Saturday, 27 June 2015

Freedom is hard won, but easily lost.

It's late in the evening and I should be in bed, but I realize that this is an important day and I really should write a blog post.

The 27th June is a day when the Czechs remember the victims of communism. Earlier this year I watched as a group of tourists posed in front of this memorial without any regard to what it means. The memorial is to those victims - the statues are symbolically disappearing, parts are missing. That is what political imprisonment does to its victims. You cease to exist as people. They break you down. In the end you do not get a proper grave. Your family has nowhere to grieve, hence the need for such a memorial.

 I watched but I did not do anything to stop the idiots gallivanting in front the disappearing men. My inaction was a sign perhaps that in similar circumstances I would be one of the silent majority and not one of the few that stands up for freedom.

We remember on this day of all days, because on 27th June 1950 after an infamous show trial Czechoslovak politician Milada Horakova was hung. Despite having had a confession tortured out of her, this unbelievably brave lady stood head held high in the court and rebutted her accusers.

Watch this video to hear the story of her trial.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Czech Castles - Pernstejn

The journey to Pernstejn castle is a delightful one. It takes you through the beautiful wooded valleys of the Moravian Highlands and then suddenly you see the proud medieval fortress perched high on a large rock.

This castle was so well-sited and designed that it was never taken by an enemy in any of the many wars that have raged across this land. If the enemy managed to get past the castle's many walls and ditches, through the maze of courtyards under constant fire from above, and made it into the main part of the castle, the defenders could withdraw to the Baborka tower, which was only connected to the rest of the castle by two wooden bridges. If the worst came to the worst I suppose they could have burnt them, but it never did.

Like some other Czech castles, Pernstejn comes with a resident ghostly white lady. In this case the ghost is that of a vain maid, who was forever admiring herself in her mistress' mirror rather than doing her duties. When a monk rebuked her for neglecting going to mass, she laughed at him and he cursed her. It is said that even now if a woman looks in one of the castle's mirrors, she will lose her beauty within a year.

Now the Castle is popular with Czechs - there was a group of excited children there when we last visited  - and with film-production companies. If the castle feels somehow familiar, it is probably because you've seen it on the big screen. It was a location in Van Helsing and Nosferatu, to name just two films.

Despite the castle's rural setting, Pernstejn is only an hour from Brno by public transport or you can opt for a guided tour and visit the caves of the Moravian Karst as well.


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