Useful Links - and not only for Visitors to the Pilsen Region
Plzeňský kraj (Pilsen Region) is a region where the inhabitants maintain a firm relationship to the traditions and customs of their ancestors. The most significant region concerning traditions and customs is Chodsko. In the Middle Ages, it used to be an extensive area, spreading from Domažlice across Bor and Tachov to Planá. The centre of the area is Domažlice. Traditions have been followed and passed down from generation to generation. The lively local people like to dress in costumes from Chodsko, speak a singsong-like dialect and sing local songs. If you visit Chodsko, you will be particularly attracted to Chod ceramics, the architecture of folk buildings and to traditional folk gastronomy. One of the oldest ethnic festivals in the Czech Republic – Chodské slavnosti (Chod festival) – which takes place annually in August (first weekend after the 10th August) is also worth visiting. The town of Domažlice becomes lively and, in addition to traditional folklore, is filled with dancing and the music of bands from other parts of the Czech Republic and abroad. The Old Bohemian fair in the town centre, where traditional products are sold and medieval crafts are shown, enriches the event. Here, you can smell the aroma of freshly baked cakes, taste fresh trdlo and lokše (traditional dishes), see a smithery corner and watch woodcutters carve bowls, or try out your skills on a pottery wheel.
Other sought-after events include some more folklore festivals – the Mezinárodní folklorní festival v Plzni (International Folklore Festival in Pilsen) which takes place in June, the Národopisná slavnost na Výhledech (Ethnic Festival in Výhledy) in July, the přehlídka dechových hudebních nástrojů (Wind Instruments Show) in Klatovy in March or the Mezinárodní folklorní festival Klatovy (International Folklore Festival Klatovy) in July.
The 600-year old tradition of glassmaking, which developed in the areas of Šumava, Brdy and Český les, is also an important part of Plzeňský kraj. The first references in writing date back to the mid-14th century, when glassmakers from Bavaria, where glassmaking has been preserved to the present day, came to Šumava. The number of glass works doubled over the 16th century and the beginning of the 17th century and there were 25 glass works in Šumava before the Thirty Years' War. After the war, there was a boom again thanks to the arrival of new glass-making families in the 18th century. The production of plate glass, in which the Abel family in Železnorudsko excelled, was extraordinary.
In the second half of the 18th century, the glass making industry experienced a gradual decline. Both world wars, and the subsequent nationalization of the glass works after the coup d'état in 1948, tore this tradition apart for many decades. Only the grinding shop in Annín has been preserved to the present day. Currently, the glass-making industry is on the rise again and new companies are getting involved. If you are interested in finding out more about the beauty of Šumava glass, visit a permanent exposition of the Museum of Šumava in Železná Ruda or Kašperské hory.
Traditions and customs come to life in Pilsen region, as well as all over the Czech Republic with slight differences, during these most important holidays:
Tříkrálová obchůzka (Three Kings Day Walk) – 6th January – a January tradition, which is still followed in some towns just as it was in the past. The Three Kings visit houses, sing carols and write the initials K+M+B in chalk above the door as a symbol of blessing for the whole year. Tříkrálová obchůzka is also related to Tříkrálová sbírka (Three Kings Collection), when, every year on 6th January, carollers with collection boxes head off into the street to use this charity event to gain financial resources for helping people in need.
Masopust (Carnival) – January – February – one of the merriest feasts of the year. It is a feast full of celebrations, tasty food and fun which precedes the time of fasting. The tradition of a mask parade, when people walk around the village accompanied by music, is still followed in some regions.
Velikonoce (Easter) – March, April – is a holiday for welcoming spring, and it is also the most important Christian feast day, when eggs are painted (as a symbol of fertility, the harvest and life), the pomlázka, a braided whip made from pussywillow twigs, is made (so that girls and women are healthy and cheery all year long), lamb-shaped cakes are baked (a symbol of the Lamb of God) and crops are sown (as the beginning of the harvest). Easter is always celebrated on the Sunday which follows the first spring full moon. On the Easter Monday morning, boys walk from house to house, whip girls with the pomlázka and get a reward such as painted Easter eggs, regular eggs or chocolate bunnies.
Filipojakubská noc (Walpurgis Night) - night from April 30 to May 1 – on the last day in April, many people gather around a fire to burn a rag doll in the form of a witch to prevent evil powers from breaking into the human world. On this night, people pick medicinal herbs (primarily plantain) and it is also said that the Earth opens up its treasures. May poles are traditionally placed on town squares and in front of houses.
Svatodušní svátky (Pentecost) – May to June – during Svatodušní svátky, it is a tradition to decorate cathedrals and houses with greenery and flowers. It represents the welcoming of summer, according to the folk tradition. It starts on the seventh Sunday after Easter, therefore there is no firmly set date for these festivities.
Mikulášské obchůzky (St Nicholas Walk) – 5th – 6th December – On the night of December 5, St. Nicholas, accompanied by a devil and an angel, visits houses and calls the children, who live in the house. For reciting a poem or singing a song, he gives them gifts and if he finds out from their parents that they were naughty, he tells them off. The devil scares the children a little and the angel protects them.
Vánoce (Christmas) – 24th – 26th December – holidays of quiet, love and peace. Towns and villages enliven under the glare of lights, Christmas trees on squares, traditional Christmas markets and the smell of mistletoe and pine needles. In homes, Christmas cookies are baked, trees decorated, nativity scenes built, interiors decorated and on Christmas Eve, traditionally fish and pea soup, potato salad, fried carp and many other delicacies are prepared. Gifts are placed under the tree, and after dinner a bell starts to ring and children run to unwrap them. People sing carols, watch fairytales or take night walks. The most-attended group carol singing in Bohemia traditionally takes place in Plzeň as a part of the advent at Náměstí Republiky (Square of the Republic).