We wanted to experience life in the Czech Republic outside Prague or a campsite. So, we spent two nights in absurdly pretty Telč - whose newfound "tourist hot spot" status, midweek at the start of June, amounted to nothing more than six Asian tourists, a French daytripping couple and us.
Through the "Great Gate" we drove. Actually, we walked first, to find a place to stay and make sure it was legal to drive in. You never can tell with cobblestones. Inside was a spectacularly colorful square, lined with Renaissance facades. Each and every building would be worth a photograph - no two were alike. The original Gothic architecture was severely damaged by a fire in 1530 and the facades were added to spiff up the place.
The view out our window, in a pension above a toy store, was Stepnicky Pond. The town square is surrounded on three sides by Medieval fish ponds that also acted as protective moats. Stocking your moat with food is a pretty brilliant survival strategy. The fourth side is protected by the arched gateway (a smidge wider than a Subaru Outback). Beyond it is the modern world, the rest of Telč.
Kids ran around the fountain constantly. Older ones set off some fireworks one afternoon as we sat at an outdoor cafe and others rang the bells outside a bellshop every time they passed by. Shopowners, including the man who owned our toyshop/pension with his wife, stood outside talking to each other. The small town buzz of activity succeeded at counteracting the souvenir shops, which sold cowboy and conical bamboo hats alongside traditional Moravian puppets. For all its postcardability, there was something about Telč that felt very authentic.
Like the locals, our world revolved around this building at the foot of the Church of the Holy Spirit. It's "Pizzerie," the only place people seemed to eat. Granted, there were only two other options in the square, but Pizzerie's popularity was clearly unrivaled. This is one of the moments you sort of hate yourself for wanting to 'do as the locals,' for wanting to reach beyond your campstove and the continental cuisine of big cities. When I referred to my dinner as 'bad pizza,' Merlin correctly stated that maybe it was really good Czech pizza. "Czech pizza" is made with ketchup instead of tomato sauce, according to Pizzerie's recipe (proudly listed on the menu). I can say that the place was really hopping - and that's all you can hope for, right?
Next door, down a flight of stairs was this bar. It smelled strongly of mildew and its fabric bench cushions had the expected dampness of a 500+ year old cellar. Our first night there, we were joined only by a singing group. A young man strummed a guitar and led the group of seven or eight older people in song. He had a book in front of him, but everyone seemed to know all the lyrics by heart. Every now and then, a teenager would come in to order a drink and take their wine glass or beer mug back outside to sit on the stoop next door. I think they felt quarantined by the folksiness of it all. Our second night there, we brought a camera. The crowd was similarly aged but not musical.
When it finally got dark, around 9:30pm, we would stroll "across the park" - the strip of tree lined grass next to this amazing column - back to our room.