann, né au milieu du XIXe siècle quelque part entre Berlin et Varsovie et mort après 1900 quelque part en Afrique.

Carte de la partie européenne de l’Empire russe, Atlas of the World, James Wyld, 1864

Longtemps, je n’ai rien voulu savoir de cette histoire sud-africaine. Longtemps, les recherches n’ont donné que de très maigres indices.
Et puis peu à peu les pièces du puzzle se sont emboîtées.

guttmann1 guttmann1 guttmann1

La première piste mène en Angleterre, à Sheffield. Les frères Tobias et Isaac Guttmann se lancent dans l’horlogerie et la coutellerie vers le milieu du XIXe siècle. Tobias avait sa boutique au 22 High Street, et Isaac la sienne au 21 Fargate où il tenait également une bijouterie. Ils appartenaient tous deux à la communauté juive de la ville dont ils étaient des membres respectés. L’un et l’autre ont eu beaucoup d’enfants : Joseph, Alexandra, Florence, Bertha, Jeannette Marie chez Isaac ; Bertha encore, Leonora, Joseph de nouveau, Rosie, Philip, Edith chez Tobias — et ce ne sont que les survivants. Tout ne va sans doute pas toujours à merveille pour les deux frères : Isaac a malheureusement fait faillite en 1860 — mais il s’est ensuite associé à son frère pour fonder la maison Guttmann Frères, horlogers, un vrai succès cette fois-ci.

guttmann2 guttmann2 guttmann2 guttmann2 guttmann2 guttmann2 guttmann2 guttmann2

Mais ni Isaac ni Tobias ne sont originaires d’Angleterre. Si la date à laquelle ils ont émigré reste inconnue, nous savons qu’ils sont nés, le premier en 1833 et le second en 1835 à Kalisz, en Pologne russe, à quelques km de la frontière prussienne, l’un des shtetls les plus occidentaux de l’empire russe.

Kalisz, le quartier juif de Chmielnik sur une carte postale envoyée en 1904 (la double date – 3/16 juin – fait référence aux calendriers russe/julien et européen/grégorien). « Le faubourg Khmelnik » , décrit le correspondant dans un français un peu confus, « dont le nom khmel provient du russe et du polonais houblon, est une ruelle entourée de cabarets de l’eau de vie […] »

Lorsque Adolf est arrivé en Afrique du Sud vers 1880 avec un lot de couteaux pour débuter son petit commerce de colporteur, il venait tout droit de Sheffield, tout droit du 22 High Street, Guttmann Frères, horlogers - couteliers. Mais voilà, ni Tobias, ni Isaac n’ont eu de fils prénommé Adolf et aucun Adolf Guttmann ne figure sur les registres de naissance en Grande-Bretagne.

Qui alors était la vraie famille d’Adolf ? En quoi était-il apparenté à ces Guttmann de Sheffield ?
Là, les pistes sont restées longtemps brouillées. Car il reste si peu de choses d’Adolf : un acte de mariage, un nom sur les actes de naissances de ses enfants, quelques allusions au hasard d’une lettre, et son acte de décès — un indice, enfin.
Il serait mort à Johannesburg en 1922, « âgé de 74 ans ».
Bien, le voilà désormais né quelque part entre Berlin et Varsovie, vers 1848.
Mais voilà, parmi tous les Guttmann dont l’acte de naissance a été conservé ici ou là, de l’Est à l’Ouest de l’Europe, il ne figure aucun Adolf Guttmann, ni en 1848, ni avant, ni après. Aucun.

Pourtant Adolf, à une toute petite échelle, est devenu l’un des maillons du petit monde politique Sud-africain à la veille de la guerre des Boers — un petit maillon entre les juifs de Johannesburg et les Afrikaners sûrs de leur supériorité raciale de Pretoria : un maillon suffisamment bien placé pour que ses filles en 1902 figurent en héroïnes de la guerre des Boers jusque dans un périodique hongrois qui les présente, à tort, comme les petites-filles du président Kruger.

« Des combattantes boers en armes
La combativité des Boers depuis le début du conflit est démontrée par le fait qu’on rencontre, aux côtés des hommes, non seulement des vieillards et des enfants, mais même des femmes qui prennent les armes.
En l’occurrence, un une unité d’Amazones a même été formée à Pretoria. Nous vous en présentons iici trois de leurs membres, toutes trois des petites-filles de Kruger. Ce sont Mrs. Eloff, Miss Mira Guttmann and Miss Flanagan. Ces dames accompagnent aujourd’hui leur grand-père dans sa tournée des États européens. »

Photo parue dans le périodique hongrois Vasárnapi Újság, 30 décembre 1900.
L’image est à la fois différente et très proche de celle qui figure plus haut, les exilées en armes sur la photo de Nadar : Madge a juste tourné la tête. Mais la qualité de l’image est bien inférieure et on peut imaginer que pour la publication dans la presse, un deuxième cliché réalisé lors de la même séance a été redessiné et gravé.


Si infimes que soient ses traces, un jour, on finit bien par mettre la main sur lui. Une phrase dans un article, une allusion qui ouvre de nouvelles pistes et finalement, il est là.

Cette deuxième piste suit un chemin sinueux jusqu’en Pologne : tout commence par une lettre expédiée de Varsovie et conservée dans quelque dossier d’archives à Pretoria.
Adolf avait donc une sœur, Franciszka Goldberg née Guttmann, résidant à Varsovie et qui vers 1902, à la fin de la guerre des Boers, écrivit aux autorités Sud-africaines pour obtenir des nouvelles de ses deux frères, Adolf et Izidore Olympius.

Cette Franciszka, la sœur d’Adolf, elle, nous l’avons aisément retrouvée : elle est née en octobre 1860 à Varsovie, fille de Henryk Guttmann et Salomé Redlich son épouse. Henryk et Salomé s’étaient mariés en 1857 à Kalisz où ils étaient nés tous deux : cette fois, les registres sont parfaitement clairs. Henryk se révèle être celui des trois frères Guttmann qui est resté en Pologne. Frère d’Isaac et de Tobias, il apparaît sous le nom d’Henry dans les sources anglaises, et d’Henryk sur l’acte de naissance de sa fille à Varsovie.

Voilà donc le père d’Adolf, Henryk Guttmann.

Henryk Guttmann en 1864 — je n’identifie pas l’objet sur sa gauche

Des trois frères Guttmann, il semble être le seul à ne pas porter un prénom juif mais en fait, il n’a pris ce prénom d’Henryk qu’à partir du moment où il s’est installé à Varsovie : il est inscrit lors de sa naissance en 1824 à Kalisz sous le nom de Hajman Nuchem Guttmann et c’est sous ce nom qu’il a épousé Salomé Redlich en 1857.
L’acte de naissance de sa fille née à Varsovie en 1860 porte certes le nom d’Henryk — mais il avait déjà eu deux fils à Kalisz en 1858 et 1859, deux enfants qu’il avait déclarés sous son premier nom d’Hajman Nuchem Guttmann : Joseph et Izidore, les deux frères de Franciszka.

Et Adolf ? Notre Adolf qui en mourant en 1922 à 74 ans aurait dû naître en 1848 ?

Un. Ce n’est qu’une hypothèse sans doute mais il se peut que l’acte de décès d’Adolf ait comporté une erreur ou qu’il ait été mal lu par ceux qui l’ont retranscrit. Adolf ne serait donc pas mort à 74 ans mais à 64 et dans ce cas, il ne serait pas né en 1848 mais en 1858.

Deux. Hajman Nuchem Guttmann et Salomé Redlich ont eu deux fils à Kalisz, en 1858 et 1859 : Joseph et Izidore. C’est encore une hypothèse bien entendu, mais de même que Hajman a changé son prénom pour Henryk, il a pu choisir pour son premier-né, Joseph, le second prénom moins juif, plus moderne et européen d’Adolf (moins original tout de même qu’Olympius).

Récapitulons. Soit donc un enfant juif du shtetl de Kalisz, en Pologne russe, parti vivre à Varsovie à l’âge de deux ans, né Joseph en 1858 et devenu Adolf par la suite. Cet Adolf s’est ensuite rendu à Sheffield pour y retrouver ses oncles, Isaac et Tobias, et ses cousins, Joseph et Joseph, tous horlogers bijoutiers couteliers. De là, il est parti avec l’un des cousins Joseph vers l’Afrique du Sud à la fin des années 1870 et là, par un grand saut dont nous ne savons pas grand chose, il s’est retrouvé des années plus tard petit maillon entre les juifs de Johannesburg et les Afrikaners de Pretoria, au plus près du pouvoir politique et économique. Près de la fortune, peut-être, qui sait ?

Une affaire à suivre donc.

Pink postcards 4

[1914. nov. 18.]
Name of the sender: Timo Károly I. honv. gy.e.
Address of the sender: III. pótszázad II. szakasz Budapest

Address: To the honored Miss Antónia Zajác
3rd district, Kis Korona Street 52.

My dear Janka!
I am letting you know, that now we have leave several times in the evening, but I cannot use it, because we are allowed to leave only from 6 to 9, so it is not worth anything. On Sunday I’ll probably come home, unless something comes up, which I don’t know yet; if before 4 I am not at home, you come to see me. Now you also have more time, since your mother is at home. How is she? I hope you also feel well. I have got a bad cold, but this is nothing. And now I’m going to play. My greetings to the old flolks.
Servus. Many k…s from your

Previous letters (indicated in grey on the map):

Budapest, 27 October 1914
Debrecen, 25 September 1914
Szerencs, 28 August 1914
[In the past three weeks, the confusion has somewhat settled, but the constant desire for leave – as there is war – is usually missing. The time given for the leave, roughly speaking, is worth nothing. Despite the free travel provided for soldiers, and the direct connection: by the time he would reach tram 9 at Franz Joseph Barracks, and it rattled along Üllői street, crossed the Franz Joseph bridge, and along the Danube slowly arrived at Óbuda, he would almost immediately have had to turn back.

One can feel from the letter the uncertainty because of the missing leaves, and the concern about the health of the parents of the sender and the addressee.

What can the last, mysterious abbreviation mean? It is left to our imagination. At the sight of the parting words, a prudish reader rather turns his or her eyes away.]

Dissolving: The wild boar

Wild boar from the Anne Walshe Bestiary (early 15th c.), Kongelige Bibliotek, Gl. kgl. S. 1633 4º, fol. 23v. Further medieval boar illustrations here

On 18 November 1664 – exactly 350 years ago – the Croatian Ban, Croatian and Hungarian poet, politician and military leader Miklós Zrínyi (1620–1664) lost his life in the forest of Kuršanec, next to Csáktornya, on the way back from a wild boar hunt. The story is well known to the Hungarian reader. The wounded animal, which seemed to be easy prey, in the end seriously wounded the Hungarian aristocrat, who soon died of his injuries. Many of his contemporaries – not to mention posterity – did not believe it was an accident, and suspected a conspiracy of the Viennese court behind the events.

The death of Zrínyi, 17th-c. engraving, from here

But we also know about more fortunate boar hunts by Zrínyi’s predecessors. On 30 November 1514 – exactly 500 years ago –, Wladislas II, King of Bohemia and Hungary confirmed the rights of possession of nobleman János Cseh from Martonfalva and his brothers Gábor and Mihály. This was necessary, because their charters, guarded in the chapter of Csanád, had been destroyed a few months earlier, during the bloody peasant uprising. The affirmation also included the donation of a new coat of arms. In this, a man in hunting clothes fights using his bare hands with a wild boar, already wounded by a spear. This scene is a heraldic snapshot of an event that took place decades earlier. The human figure – as the initials “I. C.” suggest – represents János (Iohannes) Cseh himself, who, during a hunt in the Croatian forests – in saltibus regni nostri Croatie, as the text of the charter writes – defended with his bare hands his master, Matthias Geréb, between 1482 and 1489 the Croatian, Dalmatian and Slavonian Ban, from a surprise attack by the animal. And the other figure in the scene, the wild boar, seems to have stepped directly over from the medieval bestiary paintings into the coat of arms.

Coat of arm of the Cseh family of Martonfalva, 1514, vol. 3 of Magyar czímeres emlékek (Old Hungarian coat of arms, Budapest, 1926)

Together in Southern Bohemia

Earlier Together…
in Galicia
in Maramureș-Bukovina
in Mallorca
in the Crimea
to Odessa and back
in Odessa
in Lemberg/Lwów
If you should name a really fascinating town, probably not Třeboň, Prachatice, or the unpronunceable Jindřichův Hradec would come to mind soonest. And then you stand in the main square of the town, and you are really fascinated. Even then, we have not even spoken about such highlights as Telč, Český Krumlov, or Slavonice, which was refused the title of World Heritage Site only because “there are a disproportionate number of such sites in the region”.

It is this region, which is involved in a disproportionate way in world heritage, the richest in historical monuments and at the same time the most unknown region of Central Europe, which we have traveled all over in five days. It is these five days that the fellow travelers now report about in writing, in pictures and in music. And I let them report now, because I have written enough and will write even more about this beautiful, strange, out-of-time world at your fingertips, here in the middle of Europe. To where, I am sure, we will also organize many more trips.


Middle-earth in Bohemia

If I should characterize the Böhmerwald with one term, such pathetic-sounding words would immediately come to mind as “Fairyland” or “Enchanted Empire”. Everything here seems unrealistically idyllic, and it is this unreality which recalls such catchwords. Not in the modern, post-Romantic sense, but closer to its older meaning, which contains a good amount of fear of the unknown. This meaning was an important source of Tolkien’s mythology (and the Shakespearean unpath’d waters, undream’d shores also seems to evoke Tolkien’s imaginary Valinor), and it is still lingering in the terms Faërie and enchanted lands. This feeling is enhanced still by the mist, the patchwork of the roofs of Trebitsch/Třebíč, and most of all the waters: the Vydra stream, and the Vltava, which accompanies us for a good while, and in whose depths the stones, risen to life, wander along. In the night, standing on the river bank at Český Krumlov it seems as if even the harsh German words were ground smoother by this incessant flow of water.

Closer to historical reality, the garland of Renaissance towns seems to show a mirror to the Hungarian traveler, the mirror of the somewhat ahistorical “what if”: this is how several Hungarian towns would look like, had there not been the Ottoman conquest (I would then miss the Turbe of Gül Baba anyway): Renaissance market squares, house walls decorated in sgraffito with allegorical and biblical scenes, kind of poor man’s Bibles.

And finally, the very real history of the recent past, which overshadows this idyllic picture, and makes so familiarly East-Central European this region, where each town has at least two names. The Jewish cemeteries of Nikolsburg/Mikulov and Trebitsch/Třebíč, but especially the traces of the displaced Germans (who once built and lived in these Renaissance towns), of which sadly little has remained, and even fewer will remain as the “memories” of  constructed Czech history require place for themselves: ghost signs popping up, medieval churches, the German grave stone inscriptions. The timber has long flown down, and the current of the river will soon carry away their last traces.

kdani1 kdani1 kdani1 kdani1 kdani1 kdani1 kdani1 kdani1 kdani1 kdani1 kdani1 kdani1 kdani1 kdani1 kdani1 kdani1 kdani1 kdani1 kdani1 kdani1 kdani1 kdani1

Kálmán Dani

Southern Bohemia

istvan1 istvan1 istvan1 istvan1 istvan1 istvan1 istvan1 istvan1 istvan1 istvan1 istvan1 istvan1 istvan1 istvan1 istvan1 istvan1 istvan1 istvan1

istvan2 istvan2 istvan2 istvan2 istvan2 istvan2 istvan2 istvan2 istvan2 istvan2 istvan2 istvan2 istvan2 istvan2 istvan2 istvan2 istvan2

istvan3 istvan3 istvan3 istvan3 istvan3 istvan3 istvan3 istvan3 istvan3 istvan3 istvan3 istvan3 istvan3 istvan3 istvan3 istvan3 istvan3 istvan3

istvan4 istvan4 istvan4 istvan4 istvan4 istvan4 istvan4 istvan4 istvan4 istvan4 istvan4 istvan4 istvan4

Pető István

The discovery of Czechoslovakia

This South Bohemian journey has aroused particular emotions in me. It seemed a kind of time travel, which spanned several decades, and connected to my childhood. As a former Czechoslovak citizen, I was permeated already in the elementary school geography and history lessons with the names of České Budějovice and Telč, the Šumava and the Český Les, Třeboň and Tábor, etc. The carp on the Christmas table also arrived from Southern Bohemia to the Pozsony/Bratislava market. However, until now – with the exception of the city of Brno – I’ve never been in this area.

In the eighties I had the intention to visit it, but then history, the change of regime, the opening to the West changed everything, and this region was somehow forgotten by me.

Then recently I stared in wonder on río Wang at the beautiful photos and informative reports which showed the values of this landscape. And when I came to know that my friend is going to go to Český Krumlov to the show of the famous open theatre, the old intention came to life again, and with great joy I applied for the journey announced on río Wang.

Although once they were parts of the same country, Southern Bohemia seemed very remote from my native Pozsony/Bratislava. And it was indeed. The travel by rail to Prague took five to six hours. Now, however, as we observed it in agreement with the fellow travelers, this region became very close to us both in space and in time.

Leaving behind Brno, we headed south. During the trip, the countryside and the towns visited gradually revealed to us all their beauty.

Instead of a detailed travel report, let me only tell about my “tops”: the breathtaking living room of Villa Tugendhat in Brno; the legend of the crocodile promoted to dragon – with a historical background; the magnificent Benedictine abbey of Třebíč and its Romanesque crypt; the building complex of the Cistercian abbey of Zlatá Koruna, in every room having newer and newer surprises in store; the poignant story of the Hungarian soldiers; the towns in picturesque locations, on hillsides or at the bank of artificial lakes or rivers, each a jewel; the friendly welcome of Jindřichův Hradec and Český Krumlov in the evening light; the ancient hotels, beautiful churches, houses and castles; the century-old cemeteries; the lovely scenery, the valley of river Vydra with the excursion refreshing body and spirit alike; the pilgrimage church of Kájov, with the competent and compassionate guide of the guardian… And of course the common experiences, conversations, discussions, with Juli, Györgyi, the boys, Tamás Deák, “Uncle” Laci, Gábor… and the other nice fellow travelers… and the continuous, but never stressful, enjoyable and cheerful intellectual edification and enrichment, by courtesy of Tamás.

From the photos made during our travel, I want to share with you those, which, even if not in the best quality, record for me the moments and atmosphere of this memorable trip. And, in addition, one photo about our tireless guide, Tamás, who paid attention to every little detail.

And finally, one more memory worth remembering: the virtuoso maneuvering and parking of our driver Józsi with his bus-trailer, in which we participated with bated breath.

bmari bmari bmari bmari bmari bmari bmari bmari bmari bmari bmari bmari bmari bmari bmari bmari bmari

B. Mári

Ars longa, vita brevis

Karel Čapek, in his essay Pictures from home, writes this about Český Krumlov:

“…I do not know how many bends the Vltava has, while you cross the city, but if you do it as directly as you can, you will cross it at least five times, and each time you will wonder how goldish brown it is and how much it is in a hurry. I do not know either, how many inhabitants Krumlov has, but it has twenty-four pubs, three churches, a castle, two great town gates, and a lot of other monuments. Substantially, all the city is one great historical monument, which reminds you of Siena or Stirling or any other famous place. That is, it has old gables, window bays, roof windows, arcades, vaults, loopholes, sgraffiti, frescoes, stairs up and down, handrails, fountains, columns, corner stones, corners, houses, underpasses, historic pavement, zigzag alleys, nativity scenes, high roofs, Gothic church, Minorite monastery, and the red rose of the Rosenbergs everywhere. Wherever you go, you only see picturesque places and antique monuments and historical sights, and in the old suburbs low houses, whose roof you can touch with your hand, with rose geranium in the windows, and signs above the doors, here still there live old craftsmen, like in the fifteenth century.

In that place, everything is dominated by the castle (…), especially the tower, one of the most tower-like towers I have ever seen. I would say, this tower is a Bohemian specialty, because in no other country you can find so strange domes, plump onion domes, poppy domes, lanterns, little sharp towers, galeries and church spiers, sa in this country. Here every old Bohemian town has its special tower, by which you can tell that this is Hradec, and this Brno, and this Budějovice, and this Český Krumlov.”

I cannot sketch my impressions during our adventures in South Moravia and South Bohemia with more eloquent words than those of Čapek. While wandering – not only in the above mentioned four cities, but also in the other phenomenal little towns –, the stones speaking about the historical past and ancient cultures convinced me not for the first time, that art is eternal.

In the Hippocratic idea quoted in the title, I include, somewhat arbitrarily, also the works of art of nature. Our journey led through beautiful landscapes, particularly after we reached the Czech Forest. Many beauties we only saw from the bus, but some of them we could closely study during our walk along the river Vydra in the Šumava National Park. This is the scenery ingrained in me: small, larger and even bigger granite stones of different colors fixed in the riverbed, frilly, frothy, roaring, buzzing water, which is forced to avoid, but also to embrace the rocks, and the audience thronging on the two banks, swaying and nodding with their branches and foliage, to express, how much they like the performance. No wonder, that the otters loving pure water moved here and stuck here, albeit now they played hide and seek with us, and they have won :)

There were so many impressions, and they are so much swirling still in my mind, that now this, now that one comes to the surface. For example, our first stop, as soon as we arrived at Brno, the Villa Tugendhat. Viewed from the street, the house did not appear anything special, one would have walked past it. But inside I fell from one wonder to the other, mainly because every solution served the best the function it was intended for. For most people, such a villa remains a dream even today, but the fact that such a house was built almost a century ago, in the late 1920s, is a small wonder. Clear forms, spacious rooms, quality furniture, wall covering and flooring, mysterious natural and artificial lights, a winter garden with tap water and drain. Electric sockets in the floors, large glass windows, through which the light just pours in, some of them can be simply pulled down and simply disappears in the pavement, air conditioning which both heats and cools, a direct terrace and garden access (invisible from the street front), so that the inner spaces look much larger than they are, and so on. I fully understand why the Villa Tugendhat, as one of the first chef d’oeuvre of modern architecture, was put on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

While walking in the Jewish neighborhoods and cemeteries of Mikulov and Třebíč, I could not think but about the shortness and fragility of life.

In the Jewish quarters, silence and absence were palpable.

The tombstones standing orderly or tangled in the centuries old cemeteries, with their Hebrew and/or German inscriptions, and several elements of Jewish gravestone symbolism referring to the social status or ancestry of the deceased, all made me think about the people of the diaspora and their offspring. Also of the particular persons. It was perhaps due to the 100th anniversary of the Great War, that I spent longer time in front of the plaque of the law student Erich Pisk, who was the only son of the local city doctor, was awarded with the bronze and silver medal of courage and valor, was born on 28 February 1893, and died on 8 December 1916 at Kirlibaba, at the Eastern front, for his homeland.

He lived 23 years.

The center of Southern Bohemia, České Budějovice (Budweis), where the world-famous original Budweiser beer is made. This was my first visit to a brewery, it was worth it to taste the process of beer production, as well as a glass of unfiltered beer, called a “young beer” by the local guide. Such a beer you cannot buy elsewhere, since it requires a follow-up treatment, before, filled in bottles and canisters, it is shipped out in all directions of the compass.

The rectangular main square of Budějovice is an impressive sight with its beautifully renovated Renaissance and Baroque buildings. Many of them have arcades, under which you can walk around even in the rain, just like in the beautiful main square of Telč. Fortunately, here we avoided rain, which was our companion for a part of the journey. The enormous square is crowned by an impressive fountain in the middle, with Samson and the lion on the top. As I saw no honey running from the mouth of the lion, I sat down under the arcades, where I finally drank a delicious cappucino, continuing to behold the grand square from there. My ephemeral hedonism prevented me in climbing to the top of the Renaissance Black Tower emerging in the corner of the square. I will make up for this gap on a future trip, because one thing became clear: you can get to know Southern Bohemia and Southern Moravia only by traveling there several times, if it is possible at all to know all the sights, historical monuments and architectural treasures.

Last, but not least, as a newcomer in the tours of río Wang, I would like to say thanks to Tamás for the meticulous planning and organizing of the journey, the lots of information, stories and tolerance received of him, and for having made so that I did not feel long the hours spent in the bus. And as to the fellow travelers, I felt perfectly their excellent companionship.

Thank you.

jutka1 jutka1 jutka1 jutka1 jutka1 jutka1 jutka1 jutka1 jutka1 jutka1 jutka1 jutka1

Tatár Judit


I write hastily, because now the everydays come again, I will be dragged into the usual routine, and will inevitably slip out of any deadline. It only happened to me again, what I had already expected on the basis of the earlier journeys organized by Tamás: a small window opened again, and I became richer not only in unforgettable experiences, but also in knowledge. I have much to read after, thus not closing, but prolonging and at the same time processing my experiences. I feel very lucky that I could not only enter the Villa Tugendhat and get to know its history, but to learn that it exists at all. The view of the main squares of the Renaissance little towns opening in front of us indelibly burned into my memory, just like the excursion in the valley of the Vydra, the view of the Southern Bohemian forest and of the meandering Vltava, listening to the unforgettable music of Smetana in the background. I had nice and sweet companions, I laughed a lot during the trip, which is also an important ingredient of such a journey. Just like the good brandy offered by them, which I will also provide next time. Thanks to Tamás and to everyone.

K. Juli


szdani szdani szdani szdani szdani szdani szdani szdani szdani szdani szdani szdani szdani szdani szdani szdani szdani szdani

A post has been made about one moment of the journey, the 19th-century Schwarzenberg Channel of the Böhmerwald, for the Danubian Islands blog in Hungarian and in German. And a summary of the whole trip is in preparation for the Pangea blog.

Szávoszt-Vass Dániel

History living with us

There was once a film or a series entitled History living with us. Well, the people living here, in the south of Moravia and Bohemia, do not need to recall history by the help of some picture box. In this region, which was not devasted by the Turks, and which was not a front line for centuries, everything which is necessary to clearly see the living connections between past and present, remained almost completely intact. The little towns, preserving all the loveliness of the Italian Renaissance settlements, wait their visitors with an indescribable atmosphere.

And here everything is original. The old mural is really old, the year carved in it is real, showing that man can somehow resist time.

12th-c. mural in Třebíč

The Renaissance sgraffiti on the facades recall the memory of people, whose most surprising feature is their ordinariness. We  see events which were considered important in the lives of the little towns, half a thousand year old news. We see, as it has been seen for centuries and will be seen, what he did and how he lived his life, the Renaissance man in these parts.

Well, this is not yet the real one, but…

dtamas1 dtamas1 dtamas1 dtamas1 dtamas1 dtamas1 dtamas1 dtamas1 dtamas1 dtamas1
…these are already the real thing.

In Kájov, the guardian of the pilgrimage church – just like Uncle Cyril in Bártfa/Bardejov – impressed us with his beautiful Czech language, kindness and knowledge. We are wandering in a fairyland. Why are these old men hidden, why don’t they record fairy tales on CDs? How good it would be if the children could listen to people with such a nice speech (once the parents never have the time…)

Along the Vltava, I see countless memories of the saint, St. John of Nepomuk, who defended and enriched my water miller family for centuries until 1947.

The twentieth century slowly appeared in this region, too. Fortunately, it was considerate, and showed its saddest and sorriest memories at the beginning of the journey, but I will leave this story for the end. The reverse order is also appropriate, because the modern-day stories – despite all the horrible history – somehow move towards reconciliation in this region.

The gourmet breakfast served in the incredibly intimate environment of the wonderful inn at Jindřichův Hradec, is supervised by the severe look of the President, but the high spirits is maintained by the gramophone records of the Sestry Allanovy, playing during breakfast.

Sestry Allanovy: Honba za písnickou

A. Kavka, Sestry Allanovy: Melodie mi nedá spát

Sestry Allanovy: Poznáte lehce náš rytmus

Sestry Allanovy: Večná otázka

In the German cemetery of the Kájov/Gojau pilgrimage church, we can see some of the parents of those three million Germans who were deported from Czechoslovakia after 1945.

The graves are now taken care by the Czechs and Germans together. Just as the monument in Třebíč, which records the names of the local Jewish heroes of WWI, and which somehow survived WWII and the Nazi occupation.

Next to Zlatá Koruna, in the village of Rájov, there is another WWI memorial, kept in order in an exemplary way. Here, in the local cemetery we had a heartbreaking surprise.

dtamas2 dtamas2 dtamas2 dtamas2

The Czech revolted against Nazi occupation in the last days of the war, on 5 May 1945. The Hungarian soldiers stationed at the village switched over to Czech side, disarming the Germans and then letting them go, but in the evening they came back with heavy weapons and an SS squad. The locals and the Hungarians defended themselves for a while, but then they gave up the hopeless fight, and fled.

Mihály Erdélyi: Bajtárs ma még tán csak öt perc az élet (Comrade, life is perhaps just five more minutes). Performed by István Mindszenthi. This song was also performed by the late 20th-century Hungarian popular singer Tamás Cseh

dtamas3 dtamas3 dtamas3
Lajos Balázs • Pál Bense • Mihály Gergely

The next day, a part of the fighters came back unarmed, and was taken prisoner. Those fallen in the fighting: Ensign Lajos Balázs, Buck Sergeant Mihály Gergely, Corporal Mátyás Berkes, Private Pál Bense, Private György Krivjanek. Their memory is revered by the locals, their tomb is always decorated with a Hungarian flag.

Tamás Hegedűs: Az én szerelmem messze idegenben jár (My beloved is far away, in a foreign land). Performed by Katalin Karády

I tell you that the history of this region somehow leads to reconciliation.

How could it be otherwise? Where even the insane freak killer son of Emperor Rudolf, Don Julius can lend his name to a restaurant, there they only remember what was beautiful. Perhaps because these wonderful little towns, with the spirit of the Renaissance focusing on beauty, make people a little bit better?

We will come back many times, and we will get to know.

Deák Tamás

Southern Bohemia

Leoš Janáček: Moravian Folk Poetry in Songs / Iva Bittová (14'52")

dkati1 dkati1 dkati1 dkati1 dkati1 dkati1 dkati1 dkati1 dkati1 dkati1 dkati1 dkati1 dkati1 dkati1 dkati1

dkati2 dkati2 dkati2 dkati2 dkati2 dkati2 dkati2 dkati2 dkati2 dkati2 dkati2 dkati2 dkati2 dkati2 dkati2

D. Kati

Southern Bohemia

gyorgyi gyorgyi gyorgyi gyorgyi gyorgyi gyorgyi gyorgyi gyorgyi gyorgyi gyorgyi gyorgyi gyorgyi gyorgyi gyorgyi gyorgyi gyorgyi gyorgyi gyorgyi gyorgyi gyorgyi gyorgyi gyorgyi


Reflections and memories

As the initial picture of my contribution, I choose a photo taken from the bridge leading to the old town of České Budějovice. This sharply reflects, that during our journey we mainly focused on the old and newer architecture of Southern Moravian and Southern Bohemian cities, while the rivers, lakes, streams and the nature in all her vivid autumn colors constantly stood out. And in the background there were also the people…

Rapids of water and…

The excursion in the valley of the iron-rich, and therefore uniquely brown-reddish Vydra stream, accompanied by the rumbling sounds of water, was an unforgettable experience (a photo downstream in background light, and one looking back, backlit).

A different type of experience was offered in the iron-rich bottling plant of the Budweiser brewery in České Budějovice, where the stream of bottles provided the monotonous background rumble.

laczko2 laczko2 laczko2

Evolution and relativity

In České Budějovice, on the main square of the old town (Nám. Přemysla Otakara II), my attention was attracted by the building of Grand Hotel Zvon. More precisely, by its three buildings. The first one is a cute Renaissance building from 1533, the third an elegant Art Nouveau from 1903. They stand there in a queue, emerging higher and higher. They tell about the architecture of a half thousand years. The two older ones are adorned with the label Grand Hotel Zvon, while the highest one with the simple Hotel Zvon. Well, this is the law of evolution and relativity.

laczko3 laczko3 laczko3 laczko3

Mass demand and individual offer

Drinking is good, drinking is enjoyment, drinking is a must. Either beer or wine. Much or with moderation.
laczko4 laczko4

Free hands

The first visit of our journey led to the Villa Tugendhat in Brno.

A short historical summary:

– Once the designers were given a free hand from Mrs. and Mr. Tugendhat, they could release in their engineering and artistic imagination in all areas. In 1930, the villa, which highlights a new era in architecture, was completed..
– Once the Nazis were given a free hand, it became obvious that they can release their destructive and murderous fantasies. In 1938, the Tugendhat couple left the villa and the country forever.

laczko5 laczko5

Changing perspectives: a basilica at a distance and close-up – a window from the outside and from the inside

During our journey, Tamás offered a global view on historical processes and geographic regions, while pointing out many interesting local details, and showing both sides of these details. I try to illustrate these diverse viewpoints with thee few photos taken on the Basilica of St. Procopius of Třebíč, now part of the UNESCO World Heritage.

laczko6 laczko6 laczko6 laczko6

Photographers and styles

Taking photos is good and is a must. We, the majority wildly click with our small digital machines. But there are people, who do it a bit or very differently. Here you are some of them, the semi-professional, the full-professional, the tablet-girl and the trendy guy:
laczko7 laczko7 laczko7 laczko7

Driver Józsi

He is unbeatable both in forward, reverse and spirit. My defining experience about him: presenting, in front of a sudden blind alley sign, a ten-point pirouette with the trailer-bus: it would have awarded a podium in any European Championship.

Jongleur Tamás

Tamás is a walking Wikipedia. Here we can see him in the chapter hall of the Cistercian monastery of Zlatá Koruna, obviously in the place of the reader canon. This is why now, exceptionally, he does not tell his information by heart – but possibly he only pretends to read.

At the fireplace

When I caught sight of the fire blazing in the restaurant of Hotel Parkán, Prachatice, in the fireplace decorated with the symbol of the Rosenbergs, I thought about how wonderfully it represented the unquenchable flames of knowledge and enthusiasm.

And immediately Tamás came to mind.

Thank you very much for this journey!

laczko8 laczko8


An adventurous brave Japanese group from Equatorial Africa in Telč

laczko1 laczko1 laczko1


We are going to look at everything again!

This was our second beautiful journey with Tamás, and I hope there will be some more.
Yet it did not start smoothly. We somehow misunderstood each other with Tamás, and we were already in Brno, when the rest of the company went to visit the Villa Tugendhat, so we missed it. But it is not a problem, since Brno is only 100 minutes by train from our Vienna.

I am almost ashamed, that from so many impressions so few are left in my head. Obviously, the most beautiful ones. Well, let’s see.

In Brno, the modern synagogue, and especially the bank house from the 1930s. How can such a huge, but simple building such an excellent rhythm!

The evening in Mikulov. The city was virtually deserted, but the beauty of the old houses was already suspected in the darkness, while we were wandering with Tamás to the small restaurant, where they gave us a delicious dinner at ease and in a good pace.
In the morning the city was much more beautiful. It was to admire, with how much heart they restored everything. This can be said also about the other towns, since the first impression was everywhere the beautiful square with the gorgeous houses. Both here and in Třebíč we wisited the Jewish cemetery, we absorbed their atmosphere, trusting that someday we would come back to spell the tombstones for hours.

In Třebíč we have already been, so we politely greeted the Benedictine abbey and the basilica, where Romanesque and early Gothic are mixed, the gate, the crypt and the fresco.
Then we walked in the Jewish quarter, where again a few houses more were restored than last time. And I promise that I will not cry about how many things we did not see, so I just mention, that next time you should also visit the museum with the synagogue!

In Telč, like in all cities of this kind, it is good to arrive. And good to sit there in the sunshine, and simply looking at the square. True, there was no sunshine, but you could watch. I have quickly consumed a few Gothic – the two-hall church.

In Slavonice we were really at home. This town is small, and the tourism industry is developing, in a good version. Last time they made our grandchildren busy, helping them draw sgraffito and play with clay. And let all my wish be fulfilled like this – the permanent breakfast sign was still there, so I could then talk in the bus about the crazy ideas of my crazy friends.

I’m getting confused. That evening we were in Jindřichův Hradec. Was it there, that we gathered together in the Goat Pub, where the food was good, but the youth loud? And was it there that we visited the next morning th castle with the Renaissance courtyards and the manufacturing plants, and the school where Smetana studied?

The landscape became more and more beautiful, with glistening lakes. In Třeboň we walked around the city walls and the Renaissance main square. I secretly envied our fellow traveler, who, instead of culture, ate a local carp for five pennies.

We are not beer drinkers, so we visited the brewery of České Budějovice only as a technical curiosity. We were shown the wonders of technology, the treadmill, and the desire of programming it was visible on the faces of some computer-minded companions.

From then on, we traveled along Vltava, and to me this was one of the highlights of the journey. Not only the landscape, but also the explanation of the music, thanks to Gábor. The many variations, the possible origins of the motifs – for Smetana could have invented the main motif just as well as he borrowed it – brought even closer to me Mr. Smetana. If in the middle of the night one asked me, what was the most beautiful in this journey, I would begin to hum the Vltava, the first beats, as the water emerges from the earth.

In the evening I started to talk with Gábor, since it is always interesting to talk about music with a professional musician. And lo, it turned out, that he was a programmer. Well, everyone must have some defect. My joy was perhaps even more, because once I also was one, and I’m also an obsessed music fan.

And the walking day has also come. First we climbed up to the castle of Kašperk, which slipped out of the fog for some minutes. At times, the sun came out, at times we could not see a meter ahead, unfortunately exactly when whe climbed the 102 stairs to admire the white soup from the top of the tower. But the local lady guide knew and told us everything what we could and could not see, in a good English (and the same good German). And then the long travel in the romantic valley, accompanied again by the melody of the Vltava. It was good to walk, to trek, to smell the mushrooms, to listen to the rushing stream, and mainly to talk. The promised otter disappeared. It would have been like this:

Instead, we saw only that unfortunate and somewhat smelly animal in the cage.

And then, heading to Český Krumlov – one of the main attractions of our travel.
Another beautiful road along the dammed lakes. Before the main goal, we quickly entered the pilgrimage church of Kájov. Wow – we must surely come back here. The two-hall church, the frescoes, which must be admired for long, the late Gothic Virgin on the main altar, and this Dormition of the Virgin. Of course, I said in excitement, that there are many like this at us, some 50 kilometers to the south – but who listens to me? :)
Then we arrived at Český Krumlov, we rattled along the cobblestones of the city, we entered the hotel, we walked, and we had a last supper. The portions were not big, but excellent. From the window of our hotel room we saw the lighted castle. Now I felt sorry that I do not take pictures.
The last day was that of Český Krumlov. We have already seen it twice, and that is why it was a joy to listen to Tamás, because now we started to understand what we saw before. Should I say that we would come back here, too, or have I already said that?

On the way home, we visited the castle of Rožmberk. These Rosenbergs knew very well where to build their castles, just like the Benedictines knew well the good sites for their churches. We had one more look at the Vltava, and we were happy that this brave river meanders so richly. This is why they could build a beautiful tiny town in every bend.

But time was running, and we had to consider the working time of our driver Józsi, so we did not stop at the monastery of Vyšší Brod. In vain I lured Tamás, that there we could say goodbye to the last Rosenberg rose in the Gothic painting of Christ’s birth. There was no time, and Tamás of course knew that that alter has been since long in the museum of Prague.

Then we reached Austria, and I was allowed (thanks, Tamás!) some not entirely glorious moments of our history, and tell about a few things we saw along the way.
And at the Schwechat airport we said goodbye to the company with a heavy heart, and with many beautiful images in our heads. Of course, totally confused, because I still do not know, which one of the several beautiful cities was this:

Franz Oplatka

Along the Vltava

Smetana, The Vltava, conducted by Ferenc Fricsay

gabor1 gabor1 gabor1 gabor1 gabor1 gabor1 gabor1 gabor1 gabor1 gabor1 gabor1 gabor1 gabor1 gabor1 gabor1 gabor1 gabor1 gabor1 gabor1 gabor1 gabor1 gabor1

gabor2 gabor2 gabor2 gabor2 gabor2 gabor2 gabor2 gabor2 gabor2 gabor2 gabor2 gabor2 gabor2 gabor2 gabor2 gabor2 gabor2 gabor2 gabor2 gabor2

gabor3 gabor3 gabor3 gabor3 gabor3 gabor3 gabor3 gabor3 gabor3 gabor3 gabor3 gabor3 gabor3 gabor3 gabor3 gabor3 gabor3 gabor3 gabor3 gabor3 gabor3 gabor3

gabor4 gabor4 gabor4 gabor4 gabor4 gabor4 gabor4 gabor4 gabor4 gabor4 gabor4 gabor4 gabor4 gabor4 gabor4 gabor4 gabor4 gabor4

More photos about the journey on my blog.

Illés Gábor