Ride of the Kings Vlcnov

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Ride of the Kings Vlčnov Czech Republic
Colorful costumes, brightly decorated horses, and angry-seeming young men yelling greeted us as we walked into the center of Vlcnov, a small town in Slovacko, Czech Republic. Right away, we were accosted by a colorful man riding a horse decorated in streamers and ribbons. Red-faced, he bellowed out some Czech phrases which we found out later was traditional poetry. The victim, or selected audience, is then required to pay the horseman. He had a wooden change box near his boot just for this purpose. Most of the festival goers were Czech, and they gamely put in the required penance. A few minutes earlier, we had left the main highway and upon reaching the border of the town were stopped to pay our 150 Czech Koruna (crowns). As we hiked downhill into town, we passed a couple houses where they were decorating the horses and had already started having a good time.

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A Colorful and Cultural Czech Festival

Ride of the Kings Vlčnov Ride of the Kings Vlčnov

The Ride of the Kings dates back to at least the early 1800s when not long after Napoleon’s victory at Austerlitz, the Hungarian king had to escape. Matthias Corvinus dressed up as a woman, and held a rose in his mouth so that his voice wouldn’t betray him to his father-in-law, the King of Bohemia. He escaped with nothing and relied on his serfs to feed him. Nowadays, this scene is portrayed with a ten year old boy playing the king. He is dressed in women’s traditional clothing and still keeps a rose in his mouth. While accompanied by many horsemen cum poets, his horse is the only one that is white.

Ride of the Kings Vlčnov Ride of the Kings Vlčnov Ride of the Kings Vlčnov

The Ride of the Kings used to be reenacted all over the country until World War II, and now only a handful of villages still uphold the tradition. UNESCO inscribed it on the Intangible Cultural Heritage List in 2011, and the reenactment of the ride takes place the last Sunday in May.  However, the town of Vlcnov hosts the festival for the entire weekend.  There is a traditional handicrafts fair where handmade items such as embroidery and wooden toys are sold, and of course there are vendors selling food as well.

Ride of the Kings Vlčnov Ride of the Kings Vlčnov Ride of the Kings Vlčnov

For most of the day, starting at 11:00 the outdoor amphitheater hosts a folk music and dancing program.  Groups from the surrounding villages perform well-known songs and dances.  Each one was a little different, but all were colorful and energetic.  Many of the dances started with a broom or the broom played a role.  It was used to sweep, beat the intruder, or just as a dance partner.  Many of the dances were contests between men, seeing who could kick the and jump the highest or perform a number of intricate steps.  One of my favorite performances had the men lifting and twirling their partners, even carrying them on their shoulders as they danced.   Since the majority of the audience was from the area, there were plenty of people murmuring the words to the songs along with the performers.

Ride of the Kings Vlčnov Ride of the Kings Vlčnov Ride of the Kings Vlčnov Ride of the Kings Vlčnov Ride of the Kings Vlčnov

At 2:00 in the afternoon, the King rides one last time through the town accompanied by his guards (still shouting out their well rehearsed lines of poetry) and several hundred richly dressed people from surrounding villages, all showing off their traditional costumes. The costumes are so well-known and intricate.  The village has been recognized by the Guinness World Book of Records for having the most people in traditional dress.  For the best seat in the house, find a spot in the shade at the amphitheater; all of the groups will parade through the town and end up with one last performance on stage. The king, of course, will be last to arrive, ushered in and well protected by his colorful guardsmen and knights.

The Ride of the Kings was one of the most enjoyable small festivals we’ve been to in some time.  It was so different and colorful.

This year, the Ride of the Kings festival will be held from the 25-27th of May, 2016, and the dancing will by on Sunday.  If you are going, I would stay in Brno which is about one hour drive from the fest. Read our post on Brno here for suggestions of things to do and places to stay.

Where is a festival that you recommend?

 

 

 

20 Comments

  1. Such fantastic colourful photos and I love the story of how the King escaped! The locals seem to be having a great time. I’d recommend the London Night Carnival as it’s like Notting Hill’s Carnival but less crowded and as it’s at night, everyone wears fluorescent or illuminated outfits

  2. Ha! Always love to see the kids participating in these things and they look so cute in their outfits. I’m sure there was a lot of beer being served…
    Frank (bbqboy)

  3. Corinne I really enjoyed reading about this festival. I enjoyed the colourful photos and learning about the culture of the people, festivals like this look like such a happy event for the community. Thank you so much for linking this one up with us at #TheWeeklyPostcard

    1. Lyn, I love attending cultural festivals. It’s such an insight into the people. At this one there was such a sense of pride from the performers as well as the audience. It was great!

  4. What an amzing, colourful and vibrant event! Your images captured the essence, the colours, and vibes of the festival really well…thanks for linking up with #TheWeeklyPostcard

  5. I can’t help but think how much work it would be to keep those costumes clean and pressed perfectly! Whew…

    We saw something similar when we were walking the Camino. We were in Astorga on May 1, which is a big holiday in Spain. We were so fortunate to have front row standing view of a traditional folk dance. The dancers had beautiful costumes and they danced with castanets. We just loved it!

  6. Those costumes are amazing, and I love how they’ve decorated the horses. As you probably know, Korea has a lot of festivals. I think my favorite is the Andong Mask Festival. Thanks for linking up. #TPThursday

  7. You are so lucky to be able to attend all these colorful European festivals, Corinne. One of my dreams is to photograph the colorful national costumes of all the European countries.

    1. Anda, Wow! That would be quite a project. I love all the costumes, dances, and folklore of the various regions. This festival was made for people like you and me.

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