Wednesday 11 September 2013


Cllr Smedley stands by Bridgwater
In June 1992 Bridgwater and Uherske Hradiste became the first British and Czech towns to twin in the wake of the Velvet Revolution. Since then we've had 21 years of happy twinning together. And one of the annual highlights is the UH Wine festival.

This year there was no official Bridgwater delegation - just a few hardy travellers. However, the walls of the town hall that greeted them were adorned with massive full colour display boards of all 7 of UH's twin towns with the pride of place going to a Bridgwater display featuring photographs taken during the Spring and Summer by Czech exile in Somerset Jana Branecka.

Twin Towns on display

The photos, which featured the Cornhill, St.Mary's church, Blake Museum, West Quay, the town Bridge, King's Square and Brownes pond,  stand out with their green and blue hues , easily holding their own against the Italian mountain town of Priverno, the German Mayen, the Hungarian Sarvar,the Polish Krosno and the (not so far away) Slovakian Skalica.

The Mayor of Strani 'having a dance'
Well, the event's actually called the 'Festival of Wine and Open Monuments'  because some bright spark had the great idea to combine a town full of dancingly merry drinkers with opening up all the museums to the public at the same time. This time, to add to the 'merriment' they'd opened up the Former Austro-Hungarian Empire Prison building - later used by the Nazis, the  Communists and the Democrats, until it;s closure in the 1960's. (Not for any 'moral' reasons, just because they wanted to move the prison service to Zlin...the county town).

Cheering pavements of bounciness

The wine festival is basically a costumed procession of slavic folklore wearing countryfolk who wend their way from the winelands of  the Maratice hill to the East of UH, through pavements of cheering towns people, handing out wine and slivovice while playing cimbal or dechovka music, stopping to dance, or showing off their lavish hand made costumes.
UH prison corridor

Once in the main square the town fills to an overcapacity of dancing , drinking, eating and general mayhem. The visit to the prison alone involved a patient queue of literally hundreds at a time cramming into the entrance yard to take the tour that others would have gladly avoided 40 years ago.

Footballing like it was 1966 (in Albania)

But another regular feature of the wine festival is the annual football match between Altech and Bridgwater International.  Altech is the stairlift company founded by Antonin Machala, now employing some 150 workers who have their own works football pitch. Bridgwater International on this occaision featured 3 travelling Bridgwater Brits and a group of Foreign guestworkers from the nearby Akropolis Family Centre, from Spain, Russia and Slovakia.

Altech in yellow Bridgwater in white
The game was fierce and even having conceded 11 goals Bridgwater weren't prepared to give up. 3 goals from Trig Engineerings Phil Rogers  and another from Davide the Spaniard from Toledo made it 4 for the visitors. And of course it could have been 5 if the referee had accepted Cllr Smedley himself crashing arse first into the oppositions net - albeit without the ball.

People at a wine festival
Antonin provided some Czech beer, kofola and sausages, and the Akropolis provided several extra French, German, Czech and Spanish fans to help with the eating and drinking of it.

The sun shone, but then it always does at the wine festival.

Mad nutter's on parade

Mad nutter Andrew 'Wildman' Napthine, who has failed to find his way out of UH now for over 20 years having moved there from Bridgwater shortly after the first twinning visit, was a sight for sore eyes - well, I mean,  if you wanted sore eyes, you only had to look at Andrew...but his happy cheerful who am I and what am i doing here helpfulness is always a welcome introduction to Moravia. And long may he stay there.

Wildman engages Jana Hubena in 'a little chat'
Next year will be a major visitation to the wine festival and we'll soon be looking for names to join us on what will again be a civic trip plus guests, plus footballers and plus anyone who wants to come keep your eyes peeled.  Then salted. Then sent in a small cardboard box to the Wildman so he has someone to talk to for the next 11 months.

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