Hradec Kralove is 6000 miles from the beaches of Santa Cruz. We’re based in this small Czech city for four months, while Paul is resident professor at the local university. A few years ago we briefly visited and while my husband spoke philosophy with faculty and students, I navigated the town. By the end of the day I was certain I’d walked every cobblestone and hit every highlight: the wine shop, the art museum; a pub or two. So when my scholar spouse was invited to teach here I panicked. I pouted. Then, I relented, but warily. What would I possibly do for four months? Who could I talk to? Where would I workout?
During the months we had to prepare for the journey, Paul received tons of invites to lecture while in Europe (Prague, London, Milan,) and our bribes of all the Pilsners they could drink lured friends to plan visits. A conference in Krakow was added to the mix. Slowly, I succeeded in whittling down the number of days I’d actually spend in Hradek; like unworthy shavings, I was sweeping them away.
And now here we are at Komenskeho 262, settled into a two-bedroom, one bath second floor apartment with hardwood floors and large windows. BUT no dishwasher, no clothes dryer, and no TV. (Those charming clotheslines one sees hanging all over Europe, trimmed with shirts and socks? Well, they’re not that charming up close and personal.) PLUS, we do not have a car. (I hear your gasps).
But you know what? I’m liking it. This small city. The pace.
No TV? I read. I listen to Hillary telling me just “What Happened”. (I know.) I write and I blog, all to a backdrop of ITunes Mozart concertos. I may post too much on FaceBook. Paul joins me in the living room, working, reading or writing; no third bedroom office beckons. I’m no longer chained to CNN and MSNBC, and still hear as much Trump bluster as anyone needs. Online deliveries of the NY Times, and Washington Post and snippets of Jake Tapper and Rachel Maddow videos on FB suffice. I’ve weaned off 24/7 cable news and the daily crises presented from all vantages and views. How many ways can hash be served up anyway? Once is enough to moan about the Steph Curry and NFL slams, the newest travel ban, or the health care chess game the Senate is playing and replaying with our lives.
No car? No matter. The concrete steps adjacent to our apartment lead to Old Town and Oz: pubs in spired buildings serve duck confit, grilled veggies, creamy spinach soup; wine bars pour dry reds from Moravia; and restaurants tout grilled trout (HK is at the confluence of two rivers), carrot puree, and chocolate mousse with fresh fruit. With 20 Czech kroners to the dollar, we can afford a splendid dinner out including a bottle of wine most every night. Interspersed are cheese shops, bakeries with loaves of round, brown and seeded breads taunting, and fruit or cinnamon pastries whose names I can neither pronounce nor remember. Boxes of plums, peaches, cauliflowers, and tomatoes overflow sidewalk bins. And the chocolate shops! Salons may be a more apt descriptor. Language gap? Sure, but we manage. The cheese shop owner offers Google translate; the baker gives free samples. Chocolate is a universal term. (“Cokolada” in Czech. ) If all else fails, we point.
With food being so available and accessible, I was delighted to find a 50 meter multi-lane indoor pool a ten minute walk away. As is a fitness club, a jazz club and Hradec’s Philharmonic. (Tonight we are seeing Bizet’s Carmen.) Paul’s office is another quick stroll. HK ‘s professional men’s ice hockey team plays in a stadium just down the street. Go Mountfield!
No dishwasher? No worries. We eat out a lot. (See “No Car? No Matter.” section above.)
Thursday is the feast day of St. Wenceslas, a national Czech holiday honoring the patron saint of Bohemia. Hradec is the capital of East Bohemia. (Deep down, I’ve always considered myself a bohemian. Just kept it quiet.) The University will be closed. A colleague of Paul’s is taking us hiking and promises sightings of at least two castles. Can’t wait!
Just hope my socks dry.