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 https://czechproperty.blogspot.com/2018/07/st-agnes-in-garden.html 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, 13 August 2018

British Citizens' Status in the Czech Republic Post Brexit


The Czech Ministry of the Interior has issued some guidance for British citizens, who currently are residents of the Czech Republic. In the ongoing uncertainty of the shambles that is Brexit expats have been left wondering what they can do to ensure they will be allowed to stay in the country.

The guidance states:
For the sake of legal certainty and saving time, and to avoid the necessity of more complicated administrative procedures in the future, all the UK citizens residing in the Czech Republic and wishing to maintain their rights after the date of the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union are strongly recommended to apply for Certificate of Temporary Residence. Although the Certificate of Temporary Residence is not a condition of an EU citizen’s stay in the Czech Republic and requesting it is a voluntary decision of an EU citizen, the document is a clear proof that its holder is a citizen of the United Kingdom living in the Czech Republic before the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union. The UK citizens who will not have the Certificate of Temporary Residence once the transition period is over, will have to furnish proof that they are subject to the rules stipulated in the withdrawal agreement, which will be a far more complicated process.

This advice is good advice - and it is important that it is followed. As EU citizens British expats currently have the right to live and work in the Czech Republic and so not all will have temporary residency certificates*.

However this advice is based on an assumption:
The current draft text of the withdrawal agreement anticipates a transition period lasting until the end of 2020. The draft agreement assumes that the UK citizens living elsewhere in the EU will maintain their existing rights until the end of the transition period.

The temporary residency certificate therefore would prove that the person was in residence prior to 29th March 2019 when Brexit is due to take place, and when the transition period begins. But and it is a big "but" what if there is not a withdrawal agreement in place on 29th March? If so,we still do not know what will be the status of the 7000 British expats living in the Czech Republic. Nor do we really know what will be their status when the transition period comes to an end at the end of 2020.

There is also a potential problem with the Temporary Residency Certificate requirement on health - you are required to have health insurance (unless you are working here, in which case you will be paying for membership of the Czech national health service). Up until now it was sufficient to show that you had the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), but the EHIC is also threatened by Brexit. For someone of my age and health the loss of EHIC may be the deciding factor whether I can afford to continue my adventures in the Czech Republic.

* For information on applying for residency go here: http://www.mvcr.cz/mvcren/article/eu-citizens-and-their-family-members.aspx

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.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Neighbours

Redstart on the fence next to the strimmer

I spent the afternoon strimming the jungle that has grown in the yard. As I did so, I was watched by the redstart that lives in a hole in the back wall of my neighbours' house. When I sat down exhausted to peruse my work, the redstart moved in to pick up insects the nice human had revealed for him. We don't seem to get robins here the way we do in England, but the black redstarts have taken their place. Like robins they are fearless, feisty little birds who happily live alongside humans. They even have a flash of reddish orange. The blackberry bush was covered with bees and butterflies enjoying the nectar. Overhead there came a small murmuration of starlings, the rush of their wings sounding like a wave on the shore.

Kuna domowa, kamionka (Martes foina)
(Not my photo - I wish...)

At dusk I walked down the garden to pick some berries for tea. The bees and redstarts had gone. The mown grass was covered with large slugs. As I picked the berries, the corrugated iron that covers some planks of wood creaked and I turned to see the lithe shape of a beech marten spring up on to the barn wall and away. Now it is dark and I stand at my window watching the the lights of fireflies blink and float over the garden. No matter how much I love my English garden, and I do very much love it, I never feel as close to nature as I do here. 


Sunday, 6 May 2018

Remembering the Last GI



On the side of the road between Volary and Lenora is a simple memorial. You can drive past easily without noticing the large rock with the granite plaque. As the Czechs commemorate the end of World War II in Europe and the liberation of their country from the Nazi tyranny on this day 73 years ago, it seems a fitting point to blog about Charles Havlat's death.


As the memorial states Havlat was a soldier with Patton's 3rd Army. He had fought a long hard war  across Normandy, the Rhineland, and finally found himself in the land of his ancestors - his parents had emigrated to the US at the beginning of the 20th century. On the 7th May 1945 he was on reconnaissance, when his platoon was caught in a German ambush. In a hail of bullets Havlat was shot in the head and died.

He has the dubious distinction of being the last American to die in action in Europe. Indeed the ambush should not have happened at all, as a ceasefire had just come into place. Only six hours later the Nazis unconditionally surrendered. The German officer who led the ambush was to later apologize, but neither he nor his American counterpart knew about the ceasefire.

Private Charles Havlat was just one soldier who fell in a war that claimed millions of lives, but due to the cruel timing of his death he has this memorial.

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Galerie Hollar & Vladimir Suchanek.



I am embarrassed to say that until this year I had never visited Galerie Hollar in Prague and yet it is so up my street. As regular readers will know I am a fan of Czech graphics and Galerie Hollar is the gallery of the Association of Czech Graphic Artists. The Association celebrated its centenary last year. 

The gallery is to be found just along the embankment from Cafe Slavia and the National Theatre. It is not particularly well signposted so it is possible to walk straight past the entrance of what looks like a large town house. Inside there is a small gallery with changing exhibitions and a shop. The size of gallery is just perfect for me. I don't like feeling overwhelmed by displays and visitors jostling to look at the artworks. 

The exhibition we visited was by the Czech artist, Vladimir Suchanek, whose work includes exlibris and larger prints. I have only one of his works in my collection (below) and would love some more. The ones for sale in the Hollar eshop are too expensive for me, no matter how much I covert them. Suchanek has a fascinating style. His preferred technique is coloured lithography, which he explores constantly.



Suchanek is partly responsible for the existence of the gallery and the Association of Czech Graphic Artists. In the 1970's the Association was repressed by the hardline Communist authorities, but in the 1990's Suchanek helped resurrect the Association, becoming president in 1995.

Suchanek's other love is music. With fellow members of the Association, Jiri Anderle and Jiri Sliva, he founded a band called Grafieanka!

The gallery is usually open Tuesday - Sunday 10-12 am and 1-6 pm. 

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