Wednesday, March 11, 2009

It's Not Much, But We Like It (Mostly)

Click to enlarge...

Regular readers of my blogs know that I live in Černý Vůl, an unassuming hamlet some 15 kilometers or so northwest of Prague. Even longtime residents of Prague have never heard of Černý Vůl, and we live on a street that doesn't even show up on GPS, making it extremely difficult for taxi drivers or ordinary humans to visit our place.

Not much happens in Černý Vůl.

A big truck ran off the road and overturned in the village last winter while trying to negotiate a treacherous curve. And our local pub, which we've only visited once in the year and a half we've lived here, has just reopened after much-needed renovations. (It's one of those places where everyone stared at us when we walked through the door, so we just haven't gone back for more.)

But we like the village. Mostly.

Except in the winter, when acrid coal smoke belching from ancient furnaces clouds the air. And in the early spring, when our (partially dirt) road turns into a muddy, rut-filled mess. And except for the lack of basic services. The village's only grocery store is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, conveniently just while we're at work.

Černý Vůl means Black Bull. A small sign on a cycle path below our house says: "Černý Vůl is a site of rich archaeological finds. A Neolithic ceramic bull's head found here gave the village its name."

A friend of mine, Michal Pupcsik, who lives in Beloky, another small village northwest of Prague, collect old postcards of villages in the neighborhood -- Statenice, Tuchoměřice, Beloky, Středokluky, Lidice, Okoř, Holubice, et al.

He just sent me one of his latest acquisitions -- a very cool postcard of Černý Vůl, date unknown, but I'm guessing from sometime in the 1930s. The infamous backward S-shaped road snaking down through the village would tell you it was Černý Vůl, even if the postcard itself did not. (The postcard identifies Černý Vůl as a "settlement," interestingly.) There's also a photograph of the village pub, before renovations.

I took the other photograph out of my bedroom window on March 10, showing roughly the same view.

As you can see, not much has changed in 80 years or so.


  1. I would like you to know that I thoroughly enjoy your blogg here (and your biking blogg). As an American who really would love to live and work in the CR, I must say I am a bit envious of you (and that I tend to live vicariously though you).

    Keep it up!

    ~ Ole

  2. Hi, Ole. Thanks a lot for your very kind words. I really appreciateit! By the way, I also love "Watership Down"!

  3. Actually, the translation is not Black Bull, but Black Bullock. There are a couple of legends associated with the place and why it is called like that.
    I can't the book that speaks about it, but if i remember well, it had to do with a sacred site where black bullocks were sacrified.
    The pub has been in the same place since the 15th century, BTW.
    And yes, even driving through Černý Vůl in winter is terrible, specially when there is that "inverze". I guess that down in the valle the air is cleaner.

  4. Hi, Pivni Filosof,

    I thought people would be confused by "bullock," which just means a young bull, or a steer.

    The 15th-century, you say??!!! Wow. Too bad it doesn't have a bit more character and atmosphere if it's that old!