Michael in Mikulov

This past weekend, the Film Studies and Design students all went on an excursion to the Czech town of Mikulov, located in the Moravia region.  On the way there we passed through the capital of the region, the city of Brno (pronounced pretty much like Beer-no, appropriately enough) and got to see a lot of cool stuff.

The first stop on our trip was on the outskirts of Brno, where we went to look at a villa that was designed in the 1920’s.  It was apparently a pretty big deal in terms of design stuff, but even as a lowly liberal arts/comp sci major I was able to appreciate that it was a very impressive house.  Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures inside, but it was really cool.  Having successfully found the crumpled up brochure in my jacket pocket, I can confirm that the house was the Tugendhat House.

After exploring the house, we got to walk around central Brno–which, apparently, was experiencing some sort of concert or festival.  To this day I do not know what the occasion was, but I do know that when we walked up the band was performing the theme from “Goldfinger,” which was nice.  I then proceeded to eat a McDonald’s burger for the first time in something like 6 years–you may be interested to know that, as far as I can tell, it was exactly the same.  Some franchises are the same everywhere, I guess.

And some aren’t!  For example, my friends and I stumbled across what we quickly discovered to be a Czech Barnes & Nobles–even though, for some reason, it went by the name Barvic & Novotny.  We walked around there for quite some time, and it was really neat to see the similarities and differences.  Most of the sections you would expect to see in an American B&N were there, and it was surprising to see which authors had been translated to Czech.  The store had the most complete Terry Pratchett section I have ever seen in a store, for example.  There were also lots of technical manuals, some of which I can only imagine must have been a nightmare to translate.

Later that evening–for yes, this was all in a single day–we went to a wine tasting.  Apparently, the analogy goes that what Prague is to beer, Moravia is to wine, and the wine we tasted definitely seems to support that claim.  In addition to getting to try a lot of different wine (and yes, we drank it, there was none of this American ‘spitting it back out’ nonsense) we also got to learn some of the etiquette and technique of wine-tasting, as well as go on a trip to the place where the wine was made.  It is possible that some of us (naming no names) may have, in fact, eaten all of the cheese and bread at our table that was meant to be a palate cleanser, because there had been no opportunity for dinner and it was approaching 8 o’clock.  If this were to have happened, it would certainly have been a group effort by the table, and not the responsibility of any one individual.

At the end of this day/night of revelry, we found ourselves in Mikulov.  This is where we spent the rest of the weekend, exploring and generally entertaining ourselves.  Most of us explored the castle in the center of the town at some point, as well as climbing the nearby mound of land that seemed to straddle the line between hill and mountain depending on whether one was climbing it or not.  The castle itself was really cool, and pictures of it are all over facebook now.  The most interesting thing about it, I think, was the amount of space that was not castle–there was more empty space than I would have expected.  There was an art exhibition hosted in the castle that was pretty cool, though I am still convinced that I may have accidentally walked through it in reverse order without paying for a ticket, as I never really did find an entrance.  That night in the castle courtyard was a showing of The Artist, which is an incredible movie that I recommend to everyone.  I personally finished our excursion to Mikulov by going with a group that woke up at 3:45 AM to climb the previously mention mountain-hill and watch the sunrise.  Unfortunately, the sun was a bit obscured by clouds, so it was really more just watching the spread of a general sort of glow, but it was still very awe-inspiring.

The trip back to Prague had only one stop rather than three, but it was worth it.  I am still a little unclear on where we stopped, or why.  All I know is that there was another large estate sort of building, that may or may not have been a castle–and that there were falcons.  For whatever reason, our teachers took us to a Czech falconry exhibition on the way back from our trip.

I’m going to be perfectly honest here.  I don’t know if the Czech people have a long and colorful history with the fine and noble art of falconry.  I don’t know if the people we went to go see are part of some sort of environmental conservation program that protects falcons, or a historical society, or what.  I really don’t know.  It’s possible that someone said it in Czech during the show and I missed the translation.  All I know is that we got to see about 40 of the coolest/scariest looking birds ever, and they flew around and chased targets and landed on people’s arms.  Then, I got to take a picture of one sitting on my arm.  I am a simple man.  Sometimes I don’t need to be immersed in culture.  Sometimes, surrounding me by terrifying birds of prey is enough.

I may also have made several references to Animorphs and My Side of the Mountain, for those privileged enough to have read these childhood gems.

We arrived back in Prague on Sunday evening, at which point I promptly shattered two of the six glasses I had bought that weekend for convenience ( but also for less than $5, so no great loss) and pretty much collapsed immediately into bed.  It was an exhausting, but great, weekend.