Saturday, 29 March 2008

Klet - The Magic Mountain

I am convinced the Klet moves, that it floats silently over the landscape of the South Bohemia while no one is looking. It doesn't seem to matter where you go round here, whether you walk into the woods above our house, or drive home from Ceske Budejovice suddenly it is there, usually in a direction you didn't expect. The Klet sits watching over us all. Is it surprising therefore that the Czechs have long regarded it as a magical place?

And there is something else about – it is never the same. No matter how often you look at it, it shows another face. Today its peak was completely hidden in fine cloud with only the mast at appearing above the white. On summer days after a storm the trees breathe wisps of mist from its slopes, it is as if the ghosts of the forest are floating just above the trees. The autumn sun catches the different colours of its many trees, picking out a group and then moving on.

One winter before we bought the house, I came to visit with my friend here. It was my first Czech winter and a hard one. On our last day before we returned to Prague, we took a taxi up to the observatory at the top of the mountain. From there we walked down in the snow. I did not have proper boots and so we improvised with a couple of plastic bags - I must have looked an idiot to the man on his walking skis who passed us. The air was clear and bright, and caught in your throat. It was beginning to thaw and occasionally a pine tree would deposit a load of snow down the back of your neck. We laughed and shook it off. At the edge of the forest we ate a sandwich and drank tea from a flask, and made our way past the ex-army base into town. From there we took a taxi to the station and from thence we rode off to the city. At the beginning of our journey the little train crawled around the mountain's dark green flanks, past pine trees bent double with snow. And thus ended my first meeting with the magic mountain.

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