Each June, the Moravian town of Stražnice holds an enormous folk festival. Jesse’s reports of its wonders were one of the reasons I changed my departure for the US from mid-June to mid-July (the other major reason was that I was accepted to give a conference paper in České Budějovice at the end of June).
The all-weekend festival begins on Friday night, so Jesse and I took the train out and arrived in the late afternoon. The campground management had assured Jesse that there was no need to reserve a space, but we were a little dubious about that and didn’t want to find ourselves without a place to stay, especially since Hubert and Alex were going to arrive on Saturday and there would have to be space for Alex’s tent as well as ours. As it turned out, while reservations were indeed not needed, we arrived at an excellent time, because we were actually able to have a modicum of choice in where we pitched the tent. Unlike campgrounds in the US, this one is basically just a large flat expanse of grass punctuated by a few trees and walkways. No designated spaces, no firepits, very few picnic tables. (There were showers, though, and they worked very well.) Cars, tents, and bikes were all over the place.
Jesse had bought the cheapest tent either of us had ever encountered, evidently some sort of special offer from Interspar. Since it didn’t come with a ground cloth or a real rain protector, we hoped that the occasional clouds wouldn’t choose to rain on us. (They refrained and we stayed very dry, apart from sweating a lot.) We don’t know how long this tent will last, but it was something like 399Kč and you really can’t beat that. For comparison: I bought a cheap sleeping bag in Prague for about 900Kč; since I managed to leave it on the train to Brno, I replaced it with an even cheaper one that cost 199Kč. You can see why I don’t like to spend more than 100Kč on a meal if I can avoid it (I make exceptions for particularly good restaurants).
Anyhow, the festival was great. I will leave it to Jesse to discuss it from an ethnomusicological perspective, but all four of us had a fine time. Music and dance groups from all over the Czech Republic were in attendance, along with international representation from Slovakia, Cyprus, Serbia, and Venezuela. There were several performers I had heard of or had recordings by, like Vlasta Grycová, Dušan Holý, and Jesse’s cimbalom teacher. There are several big arenas for the major programs, plus smaller stages for additional groups. The whole thing occurs on the grounds of the local zámek, which are extensive and quite beautiful. Some events occur in the zámek itself, which has quite an attractive interior and also has exhibitions relating to folk culture.
It must be said that cell phones are a real convenience in a situation like this, even when it is sometimes hard to get a signal. Hubert was arriving from a New Music festival in Kromeřic, and Alex was biking over on her return from the epic Prague-Vienna bike trip, so with our phones it was no problem to meet up. I’m still not convinced I want a cell phone in the US, but I love having one here.
And, while Alex’s bike was sometimes a bit of a problem, on the whole we were able to transport it on train and bus without incident. The conductor on the osobní vlak leaving Stražnice didn’t even bother to charge the 20Kč fee, and the left-luggage people at the Brno train station were absolutely great about taking the bike and all Alex’s luggage while we went out to dinner before continuing on to Prague (instead of charging separately for all the individual bags, the caretaker decided to call all the bags one svázek).
Jesse handled most of the festival arrangements for the rest of us with commendable skill and calm.