Where are Kevin and Ruth now? Haselünne, Germany.

Where are Kevin and Ruth going next? South towards Dulmen, Germany.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Eating Japanese pizza in Svitavy, Czech Republic

The main reason for our visit to Svitavy was because my paternal grandmother was born here in 1905. At the time, the area was mainly German speaking, and that was my grandmother’s native language. Her father was a Protestant minister and he had accepted a vicar position at a local church. The family lived here until my grandmother was eight years old when they moved to a town 80 kms north of Prague, closer to the German border.

My grandmother made the decision to move to Canada in the mid 1920’s, and in 1975 she wrote a book about her memories of growing up in the Bohemia region. She wrote very little about Svitavy, which at the time was called Zwittau. Probably because she had little memory of the town because the family left when she was only eight years old. Here is her description...

"It was founded very long ago, and is said to be today the same as it has ever been, through wars and revolutions. It is unique in that it follows neither the circular pattern common to Czech towns, nor the German, drawn out along a stream or valley. In Zwittau the main street widens out until it forms an oblong plaza which the houses and shops face with the gable, and all are arcaded. It is said to be very picturesque."

And it is very picturesque!

The oblong central square.

The town was a major textile producer in the early 1900’s and there are still remains of the factories that once employed thousands of local people. The population was mainly German speaking right up until 1945, however at the end of the Second World War, 90% of the 10,000 inhabitants were expelled to Germany and the town was repopulated with Czechs.

Many of you will recognize the name Oskar Schindler, made famous by the 1993 movie “Schindler’s List”. He was also born in Svitavy, in 1908 just three years after my grandmother. The movie is about the 1,200 Jewish prisoners that Schindler saved from the extermination camps by employing them at his factories. The town has a memorial to Schindler, and you can still visit the remains of the factory where the prisoners were employed.

The Oskar Schindler memorial...built the year after the movie came out.

Most movies are just that, and are not always true to fact. Some local stories go that Schindler didn’t care about the prisoners at all, and that he was an unscrupulous and shrewd businessman who saw an opportunity for very cheap labor. Either way, he did still save those 1,200 lives. It’s interesting that the town didn’t really seem to care about Oskar Schindler’s history here until 1994…the year after the release of the movie made the name famous.

The years after the Second World War, and the communist era that lasted until the revoltion of 1989 are called the town’s “forgotten years”. Those who remember the town in the 1980’s would recall it as “dirty and dilapidated, with partly demolished houses lining the once stately town square”. But after the revolution, the peaceful split from Slovakia in 1993, and the joining of Czech Republic and the European Union in 2004, the town now has a population of around 18,000 and a lot of money has been invested in the area over last 10 years. It’s actually a really nice place, with all the things you would need, and still close to nature.

They have a beautiful swimming pool complex.

And a beautiful park.

Notice on this sign...overnight RV parking and services...free!

Yesterday morning, we found the local information center. The lady spoke little English, but she did point us towards the library where we could use the internet, and gave us a small map. We explored the pretty town square, which is not really square…it is oblong just like my grandmother wrote. The morning was cool and overcast. We only went out with t-shirts and could have almost used a jacket. But it was a refreshing change from the heat of last week.

One of the investments has been a huge modern sports center.

 And even a free RV overnight parking area with electrical hookups!

We met Andrew, our couchsurfing host, for lunch and then he drove us over to a nearby pond where there are nature trails. The afternoon turned out to be beautiful and we did a lot of walking again, even walking back into town where we ended up at their flat. 

The lake very close to town.

Hiking through the forest.

We went out and did some grocery shopping with Andrew and Chisono and then back to their place where Ruth and Chisono made a special Japanese dish for dinner. It was amost like a pizza, and we thought it was funny that we were eating Japanese pizza in Czech Republic!

We sat and had a nice glass of beer with Andrew, his wife Chisono, and their 3 month old daughter. They have two boys as well, who were at his mother's at the time.

Kevin, with their 5 year old boy. He will grow up understanding English, Japanese, and Czech!

Andrew has taken the day off work and we are all going to visit a castle in a nearby town today!


  1. Sometimes it's the results that count, not the reason for how they came about.

  2. Replies
    1. If there was a like button on this comment, Kevin would be hitting it.

  3. Interesting family history about Grandma - love the last two photos, too - the little boy and the smile on Kevin's face - your couchsurfing family sounds wonderful - what a great way to meet people and spread the love!

    1. Even though we were unable to find out where his grandmother actually lived it was nice to be able to visit the town where she was born.

      Yes, I like that picture of Aki with Kevin too. They were wonderful children and such a fantastic family to meet.

  4. It is so neat to be able to explore the areas that belong to our family. A wonderful way to connect.

  5. Nice to check out your family roots. It looks like a lovely place now but I am sure there are stories in the walls!

    1. I am sure there is. It's a beautiful town and the countryside is so pretty.

  6. A very interesting post. The town of Svitavy looks very interesting, and unique. What a lovely looking park, I can't believe all the waterlilies.

    1. The waterlillies almost crowded themselves out in one section of the pond. We loved this park too, it was nice to just sit and watch the people enjoying it.

  7. I agree. This was a very interesting post. Svitavy is indeed a picturesque little town. Interesting about Shindler too.

  8. Hello, Kevin and Ruth. I'm a new blog follower, and thoroughly enjoy reading of your adventures. Great pics, interesting historical facts, plus that wonderful personal touch. Thanks for allowing a complete stranger to tag along!

    1. Thank you very much Anne, for following along on our adventures and taking the time to leave a comment. We hope that you will continue to enjoy our blog as much as we enjoy writing it.


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