"If I stayed here much longer with your family, I'd gain 5 kg."

This past weekend I got to enjoy some more Czech hospitality in Olomouc.  This all began with a chance train meeting back in the fall.  I was riding RegioJet for the first time, happily knitting away.  My plush seat faced another seat directly.  Czechs are very good at ignoring the existence of strangers, but this case was an exception.  Unable to contain her curiosity, or perhaps her common decency, this woman who sat half a meter in front of me inquired about my knitting.  The woman's name was Noemi.  For the next two hours to Prague, we chatted in Czech about our families and work.  I know that my Czech was horrible and I'm sure I communicated some things in a very strange way, but before we'd parted, she gave me her card and invited me to stay with her family sometime in Olomouc.

"Email Olomouc lady" was on my to do list for a couple months, and as spring holiday approached, I finally sent her an email.  A few bilingual emails later, and we'd planned for me to spend this past weekend with her, her husband, and her college-aged son and daughter.  While on the short one-hour train ride to Olomouc, I wondered if I was doing something irrational by agreeing to stay for a weekend at the home of a woman I had spoken to in broken Czech for two hours.  However, these passing thoughts couldn't disturb my instinctual trust of Noemi and peace about the situation.  I wasn't disappointed.

I met Noemi and her son Daniel at the train station and they promptly took me by car to the most important church in Olomouc, a Gothic cathedral (St. Wenceslas III Cathedral) where a Czech king was killed.  I soon realized that she didn't know I had already been to Olomouc before, but I wasn't bothered.  Being an associate pastor at a local Presbyterian church, she had to work some magic with some keys for a prayer vigil.  Daniel and I waited for her, a chance for me to break through the akwardness of not knowing which language I should communicate in.  He'd attended an English-immersion high school, so we quickly became acquainted.  After that, the weekend language rule became Czech first, with occasional translation as necessary.

We were soon at their apartment, and--in true Czech fashion--I was soon being fed a delicious homemade meal (rice, grilled chicken, and peppers).  After this inaugural visit, a weekend ensued of some Olomouc sites interspersed with delicious homemade food.  Miriam, Noemi's daughter, Noemi, and I soon went about the town by foot.  We examined the inside and outside of various churches.  The city is known for being Catholic, and there are churches and fountains sprinkled throughout.  I also managed to find more Stolpersteine by chance.  After returning home, there was yet another snack before an evening of bowling and another delicious homemade meal.

Sunday morning I accompanied the family to their Presbyterian church.  Miriam and I then walked over to a chocolate exhibit.  There were chocolate vendors, historic European chocolate wrappers and so forth.  Afterwards, we took a tram home and the family set the table for a rich Sunday dinner.  I soon overheard a conversation deploring their beer situation.  They didn't have any!  Being one of the pillars of Czech culture and cuisine, this was seen as an atrocity, so we had to content ourselves with  Becherovka (Czech herbal bitters).  The meal was delicious and very Czech: dumpling and vegetable soup followed by pork neck, boiled potatoes, and sauerkraut.  For dessert, homemade Sachertorte and coffee.  It seemed that all weekend we traveled from table to table to table, from one course to another.  Just when I thought I couldn't eat anything more, I packed up my things to head to Prague.  As I zipped up my boots, I observed Noemi bringing a bag with a packed lunch for the train as well as a hand-sewn pillowcase which she gave me as a gift.

I continue to be amazed and challenged by Czech hospitality.  Though Czechs can be being cold and reserved upon first acquaintance, their warmth goes deep once granted.  Receiving their hospitality has been a humbling blessing.  As I observe Czech women as hostesses and housekeepers, I am consistently impressed and challenged as I consider my own future domestic endeavors.


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