You met Daniel Talavera’s Hlava; this is a bit more from that head’s home, Breclav, a sleepy town in the Czech Republic’s south central Moravia region neatly wedged in a V-shaped chunk of land between the borders of Austria and Slovakia.
That it sits just there isn’t an accident; the city grew and prospered into a regional center of import when the rail tracks were laid in the late 1830s for the Vienna to Brno (and Prague) line, which later connected them with the Slovak capital Bratislava, 80 kilometres due south. If you’re passing through this city of 25,000, chances are good it’s because you’re in transit, coming from or going to from Vienna, like most travelers who have passed through here since the station opened in 1837.
That’s what brought me: a carefully selected connection from Bratislava back to Vienna which included a break of just over an hour-and-a-half so I could do this, walk around a bit, look and snap. I’m attracted to these towns that were once on or near that dividing line between the east and west blocs and Breclav, as very much a provincial outpost, is typical of what’s continued since where those lines once lied.
This is hardly a tour. There are ruins of an 11th century castle here, a 16th century renaissance castle, churches and a synagogue dating to the mid to late 19th century — I didn’t seek out any. Sometimes it’s just nicer to walk, as aimlessly as a train schedule allows.
I stuck to a loop with the area’s main body of water, the Thaya river, at its center. The Thaya is the longest tributary of the Morava River, windings its way from the city’s north to south, dividing it into a pair of nearly equal parts.
There was no planning involved either; had there been, I likely would have spent the greater part of those 90-plus minutes at a wine bar. Southern Moravia accounts for nearly 90 percent of Czech wine production, most of it centered not far from Breclav. (That’s a note for next time, I suppose.)
So instead I briefly chatted with a few Slovak travelers, gave a handful of coins to a homeless drunk, enjoyed some potato pancakes, and helped a woman with her ridiculously heavy luggage. Mostly though, I just walked, surprised by how much of the city’s grit seemed stuck in the late 1980s or early 1990s. A cursory browse of the images Google throws back after a Breclav image search seems even less honest than most such queries usually do.
Missing were the cranes and construction crews that have been busy in larger cities and hubs over the past two decades. The over-top rehabbed buildings and flats. It doesn’t seem so much forgotten –because it hasn’t been– as it does having taken on the role of urban ‘afterthought’. Even for me.
These photos were taken in June 2014; I decided tonight that nearly a three year sleep was long enough.
For further exploration:
- Breclav info – CzechTourism
- Official home page – Breclav.eu
- Find a place to lay your weary head – via Booking.com