Wednesday, 24 October 2007
Chata and Chalupa - Cabins and Cottages
During the communist era it was not possible for Czechs to travel abroad easily and so many Czechs had second homes in the country. My Czech friend argues that the authorities actually encouraged this as a means of reducing anti-government resentment. Every weekend the family would pile into their cars and disappear to their base in the country to grow vegetables, sit round the barbecue, drink beer and sing into the night. And of course the Czech pastimes of fishing and mushroom picking are also associated with the trip to the chata.
There are two types of second home - the chata - a cabin built for the purpose of recreation, and the chalupa - a cottage (though sometimes a large farmhouse or similar) which once was a residential property. They can range from the very basic - some chata are merely sheds made of whatever was at hand - to the luxurious. One development that helped fuel the growth of cottage ownership in the period following the Second World War was the availability of empty ex-German homes in the Sudetenland. Another was the rise of a back-to-nature movement, connected with the scouting movement and influenced by the pioneers of American Wild West - you will even find the occasional totem pole outside a chata!
The house we bought had been used as a chalupa - although it had previously been the family home. It is a large farmhouse of the German style and is set in a village where probably 40% of the houses are second homes. For Brits looking to buy Czech property chata and chalupa offer a chance to buy somewhere in beautiful setting. They vary considerably in state of repair - sometimes they are their former owners' pride and joy, sometimes they have been the victims of the Czech obsession with do-it-yourself and sometimes they are old buildings which the Czechs have effectively camped in, not having the money to restore.
However such is the affection in which the Czechs hold their country cottages and cabins that many would not consider selling them - they are part of their best family memories - and many that do do not go through an estate agent. It therefore helps to have someone with local knowledge to assist you in finding your dream house. We found ours with the help of a local company which helps Brits find property in the area of Cesky Krumlov - we recommend them. Check out their website on http://www.czechpropertysearch.co.uk