Sunday, 11 February 2018

Horice Na Sumave - Masopust 2018

Yesterday we celebrated Masopust (Czech Carnival). It was the first time my husband had been at our Czech home for the festival. I am not sure why but he normally has returned to England and left me to celebrate alone. 

The Masopusters arrive here on their procession around the villages in the mid-afternoon, after a several hours of dancing and singing. Our neighbours Jitka and Eliska had joined with us to offer the Masopusters food and drink. The table had Czech delicacies of stuffed hard-boiled eggs, pastries, small open sandwiches and strudel, to which we added Scottish shortbread. We could hear the Masopusters approach through the village, stopping at various houses to sing and dance, thus blessing the homes with prosperity for the coming year. 

At last they arrived in our little cul de sac. We slotted our donations into the Masopust charity box and were swept into a dance. After the dance and the songs we offered our food and the Masopusters already replete after their travels very nobly ate some of the food and drank some of the cherry brandy. They left inviting us to attend the traditional Masopust ball that evening.

When my husband and I turned up at Horice Na Sumava Cultural Hall things were in full swing. The beer was flowing and everyone was feeling very mellow. We arrived just in time for the highlight of the night. The Masopusters processed into the hall together with an old man dressed up as a priest and two women comperes. The traditional dance resumed, with the Masopusters ending up encircling a man in a costume of multi-coloured rags who personified Masopust. Masopust made some lewd gestures at the dancers and was shot by the others.

He was lifted on to a stretcher and blessed by the priest. A fake funeral ensued - the priest's words causing hilarity in the audience. How we wished we could understand Czech! The stretcher was lifted onto the men's shoulders and led by the priest they processed twice around the hall. All the time the priest was sprinkling "holy" water from a chamber pot using a lavatory brush, making sure we all got a dose of water. The funeral done, the band struck up a Czech song which we recognized as Roll Out the Barrel and the Masopusters took partners from the audience and started to dance.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Cats, MOT and the missing extra cars.

Yesterday I took my car for its two-yearly MOT and emissions test. It took a good hour of my time, with the waiting to go in and then the waiting while the tests took place. The Czech Government has really tightened up, photos are taken now during both both tests of the car from back and front, of the dashboard (showing the mileage), and of the car numbers on the chassis and maybe some I missed. All this takes time.

The reason for all this monitoring is to ensure the country's cars conform with EU standards. And in order to do this the Government had to do something about the cars on Czech roads which weren't really there. It was conservatively estimated that a tenth of all cars here that had "passed" the tests hadn't actually done so. To stop the scams and to remove these unsafe and polluting cars from the roads the only option was to make it impossible for unscrupulous testers to get money for nothing. The new system is all computerized with the photos and reports being uploaded to the Government's database.

I am pleased to say my car passed with flying colours, although I was worried when the tester called me over. I couldn't understand what he was saying, until he pointed at the engine and said "kočka". Sure enough there were little cat paw prints all over. Our neighbourhood feral cat(s) has been bedding down on top of my nice warm engine. Then he said "kuna". I paused. Kuna* is the Czech word for a marten and they have a reputation for chewing their way through your cables. You can buy anti-kuna sprays and hanging air fresheners. The paw prints looked like cat ones to me (they didn't have the marten's claws).  As I drove away, certificates on the seat beside me, I made the mental note to always check under the bonnet before starting the car.

*Kuna is not to be confused with kun (as I did at first). Kůň is the Czech word for horse. Now that really would be worrying!


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