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.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

To Čížová

South Bohemia is mostly countryside and it often smells of pig-shit and other variations of dung. It even has a number of Country Clubs and I've seen the American Stars and Bars flying more than once. Still it is an attractive Central European region with little heavy industry, a cluster of medieval towns, numerous castles and many pretty villages and small towns. It is perfect terrain for cycling and walking, and walking is what I did, even more than I had anticipated, probably even more than Švejk did.

Usually Jaroslav Hašek was thorough when putting together the backdrop to his novel. This applied to geography, history, literary quotes and quotes from war calendars, encyclopaedia, but when it came to timing he was way off. Studies conducted by Antonin Měšťan and Hans-Peter Laqueur estimate the Švejkova anabase to 72 hours. This is however impossible. Not even a super-fit Marathon-runner would have done the 160 kilometres in such a short time, and in between Švejk spent time in pubs and at police stations. I set aside a week for the walking and it turned out to be no more than I needed.
After offloading my luggage in Písek I was finally getting to the core of Švejk's anabasis, trying to get to his obrlajtnant and his regiment whilst walking in circles around Písek. On May 26 I took the bus back to Zvíkovské podhradí and from here I continued in the steps of our anti-hero. Švejk might presumable have crossed the Vltava somewhere else, the Orlik dam has made the options limited nowadays. It was a wet and horrible day and again I got lost before I finally arrived in Vráž. There was no kind babička waiting for me with her bramborovka (potato soup). Instead I had to rely on the Country club. They were flying the Confederate Flag and much to my delight playing Led Zeppelin and Lynyrd Skynyrd. I stayed on for four good Budvars and continued towards Čížová in high spirit. My feet where in a bad state but the Budvar helped. Painkillers can mean many things. Whatever hallucinogenic put in front of me there and then would have been appreciated; no matter if it was for eating, drinking or smoking. Fortunately there was a bus back to Písek, so I didn't have to add the last 6 km to my Google-map. The pizza at Maestro Appetito beneath the imposing church towers tasted particularly good that evening.

Písek is another pretty Czech town. Kamenný most (The stone bridge) across the Otava predates the Charles Bridge in Prague by 100 years and is the oldest existing bridge in Bohemia. The town has two squares and a cluster of old streets. The surroundings are also attractive, green rolling landscapes dotted with  quaint  villages. But above all this is Hašek country. His mother, Kateřina Jarešová was born near Protivín, 20 km to the south, and his father Josef Hašek was from Mydlovary a bit further south. Jaroslav Hašek visited the region in his childhood and again in 1915. He uses his local knowledge both in Švejk and in the stories about his grandfather Antonín Jareš. His grandfather's rebellious attitudes influenced the young Jaroslav, something which is clear from the stories about the pond-warden Jareš from Ražice who stood up against the aristocratic landowners, the Schwarzenbergs.

1 comment:

  1. The Stars And Stripes? The Confederate flag? Lynyrd Skynyrd? Czech beer? Sounds like heaven to me ... :-)