Friday, December 3, 2010

Mikulov, Moravia

As we headed west from the cities of Lednice and Valtice (where the Lichenstein castles were) one passes through some limestone 'hills' or outcroppings, which look similar to the limestone Alps of Northern Italy. These are the northern end of the Carpathian Mountain chain -- all set in beautiful white stone and part of the Palava Protected Nature Reserve.
 The city of Mikulov sits beneath one such 'hill', known locally as the 'Holy Hill', Svatý Kopeček or Sacred Mound. There is a white chapel on the top, as you can see.
Above the city and town square is the imposing building positioned for historic defense purposes.
As one walks around the town square, you see the fountain with a statue of Pomona, as well as the Plague Column


 Unique to Mikulov is the graffiti house, U Rytířů. Here are several pictures of this gorgeous graffiti ornamentation to the house:

The Church of St Václav with its four-story tower stands out above the square.

Near the town square is this Baroque façade created by architect J.B. Fisher. It was saved from a devastating 1784 fire which destroyed the rest of the church (St. Anne). The façade was kept and a building later added by the Dietrichstein family. It is now the Diestrichstein family tomb, containing 45 coffins.

Above the city, the ruins of  Děvičky (Divčí hrad) castle rise above the Palava hills.

There are many things to explore here. We plan on going back here in the spring to see the wildflowers in bloom on the Palava hills, explore the many caves around here, see the Jewish quarter and cemetery (founded in the 15th century; the largest Jewish cemetery in the country; it is quite astounding that many of the stones were left in place during the Nazi occupation), perhaps partake of some more Moravian wine (everyone has their own wine cellars here as well!).
For instance, in a small enclosed courtyard, the city dwellers still have their own grape vines, artfully grown into a living arbor: 

This has not always been a quiet, idyllic place. During Hitler's occupation of Czechoslovakia, his troops were stationed here, due to its proximity to the Austrian border and the Dyje River (where we were collecting reed canarygrass). When the Russians invaded, Hitler's troops withdrew from Mikulov and left the doors to the city wide particular, all of the wine cellars which were bursting with wines. You can guess what happened:  the Russians got completely drunk and the Germans came back and attacked them and the city. It's amazing that the beautiful buildings remain to this day.

The Dyje River was also the site for important battles during WWII. The Germans retreated across the Dyje when the Russians invaded Mikulov. The Russians attempted to cross the river, but it was during the spring floods and you can guess what a mess it must have created in this beautiful landscape:

We will return here in the spring. Do join us!

Disclaimer: This blog is not an official University of Minnesota or Fulbright Program blog. The views expressed are my own and not those of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State or any of its partner organizations, or the University of Minnesota.

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