Dreaming about Moravia
For a very long time, I have yearned to visit the beautiful region of Moravia in Czech Republic, my home country. Moravia is known for its picturesque scenery, delicious food, friendly and laid-back people, and most importantly, excellent wine. It lies in the southeastern corner of the country and borders with Austria and Slovakia. Brno is the largest city and it’s considered as the capital of this region. A combination of highlands and lowlands dotted by small villages with narrow roads and white buildings surrounded by vineyards form a pleasant Mediterranean feel. Even the weather here is generally a little warmer than in the rest of the country. Moravia is also very rich with culture, history, and tradition. Tourists come to enjoy the atmosphere of local towns and the ample hospitality provided by the locals, often dressed in folk dresses and dancing to traditional folk music while offering the visitors a taste of their fresh-made regional specialties. Some of these include a pungent type of cheese called syrecky from the proud city of Olomouc, dill pickles from Znojmo or frgal – an oval pastry topped with plum jam, poppy or sweetened curd. The food is always accompanied by a wide selection of alcohol. The most prominent of them all is slivovice, a type of plum brandy, but Moravians are able to turn almost anything into a drink with high alcohol volume, which brings us back to the main attraction – Moravian wine cellars.
A Trip to Mikulov
I come from the north of Czech Republic, so Moravia always sounded very exciting to me, but I never had the chance to go and visit until now. A few years ago, my friends visited a town called Mikulov, which is famous for its long history of wine production, and their stories were so intriguing that in September of this year I have decided to experience them myself. Mikulov lies just a few kilometers from the Austrian border in a stunning protected landscape called Palava, which contains a wide range of geological and biological features. It also offers a fair amount of historical landmarks such as castles, chateaus and ruins. The best time to visit are undoubtedly the summer months. That’s when wine festivals and other cultural events take place and the wine cellars all around town are open. My trip took place towards the end of September, so I didn’t get to experience the buzz of the full season, but at least I didn’t have to deal with a large number of tourists and booking everything weeks in advance.
Attractions Around Town
I went with a group of friends, so we booked an apartment in the center of the city. Since the season was over, the accommodation was cheaper and we didn’t have to worry about booking a wine tasting until the day before we wanted to attend. There were many beautiful apartments available, but we chose Apartman U Mestana for its convenient location, excellent amenities and a very good price. The newly refurbished apartment had three bedrooms, a living room with a kitchenette and a small garden with a grill. There was also a wine bar inside the house with wines from nearby producers, so we stayed in for our first night and had our own private wine tasting. The next day, we made plans for the day to go sightseeing around town. Our trip itinerary included all the highlights, starting with a beautiful white chapel atop a hill called Svaty Kopecek. The trail led us through a residential area and vineyards into a forest covering most of the hill. The end of the tree line indicated that we have reached the top, with the entire town spreading gracefully beneath us. There were several religious buildings scattered around the area, but our focus was aimed at the amazing view of the wonderful Moravian scenery.
Sandstone Quarry and Kozi Hradek
Our next stop led us back to the forest down the other side of the hill and onto a road until we came to an old sandstone quarry that was flooded with turquoise blue water. Small fish were forming schools in the shallow waters close to the banks while birds of prey were circling above in the sky. Approximately in the middle of the lake the shallows turned into a sudden deep drop, which made it possible to go swimming in the pure water. After a short break, we pressed onward back into the center of town, where we visited an old ruin called Kozi Hradek. There was an entrance fee of 20 CZK that was collected by a man sitting at the top of the tower. The man told us about the history of the tower and some other places that were visible from the top. The tower was used during a war, it had small openings on each side just big enough to fit the mouth of a cannon. After he was finished talking he pointed us to the panoramic boards with names of the nearby attractions. In the evening we had a barbecue in the garden of our apartment.
Valtice and Lednicko-Valticky Areal
On our third day, we went on a trip outside of town to see other nearby attractions we knew about. We visited the town of Valtice, also well known for its history and wine cellars, where we saw the chateau and we went to a museum of medieval torturing devices. The museum wasn’t very big, but it contained enough exhibits to make our skin crawl. Most of the torturing devices were meant for crushing bones in various parts of the body, including a skull crusher, or devices and chairs with spikes for piercing flesh. There were also some painless contraptions, such as several masks of shame or a barrel that was worn instead of clothes by people who engaged in robbing others of money. Some signs of the exhibits also stated that some of them are still being used to this day for BDSM purposes. The worst ones were probably those that meant a very slow and painful death, like a big cauldron where the person was literally boiled alive, or dull wooden spikes that were meant to penetrate the person with their own body weight. When we were creeped out enough to be thankful for living in the 21st century and not in medieval times, we got back in the car and continued on our journey. The next place we visited was called Lednicko-valticky areal, a gorgeous chateau surrounded by hundreds of meters of gardens with flowerbeds and water canals. For a fee, visitors can enjoy a ride on the canals or in horse-drawn carriages, which both go around the whole area and stop by the furthest attraction, a 62 meters high minaret with a fascinating view from the top. The whole area was truly massive and since we walked everywhere on foot, we were already quite tired before we’d even made it back to the car.
Into the Wine Cellar
We only had a few hours left before our wine tasting, so we had to go back to the apartment and get ready for the evening. The wine cellar wasn’t offering dinner anymore because of the end of the main season, so we went to the town square to one of the local restaurants. Unfortunately, we picked the worst one called Alfa, both the food and the service was terrible. We paid straight after our meal and rushed through town to the wine cellar. We were greeted by a very pleasant woman who showed us inside and gave us our first tasting of wine from the bar. We waited for the rest of the people that were coming and then we went into the wine cellar. We were mostly given white Moravian wine, one dessert wine, two rosés and a red wine. The owner taught us the right way of tasting wine and explained the terminology while quizzing us about random attributes of each wine. The whole tasting lasted for about an hour and we were given 10 samples of wine. Afterwards we returned back to the bar and chatted with the owner. She gave us tips on where to eat and told us stories about the town. We bought some wine from her and went for dinner at the place she recommended to us, called Tanzberg. We found the place satisfying, but we probably wouldn’t go there again.
Leaving the Vineyards
On our last day we planned to go on a tour of a cave and to visit the Mikulov Castle along with some ruins on the way back home. We paid for our stay at the apartment and the wine we had consumed and said goodbye to the town of Mikulov. After our tour of the cave we went to see the ruins called Devicky, but were quickly discouraged by the long steep hill they were sitting on, so we went for lunch instead. We bought burcak (half-fermented wine) in the village of Pavlov and went home. I would recommend visiting Mikulov to anyone who enjoys good food and wine and appreciates history and nature. Staying in this town is like stepping back in time, when life had a much slower pace and remained in a constant state of indulgence and lightness. The sweet smell of the vineyards is everlasting in this small southern corner of Moravia, and will surely keep enchanting everyone with its simple beauty for generations to come.
Lednicko-valticky areal (Czech and German only)