Just 22 km southeast from Prague there’s a village that could be like thousand other small sleepy villages. Except it’s not. It’s Hrusice, the birthplace of the legendary Czech illustrator and writer Josef Lada. Several generations of Czechs know the picturesque village from Lada’s drawings. But are the drawings true to reality? We have always wanted to see for ourselves and so we packed the kids in the car and we went.
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The location of Hrusice is very convenient especially if you’re traveling from Prague to Brno, it’s basically on your way. Upon the arrival you’ll see a village like so many others – beautiful, quiet, surrounded by green forests. And then in the center you will receive an official greeting like this:
And you know you are in a special place. You’ll start noticing the details – the info stands and maps are painted in “Lada style”, there’s a poster showing you the way to Lada’s memorial and there are Lada-like drawings in places you don’t always notice at first.
Is it the same like in Lada’s drawings?
A simple answer would be no. Of course, Lada was born in 1887 when kids used to go barefoot to school and many houses in Hrusice had straw roofs and two rooms – one for the people and one for the animals – so it does not look exactly the same. However, the look is there, you can see some of the buildings and the overall look of the village and landscape.
It is what the Czechs would sometimes call ladovská vesnice (Lada-style village, simply a village like from Lada’s drawings). Some of the houses are more modern, some, however, remain very rustic. An important element that makes Hrusice look like Lada’s pictures from more than a century ago is the Rustic Baroque (selské baroko). It is an architectonic style typical especially in South Bohemia (but noticeable also elsewhere in Bohemia) in which the gable of the house faces the street and it bears typical Baroque ornaments.
It is known that Lada didn’t always draw Hrusice as they really were. Once there is a castle where there was a church…but still you can see that you’re in the village where he spent his childhood as Pepík Ševců (Pepík is a diminutive of the name Josef and the surname is actually a nickname because his father was a shoemaker – švec in Czech, so people called him Pepík of the Shoemakers’).
Lada’s Places in Hrusice
Although the village has changed, it pays tribute to its most famous citizen. It is an interesting experience to walk where Lada walked, to imagine him in his house and to see where he used to go to school.
Lada’s Birth House
“Our old house (number 15) was built under a mild slope so almost the whole rear side wall leaned onto the soil. There was only one room for people, one small hall, a cowshed, a small barn and smaller sheds for the geese and the pig. The hall had an entrance to the living room and to the cowshed and so I often heard mocking remarks because we shared the entrance with the cows. There was a small and cozy garden behind the house.
The one room was used for cooking, sleeping and shoemaking. Six members of our family slept there. And often also a wayfarer whom my father showed mercy when he couldn’t find accommodation elsewhere in the village.”
– Josef Lada Dětem
You won’t find Lada’s birth house anymore. It was a simple house made from wood and stone and with a straw roof. It was replaced by a modern house and the owners put up a memorial plate.
If you want to see what Josef Lada’s birth house looked like, you can visit the miniature exposition in the house nr. 1 (Hrusice 1) from Wednesday till Sunday and schedule your visit with Mr. Jedlička on 733 602 516.
The author of the model of the village is Lada’s nephew Antonín Jedlička and it’s an 1890-accurate model.
Lada’s Villa and Memorial Museum
Josef Lada moved to Prague but regularly returned to Hrusice, especially in summer. He had a small villa built almost in the outskirts of the village. When you enter Hrusice from Prague-Říčany, one of the first things you see is a poster of the Memorial of Josef Lada and his daughter Alena (also a famous drawer and painter). The memorial site is the pink villa and the surrounding garden. Right in front of the house there’s the famous scene from Lada’s book Mikeš – the Czech puss in boots named Mikeš rides a motorcycle with his friend, a pig called Pašík.
Check the opening hours of Lada’s museum here. Inside you can see not only Lada’s drawings but also his personal items.
Bust of Josef Lada
Almost at the other end of the village is the municipal office and in front of it the bust of Mr. Lada which the village dedicated to him in 1998. The bust is a true liking even showing Lada’s injured eye (as a one-year-old toddler Lada fell on one of his father’s shoemaking tools, injured his eye and lost all sight in it).
At that time I didn’t like school and I didn’t trust the rhymes and articles in books saying that children were looking forward to going to school. Back then they were penitentiaries rather than beloved schools.
– Josef Lada Dětem
The elementary school where Lada spent his first school years has turned into a kindergarden.
In Lada’s times the villages had houses designated as homes of the village servants which sometimes served also as homes for orphans or the poor. Such a house would be called obecní pastouška and in Lada’s book Mikeš it’s the home of the village servant uncle Malinovský and his billy-goat Bobeš who, eventually, also learnt to talk like other animals in the book.
There are two pubs in Hrusice that remember Josef Lada. They are facing each other not far from the municipal office. Hospoda u Sejků (featured picture and first picture in the post) was established a little before Lada was born and it’s the pub he attended and according to the official village info it’s the pub featured in the two famous scenes from Lada’s drawings – the Hrusice dance…
… and the Hrusice fight. There are two different versions of the scene.
Right in front of it is the former Hořejší hospoda (now Hrusická restaurace a penzion) and both pubs fight over where the fight actually took place.
The main character of Lada’s book Mikeš is a black tomcat who can talk. The book tells the story of his life in Hrusice as the cat of Josef Lada when he was a boy. Mikeš eventually teaches other animals to talk and after he breaks a milk crock he decides to leave to earn money for a new one. And of course, Mikeš has a memorial statue in Hrusice.
The cat is based on a real character, Josef Lada really had Mikeš as a child.
During the construction of the footbridge over the stream in Hrusice in 2016 the remains of Mikeš were found. The memorial was built in 2018 and it marks his final resting place.
Mikeš’s Path and Fairy-tale Hrusice Path
“One day the shoemakers’ grandma was making pancakes and she sent Mikeš to pick up the cream from the basement. The kitten took the full crock into his little paws and as he walked across the footbridge, he lost his balance and fell into the gutter. The cream spilled and the crock was broken into pieces, dear children. Mikeš liked grandma very much and he felt sorry for having caused the damage and sadness to her. Because he felt ashamed and also he was afraid that he would be spanked he decided to run away. He would go into the world and when he has earned enough money to buy new crock he would come back to Hrusice.”
– Mikeš by Josef Lada
If you fancy a walk you can follow the path the famous cat took to “go into the world”. The 20-km-long path will take you from Hrusice to Říčany. On the way you’ll pass 12 stops with information about Mikeš’s adventures. So besides the charms of the village you will be able to admire the splendors of the nature around.
Here’s the map:
The fairy-tale path through Hrusice (Pohádkové Hrusice) is a far less demanding one and suitable for little children. It will take you across the village and besides the places already mentioned you’ll see the pond of Hubačov, the home of Lada’s water goblin (vodník) and also the Jedlička puddle (Jedličkova louže), a small water pool where Mikeš learnt to ice-skate.
Enjoy some more photos of the charming Bohemian village Hrusice.