It seems these days that everyone is on the move, enjoying trips hither, thither, and yon!
The Folk Arts Center and Dvorana are heartily in favor of this trend and want to support you in realizing your travel hopes and dreams! We are uniquely able to introduce you to the beauty, history, and culture of Central Europe, as well as to keep your travels from becoming travails!
Dvorana is a dance and tour company based in Prague, Czech Republic. The Folk Arts Center is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the participation in and appreciation of the traditional folk arts. The principals of both organizations, Jan Pumpr and Marcie Van Cleave, respectively, have years of experience in together leading groups throughout Central Europe and are looking forward to combining forces again May 1-12, 2024.
Interspersed there is always lots of laughter and high jinks, singing and hiking, sharing and storytelling. Above all, there is the opportunity to form warm friendships and make fine memories.
We hope you can join us in May as we lead you on a tour that will offer you the opportunity to learn about life as it has been and is now in this part of the world. We know it will leave you with an greater appreciation of the impressiveness, the joy, and the dignity of the people, region and traditions of the Czech Republic.
Marcie Van Cleave and Jan Pumpr
May 1, Wednesday
May Day! What an auspicious day to begin our tour together! You will have made it to the hotel from the airport or train station on your own; in either case it is very simple either by cab or public transportation. A month before arrival you will receive detailed information about the airport – hotel transfer.
After you arrive at the hotel, you will check in and perhaps have time to relax a bit. In the late afternoon we will meet in the hotel lounge, greet old friends meet new people, and hand out additional information you need for the tour, including a booklet with details for each day’s activities and a map of the city. After this, we will walk to a nearby restaurant for our first dinner together. The rest of the evening will then be yours to do with as you will, whether it be relaxing or further exploring the city.
May 2, Thursday
Today is your first full day in Prague, the “City of 100 Spires”, the capital of Czech Republic, and the historical capital of Bohemia. We will enjoy visiting some of the not-to-be-missed sites of the city center with our guide, up to the castle complex and walking through Pražský hrad (Prague Castle) and down to Malá Strana (Lesser Town). We will share lunch together with the group, then continue our city tour by walking across the 14th century bridge Karlův most (Charles Bridge) through Staré Město (Old Town) and end at Old Town Square. After the tour, you will have a few hours to yourself to further explore the city, then we will rendezvous on the banks of the Vltava River (the Moldau, in German) to enjoy a sunset river cruise where you are able to enjoy viewing Prague from a totally different perspective.
May 3, Friday
Today we will depart the city and head southwest to Plzeň. We will make a few stops on route, the first being a tour of a glass works factory where we will see the glass blowing techniques that makes Bohemian crystal so famous and sought-after. Of course, there will be an opportunity for you to buy some of your own to take home! Moving on, we will have a lunch together in one of countryside restaurants. After a traditional Czech midday meal, and being full of energy, we will walk up to the royal castle of Točník, where we will hear of its history and admire the architecture. Of course, walking up means also walking back down!
Our next stop will be at the 19th century Hammer Mill at Dobřív. This monument commemorates the 500-year-old tradition of iron processing in this region. Then we will arrive and check in to our hotel in Plzeň. This is a most auspicious time to be in the fourth largest city in Czech Republic because it is the weekend of the annual Liberation Festival, held every year at this time. Plzeň was one of larger town liberated by US army in May of 1945. After the Velvet Revolution in 1989 when the Comunnist regime changed again, Plzeň citizens began to organize this festival to thank the United States and its soldiers who liberated the city.
May 4, Saturday
This is a full day to enjoy the many different facets of the festival program. We are sure you will enjoy this tribute to the American army. Here you can see photos from previous years.
May 5, Sunday
Our itinerary includes the possibility of attending an early morning church service, for those who would like to, at the Cathedral of St. Bartholomew. The Cathedral is a Gothic church that was established in the late 13th century. Later, as a group we will visit a museum that tells the history of Plzeň puppetry, from its origins with strolling puppeteers in the late 1800s to standing puppet stages, to the family theatres that are enjoyed today. After lunch time you will have an option, to join us for a tour in the Nevřeň mine. This is where kaolin, or “china clay” was mined for use in the manufacturer of porcelain, and many other products. It is particularly impressive in that the late 1800s mine was manually dug, with large rooms up to almost 60 feet high. Later in the afternoon we will go for a countryside stroll, passing by a Romanesque structure that is one of the oldest religious buildings of its kind still standing in Czech Republic. Dinner will be in delightful, small restaurant hidden in the woods.
May 6, Monday
Today we leave Plzeň. Our first stops will be in the Chodsko region, in the village of Postřekov, near the German border. Here we will first tour the family owned Kanafas factory, where they loom over 150 kilometers of textiles with traditional designs every year. From there it is a logical step to visit the Museum of Folk Costumes in Postřekov, to enjoy seeing their extensive collection. After lunch we will stretch our legs with a countryside walk to view the memorial of the 15th century Hussite wars. After that, we will visit a synagogue, which represents the large Jewish population that lived in the area before WWII. It is these old temples that remind us of the once-thriving Jewish community of Czechoslovakia. At the end of the day, we will arrive in historic České Budějovice, the capital city of south Bohemia.
May 7, Tuesday
Would you like to have a real Czech day? That is not a problem in the area in and around České Budějovice! To get us started, we will take a tour in the local brewery. This is not just any brewery – this is the original Budweiser brewery! After learning about and tasting this uniquely Czech pivo (beer), we will then move on to visit a local pottery workshop. Here you can see how the traditional pottery is made and can buy some for very reasonable prices. After lunch, we will walk to and enjoy a tour of the beautiful chateau Hluboká nad Vltavou. After the tour we will relax with a short stroll in the woods, as the countryside is very pretty. In the evening we will visit Holašovice, a UNESCO heritage site, where we will have dinner, and walk around this 13th century, well-preserved Central European village with a ground plan that dates back to the Middle Ages. To round out our Czech Day full of traditions, we will meet with the local folk dance group Ševětín, who will dance and sing both for and with us.
May 8, Wednesday
Today is a national holiday in the Czech Republic when we celebrate the end of WWII. You may know it as V-E Day, the Czechs call it Den vítězství (Day of Victory), commemorating the Prague Uprising and the liberation of Czechoslovakia by Allied Forces. The town of České Budějovice was the line where Russian and American troops met in 1945. This morning we will do a sightseeing tour of the town, after which you will have some free time to relax. In the early afternoon we will leave the city and visit places in the surrounding countryside, including the Cistercian Monastary in Zlatá Koruna, an exquisite monastery founded in the 13th century. From here we will go to Český Krumlov, another UNESCO heritage site, which is a beautiful, medieval fairytale town with a magnificent castle. We will have enough time to enjoy walking around the town both as a group, as well as on your own to explore further. After dinner, we will return to České Budějovice.
May 9, Thursday
As we meander our way north, back to Prague again, we will first meet with a fine woodcarver who specializes in very large pieces – well worth admiring his craftsmanship, but not practical to take home with you as a souvenir! Our second stop will be in the small village of Albrechtice nad Vltavou, with its unique cemetery that is surrounded by over a hundred decorated arcades. The next stop is in Písek, a historical town protected by law as an urban monument zone, with the oldest Central European stone bridge, sometimes known as the Stag Bridge. It is not known exactly when the bridge was built, but old records confirm that it was in existence already before 1300. From Písek we will continue to travel north, passing through a small village called Květus. This is a very special place with wonderful memories for many Czech country dancers and their American friends! While here we will try our hands at making traditional Czech cookies, try our feet at learning some Czech folk dances, stretch our vocal cords to learn Czech songs, and enjoy a traditional Czech dinner made for us by local villagers. Finally, after a very full day, we will arrive back in Prague.
May 10, Friday
We are back in Prague, and, from our days here at the beginning of the tour, you will undoubtedly have a better understanding of the city. Therefore, this morning you have a choice of making your own plans or joining those of us who would like to visit the Vyšehrad (Upper Castle). There are extensive grounds, the Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul, and the Vyšehrad National Cemetery. In the cemetery you will find the graves of famous Czechs such as composers Dvořák and Smetana, and artist Alphonse Mucha. The rest of the day is yours to enjoy as you would like in this beautiful city, then we will meet again in the evening, enjoy dinner together, followed by dinner and a folklore program of music and dancing at a local restaurant.
May 11, Saturday
In the morning and through lunch you will have a final chance to enjoy exploring Prague on your own. In the afternoon we have an unusual excursion planned! We will leave Prague and head to Strakonice, in southwest Bohemia. There we will be attend part of the National Country Dance Competition. The tradition of Czechs enjoying various types of American country dancing (squares, contras, clogging) began in the 1970s and continues today. There are many youth and adult groups in Czech Republic and Slovakia, all of whom create their own choreographies, choose their music and their dance costumes, and compete, perform, and dance socially together. While here during a small part of this weekend-long competition we will watch some of these groups perform both Appalachian clogging and their arrangements of traditional American-style dancing. We will have dinner at the festival and participate in the evening country dance party (with live music!). Late in the evening we will return to Prague, undoubtedly tired, but also undoubtedly very content with our shared experiences throughout the tour.
May 12, Sunday
How the time has flown, and it is now time to say goodbye, and return to our homes, families, and regular lives. But we hope you will take back many memories to share and treasure from your time in Czech Republic. We also hope you will stay in touch, and that, perhaps, we will see you again soon!