Sunday, November 9, 2008

Gusto To Spare

An amazing photograph of Petr Hlavaty and Jirina taken sometime in the mid-1940s.

I want to tell you about a man I know who defines the word "gusto."

His name is Petr Hlavaty, and he's my next-door neighbor here in Černý Vůl, the little village I live in, west of Prague.

Mr. Hlavaty doesn't speak any English, and I don't speak any Czech, save for a few pitiful words and phrases, so we've never had a chance to talk, which is a damn shame. Because I've admired Mr. Hlavaty from a distance ever since Daisy and I moved here in September 2007.

Mr. Hlavaty is 84 years old, but he looks -- and more importantly acts -- at least 20 years younger. He's got a wonderful vegetable and flower garden surrounding his house, and I've never seen a man work as hard at it as he does, all year long.

The happy couple today.

He is always outside -- digging or mowing or planting or weeding or pruning or laying paving stones. His energy is breathtaking. If I'm not mistaken, he also built the large house we both are living in -- he on one side, Daisy and I and Emma on the other. His son-in-law, Svatoslav Gosman, told me he dug the massive cellar himself, by himself.

And the results of his labor are something else. He's been kind enough to share some of his bounty with us over the past year -- a massive zucchini last year (that's Emma holding the monster at right), and earlier this year a huge basket of what were the sweetest strawberries I've ever tasted, along with a delicious strawberry cake baked by his wife, Jiřina, herself a marvel at age 83.

The couple recently celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. They were married in September 1948 in Podivin, in south Moravia. They met while Mr. Hlavaty was serving in the Czechoslovak Army. He retired as a colonel. She worked as the assistant to the general manager of the Czechoslovak State Archive until her retirement.

I had the pleasure of being able to congratulate them as they were leaving for an anniversary party at Mr. Hlavaty's son's house in the country near Křivoklát, and I got to see a wonderful framed photo of the two taken in the mid-1940s, shortly before their marriage.

You know what?

They haven't changed a bit.

All the best to you both.


  1. So, what did you do with the zuchinni?

  2. We sliced it up, and sauteed it in some olive oil, with salt and pepper. I think we also grilled part of it on the bbq outside. There was a lot to go around!