Friday, October 4, 2013

Harvest time WWOOFing in the Czech Republic.

We reached out to our sixth farm host, a vintner in Nemcicky (Southern Moravia) named Richard, while we were in Wroclaw. As previously mentioned we were a bit tired of city-hopping and eager to get back to the outdoors, manual labor, good company and cultural exposure, and someone else telling us what to do for a little while instead of having to figure it out ourselves.

Our research indicated that Richard was quite progressive - in addition to traditionally hand-crafting wine, he also started the area's local slow food movement. We were excited to learn his methods and hear his perspective on food, politics and Czech life in general.

We arrived later than expected that first night but Richard, his wife Stania, and their children Ziva (6) and Teo (4), warmly welcomed us into their home. It would be the first of many pleasant hours spent in their cozy kitchen enjoying Stania's delicious meals and Richard's tasty wines while we talked about Czech life, helped Ziva take care of her stuffed animal babies, and listened to Teo's lively stories and songs. (We didn't understand a word he said but his facial expressions during storytelling were absolutely priceless.)

where's Teo?

Our work on the farm varied daily but centered around the harvest. Days were long, often 10 hours, so the work was physically tiring but not difficult. We arrived just in time to...

... collect walnuts from the orchard

(with a little help from their 13 sweet goats)

... harvest apples

... pick hundreds of plums for
drying and making jam and brandy

... gather hay for composting
(with the help of an antique hay sweeper)

... and relocate other hay for winter feeding
(the smell of hay + crisp, clear weather = autumn nostalgia!)

... harvest grapes

... and of course - stomp grapes!

Richard's methods are traditional, meaning he uses no modern machinery other than a car and a tractor. His antique tools and hand- harvesting bring an authentic quality to everything his family produces. Take his wine, for example:

grapes are hand-clipped

then passed through a hand-cranked grinder
(in a 300 year-old wine cellar)

then stomped by foot

and finally, meticulously strained, pressed, aged accordingly, and bottled by hand

The end product is (pardon our lack of wine terminology) clean, crisp, and delicious!

Authentic extends to the family's wholesome approach to food as well - Stania's cooking definitely left a mark on us. Meals are prepared fresh daily, generally from the garden. Bread is baked from scratch and goat cheese is made by hand, with love. Harvested berries and fruits are dried and turned into snacks, teas, jams, and delicious desserts (made with hand-ground flour). We look forward to trying some of her techniques when we have a garden (and kitchen!) of our own.

fresh picked pumpkins for lunchtime soup
(ingredients: pumpkin)

homemade goat cheese

amazing plum crumbles that 
magically appeared every day

"Authentic" translates to "high quality" but also "takes lots of time", and we were glad to help the family out during this busy season.  We did get some down time too.  There are tons of hiking and biking trails in and near Nemcicky; wine bike tours often go through town. One of our days off was spent hiking to Boleradice to explore the village and check out the watchtower - one of many slightly controversial EU projects endorsed by the local mayor.  The views of the vineyards and fields of sunflowers along our walk made the 15km leisurely day completely worthwhile.

Boleradice village

all along the watchtower

On another day off we went with our hosts to a neighboring village, Mikulov, right near the Austrian border.  There was a cheese fest (!), a lovely square, an old castle busy with weddings, beautiful weather, delicious dumplings and great lunchtime company...  Can't really ask for much more.

no one in the world knows where we are right now -
including us

As far as life in Nemcicky, from our "outsider-two-week" perspective... The 600-person village itself is charming, especially with the houses already decorated for Halloween and the neighborhood children who shout "dobry den!" ("good day!") to everyone as they run to catch the bus.  The lush green fields are incredibly soothing and the sunrises and sunsets are stunning.  The village PA system blaring news twice daily is even sort of charming, albeit reminiscent of the communist era (or The Others' village from Lost).

But unlike our farm stays in Canada, everyone locks their cars and homes.  Generally speaking, there's not a lot of smiling or waving as you pass people on the street.  It wasn't uncommon to find things missing - from a handful of walnuts to entire trees!  "Gypsies" roam the neighborhoods and occasionally take over the village loudspeaker selling or trying to buy things...  So, no different than most towns in the world.  Don't misunderstand - we always felt safe, it just seemed a little lacking in the "community" sense.

We loved Nemcicky and enjoyed our stay very much, and we wish the best for this wonderful family.  And now it's back to city hopping while we research our next Help Exchange opportunity.  Dekuji, Staveks!  We hope to visit you again - next time, in the spring!

parting gifts from our hosts


  1. Thanks for sharing all this about your amazing visit with this family! <3

  2. BTW: Especially love this photo "no one in the world knows where we are right now -
    including us" Love.

    1. Thank YOU for reading! :) Yes, that caption is a common theme right now. Trying to keep up with the "no one in the world knows where we are" part but reduce the "including us" part... Haha.

  3. Gypsies stole the gas can off my front porch / =