This is a view of the Village Square from the local cemetery.
The only building I saw in the square served as the administration center and a town hall of sorts. At the time of my visit, one of the regulations of officialdom, required that a tourist register with the local authorities. This would be the place to do that.
I don't know if that is still a requirement, so stop by and ask. Better yet, find out before you go.
The landscape looked barren to me when I saw it and I didn't know it was because of the time of year. I thought it was a lack of water. I've now seen pictures of the town during spring and summer and can tell you it looks quite charming.
However, even then, the barren look of things was a huge contrast with the gracious reception I received and gave no indication of the warmth beating beneath the surface. That was the greatest gift.
I was given a walking tour of the Village, one of the highlights was a stop at the house my grandfather had lived in as a boy. It was unkempt and had been not been lived in for many years. "...Waiting for you to take up residence." They told me. It's funny but when I took my Slovak cousin to my grandfather's house in Montana, it too had been neglected for some years, our uncle told my cousin the same thing, "It's waiting for you to move in." I hadn't thought about that until now. Interesting that our responses were the same sentiment.
Another stop was the cemetery high up the hill, where my great-grandmother and my great, great-grandmother rested in peace. It was amazing to realize that this small village was connected to me, was an ancestral home and here were my roots. Most impressive was the care taken by the relatives of the deceased. The plots were surrounded by grass and in some cases covered with flowers even at that time of year.
Looking down this road I was able to take a photo of my grandfather's childhood home and the house my grandmother grew up in. Something interesting that I noticed was the difference between the architecture of older homes and that of the newer homes.
The most important thing I discovered in this village was that the glory of Vlachovo abides in the hearts of it's residents and I was rewarded for looking beyond the facade. The shadows tell the story.
I was not alone.
Nightlife in Vlachovo seems to be an evening spent at Home. After dinner we would clear the table, set out the bottles and the drink would flow. Every member sat around the table talking, telling jokes, relating stories and there was much laughter! The kids, at that time, teenagers drifted into the other room to watch TV. It seems that Czechoslovakia's TV system aired only a few hours in the evening and they wanted not to miss this luxury.
When enough drink had flowed, a few of the men burst into song! Local, traditional Vlachovo songs! With the songs came the stories and I learned more about my ancestral roots.
I don't know if there were any bars or nightclubs in Vlachovo, then or now, but nothing could have been more fun or entertaining than time spent around the dinner table with my family.
Dress Code: Everyone dressed for dinner. Not in the "high-society" sense, but in something better than working clothes, as if we were going out for a casual evening.
After dinner, as the wine, rum and brandy flowed, this man, through his daughter's interpreting, told the story of a lady he saw at the airport with a pair of spectacles perched on top of her head. He had never seen this before, he told us. He looked at her from different angles and tried to reason why her glasses would be placed on top of the head like that and couldn't figure it out.
His accounting of the experience was very funny and we were laughing hysterically. I laughed hardest as I knew the subject of the tale was me!
I explained that it was quite common in California--I couldn't speak for customs of the whole U.S.A.--for people to place eyeglasses on their head when not in use.
Later that evening, in the midst of the roaring Slovak banter I heard him say, in English, "I'm a California Boy." This came from a man who had spoken not a word of English until that moment. I looked over and of course, I couldn't resist taking the picture to capture the memory.
As we sat around the table we spoke of a great many things about their lives and about mine. We made many comparisons and found common ground, but most of all we found each other.
My favorite thing about Vlachovo was the fact that it was part of my ancestral history. I was able to see that the childhood homes of both grandparents were still standing. I had relatives who still lived there. Strangers though we were to each other, they welcomed me "home" graciously and curiously with drink, food, great cheer and love.
Fondest memory: This group of strangers who happened to be related to me, filled every moment with fond memories and choosing one to relate would be a difficult task.
The most profound memory must be the moment at my last breakfast in Vlachovo when I realized that these people were part of me and I would most likely never have the chance to see them again. Spontanously, tears gushed out and I sobbed for the loss.