After another astonishingly good night’s sleep, it was time to leave Germany, as I had plans. I hadn’t actually done anything about them but I did have some.
The EuroCity train from Berlin to Prague conveniently stops in Dresden, before heading up the Elbe valley. It has been a popular route for some time, no more so than during the Thirty Years War, when the locals had the misfortune to be on the main route between Saxony and Bohemia. As a result, various armies rampaged through the towns, leaving death, destruction and plague behind them. The “misery of Pirna” rather sums up the catastrophic effect of the Swedish siege of the town in 1639.
It’s a pretty run, with the Elbe on your left as you make your way to Prague. At the Czech border, the river becomes the Labe, and remains a major artery. The train, courtesy of Czech Railways, was comfortable and efficient, with a trolley service serving half-litre cans of Pilsner Urquell for €2. I limited myself to one with lunch…
The connection at Prague was as scheduled, formed by a Slovak Railways service heading for Zilina. I wasn’t going that far, not yet anyway, but whilst the Ostravan was a bit delayed by engineering work, I made it to the furthest corner of the Czech Republic without much drama.
Ostrava is the third city of the Czech Republic, to which one might respond, “so what?”. It isn’t exactly bustling, even on a Saturday night, but I did have plans. And, whilst the local composer is Janacêk, the local opera company were performing an opera by Bedrich Smetana, “The Two Widows”.
I bought myself a ticket online, a front row seat in the Gallery - priced at 500Kč, a very reasonable £17 for the best seats in the house. And whilst my Czech is wholly non-existent, the fact that it was being subtitled in English was an unexpected bonus. Why that should be is anyone’s guess, but a confused tourist should never refuse such a courtesy.
“Dve Vdovy” is a fairly light-hearted tale, based on a one-act farce written by Mauritius-born novelist and playwright Jean Pierre Félicien Mallefille. Nobody dies, over-dramatically or otherwise, and there is a happy ending, which is nice. Occasionally, performers would appear offstage, and the acting was more than respectable, something that I value in opera.
All in all, a perfectly charming evening and, if you’re ever in Ostrava, do see if there is a performance on at the theatre. If nothing else, you’ll enjoy the theatre building itself, and the quality of the performance will be high.
I walked back to my hotel through a surprisingly deserted city centre. If the locals don’t come out on a Saturday night, where are they? Admittedly, this may have something to do with the curious fact that restaurant kitchens appear to close at 9 p.m. But I had a song in my heart and joy in my soul. Life was alright…