More than 1,000 dancers from the Czech Republic and another 200 visitors from around Europe will take part in the 30th Folklore Festival next week. Photo credit: Jiří Krpec.
There are many positive aspects about living in the Czech Republic. The beer is excellent. The people are friendly. The women are beautiful. The food — vepro-knedlo-zelo,svickova, spekacky — is amazing.
This is also a land of interesting traditions. Carp on Christmas Eve. Freshening females with the tap of braided willow branches on the day after Easter. Drinking with graduating high school students before their final school year is halfway over. Saying “dorby den” to old people on the street and “dobrou chut’” before every meal.
Next week, Brno will celebrate another tradition: the 30th edition of the Folklore Festival will put dancing and music and, especially, traditional clothing out on display throughout the city from Aug. 29 to Sept. 1.
The streets will be filled with people dressed in the traditional Czech clothing, called kroj. I call them krojsters.
In general, I am not much for clothing and being fashionable. I’ve worn solid-colored polo shirts pretty much every workday of the summer. I have free-giveaway T-shirts from 17 summers ago that I still wear regularly. My boxer shorts may be holey but I treat them as holy so that my wife doesn’t throw them away prematurely. I know not to wear obviously clashing colors, but I have trouble seeing the difference between my blue suit and my dark blue suit. (I do, however, agree that wearing socks with sandals is a huge faux pas.)
Nevertheless, I find kroj to be fascinating (and an easy target at which to poke good-natured fun). It is intricately embroidered clothing with exquisite detail that represents a mix of history, culture, society, family, and regional pride. It is easy to appreciate the skill that is required to make the complex patterns. Some versions are puffy and excessively ornamented; others are more simple and flat against the body. All of it touches the Czech soul.
Women generally wear a colorful blouse with symmetrical designs that include flower and plant motifs. The sleeves usually stop at the elbow. The skirt has several layers; the outer layer has colorful designs and the length and number of under-layers depend on the region. Using the bathroom must be a terrible chore.
Single women wear a bountiful head piece of colorful flowers. Married women cover their hair with scarves.
The men have matching clothing, with embroidered shirts and vests. Their pants are generally tucked into shiny black boots. Some have hats.
Words are not the best way to describe kroj; it’s much better to see it for yourself. Each village / area has a slightly different design that has been maintained for generations. Parades are great for comparison.
Most of the men have an important accessory: a necklace with a small wicker basket to hold a shot glass. It is for when the wine or, more often, the communal slivovice comes around.
The area around Kyov has my favorite style of kroj because the women have puffy upper arms that look like huge bicept and tricept muscles. The poor women look as though they must constantly keep their arms akimbo. It’s beautiful, but not terribly practical. None of it can be comfortable on a hot summer day.
It is easy to make jokes about kroj, but I really do like it. It represents the real Czech Republic. As a longtime expat, I sometimes lament that Brno is too Westernized.
Kroj brings the dancing and the music to life as an authentic reminder of how this is still a country with deep roots and traditions that deserve to be maintained.
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The Folklore Festival, which has been held regularly since 1990, will include many different styles of traditional clothing, and include dancing and singing. The opening ceremony of the festival will be Thursday in the courtyard of the New Town Hall at 7:30 p.m.
Dancers will perform throughout the city through Sunday. The main venues will be the New Town Hall, náměstí Svobody and the House of the Lords of Kunštát.
Organizers expect around a thousand dancers from the Czech Republic and another 200 visitors from around Europe, including groups from Poland, Austria, Croatia, Slovakia, Ukraine and Greece.
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