From whichever direction you start off towards the medieval town of Mikulov
, you will be astonished by the surprising similarity between this corner of Czech wine country and Tuscany. Above the slopes of vineyards groomed into orderly rows loom white limestone rocks that rise from the bottom of a prehistoric sea. Especially if you are coming from the south, from the direction of Vienna, the silhouette of the Mikulov chateau
and the town rooftops will take your breath away – yes, this really is the Florence of the north!
Words cannot describe the feeling you’ll get when you sit down in front of one of the small wine cellars above Dolní Dunajovice and look around. To the south, you’ll see a curve on horizon created by the majestic towers of the Mikulov Chateau,
continuing with the ruins of a watchtower above the town and the rugged contours of limestone rocks, which from the fortifications of the medieval castle Děvičky then drop down to the water surface of the Nové Mlýny (New Mills) reservoir system. Between you and the Pálava Hills lies the “Moravian Grand Canyon” – a green valley of vineyards that promise excellent wines. For lovers of wine, it is enough to say that on the local “lime”, as the locals shorten the technical term “limestone subsoil”, the grape variety that fares best is Welschriesling (Vlašskýryzlink in Czech). If you are looking for an absolutely local wine, ask for the variety called Pálava. Not only did it get its name from these hills,. In a glass of this wine, you will see and feel the golden sun, the wind-borne scent of wildflowers and a distinct honey aftertaste.
The oldest known inhabitant of the region is famous around the world. It is a certain Venus of Věstonice, a female of plump form whose statue was made by a mammoth hunter some 30,000 years ago. Prehistoric humans settled below the Pálava hills because of the area’s rich natural resources; from the slopes of the limestone hills migrating herds of mammoths could be observed, and the rivers provided an abundance of fish. The figurine, along with stone tools and animal bones, remained hidden among the remains of a prehistoric fire for tens of thousands of years. It only saw the light of day again in 1925, broken in two pieces that were situated close together. At first it was not believed that they belonged together; it was only after being cleaned that the pieces resembled a female figure. The ancient clay statuette of a nude woman with large breasts and a prominent backside proved to be truly unique. The Věstonice Venus is the oldest clay sculpture in the world. Several years ago the Venus was analysed using computer tomography, and the results confirmed the initial suspicion that the statue was fired from fine clay mixed with water. What’s more, it also contains small white granules, which might be precipitated limestone or bone fragments. Another detail was also discovered: on the Venus’ buttocks is a preserved fingerprint of a child of around 10 years old. Experts say its value is incalculable, but when an American antiquities dealers tried to put a price tag on it in 2004 the figure cited was 40 million dollars!