I guess I’m the exception who loves tourists and aims to please them

Jaroslava Dominová, * 1956, owner of ATELIER HEZKY ČESKY, a shop in the town center. She was born in Český Krumlov and has lived most of her life in the Vyšehrad housing project.

Were you born in Český Krumlov? Where did you grow up?

I was born right at home, which probably doesn’t happen normally. We lived in Pod Kamenem street, which no longer exists. They did away with it when they needed to make an access road to Krumlov from České Budějovice. The houses were beautiful, clinging to the rock. We then moved to the housing development at Vyšehrad, which was new at the time. I was one of the first and few generations to have running water, hot water and central heating. My classmates still lived in old houses, they burned coal and wood for heat, and we were living in the lap of luxury.

I was tiny when we moved, so I no longer remember the inner town. I used to be very happy in our housing development, because back then we lived differently. We built a playground ourselves, either for summer football or for winter skating. We swung on the carpet beating frame, went sledding, went to school as a group, and put on plays for our parents in the laundry room. We founded a football club. The boys played football and we wanted to, too, so we founded a girl’s team. We were called Dynamo Vyšehrad. Today people remembered how amazing it was.

So you don’t remember the center? You didn’t go there?

We did, because there were still shops in the center, all the services, we had to go shopping there. Or maybe to the movie theater, to the confectioner’s. But when we went to the movies, we didn’t go through the town. We were afraid and walked around it.

You were afraid of the center?

Yes, but just when we were little and at night, because the Roma lived there. We were attacked and beaten up a few times.

But I’ve heard from a number of people that there were never any problems with the local Roma, that they went to school with them, worked with them and didn’t have any conflicts with them …

That’s true. This is just an incident – it was the sixties, seventies – but when we crossed the town as little girls, we were in high spirits because we were overcoming danger. And they were waiting for someone, had someone in their sights, but we came their way, so they beat us up, we were bleeding from our mouths or ears. You just didn’t go to the inner town at night. We who were from Vyšehrad were considered a sort of “nobility.” The town was inside out. But otherwise we were friends, went to school, played with each other, went skating …

And the center was actually an exclusion zone?

No, no! People had their own beautiful inner life, there. I think they were happy.

And the inner town was considered the “town” and Vyšehrad was considered what? The outskirts?

Not the outskirts. A housing development. The town was deserted. Everyone was happy to go to the prefab apartment blocks, with warm water, central heating and electricity.

Do you remember any activities they did that didn’t even exist in the housing estate? Or do you remember anything poetic that has completely disappeared from the town?

I do not know of any trades we didn’t have. But I do remember that the Roma had taken over the entire square, chairs outside; they’d sit there, talking, their children running around on the square. And then they’d sit on the fountain, that was theirs, it was like their territory, including Na louži, but other places, too.

Can you remember any typical features of the inner town?

Broken windows, I remember, the boarded windows, trash cans everywhere outside, in the passageways. Sort of dismal. There was a boarding house in the inner town infamous because it was overrun by fleas, so whenever anyone went to Krumlov, we’d say: take a stick to scratch with!

Did you feel that the dilapidated area of the town was a valuable historical site?

I do, ever since I was a child. I’ve been in Krumlov for sixty-two years, and it still moves me. I would play hookie and climbing around in the lofts, it was still possible.

Did you break in?

You did not have to break in. You just went into the house. Now everything’s locked up.

Earlier the houses were open?

Nothing was locked here, anywhere. Before, people would only lock their apartments. That’s what things were like then. I didn’t get in everywhere, but Dvořák Hotel attracted me the most. You went all the way up and there was a little attic balcony where I would sunbathe and get a view of the castle.

Could you describe the transformation of the town around 1990 when talk began of it becoming a UNESCO heritage site?

I couldn’t imagine the consequences. Most of the inhabitants of Krumlov had the feeling that it would bring them mainly positive things. No one saw it as a bad thing. As Mr. Vondrouš said, we were all enthusiastic. We were all pulling on one rope, looking forward to “cleaning up” Krumlov, clearing out the cobwebs.

Did anything surprise you in a bad way?

I see the tourism trend and it’s getting worse. I’m afraid what happened in Prague on the Royal Route will happen here.

You think it hasn’t happened yet?

I don’t want to admit it. I don’t think it’s that bad yet. There are still Czech businesses here – though there are only a few. I’ve been to Paris, to Mallorca, and I’ve seen that things were similar there, that everything is universal, but those are the developments that overwhelmed us. I don’t think that the people who brought it on are sitting in town hall. It’s just a lot of things coming together. That’s what the time has brought, without anybody really taking part in it fully.

Some locals who turned their houses into hotels and live elsewhere are partially to blame…

That’s exactly what I think is missing here. When there were the shops or pubs here, then you built a relationship with the owner or the manager, who I knew and who welcomed you. And I feel the same way about my shop. I build relationships with customers. That’s why I like tourists. They might come to me, I’ll make them a coffee, or if they want to stay, I’ll put them up in my home.

Can you think of any services you lack in the center?

Of course, but no one will get in anymore. There was a glasswork shop, a shoe repair shop, a laundry, a dry cleaner’s. In short, services.

Where are those services now?

I don’t know.

Where do people go for windowpanes or to get their shoes repaired?

There used to be about three shoe repair shops in the inner town. One is in Vošahlikův Mlejn [Vošahlik’s Mill]. I send everybody there. Nobody opens services in the town anymore. You probably know about the Hotel Vysehrad affair, right?

No, I don’t.

It’s an abandoned B+ hotel that was built here in the sixties–seventies, and was so famous there was even an escalator leading up to it.

Is that the abandoned prefab apartment block?

Yes. Which was also famous because when they built it, there was a tree they constructed the roof around so they didn’t have to chop it down. All the foreigners who came to Krumlov stayed there because it was all luxury.

And it went under?

It didn’t go under. Mr. Vondrouš could tell you exactly what happened. It’s an example of privatization gone wrong. Today it is deserted. Homeless people live there for free. A girl even died there. It was a spine-chilling case. The way we were afraid of the town, today you’d be afraid of Hotel Vyšehrad. The town tried to buy the hotel from the owner, but they named an unacceptable price and that was the end of it.

Do you think it is important for the town for people to come from the outskirts into the center, or do you think it makes no difference?

I think it is important. In order for people to like it here, to come to the center to go to a concert, a play, the library. People are putting up barriers themselves. Monasteries have been made and I applaud them. But some people: alright, monasteries, but we don’t have any sidewalks here! I’m not a councilor, I don’t know.

I would say that people are allergic to one another in a way that seems pointless to me. But that train has already left the station. For people from the outskirts there just is no inner town to go for a walk in, or to an exhibition, or a café to sit down in, or to have lunch … It’s a shame.

And isn’t it the prices?

Of course it’s the prices, too. It cuts both ways. In Kotěhůlky, a steak is only CZK 50. When it’s a tourist town, there’s just a tax, it seems pretty obvious to me (though we shouldn’t overdo it).

What do you think about the tourists?

A lot of people don’t like the tourists. I’m probably an exception – I love tourists and aim to please them. You know, they come here with a positive mindset, they’re on vacation, they’re in no hurry, they want to look around, have a good time, absorb things. The tourist comes here to discover things, which confirms to me that I live in an eternal town. Tourist walk around slowly and take things in. Czech people rush by with frowns on their faces. I’m really sorry that we live in such a beautiful town, but don’t know how to be proud of it. But that’s our traditional way. We were never proud of Comenius, of Miloš Forman – everything had to be discovered for us abroad.

Have you seen any changes in the type of tourism or in the approach of tourists towards the town in the last ten, twenty years?

That’s not the way I look at things at all. It all depends whether they’re decent people or not and what they expect. But how to get tourists to stay a while, so they’re not just the type that come in from Prague in buses, are spit out here, and then rushed through town …

What complaints do you most often hear about tourists? From other business owners, for example?

That they’re impossible that they try everything out and don’t buy anything, that they put their hands on everything. The West is used to it, everything is accessible. Even on vacation, their different culture shows – this is true of the Chinese, for example. But I’ve already revealed why. Since they’re so crowded together, their population density is so high, they’re used to physical contact, they shout, or push and shove because they have to fight for their personal space. So I said to myself, I can either let them get on my nerves and grumble about them, or I can get used to them. So that’s my battle. They’re just different tourists than Europeans. In one country it’s like this, in the next it’s like that. I was recently in Bali and they live their lives there and live off tourists. In symbiosis. So they let you into their private temple, make you coffee, let you take pictures of them, let you attend religious rituals, smile at you and live off you and they don’t harbor the feelings we do here. It’s also probably a matter of faith. They’re Buddhists or Hindus and live in communities. In Europe everyone’s an individualist. I was there when they were celebrating the Chinese New Year. There were traffic jams everywhere, because of us, tourists, and no one was moaning about it. It’s beautiful. They just sit in the traffic jam in a taxi and smile.

If you were at town hall and were entitled to change something in the town, what would it be?

I suppose I would have to look into the issues because I only know them from an outsider’s perspective, but I think the town is heading in a good direction and there are decent people in the town hall. I don’t at all think the people sitting in the town hall are people who want to rob us, put potholes in the roads, or get rid of public toilets – that would be completely foolish. The people sitting there are from our own ranks.

How would you introduce Krumlov to someone who hasn’t visited it yet?

Krumlov is a little, small-scale town where there’s well-being, safety, and a lot of culture. Whoever wants to live here and be comfortable here can find a way because it’s very beautiful here. To anyone who wants to come for a few days, I highly recommend it.