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august 9, 2004 -> bohemian rhapsody: czech republic


In common speech, ‘Bohemian' is an adjective that has come to mean ‘edgy' or ‘artsy,' and to a certain extent both are correct.  The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a Bohemian as “a person living an unconventional life usually in a colony with others.”  Today, Bohemians hang out in smoky coffee shops and dimly lit wine bars, which are in turn described as Bohemian hang-outs.  Oddly, in the fashion industry, Bohemian usually means that there is a fur lining somewhere.  Etymologically, of course, the noun ‘Bohemian' originally refers to a ‘native or inhabitant of Bohemia,' a large area in what is now the southern Czech Republic.  When we decided to marry in Cesky Krumlov, a small city in Bohemia, we enjoyed the idea of our ‘Bohemian wedding' purely on the basis of this colloquial definition – a gathering of quirky friends and family in the spot that bequeathed its name to quirkiness.  In fact, the primary definition of a Bohemian (which I was hitherto unaware of) is even more appropriate, “a vagabond, or wanderer.”  What a perfect place for two people traveling the world to marry in! 

Cesky Krumlov 

The bus driver was a maniac.  The hills and hamlets of Bohemia were whizzing by as we overtook multiple 18-wheelers on blind corners.  This was supposed to be an easy 3-hour journey from Prague, not a standing-room-only thrill ride.  My mother called it a “Bus Ride from Hell,” likening it to a similar journey that she had taken in southern Italy. (Then, two nuns had seen my mother's concern and told her not to worry.  Later, she saw them crossing themselves frantically.)  My father had just discovered that neither Nori nor I had ever been to Cesky Krumlov, the little town where we were to be married in a few days.  My father is no traditionalist, but even he was perplexed by the lack of reconnaissance.  I began to feel nervous.  Would everyone make it from Prague to Cesky Krumlov in time?  Would the town be as beautiful as it looked in pictures?  Was our wedding planner as meticulous in person as she seemed via e-mail? 

We had nothing to worry about. 

Nori liked to say that the photos of Cesky Krumlov resembled a fairy tale village.  Look at our photos and you will see that she was correct.  The Old Town of Cesky Krumlov looks too perfect - like a movie backdrop.  The rambling castle sits atop a rocky knoll; its blushing pink tower and shaded courtyards decorated with trompe l'oeil paintings.  A kaleidoscopic perimeter of tall, narrow, ornately gabled buildings faces the cobbled town square.  The Vltava River snakes through the town, carrying a fleet of kayakers, canoeists, and inner tubers beneath the Baroque spires of St. Vitus Church, past riverfront restaurants, below the beetling walls of the castle, under several bridges, and down two modestly alarming spillways.  It was great fun to sit in the riverside restaurants and watch canoeists capsize as they tried to navigate the largest spillway.  The day after the wedding, a dozen of us rented a couple of rafts and drifted several kilometers down the river.  Just below Cesky Krumlov, the Vltava meandered through a long, beautiful stretch of wooded hills.  

The Wedding Ceremony 

I must have heard “Here Comes the Bride” a few hundred times already - between weddings I had attended, TV weddings, and movie weddings.  So I was shocked by the powerful emotions that rushed through me as the music started to play.  No fear, no jitters – just joy.  When Nori walked into view – looking spectacular - all I could do was smile my biggest smile.  Banyong looked a bit uncomfortable as he escorted her towards me. He later admitted to my father that he “wanted to turn around and take Nori with [him.]” 

I had been skeptical of the whole ‘happiest day of your life' talk, but it certainly was just that: a sunny day in a magical place, surrounded by family and friends, making a commitment to spend the rest of my life with the woman I love.  Wonderful.  

The wedding ceremony was held in a courtyard of the castle that overlooked the Old Town.  The courtyard was bisected by a raised corridor that linked the highest buildings of the castle to the upper gardens.  The weather was perfect: sunny, only a few puffy clouds, a slight breeze moving through the courtyard.  As the wedding party and guests arrived, a trio of Baroque musicians played period music.  The chairs were set in a small rectangle of fruit trees facing a wooden gazebo.  Our master of ceremonies was the former mayor of Cesky Krumlov - a tall, handsome man with a beard Sean Connery would envy.   

The MC spoke about the importance of marriage in society, and the new responsibilities that we had has husband and wife (all in Czech, translated to English.)  My sister, Jennifer, read the “Love is…” passage from 1st Corinthians (which I would do for her wedding, a month later in Portland, Oregon.)  Nori and I then said our vows in Czech – which surprised and impressed the MC.  Then we said our “I do's,” exchanged rings, and had our first kiss as a married couple.  We signed our names on the wedding registration, with Jennifer and Nori's sister, Patra, as witnesses.  Then we walked out hand in hand, followed by the wedding party, until we all realized that we didn't really have anywhere to go!  On to the reception! 

The Reception 

The reception was held in the regal banquet hall of the Hotel Gold (where all the guests stayed.)  Sitting at the head of a U-shaped table, Nori and felt like we were holding court.  The six-course meal was delicious, but perhaps a bit too much food.  Still, everyone seemed to find room for the burnt rum dessert.  Nori's father, my father, Nori's sister, and my friend Barry all gave excellent speeches in between courses, drawing lots of laughs, and a few tears.  A few highlights: 

Nori's Dad: “I never expected that my daughter, born in Thailand, would eventually marry a white guy…from IDAHO!” 

Barry: “Scott's been traveling for a long time.  Which makes you wonder: is he looking for something, or just RUNNING from something?” 

Patra: “Scott was intelligent, charming, and handsome, and a definite upgrade from Nori's previous boyfriends.” (Nori had a good laugh at that!)  Patra finished her speech with a quote from a Native American chief that had the women (and Rob Hart) in tears.  

Scott's Dad: “Looking around at all the guests, from so many different places, I feel like I'm at a UN conference!”  His later comments that he always hoped his son would grow up “straight and strong” elicited great laughter from the guests.  But he meant straight as in ‘upright,' not ‘heterosexual!'   

Nori and I were filled with happiness and pride to look around the table and see friends from all the different stages of our lives, talking and laughing as if they had known each other for years.  Our parents had met for the first time just a few days ago, in Prague.  Already, they seem completely relaxed around each other.  Cesky Krumlov's small size meant that our friends and family were constantly running into each other – eating lunch, browsing a souvenir store, having a drink. 

At about three in the morning, someone (it wasn't me) came up with the bright idea of swimming in the river.  Once we got in, I decided that it would be fun to float down the spillway.  Several people followed me down.  Unfortunately, the spillway was only about six inches deep and full of big rocks.  There were several minor injuries: twisted ankles, small wounds, scraped backsides.  The next morning, several of the guests had obvious limps.  Something to remember the wedding by, I guess. 

And Finally, Special Thanks to: 

Everyone who attended the wedding

…for making it such a special occasion 

Everyone who sent letters, e-mails, gifts, and kind words

…for being there in spirit 

The Parents

…for obvious (and manifold) contributions to our existence and upbringing 

April Henry

…for introducing us 

Matt and Mandy Hunt

…for bringing my shoes 

Nori's Dad

…for paying for the wedding, and bringing Nori's dress 

Nori's Mom

…for bringing her jewelry 

Nori's Sister Patra

…for helping us plan and a tear-jerking speech 

Scott's Mom

…for bringing his tuxedo 

Scott's Dad

…for unfailingly good advice, and a great speech too 

Scott's Sister Patra

…for emergency boxer short purchases at the GAP, and reading the Bible during the ceremony 

Gabriela Milisova (our wedding planner)

…for doing so much, and being so kind 

Barry Haneberg

…for lending Scott a yellowed undershirt, and delivering a hilarious speech

Rich "Shooter" Schwarz

...for taking lots of fantastic photos during the wedding

 Mark Shuper

…for what turned out to be a really bad idea 

Carrie Kogan and Damian Snee

…for taxing a taxi all the way from Prague when they missed the bus 

Kearson and Jeaneane McNulty

…for honorably representing my Sandpoint friends 

Victoria Woo

…for last-minute visa heroics 

Rob and Anna Hart

…for not plunging down a crevasse on Mt. Blanc 

Kevin and Stacie Fleming

…for popping by our ger in the Gobi and suggesting Cesky Krumlov as our wedding spot