Epic medieval tournament by Štvanci at Znojmo castle courtyard

…something familiar in these strange times…

I realize writing this post in English might seem rather strange unless you belong to a small group of my non-Czech friends who visited the traditional Znojmo Wine-gathering Festival with me during the past decade, but what the heck, maybe this will grab someone’s attention by the overall theme – the world just got much more strange and unpredictable during the past six months.

Let me paint a picture for you. It is mid-September; the weather is still quite nice but at night you can already feel autumn sneaking in. You live in a south Moravian town of population roughly thirty thousand. But for the upcoming weekend, the number of people in the area will double. It is Vinobraní (wine-gathering) time, baby! Dozens and dozens of stalls with food, trinkets, gifts, traditional craft goods like wooden and metal tools and decorations will take over the town center. Theater productions and live concerts of medieval, renaissance, and contemporary music will provide entertainment at all the squares. There will be a medieval parade with the king and queen, court ladies, knight, falconers, and kennel masters. There will be drums, there will be trumpets, there will be fire-breathers. There will be fireworks. And there will be tournaments.

For years now, the theater and stunt group Štvanci have been performing at the Historical Znojmo Wine-gathering Festival, and it has certainly been one of the highlights. And then, six months ago, the world lost it, stood still, and gone slightly crazy. And one of the consequences, the Znojmo Vinobraní got cancelled.

As a photographer mostly working in the field of live events, my professional world froze. It has always irritated me how little value the average Joe (no offence to any actual Joe who is above average in any way) puts on anything creative. Be it music, photographs, paintings, designs, novels, performances of any kind. And somehow, it seems to have only gotten worse when artists started asking for help. I personally grasped the full scale of the impact when a post by Štvanci popped up on my Facebook feed. Events getting cancelled meant they could not perform. No performance means no revenue. Not only they need to feed themselves, they also need to care for their horses. So, they teamed up with a photographer and offered photoshoots with their beautiful horses, with the possibility to borrow historical costumes. My heart broke a little.

The first silver lining showed up when tourists and visitors kept their accommodations bookings for the weekend. (A little side note – accommodations for the Vinobrani weekend are usually fully booked for years ahead.) All the wineries in the area got together and decided to throw a little different event; it wouldn’t be Vinobraní but wine cellars would open for visitor to taste the wines, enjoy some music and hospitality of South Moravia. On top of that, the European Heritage Days fell on the same weekend. Maybe not everything was lost after all?

A couple of days ago, I found out Štvanci were going to perform on Saturday, September 12th, on the lower courtyard of Znojmo castle. It would be free entrance for all three shows, and the Znojmo town administrations invited the stunt group so they would be able to continue their work and assure they would still exist for next year Vinobraní. My heart fluttered a little. And the least I could do was to grab my camera and go to take some photos of the first show.

I am glad, I needed something familiar in these strange times…

12.9.2020, Znojmo, Czech Republic