Br(u)no: Putting a New Spin on an Old Legend
The Wheel Legend of Brno will be recreated next Saturday, though the emphasis is clearly on fun and experience rather than speed and victory. Photo Credit: Kudrna.cz.
Brno is an old city with many fascinating legends. Perhaps the most well known is the fact that the noon bells ring at 11 a.m. as a daily reminder of the defense of the city against the Swedish army in 1645. There is also the not-terribly-unique myth of the “dragon” that was tricked and poisoned in order to save the town.
Another Brno legend is the one I like best. It involves pride, gambling, determination, stubbornness, craftsmanship, brawn, endurance, alcohol and — some would say — the devil.
* * *
In 1638 — 22 years after Shakespeare died, 18 years after the Mayflower reached North America, and seven years before the Swedish siege of Brno — Jiří Birk, a famous wheelwright, got to talking in a Lednice pub. The result was a wager: 12 tolars said that he could cut down a tree, fashion it into a wheel and roll it nearly 70 kilometers to Brno before the night bells.
The other patrons reportedly laughed and confidently threw down their money. Big mistake.
Birk woke with the sun, chopped down a tree, turned it into a wheel and ran it to Brno. It made him rich and famous. For a while.
Unfortunately, though the result was apparently not questioned, it was too good to be true. Rumors spread that the devil must have helped. That explanation stuck, Birk was ostracized and, in the end, died in poverty.
* * *
So . . . what are you doing next Saturday?
Kudrna travel agency is sponsoring a recreation of the Birk Wheel legend. It is a semi-annual event that is free and open to the public and not about winning or losing, or even finishing. It is more about getting outside — something that is especially important in this day and age — and experiencing life in a slightly different way.
The devil may play a role, but that probably depends on how much burčák you drink.
“By organizing this event, we remind people of this legend,” says Vilda Dvořák, the company founder and organizer of the event. “During the first 10 competitive years, 2006 to 2016, there were often some bets on the winners, such as who would be the first to roll their wheel from Lednice to Brno’s Old Town Hall. The concept of the event has changed this year: everyone who tries to roll a wheel, even for a short while somewhere on the Lednice-Brno route, is a winner.”
Some teams may make it all the way to Brno’s Old Town Hall, where the original Birk wheel is hanging. Many, however, will simply end up in a wine cellar somewhere along the way.
“We do not expect any competitors, but cheerful friendly teams,” Dvořák said. “This year we are celebrating only the joy of movement, rolling, burčákování (drinking burčák) … LIVING!!!”
For people who want some structure, there is one route — click here for a map — and several suggested variations:
— From Lednice to Brno (66.9 km), which was once completed in under four hours;
— From Lednice to Věstonice (17.9 km), which might include burčák and the train to Brno; and
— From Lednice to Židlochovice and Rozhledna Akátová věž Výhon (40.9 km), which might include burčák, a view from the Acacia Tower and then the train to Brno.
[For the uninitiated, burčák is a fermented grape juice that is in the early stages of the wine-making process. It is currently in season and it can pack an alcoholic punch.]
The event starts in the parking lot of the Lednice chateau next Saturday at 9 a.m.
An authentic-style wheel can be borrowed for free (and a refundable deposit of 3,000 kc); there are only 36 available. It is also possible to bring your own wheel. Teams can be as small as one person or as big as your personal transportation (i.e., car, bike, running) can handle.
Registration is available until Wednesday. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click here for more information, in Czech. (Use Google Chrome, right-click and select “Translate to English”, or use a translation program.)
Make sure to stop to smell the roses, by which I mean drink the burčák.