Monday, 18 March 2019

Sooo Many Tourists

I have been wondering about blogging about the levels of tourism in Cesky Krumlov for some time now. You may think me a hypocrite for complaining about tourist numbers, having published a visitors guide to the town. But then I have always argued for sustainable tourism with visitors staying long enough to benefit the town, rather than the quick in/out visits we are getting now. 

The major change we have seen over the past few years has been the massive rise in Chinese tourists, so much so that the Czech press had nicknamed the town “Činský Krumlov”.  To put the issue into numbers - the town has 14,000 inhabitants but gets over a million visitors. 40% of those visitors are Chinese.  But until a few years ago Chinese visitors were rare. 

Most of these visitors come on day trips by bus from Prague, but when I say day trip their actual stay in the town is a lot shorter than that. The result is that the town is overburdened with tour groups who do not spend enough time here to actually make a positive impact on the local economy. The centre of the town has basically been surrendered to the tourists. Over the last fifteen years I have watched as shops serving locals have all been replaced by tourist shops, even my bank has vacated its site on the main square and moved out (it is going to be replaced by a hotel). Last year Katerina Seda, a conceptual artist-in-residence at the Egon Schiele Gallery, satirized the situation by hiring locals to live in the town centre. 

The Town Council has just announced that it will be charging bus companies 1500 czk  (60 Euro) for each bus visit to the  town with effect from June of this year. But 1500 czk is not a lot when divided between a coach load of tourists and I doubt will have any impact on visitor numbers.  But then it is hard to see what would. 

The Chinese love the romantic nature of the town, so much so that Chinese tech giant Huawei is constructing a full-size replica of Krumlov's castle at its Chinese headquarters in Dongguan, just outside Shenzhen. Yes you read that right - a full-sized replica! They have as much right to enjoy the town as any other nationality, and who can blame them, but how do we balance that with the adverse impact on the town?

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Murder in the bedroom.

One of the problems with leaving my Czech house empty for months at a time is there are sometimes some nasty surprises when I get back. Once it was a blooming of dryrot fungus in the kitchen. This time it was the signs of a murder in the large bedroom.

While I was away my neighbour with my agreement showed a friend around the house, as the friend was looking for somewhere to buy in our part of South Bohemia. What my neighbour did not know was that you needed to make very sure the cellar door is closed because the local farm cats like to jump through the cellar window and get in to a nice warm house. There was a definite cat smell about the house when I arrived and paw prints on my furniture, but that wasn't the worst of it.

In the large bedroom the floor was covered with tufts of fur, and flecks and smears of blood. When I swept up the fur it was apparent that the creature that came to a grisly end there was not exactly a mouse, the hair was longer, had an orange tinge and there was a large pile of it. I still do not know what the victim was, but I do have a good idea about the identity of the murderer. I suspect that the creature that did the deed was a beech marten. I have seen them around occasionally. They are capable of taking quite large mammals: such as rabbits and squirrels. They will also take kittens, something my cat-loving friend was always worried about. It may well have been an immature cat which was followed and cornered in my bedroom. I will never know for sure. Whatever it was, I had the unwelcome job of clearing up.

Beech Marten

Monday, 31 December 2018

Happy New Year

Another graphic from my collection of Czech exlibris and PFs (Christmas/New Year cards). This is of course Happy New Year card and was created by Ruda Svab. 

So to all of you a happy 2019, may it be a better year than 2018. 

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

A Major Decision - Leaving the Czech Republic.

I have finally decided that my Czech adventure must come to an end and that I will be selling my Czech home. It is a heart-breaking decision to have to make. I love this house, this country and its people and they have all enriched my life tremendously, but all good things must come to an end they say.

Over the last two years it has become difficult to sustain my home here.  There was/is of course Brexit which has thrown all expat lives into question. But in the end it is not Brexit that is the reason for my decision. It is something far more important than that: family. My father died in 2017 and my elderly mother is finding it increasingly difficult to manage by herself. She has heart failure and Alzheimers and over the last few months I have seen a decline in her. She needs my in England all the time.

But what tipped the scales against keeping the house going are two financial changes. The largest cost re the house is electricity, which is very expensive here. I have electric central heating for when I am away (when I am in the house I used the much cheaper wood stoves), obviously being in the UK all the time would necessitate having the central heating on more plus an email arrived the other day from EON warning of a price increase. Quite simply I cannot afford it, especially as my husband is about to retire and can no longer support my Czech adventure as he has in the past. Of course selling the house will liberate some money which will allow me to come back here regularly and see my Czech friends.

Will this be the end of this blog? Well of course there are going to be posts to come about my travails selling up and moving. And then there is the backlog of subjects that I never got around to blogging about, which I still want to cover. So no, not for some time.

Sunday, 30 September 2018

They are made of tough stuff here...


Yesterday I went for a walk in the Sumava Forest. It was a delightful day - pleasantly warm and the forest had that lovely smell of resin and mushrooms. 

My walk began with a visit to the ruins of Hus Castle. The castle like so many in the Czech Republic was built on a promontory above a river thereby maximising its defences. The path dropped steeply to the river, and I found myself watching my feet as I clambered down. In front of me was a family of four. The father was carrying a wheelchair. His wife held the hand of their teenage son,  who appeared to have something like cerebral palsy - he clearly was unable to straighten his legs. At one point the father abandoned the wheelchair in the bracken and went to help his wife support their son in his perilous descent. 

I passed the family as they recovered on the river bank. The next trial was a very high metal bridge over the river. Whilst the steps up were steep, it was the ones down that made me hold my breath - in two places steps were missing and in another the step rocked alarmingly. "I can't believe they will make it over that," I thought. 

The climb up to the castle ruins on the other side was another steep one. When I got to the top I turned to see the family had made it across the bridge. I pushed on along the path to discover that the way was not now flat, as I had expected, but rather a series of descents and climbs where parts of the castle had fallen down and where there may have been an inner defensive ditch. All the time on either side the ground dropped away to the river. I made it out of the castle walls and looking back I saw the father and his daughter (but no son or wife) working their way along.

There in front of me sat an old woman in her wheelchair looking out across the scene. I said hello and we had a chat. She told me her daughter was in the forest collecting mushrooms. The old lady beamed "It is so lovely here," she said and I agreed.

How did she get there? Ah, there was broad path. As I walked along it, I realised that even negotiating that route would not have been easy for someone pushing a wheelchair (and its occupant)  - they were plenty of holes, bumps,and tree roots to make life difficult. And the path was about 2 kms before we came to a tarmacked road.

Afterwards when I chatted to my husband on Facebook, we came to the conclusion that Czechs are made of tough stuff and that they must have a special specification for wheelchairs: able to negotiate forest paths and coming with dedicated mushrooming basket.   

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Update on St Agnes in the Garden

My talented neighbour has been chipping away at the statue of St Agnes of Bohemia at the bottom of the garden, and now she is revealed in all her glory.

See for the story of how she appeared in my garden.

Alas I can no longer look out of my window and gaze on the medieval Bohemian saint. Three strong men have taken her to her new home. 

Monday, 23 July 2018

St Agnes in the Garden

At the bottom of my garden an oak tree trunk is being transformed into a Bohemian saint and princess. The stillness of the evening is normally disturbed only by the call of my redstarts and the farmer's cows, but now there is the chip, chip, chip of a hammer on chisel.

My talented neighbour, Jitka, has been commissioned to carve a statue of St Agnes of Bohemia. Her house is built on a slope and there was no accessible level site where she could work. So she approached me and I of course said yes she could use my garden.

St Agnes was the daughter of King Ottakar I of Bohemia. As a medieval princess Agnes was a political pawn and at various times was betrothed to the son of the Holy Roman Emperor and King Henry III of England, but in the end as a nun Agnes was married to the King of Heaven, when she  became a member of the Poor Clares. Her life there was, as the order's name indicates, in total variance to her life as a princess.

Agnes built a religious complex in Prague, which included a monastery and a hospital, where she lived and died. The Convent of St Agnes is now part of the National Gallery and is home to a wonderful collection of medieval art from Bohemia and Central Europe, including some beautiful carvings of saints. Jitka is part of a long tradition.


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