Made in the Czech Republic – Modrotisk

Some examples of the print patterns you can find on modrotisk. These are from the Danzinger workshop in Olešnice.

A Rhapsody in Blue

As with all countries, the Czech Republic offers a wealth of traditional souvenir items you can take home with you: Bohemian crystal and other glassware, ceramics, Bohemian garnets, marionette puppets, traditional alcohols, spa wafers and so forth.

Many of those souvenir items are known worldwide, but do you know about modrotisk?

Modrotisk, translated to English as blueprint, is a traditional block printing technique that has been practiced in the Czech lands since the 16th century. In November of 2018, it was inscribed on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list.

Once a widespread craft practiced in small towns across the country, today there only two modrotisk operations active in the Czech Republic; both are in the eastern reaches of the country and still run by the families that established them generations ago. In Olešnice, north of Brno, you will find the Danzinger family operation which dates to 1816. In Strážnice, in the deep south-east near the border with Slovakia, there is the Joch family workshop that was founded in 1906.

Both the Danzinger and Joch workshops have kept the modrotisk tradition alive through the generations and many of the tools and techniques they use for the dyeing process have changed little down the years. Many of their techniques are, not surprizingly, closely guarded family secrets.

At that, let’s take a closer look at Modrotisk:

A scarf from Danzinger.

A Deep Blue History

At its heart, modrotisk is an indigo dyeing technique. Indigo dyeing is among the oldest of textile colouring techniques, it originated in China around 4,000 years ago and made its way west along the Silk Road which connected Asia to Europe from the 2nd century BC to the 18th century.

In the Czech context, indigo dyeing was traditionally done on linen as flax was a common crop at the time the art form reached the Czechs. Cotton was also a traditional fabric to use for modrotisk.

The white patterns that modrotisk is known for are created through a block resist printing technique where a special water resistant paste is applied to white fabric with carved wood printing blocks before the indigo dye is applied. Finally, the resistant paste is washed out when the dyeing is complete. Many of the printing blocks still in use are very old and have been passed down through the generations.

Modrotisk became a fixture of Czech folk costumes in the late 18th century and experienced a wave of popularity with the public at large through the 19th century. Men’s and women’s clothing with modrotisk motifs became very popular through the 19th century and availability of modrotisk garments became more widespread when synthetic indigo dye was created in the 1880s.

By the early 20th century, the popularity of modrotisk went into decline and a majority of producers ceased operations.

Getting Your Hands on Modrotisk

Many of the souvenir items I mentioned at the start of this article are very traditional Czech items, but can create a headache to take home due to their weight or fragility.

If you’re looking for a souvenir from the Czech Republic that will be light and easy to transport home with you, modrotisk might just be the thing to consider. Don’t worry if your visit doesn’t take you near the two remaining modrotisk workshops in the country, modrotisk is a common item in souvenir shops across the Czech Republic

Another advantage of modrotisk is the flexibility it has for style. You can buy all sorts of items made from the material in a wide variety of print patterns. Tablecloths, wall hangings and aprons are all very common items you can find made from modrotisk as are scarves, shoulder bags and other garments.

If you want the most traditional of modrotisk, you can try to visit the Danzinger or Joch shops personally to have a look. Alternately, you can try to order from the online shops on their respective websites. Both websites are fully in Czech, but respond reasonably well to online translator functions.

This article will go further in depth into the history of modrotisk.

RAF HOUSE – IVANČICE, CZECH REPUBLIC

The unique Spitfire wall mural and dining table that takes pride of place at RAF house.

A Note from the Other Side

Many of you who follow Beyond Prague also follow my aviation site, Pickled Wings, or at least know about it.

I’m using this post to bring your attention to a post I made on Pickled Wings recently about the RAF House restaurant and museum in the small city of Ivančice, which is about 30 kilometers to the south-west of Brno.

Owing to the aviation heavy theme of the restaurant, I opted to put my primary article about it on my other site. However, as that aviation theme is all about the Czechoslovak airmen who went to Great Britain to fly in the Royal Air Force during World War II, the Czech angle certainly warranted that I mention it here and invite you to check out the main article for more details about the restaurant.

The story of the Czechoslovak contribution to the Allied cause in the Second World War is a fascinating one that deserves to be told and preserved.

If you live in the Czech Republic, you know that we have been encouraged to support local restaurants and hospitality businesses that have suffered through 2020 due to the various COVID quarantines. If you live within easy reach of Ivančice, pay RAF House a visit if and when you’re able.

They’ll keep you well fed and keep an important part of Czech history alive at the same time. For both things, they are certainly worthy of support.

Follow this link to the article about RAF House at Pickled Wings:

https://pickledwings.wordpress.com/2020/12/27/raf-house-ivancice-czech-republic/

Thanks for Another Year!

So 2020 is almost done and I think most of us will be quite happy to see the back of it.

This will probably be my last post on Beyond Prague for the year and, as I always do, I use my last post of the year to thank you for your ongoing readership; both the long term followers and the new ones that got on board this year.

I hope 2021 will bring much better times for us all and I look forward to bringing you more of the Czech Republic and life here to you through Beyond Prague!

Stay safe, take care and we’ll see you in 2021!

Brno Christmas Market – Open for 2020

Simply Having a Socially Distanced Christmas Time

Brno’s Christmas market has opened for the 2020 season, though in a much scaled back format in consideration of the COVID situation that has been part of everyone’s life around the world throughout 2020.

There are far fewer market stands this year, especially where food and drinks are concerned. Also, things like live music performances and similar that tend to draw crowds are not part of the event this year.

If you’re in Brno at this time of year and thinking about taking in the market, please wear a mask and keep social distancing when you can. It’s not worth the risk of incurring a fine for not wearing a mask, much less contracting COVID itself.

At that, I’ll let the pictures do the talking:

If you want a better idea of what the market is like under normal circumstances, I invite you to visit my existing article about it in the “Holidays” section of the website. In that article, you will also find a link to the official website of the event.

A Note to Expats in Brno

Brno Ministry of Interior Office will be Moving

If you’re an expat living in Brno and require the services of the Minstry of Interior’s migration office, you may already know that there is a plan to move the office in January of 2021. Due to this move, the Brno office will be closed completely between January 4 and January 17 of 2021.

If you don’t know about the move, hopefully this article will be useful to you.

Komárov to Slatina

This map shows the Ministry of Interior’s current location (1) and new location (2) in relation to Brno’s main train station in the city centre (3).

As with the ministry’s current location in the Komárov district, their new offices will also be outside of the centre. The new location will be at Tuřanka 115, in the large business park in the Slatina district of the city.

Transport Concerns

As with the current location, the tram lines of city public transport will be of limited use to you in getting to the new location.

If you are travelling from the centre of the city to the new location, there are a few bus lines that will get you into the area. The most direct line is the 77, it will not require you to transfer to other lines.

The 77 runs every 15 minutes from the Úzká stop in the centre and takes approximately 25 minutes to reach the Slatina, Závod stop which is across the street from the new location.

This map shows the specific stop where the 77 departs from Úzká in the direction of Slatina.
This map shows the ministry’s new location (1) and the Slatina, Závod bus stop circled.

Bureaucratic concerns

From a bureaucratic standpoint, there are two main things to consider if you require the services of the migration office in Brno between November 30 of 2020 and January 18 of 2021:

From November 30 of 2020, it will not be possible to visit any Ministry of Interior office without an appointment. This is a COVID related measure that applies to all migration offices around the country. The ministry has published this .pdf document in Engish that goes into further detail on the matter and contains a link to the email address needed to make an appointment:

With regards to the Brno office specifically, December 17 of 2020 will be the last day before the move for you to submit biometric data for residence cards or alien passports. Collection of such data will resume on January 18 of 2021 at the new location. The ministry has published this .pdf file in English that goes into further detail about how to handle your business with the Brno office and what to do if you have urgent issues while they are closed:

If you require further information about current developments to do with the Ministry of Interior, including any changes to how you may need to deal with them, this link will take you to the English version of their web page where you can see the latest announcements from them:

https://www.mvcr.cz/mvcren/

Milotice Chateau – Baroque in the Wine Country

Front facade of the chateau

Pearl of Slovácko 

A bold and well preserved example of Baroque architecture, Milotice chateau and its gardens are nestled in the deep south east of the Moravian regions of the Czech lands.

Standing proud in the lush vineyards of the Slovácko region, Milotice provides a contrasting attraction to the folkloric traditions and wine tourism that the region puts front and centre for visitors. Yet, at the same time, the chateau is not incongruous in the broader picture given the number of noble families that once kept homes in the area.

The current Baroque face of the chateau dates to a reconstruction carried out in the early to mid 1700s, but there’s more than that to the history of this grand old home.

Let’s spend some time with Milotice Chateau:

Rear facade of the chateau.

From One Hand to Another 

As it is with so many old homes of the nobility, the ownership of the chateau at Milotice changed a great deal in its history. The chateau was first built between the 14th and 16th centuries, but it would not be until 1648 that the first long term owners, the Serényi family, would take possession of it and make their mark upon it.

The Serényi tenure at the chateau saw the construction of the chateau gardens, which had been in planning before they took ownership, and an extensive reconstruction of the building from 1719 to 1743. Little has changed in the appearance of the chateau and gardens since the late 18th century and so Milotice has the distinction of being one of the best preserved examples of Baroque architecture and garden design in the Czech Republic.

The last male heir of the Serényi family died in 1811. The management of the chateau was overseen by his daughter and, in turn, grandaughter until 1888. It was then, through marriage, that the chateau came into the ownership of Seilern family. It would remain in their possession until it was seized by the state in 1945 after the end of World War Two.

The chateau has been open to public visitation since 1974.

Chateau library and study.

A Look Inside

There is a single guided tour available of the chateau interiors at Milotice. The tour takes one through the representative halls of the chateau.

The tour and the interiors you will see on it show the chateau as it was in the early 20th century when occupied by the last Seilern count, Ladislav Seilern-Aspang, and his family.

What is presented on this tour is based on a very detailed account of life in the chateau at that time provided by the count’s eldest daughter, Marietta (1918-2008).

On the tour you will see the typical life of the old nobility as it was in the early 20th century; modern conveniences like electricity taking its place alongside the more historical noble trappings such as the collection of items from the Far East in the Oriental salon.

The tour will take you through the well appointed chateau library as well as the dance hall and game room among others. As it typical for tours at Czech chateaus and castles, most of the tours are offered in Czech and you can request a text transcript of the tour in English, German or possibly other languages to help you follow along. If you wish a tour in a language other than Czech, you will need to make a reservation through the chateau website.

A section of the chateau’s supply garden.

A Walk Around the Grounds

The chateau at Milotice has impressive gardens to compliment the building itself.

The gardens at Milotice date to the mid 1600s and are comprised of an ornamental section with fountains and an avenue of trees as well as a supply garden off to one side for the growing of fruits and vegetables to feed the occupants of the chateau.

The gardens are French Baroque in style and include auxiliary buildings such as a pheasant house, hunting pavilion and an artificial Gothic ruin.

Stepping out in Baroque style!

In the early 19th century, the gardens were partially converted to English style. However, these changes were restored to French style in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

If you want to see the chateau gardens in style and really look like you belong there, you can borrow a set of historic clothes and walk around the gardens in them for half and hour or so.

If you wish to wander around in historical clothes, you will need to reserve a time to do so in advance. There is an email address on the chateau website to make a reservation through. However, there is no guarantee of linguistic flexibility, so it is best if you have a command of Czech or can enlist the help of someone who does to make the reservation.

The view towards the chateau from the ornamental gardens.

Paying a Visit and Learning More

As with most state chateaus and castles, Milotice is open to the public from mid April to the end of October every year.

It’s not the most easily accessible of chateaus and it’s best to use a car if you’re travelling to it from any significant distance away.

A good way to visit the chateau would be to spend a few days in the area and incorporate a visit to the chateau during that time.

For example, you could take lodgings in the nearby small city of Kyjov and travel to Milotice on one of the regional buses that make a stop at Milotice a number of times per day. The region also caters quite well to bicycle touring and the chateau is close enough to Kyjov that you could try renting a bicycle to get to the chateau.

This link will take you to the official website of the chateau where you can see what tours are on offer as well as photo galleries of the chateau and gardens:

Official Chateau Website

Kicking Quarantine with Colour – Part 2

As lockdown measures in the Czech Republic and much of the rest of the world are increasing through Autumn, it is time to find something positive where we can.

In spring, I shared with you photos of the colours of the season from walks I took around my neighbourhood and adjacent ones in Brno.

Now that Autumn has arrived, I’m happy to give you the colours of this season to brighten your lockdown.

Stay safe and stay healthy.

The Czech Republic and the Second Wave of COVID

National State of Emergency Declared

From October 5, the Czech Republic will be under a 30 day state of national emergency.

This measure has been put in place due to the record number of COVID cases the country has seen during the second wave of the virus outbreak.

The state of emergency has also been declared so the usual legislative process can be circumvented if the government decides any new measures beyond what is already in place need to be instituted quickly.

These links will take you recent news stories about the new state of emergency and some of the restrictions and regulations in place:

Link to article at Expats.cz

Link to article at Expats.cz

Link at Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs

If you’re living in the Czech Republic, particularly if you’re in Brno or the South Moravian regions, this website will give you a lot of information about resources available to you to help cope with COVID and the restrictions in place because of it:

Link to coronahelp.cz

A Walk in the Wine Country

It’s Autumn and in the south east of the Czech Republic that means the wine harvest is at hand and there are celebrations all around the region. There are all kinds of opportunities to try local wines and take in the atmosphere of the wine country.

Not too long ago, we took a day trip to Bořetice, a small village about 20 kilometres south east of Brno. The village is surrounded by vineyards and has a group of wine cellars to visit. Each cellar is uniquely decorated by the owner; some with traditional folklore motifs, while others just more a reflection of the owner’s personal tastes.

Here’s a small gallery of what we saw on our visit there:

Vintage Weekend in Brno

Old buses and new wordpress

This weekend, the Brno Technical Museum is rolling their vintage public transportation fleet around town.

This post is to show you some of the technical museum’s public transport fleet and for me to play around a bit with the new WordPress editor functions.

I’ve decided to try out the tiled gallery function and not put any captions on the pictures.

Enjoy.