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Day 3: Bohemians in Bohemia

By Folk Combo, Dec 19 2014 05:58PM

On how Folk Combo arrived in the Czech Republic, celebrated the Szent Mikuláš tradition with the Papoucek family, met the Scottish fiddle master Alastair Edwards and did some busking in the majestic Prague

After crossing the Czech border Gijs recalled that he once visitited a village close to Prague with his high school 7 years ago. Because he didn't remember the name of the place, we asked for the neccesary information via Gijs's brother Koen. He found it and sended us the directions. About an hour north of Prague we left the highway and drove into the Czech countryside. The TomTom had some trouble finding the right place and it took us a little longer than expected, but eventually we found it... at 4 o'clock in the night. We slept in our Villa and the next morning we woke up in Nova Ves nad Nisou, a small village in the northern part of the historical region of Bohemia. There was no one on the streets and the town seemed completely empty, but suddenly a window opened. A man appeared and said something to us. We asked: "English, Deutsch?". He shook his head and said replied: "Czech" or "Rusky" (Russian). Uhmmm... tricky. The man invitited us in for "pivo, kafe?" (beer or coffee, we know that much!) and we made the first contact with a Czech local. His name was Dimitri and while we drank our coffee (he drank beer) we maintained a 'conversation' using hands, feet, facial expressions and some universal terms and signs that, alltogether, created a nice and spontaneous atmosphere. Everybody's humble effort to communicate was appreciated and no one really minded the language barrier that made it hard to formulate any questions or ideas. After the coffee we thanked Dimitri for his hospitality by playing a few of our songs.

We went about our way to find the pension Majak, in which Gijs had stayed during a Czech field-trip with his high-school. The pension was right around the corner and had remained exactly the same as Gijs remembered it. It is a beautiful wooden building with a little creek that has its spring in the surrounding Jizera mountains. We rang the bell and a young man opened the door. He spoke English very well and we asked if we could fill our water tank and if he knew any nice hiking trials in the area. Gijs also told about his memories of the high-school trip. The young man, who introduced himself as Honza, invited us in for a drink. We met his family, the Papouceks, who have been running the pension for nearly 4 generations: Alena and husband Jiri, their two sons Honza and Jerka, Alena's mother, Jerka's wife, their young daugther and their new baby. A true family business. We told them about the Folk Combo adventures and we got served lunch. Honza drawed us a map with possible hiking trials and replenished our water supply. To thank them, we played some of our folk songs. They must have really liked it because we were invited to stay the night and we wouldn't have to pay. That night we were served an amazing dinner cooked by Jiri, the chef of the Majak kitchen. With two big beers on the side we surely felt like two bohemian princes and we couldn't quite believe the twist in our fortune, sitting there in this Bohemian paradise. The second day, Alena told us that we could stay the whole week if we wanted because they didn't have any guests at the moment. She also asked us if we wanted to attend the annual Szent Mikuláš (St. Nicholas) celebration. They would take Jerka's daugther to a village closeby where Mikuláš and his companion Krampusz (a sort of mean elf or devil) would arrive on the 5th of December. She suggested that we could play music at this event. Enthusiastically we accepted her offer and felt it was a good way to pay back all the hospitality we received.

So the next day, we dressed up in our folky costumes and played for the children and their parents. Mikuláš and Krampusz (his evil companion) arrived and every child had to sing a song to receive a bag of candies. Luckily, there were only sweet children and nobody received the wooden spoon, the punishment of Krampusz for the misbehaving children. Later that night, when we came back from the Mikuláš event, we had a meeting with a good friend of the Papoucek familiy, Alastair Edwards. This Scotsman, who has been living in Czech for 18 years, is a music teacher and a master of the Celtic fiddle. Together we played the typical jigs and reels from Scotland and Ireland and he showed us many tricks and techniques that he learned from the local Scottish fiddlers when he was young. He played us a beautiful Scottish fiddle tune about an old boat and this recording you can find on our website along with other recordings of that evening (check it out!). Alastair also told us there was authentic Czech music to be found in the south of the country: Moravia. According to him, the people of Moravia still play and dance traditional music, drink homemade plum brandy and they are well known for their wine industry. If you want to read and listen more about Alastair, here is his website: www.volny.cz/alastair

After our pleasant stay in pension Majak we said goodbye to the Papouceks, thanking them again and again for all their kindness. If you want to enjoy the hospitality and gastronomy of the Papouceks, here is their website: http://pension-majak.cz/en/

After leaving Nova ves Nad Nisou we went to Prague and after we found a nice parking spot for our Villa (easier said than done in a city like Prague), we went out to play music on the streets. We had quite a succes and earned a lot of Czech Crowns. We rewarded ourselves to sleep two very confortable nights in a beautiful hostel in the old centre and the next day we did some more busking to fill our Folk Combo treasure box. After busking, we went to the Red Room café to attend the weekly open-mic. We played a couple of our songs and met many interesting local musicians who gave us a good time and appreciated our unusual contribution. Here you can see and read more about this unique bar in Prague.

The next day we left the Czech capital and went down south in search of authentic Czech folk music.

Dec 24 2014 09:00AM by Sterre

Hey guys,
It's very nice to read your stories! Sounds amazing....
Keep on writing!
Miss you and hope you have a good christmas.

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