High energy folklore spirit at Wenceslas festival

Witness pure Bohemian spirit at Cesky Krumlov…

No better place to kick start your Czech Republic trip than with the most delicious slice of the Bohemian region, Cesky Krumlov. And no better timing than autumn, when this fairyland is wrapped in cozy folds of russets, auburn, ambers and cornelians. But fall brings colours to more than just the foliage. You have barely taken the first few steps onto the cobbled roads, and you can sense the festivities in the air. St.Wenceslas Festival is painting the town red!

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28th September, the day that St. Wenceslas, patron saint of Czech lands, brewers and winemakers was murdered by his brother, marks Feast Day on the country’s calendar. Expect traditional food, drink, merriment, entertainment and cultural performances. So dump that luggage, blend into the colourful trail and join the euphoria. Doing a little jig already, aren’t you?

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Music wafting from the Seminární Zahrada (Seminar Garden) pulls you irresistibly. A bunch of girls dressed in vibrant layered skirts, glittering belly chains and gypsy head scarves hold the audience transfixed with their enthusiastic dance presentation. The star of the show is the little boy in a lemon shirt, candy pink necktie and a set of waist chains. They’re dancing like nobody’s watching. Treasured intangible heritage passed down generations and inculcated with much pride. Sway along with their uninhibited whirls, and if you can tear your hypnotised eyes away momentarily, just look at that view! 

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Back on the narrow street, the swarm of revellers thickens gradually until the space opens up dramatically into the lively town square, Namesti Svornosti. Here the tempo reaches its crescendo. Invisible wisps of the carnival spirit are everywhere…floating over the pastel gabled houses, wafting from the aromatic food grills, brightening the smiles of the artisans showcasing local crafts, sweets, wines and coating the cheerful faces of the red-and-white gingerbread hearts. 

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The stage is set. Steal a peek backstage and spot the performers queued up in elaborate, traditional Czech costumes. Bright colors, lavish embroideries, heavy accessories. Delicate flowers and satiny ribbons adorning elaborate hairdos. Pretty tasselled capes and fine lace-edged aprons. Lovely string corsets and extravagant buckle belts. Rich, heavy coats embellished with gold buttons, fancy braid and silk scarfs. Voluminous skirts, red stockinged feet, woollen pants and heavy boots. Styles distinctive to each region or even village, travelling down from generation to generation. Life-sized dolls in national costumes.  

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You’re hooked for hours, along with the rest of the jamboree. Perfectly synchronised group dance performances continue into the night, accompanied by cheerful, foot-tapping music by the live band. Girls shout ‘Eeyaahhh’ in abandon and boys whistle merrily. The expressions are joyful, the atmosphere is overflowing with high spirits and the mood is celebratory. Its high energy fun and frolic all the way…jumping, springing, bouncing, hopping, stomping, skipping, all the verbs you can possibly muster. Ladies are being skilfully whirled into the air. Men are bouncing like rubber balls. And a lot of lively chain dancing is pumping up the crowds. Are you reminded of fast-paced, jumpy polka dance (from Czech word ‘půlka’, meaning ‘half’)? Not surprising. It originated in Bohemia before spreading to ballrooms of the world in the 19th century.

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Standing there in the shadowy gala silhouette, contemplate on the deeply rooted music of the South-west Bohemian region. The steady rhythm of the violin and double bass and the effervescent beats of the bagpipes and trumpet are now filling your very core. That’s the power folk music has always had…as a universal medium for the community to express emotions and vent feelings during mournful occasions, celebratory events, feasts, onset of spring, successful harvest, or even addressing public issues. A unique oral tradition living on through the common people…helping recount ordinary stories and preserve history through the ages. Pure, unadulterated doses of culture. So give in to the infectious spirit. Drop your guard. Toss that head. Shake a leg. Hum along. You’re in Bohemia.

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Witness pure Bohemian spirits at St.Wenceslas Festival, Cesky Krumlov

 

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