Moravia reminds me of the Appalachian foothills in southeast Ohio. The mountains are higher and provide better views, but they’re frustrating when I’m lower and want to get lost in the landscape. Like Bohemia, the sky expands. I’m not sure how that works, but the hills and trees don’t block everything. It keeps developing until the clouds and the horizon make you dizzy.
In Ohio, the hills surrounding Athens hem you in and make a cover, like a quilt on a cold winter. Near Štramberk, above a rock-quarry-turned-nature-preserve, the view is magnificent. At sunset, the sky becomes a palette of mixing blues, yellows, oranges, purples, and reds striking one another.
You can see Rybí, Nový Jičín, Kopřivnice, and most of the Lachian Gate. Štramberk spills out between two hills as if a flood carried the houses and deposited them as it receded.
Driving at night, the moon illuminates hills and mountains, and the towns light up, tucked away among fields of corn and wheat. No rivers dominate. Small streams split a village or carve a town. Every decade or so, Nový Jičín’s streams fill the houses with mud. So it goes.
When it rains, the fog is thick and miserable. The area looks deserted and isolated. Houses disappear and no castles remain. One gets carried away from Moravia to a Stoker-like Transylvania. Cemeteries appear and town squares vanish. Paranoia about getting lost creates a sense of wariness, even though towns only have a main road and three or four side roads.
Fog and rain in Kopřivnice robs it of 40 years. Stalinist apartment blocks return. The square, small and unattractive with a quaint fountain on a good day, becomes morbid. A small building, formerly occupied by communist bureaucrats, dominates the town again. Everything looks dirty and decaying.
Rain over towns in the countryside makes one drowsy and vaguely sad. It’s as if an old friend broke a promise. Despite the rain, the drooping fog over pine trees on the hills behind a church building adds a monotonous splendor. Though, when the religiosity of Czechs is considered, the disused church building loses some romanticism.
Above all, nature and landscape draw me. My perennial problem with cities is the dislocation I feel when surrounded by towers that don’t offer an escape. When cities carve the land instead of the land carving cities, no number of parks and squares can correct the imbalance. It’s why Prague is nice to visit, but the thought of living there makes me apprehensive. The crowds, the pace, the mandated lifestyle that results from the layout might encourage culture and business, but it can’t fix an intrinsic flaw.