The AIS MS Band and Strings program was invited to Slavonice, Czech Republic for a two day cultural exchange, including the opportunity to perform at the Institute Slavonice. Since this small town is but a couple hours’ drive away Tony and I thought it made for a perfect midweek roadtrip.
I made a point to photograph our transit into the Czech Republic, so my collection of abandoned border crossing photos is complete for now.  This particular crossing building was being offered for sale; whatever could be done with an old border crossing?

Slavonice has an interesting history going back to medieval times, not the least of which is its beautifully preserved town square of medieval renaissance architecture.  The town was also fortified in the period leading up to WWII, and many of the bunkers were refurbished for summertime reenactments between Wehrmacht and Czechoslovak forces.  
On our approach to the town we happened upon one of the more colorful bunkers, so I had to glam it up. (Note the Communist-era utility poles in the background, too.)
Once the Iron Curtain was put into place, Slavonice was cleared of locals because of its proximity (about a kilometer) to non-Communist Austria, and otherwise mostly ignored. Artists rediscovered the town after the Velvet Revolution and established the pleasant little artsy colony that it is today.  Touring the Peace town square (and the entirety of the town, for that matter) does not take very long, but one is compelled to stop every few steps to admire the Sgraffito covered buildings.

I loved the architecture of this building so much that I purchased a hand-printed t-shirt with this design. Anna Grace admired the t-shirt, so I’ll know where to look should the shirt go MIA from my bureau.

Even the downspouts around the square were fanciful.
Once a Bohemian Communist HQ, now the vibrant Institute Slavonice. The town has retained its public address system, and when the concert was announced across the square, the hikers, cyclists, and other tourists visiting the town helped to fill the auditorium!  How neat!
After a morning of touring a woodcutter’s shack in the forest, painting pottery and designing their concert t-shirts, the students arrived at the Institute for their performance.  
Next to bassoons and violins, cellos are my favorite. Well, and trumpets, too. 
 This particular First Chair violinist performed an enchanting solo in the piece, El Toro.
The finale was performed by the youth choir, Viva La Bella Slavonice, a series of Czech and Slovak folk songs, as well as “Tonight” from West Side Story in Czech-accented English. They were so charming that it was impossible not to smile!
(Yes, I thought the hat on the woman in front of me was beyond awesome, too.)
So why the Czech Canada reference? This region of Czech Republic, at the confluence of the former countries of Moravia and Bohemia, and Austria is one of rocky outcrops, rugged landscapes and dense forests, gently rolling hills and with a climate that apparently resembles Canada. 
Following the performance we left Slavonice to explore some of the area before nightfall, including Hrad Landstejn, one of the best preserved medieval fortresses in the area. Indeed, we encountered gently rolling hills and dense forests, and not having ever been to rural Canada, we presumed the comparison was just.
Castle signs to help the navigationally challenged.
Hrad Landstejn.  
We returned to Slavonice just ahead of a thunderstorm, enjoyed a Czech dinner in our hotel, and planned the following days’ return travel home through more of the Cold War buffer zone.