I enjoyed a visit with second cousins, Jana Drnkova and Jan William Drnek, at their home in Celakovice, outside of Prague. We’ve been Facebook friends but had not met in person till this year. It was great getting to know each other and finding common interests. Daughter Jana is a graphic designer and son Jan is director of cinematography in the film industry. They rebuilt an older home that was “in ruins” 26 years ago and made it into a lovely retreat. I now have a severe case of garden envy.
Jana and I went into Prague by train and I enjoyed seeing it again from her perspective. I spent a second day in the city with Matthew, a younger cousin who works archiving old films.
We drove northwest to the spa town of Marianska Lazne for an overnight trip. It was like stepping back in time to “The Grand Budapest Hotel”. Since the 1700’s, people have gone there for health treatments and to drink from the 40 mineral springs. They even sell you special cups. Goethe, Dvorak, Mark Twain and Thomas Edison are some of the past visitors. We enjoyed a special Mediterranean dinner and celebrated the Drinkovas’ 30th anniversary.
My first week in the village passes quickly. Our routine centered on the boys, who make life very busy. A much different lifestyle than I’m used to and it’s giving me even more respect for the parents of young children. Especially when there are two of them. The kids are great and a lot of fun. Another cousin has two kids and a friend three, so it’s a lively group.
The weather was in the upper 80’s and humid for 4 days, so we swam often at the new pool in Blatna and a lake in the forest. The lake is really a fish “pond” where carp are raised. The area is full of these, with varying sizes of fish, a part of the local economy. One day, two very competent nine year old boys rowed me around the Tchorovice pond, a very special invitation. Fanda, a cousin, is also the frog catcher in the photo.
Tchorovice’s population is about 200. A village hall, playground, picnic shelter and pub make up the village center. People are very friendly and welcoming.
Blatna, the largest community in the area is the destination for grocery shopping, with several small shops and a large grocery. I did my first solo drive to tour the Blatna Castle. It is set in a large park open to the public and has a herd of fallow deer that love to eat out of visitors’ hands.
I rode to Blatna on a bike and did a little exploring. My first stop was Cyclosport shop to buy a helmet. Very few adults wear them here, but I am afraid not to. Many drivers on the winding roads take their half out of the middle.
Last week I arrived in Prague for a month-long visit with family in the Czech Republic. Most of the time I will live with Lenka and Ivo Svobodnik/ova and there two boys, Oto (2.5 years) and Eda (7 months). My hope was to help with the kids and be here long enough to lose the feeling of being a tourist. So far it’s going great. Malvina is also providing a cat fix.
They have a flat in Prague and spend weekends in Tchořovice, in South Bohemia. Their weekend house is where my grandfather, Frantisek Drnek, was born. I met Lenka and many Drnek relatives in July 2004, when I first came to CR on an REI hiking trip. I will save that story for another post. Long story short is that I have more relatives here than in the USA because only my grandfather and one sister left in 1903. Lenka, I and the boys are spending 10 days in the village, population 200, with Ivo here on weekends. My international dishwashing, baby entertaining, gardening and laundry-hanging skills are coming in handy!
Saturday, June 7, we hosted a Drnek family party. It was a wonderful all day, all night affair. As I learned on two previous visits, the family enjoys each other’s company and knows how to throw a good party. I had the opportunity to meet even more cousins, some of whom were already Facebook friends. While my Czech is minimal, several family members speak English. The pivo and vino also seemed to enhance everyone’s language skills, or at least our enthusiasm.
I recently got home from a visit in Dartmouth, Massachusetts. It’s a long story that extended a short visit to 10 days, but it flew by. I had two goals: deliver my dad’s World War 2 photos and documents to a museum archive and pick up the Unicycling Sailor at his sister’s home. I had a great time with Katie and Terry Hamric as we looked forward to Dave’s return. Eventually we retrieved Dave successfully from Logan Airport in Boston. He had been sailing in the Caribbean and had several unplanned delays.
The 58th Bomb Wing Memoriall is housed in the New England Air Museum in Windsor Locks, Connecticut. I knew this, because I get their newsletter. My Dad, Jim Drnek, was a World War 2 vet and a member of the 58th.. He was a gunner in a B-29, based in India and on Tinian. They flew “the Hump” – over the Himalayas to refuel before continuing on bombing missions in places like, Bangkok, Saipan and Japan. I have photos, documents, and his diary. Donating items to the museum seemed a good plan to my sister and I. I communicated with the folks there and Katie and I set off cross-country through Connecticut to deliver them.
We spent 2.5 hours with Dave Santos, a Korean Vet, who headed the crew that restored the B-29 housed at the museum. He spends two to three days a week at the museum. He gave us the “VIP tour” and we spent most of the time in the plane. Other visitors see it from the outside. It was fascinating and very emotional for me. Dave alternated between sharing information about the B-29s and his years of restoration and annectdotal stories of the guys that flew them. I got to sit in the gunner’s seat that my father would have occupied as a 21 year old. It made me the idea of what my father did in the war come to life and gave me even more respect for what it involved. A very fitting way to honor his memory. I think he would have approved.
Dartmouth is a beautiful area on the South Coast, below the bottom of Buzzard’s Bay and not far as the crow flies from Newport, RI. We cycled, hiked, gardened, visited Newport, shopped and generally hung out and had a good time. I loved the stone walls everywhere and it felt like all the winding roads lead to water.