Saturday, 15 December 2007


In town squares all over the Czech Republic there are large tanks full of carp. Carp or capr as they are called in the Czech Republic are the centre of the Christmas meal - the Czech equivalent of turkey. Shoppers buy the live fish and take them home, even keeping them in the bath until the time comes to kill and eat them.

To feed this love of carp over the years the Czechs have built man-made fishponds across the plains of the Republic. The largest complex of such ponds - or rather lakes (they are that big) - is to be found around the South Bohemian town of Trebon. The area is well worth a visit - it has UNESCO-protected area status and makes a good area to explore by bicycle. The ponds were created by Jakub Krcin, the master pond-maker to the Rosenbergs, who had a home in Cesky Krumlov. He may have been a genius when it came to building ponds, but like so many landscape transformers on behalf of the nobility he was a complete bastard when it came to dealing with the peasants whose homes he destroyed and whose labour he abused. So vilified was he in life and after his death that there are a host of ghost stories about him, including one where he is cursed every night to ride in a carriage drawn by two giant cats.

When our Czech house was a the home of a German-speaking farming family before the 1945, the yard featured a carp pond. The pond was fed by a stream, which flowed from a well behind the house through a channel in the barn. From the pond the stream flowed on under the gate and down the hill. Under the ownership of the Czech family that succeeded them the well fell into disrepair and the pond was replaced by a septic tank. As for the stream its way blocked it made its own way through the granite bedrock and into our cellar.

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