hidden europe 29

A day in Domažlice

by Nicky Gardner

Picture above: The oblong plaza that lies at the heart of Domažlice is typical of towns large and small across Bohemia (photo © hidden europe).


The small towns of southwest Bohemia, many of them just a stone's throw from the border with Bavaria, are well off most tourist trails. We visit Domazlice, a town in the hills that boasts a beautiful elongate plaza at its heart.

Terezie Veberová died last week. Eighty-six years old. So she’ll miss this year’s festival. In some places they tuck death away. Not here in Domazlice where a death notice appears, as if by magic, in the glass display case outside of the town hall. None of us have ever actually seen anyone pinning up one of those death notices. Perhaps some official is delegated to post the vital intelligence by dead of night.

Terezie’s entire life is reduced to a few lines of bold font edged in black. The statutory cross. Vital statistics: age, date of death, details of the funeral. Women on their way to the shops stop off and check for new notices. They pause and ponder. They mutter a few words to whomsoever happens to be standing beside them. “Yes, Terezie. She’d not been well for some time. And she was eightysix.” Life itself, if it is long enough, becomes the explanation for death.

Today they are building a stage on the main square at Domazlice. Festival time again. A chance for our small town in Bohemia to show its face to the world. Everyone calls that centrepiece of the town a square, but in truth it is much more. It is the very heart of Domazlice, the place to take the pulse of the town. Find out who has died, get the latest gossip or just pass the time of day.

A Fidel Castro lookalike, wearing old army fatigues and with untied laces, walks past the display case with the death announcements. A slight turn of the head, just a glance. Checking perhaps to see if any new black edged notices were pinned up last night. But no more than a slight hesitation in the old man’s step. We know how things are. The monitoring and mourning of deaths is the work of women.

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