Wednesday, 26 May 2010


Uherske Hradiste teacher Draha Cizkova had told her students to prepare for rain, wind and cold weather for the Korycany schools first visit to Bridgwater - unfortunately their trip coincided with the hottest May in the UK in decades.

The Moravians flew into Bristol and spent 2 nights in Somerset - at Cheddar and Minehead youth hostels, visiting Glastonbury, Wells and Dunster on their tour, however the highlight was Bridgwater where they met the deputy Mayor Pat Parker and the College where Kevin Smokcums catering students treated them to a home made full English breakfast .

Heading west the group stayed at the beautifully located Tintagel youth hostel set on a cliff facing directly into the Atlantic sunset ,spent time on Dartmoor and at Lyme Regis and then overnight at Lulworth Cove.

A trip to Stonehenge brought the response"maybe worth seeing just the once" whilst Avebury proved more popular (as you can actually touc hthe stones there). The day was rounded off on the Ridgeway watching the sun go down on Oxford and the glimmering spires of Didcot Power Station.

A couple of days in London proved heavy going due to the sweltering heat but an early morning climb to the Greenwich observatory in the company of Bridgwater exile Sue Hickling added that local touch to the sunbathing.

The group finished their tour with an overnight stay in Dorking woods and a brief stop at Bath on their way to Bristol airport.


The Bridgwater based Community Choir VOICE OF THE PEOPLE have just returned from a successful 4 day tour of the Czech Republic which included visits to Prague and our twin town Uherske Hradiste.

In Prague the 40 strong group had a party with some of our Czech friends at the Zlaty Pretzl cellar bar in Malostrana which featured traditional songs from Ctirad Pavlu and the Jazz band VKV Trio plus a selection of the choirs own songs from around the world. Not being detered by not having an official performance in Prague, the choir chose to spontaneously burst into song at almost every stop on their journey - Wenceslaus Square, the Metro, the Airport, the pub....and always enthusiastically received by passing strangers.

Journeying Eastwards into increasingly consistent rain, they visited Uherske Hradiste and were received in the opulent Town hall by the vice-mayor Evgen Uher - and so inevitably spontaneously burst into song. And again at the new model fountain in the main square.

The rain took it;s toll on the planned evening event - which was meant to be an open air performance at the Modra Open air museum of 9th century life - but as floods swept their way towards UH, it was decided to move the concert to the nearby Culture Club. At this event they performed alongside the country band Loncaci and a folk song and dance troupe from the Stare Mesto Gymnasium. The group sampled home produced Moravian wine and joined with their hosts for numerous spontaeous combustions into the songosphere.

On the final night Mayor Uher turned up with his clarinet and his band to play at a farewell party for the band sponsored by Antonin Machala of Altech - the co-founder of the Bridgwater-UH link. The joined in with spontaneous outbursts of singing.

The Bridgwater choir rehearses at the Art Centre under the direction of Yvette Staellens (left).

Tuesday, 11 May 2010


The first visit by Yeovil College to the Czech Republic and Slovakia for more than 10 years was designed to study comparative Health & Social care provision in both countries and involved planes, trains, automobiles and 'Sound of Music' styles treks over mountains.

Flying from Bristol to the Czech Capital ,Prague the students - 22 girls and 1 boy plus 4 female teachers, visited a kindergarten, a secondary school and a Youth club during their 3 day stay.

Assisted by Czech former care worker Martina Chvostova (incidentally also responsible for choosing the candidates for the Czech version of 'Big Brother' as a qualified psychologist) the highlight of their trip was the visit to the Jahoda (strawberry) organisation at Cerny Most. Jahoda is a succesful youth club staffed by social workers and funding by central and local government.

Also in Prague they were welcomed by the Krestianska Gymnasium (Christian Grammar School) in Hostivar district. This high performing school is very keen to develop links with a Somerset school of a similar 14-19 age range.

Entertained by Barbora Spatnas jazz band at the Golden Pretzel wine cellar in Malostrana, the group also sampled some home made gulash and bramborak before taking a night train to Slovakia.

Six to a compartment and with suitcases bigger than themselves it was a mighty feat to get the group on (and off) the train and then up the mountain at the end of the journey-but we managed it!

Once in the Slovak mountains the students visited 2 kindergartens - one in Stary Smokovec and one in Poprad where they joined in playing with the children and pre-school communal singing.

The trip also included a gypsy music event at the local Koliba with chicken and ribs roasted over an open fire , tatran tea and a mix up with the wine and coke which appeared to be resolved when we heard gunshots coming from the kitchen - although this turned out to be a local 'welcome' for the arrival of the flaming alcoholic honey tea.

With their Moravian guide Barbora Hubena, some of the group took a walk in the mountains - despite warnings about an upsurge in 'Bear' activity and fortunately (or not) weren't eaten. The group were warned "Bears can rip your heads off, nibble on your ears and donate your shoes to Oxfam . But this is a very rare occurance"

An afternoon in Poprad coincided with Graduation day and the streets were full of singing (and ,shall we say 'fundraising' Slovak students). Sadly, on the night train journey back that night some illegal fundraisers waltzed off with some of the students cash plus a mobile phone and an i-pod despite locked doors and the all-night vigil of a bald man with a ferret in the corridor who was clearly beyond suspicion. Once in Prague the kindly Czech police took maybe 3 hours to say they couldn't do anything about it- but at leats gave a crime reference number.

After a final mornings shopping in Prague the group went off to the memorial village of Lidice - scene of a Nazi massacre during world war two - which the group found moving and poignant.

And a fitting tribute to the crushing of the BNP and their rejection by the British people in the General Election the night before!!


Students from Bridgwater College catering course spent a week in East Europe visiting Slovakian college, sharing cooking experiences and learning something about the local culture and people amidst the sunlit landscape of the High Tatra mountains.
Starting their journey in the Southern Polish city of Krakow the students stayed in the Kazimierz area - once the hub of Jewish Krakow. With the help of Polish teacher Karolina Tymochowicz, the group had a guided tour of the city which included the famous market square and the Castle at Wawel next to the Vistula river. It was here that they visited the tomb of the recently buried Polish President Lech Kacynski who had died only the week before in the Katyn wood plane tradgedy. They were also told the legend of Smok the fire breathing dragon whose statue can be found at the entrance to his cave beneath the castle and next to the river.
The students also tried some Polish 'kanapke' - sandwich snacks, bought from the main square in Kazimierz.

In the evening the group crossed the river to visit a Polish restaurant situated very close to the Oskar Schindler Factory, where they sampled Polish cuisine and the next day they visited a synogogue in Kazimierz before heading off South to the Slovakian mountains.

In the still snow capped High Tatra mountains the students stayed in the town of Tatranska Lomnica , once a popular location during the years of Communism for Party-away-days (of a political kind).
During their stay they linked up with an Apprentice school in Stary Smokovec where they prepared a traditional British meal of Shepherds pie. farmhouse soup and apple crumble for the Slovakian students, who in return prepared a traditional Slovakian meal of Pirohy and Halusky for them. The Slovakian students later joined their new British friends for an evening meal in Tatranska Lomnica .

Wandering the mountain peaks and forests of the High Tatras proved enjoyable for the Brits, guided by Maria Salusova who gave a constant and informative commentary about Slovak life and history as they visited the recently opened Queen Elizabeth stone (following a recent visit by the British Monarch) and an Ice Cave which had until recently exhibited a nativity scene.

The students also visited the nearby town of Kezmarok where the Hotel Academy there welcomed them and invited them to a specially prepared dinner where they were attended to by their specialist trainee waiters and chefs.

The group topped off their visit with an exciting afternoon in Poprads new water theme park Aqua City and the evening listening (and dancing) to Gypsy music at the Zbrojovna Koliba back in Lomnica. Sadly, although the musicians managed to play some Beatles requests, they failed to do Motorhead or Michael Jackson.
The trip leader Kevin Smokcum said "We have had some excellent feed back from the students and it is all very positive. The visit to both the catering schools went particularly well, especially the first one, when we cooked. Overall, the week went well and students were engaged most of the time. The restaurants were a good experience to all, especially the final night at the Folk/Gypsy evening. That was a great end to the week."