05 June 2011

A Fair in Štramberk

Fairs are the same everywhere - they are never attractive, they are spectacle and noise, they twist humanity into a strange mess and they almost never have anything to do with the town that hosts them. When we arrived in Štramberk, a town in the far eastern reaches of Moravia, it was immediately apparent that something out of the ordinary was happening. Cars and families on foot were streaming up the hill towards the center. We almost turned around, but decided to see what was going on.
The pretty, medieval town of timber houses and pretty churches had been converted into a playground of tinny music and whirling rides. We hoped, when it became evident that there was a fair in town, that there would be some flavor of the pretty surrounding countryside, or of the Wallach culture we'd read about. Instead, there was only the heavy smell of grease and a whirl of artificial motion.
The food was particularly unappealing. Deep-fried pancakes were plentiful, as was marzipan. There was no fresh fruit nor any green vegetables, but plenty of packaged sausages and a slew of stands selling alcohol. The local Medovina liquor presented itself in many varieties, and we should have tried it, but we are less brave about the zero tolerance drunk-driving law than most Czechs.
The local brewery was packed, of course, and offered us a nice respite - not from the crowds, but from the artifice. It was cool and dark inside, with a hushed clientele and nice (small) glasses of dark and light unfiltered brew. For a moment, it felt like any other Sunday, with only drunk locals for company.
From the top of the Trúba tower, a single pillar rising above the town, the crowds seemed even further away, though the music and amplified barking still drifted up from the carnival depths. It seems a shame to feel chased away from such an appealing place, but it's also not our town. Carnivals and fairs aren't for tourists, they're for the people of the place, who don't mind having their town transformed for a few days. The sleepy village is still there, of course, even if we didn't get to see it.

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