Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Brno, Czech Republic (Part II); July 24-25
July 24-25, 2009, Brno, Czech Republic
After our meeting with Dr. Nadezda Sieglova (described by Kevin below) we went on another hunt for nonsense within what we were told was a fairly crazy and humorous Czech folksong tradition. Two independent sources from Brno (which, by the way, is pronounced “Burr-no”), sent us to the folk museum in the center of town, where we struggled to communicate with a woman who was trying very hard to help us—in German and Czech. My handy iPhone translator (who dares scoff at its necessity??) gave us a few key words, and she contacted a researcher/worker somewhere in the building, who was very busy but came down to talk to us. Apparently, they didn’t have folk music there (curses to our sources!)—but she gave us an address for the Ethnology Institute a little outside of town. Another cab ride brought us to the doorstep, and we once again were faced with someone trying to help us, but with no English. She was able to find someone in the building to help us, and a few minutes later, a man in his 50s, looking like he just came in from gardening, came barreling down the stairs to meet us, large dirty beaker containing some mysterious clear liquid, in hand. He promptly informed us that we were in the branch of the Institute that dealt with chemistry, and the chances of finding folk music there were slim. However, beaker sloshing, he gleefully led us outside, down a path or two, to another building. Kevin’s curiosity got the better of him, and he had to ask what was in the beaker. Water, of course. He was thirsty. We soon approached a locked door with a panel of buttons. He pressed one, spoke briefly with the woman who answered, and got us buzzed into the building. We all walked up to an office where our friendly beaker man introduced us to Dr. Jana Pospisilova. We struggled with language, but she seemed quite interested in our project, and it quickly became apparent why: we seemed to have found, after two false leads, two inappropriate institutions, and one chemist, a real-live Czech scholar of children’s folk culture. She began to pull books down from her shelves full of folk songs and rhymes, many which we couldn’t read of course, but also some English translations from Finnish that were excellent. We all sat down and talked, as well as we could, about our work, about folk culture, and our great luck at having come together.
Kevin and I left delighted, with quite a few references to pursue in Czech and other languages. On our walk back to the city, we passed by this establishment, which I present here for your perusal.
We celebrated back in the town center, with a couple of pivos and a lovely view of the square.
I shall leave you with two more nonsensical nuggets of the day: a little graffiti as we wandered in Roma neighborhoods looking for a Laundromat.
And lastly, a menu, the last item of which we were not quite brave enough to order.