He experienced the horrors of two wars and during this time he also covered an immense geographical area. The trip described in this blog is an attempt to retrace his steps from Prague across the Eurasian continent to beyond Lake Baikal in Siberia. The first part of the trip will follow the precisely described route of Josef Švejk, Hašek's inspired literary creation. I left home on April 30 2010 and was back on October 29.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Lipnice nad Sázavou

Apart from Prague, Lipnice nad Sázavou is the place which is most closely associated with Jaroslav Hašek. The author moved here on August 25th 1921 and lived here until his death on January 3rd 1923. He is buried here, he wrote three of the four parts of Švejk here., and one of only two Jaroslav Hašek museums in the world is located here. In the early 60's a bust of him was erected below the castle, and in 2008 a full size statue was revealed to great celebrations.

Most important of all, the pub where he wrote most of Švejk still exists and is owned and run by his descendants. They bought the derelict property,  restored it, and in 2002 re-opened it as a pension and restaurant. It is still thriving and offers comfortable rooms, and a smoke-free restaurant which offers solid Czech food and  classic  Czech beers, all at reasonable prices. For Haškologs and Švejkologs Česká Koruna is the inner sanctum. It has also hosted two international conferences on Jaroslav Hašek and a number of other events. Lipnice will  for  me mark the symbolic finish  to this journey, come October 2010.

The immediate reason for this May 2010 trip to Lipnice was a surprise visit from Germany. Some time in spring I noticed that my Švejk-pages got a huge number of hits from Ewe-Tel Gmbh, Bremerhaven. Some time later I received an e-mail from Dr Hans-Peter Laqueur who informed me that he had done basically the same thing as I have done over the last 18 months: collecting and analysing the facts that Jaroslav Hašek used to create the backdrop for his novel.

I have concentrated on the people and the places mentioned in the novel, Hans-Peter's project is even more ambitious; it contains sections on literature references, the reception of the novel, and a chronological analysis. Whereas I have worked with the Internet firmly in mind, Hans-Peter Laqueur started the work before that age, more than 30 years ago. It has - at very varying speed - been going on ever since. I dare to claim that outside the Czech Republic, no such thorough research into the realia behind Švejk exist at all. It would be a great asset for the many German-reading admirers of Švejk if it was ever published.

The day after Hans-Peter's arrival on 12 May, Richard Hašek drove us to Lipnice where we spent 24 hours in grey weather, but in such a place the weather is of minor importance. On 1 May a new beer was introduced to the the portfolio at Česká Koruna, Haškův ležák, a non-pasteurised lager brewed specifically for this pub. It is  made by Pivovar Bernard in nearby Humpolec. It was  a monumental occasion. The beer went down very well indeed.

Later in the evening two K.u.k. Soldaten from Olomouc arrived in full uniform and appeared in the door through the tones of "Za Cisáře pana". One of them was Michal Giacintov, the other hid under a secret name. They had travelled 200 km from Olomouc to meet a curiosity from the North, so I had every reason to feel honoured. Later four Hungarians arrived, led by distinguished Bohemist László Polgár. There will be more on him in the next letter.

The evening progressed wonderfully: by the authors statue salutes and toasts were given in Jaroslav Hašek's honour and I'm sure the Hašek would have taken  part from his spot  in the corner of the cemetery if he could. In the morning Richard drove his two guests back to Prague and our friends from Olomouc took the other direction.

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