Friday, 20 June 2008

A first look at the barn

The most impressive building in many ways was not the house but the barn that ran at right angles to the house. It was typical of the barns of this area in South Bohemia - two storeys with a balcony. Originally the barn would have formed one side of a courtyard, but the barn that would have been opposite the house had been removed at some time. This had the effect of opening the courtyard out to the sun and offering lovely views from the house into the orchard.

The back of the barn, like the house, was built into a hillside and so the upper floor had two doors opening onto the hillside . This meant that the sheep and other animals could walk straight into the top floor. This was not an unadulterated success as we discovered when we entered the barn.

Inside the barn was a tumbledown collection of tat - much as the attic had been. But this did not disguise the fact that the barn was remarkable. The ceiling consisted of a series of brick vaults springing from the granite walls. The animal stalls were made of huge blocks of granite with carved finials to tie the beasts to. However at one point the ceiling had given way and straw hung down from upstairs. "What happened?" we asked the owners. "Oh the sheep fell through the ceiling," they replied. The urine from the animals which had overwintered in the barn had destroyed the bricks. Concerned we asked whether the sheep were hurt - "Oh no," they shrugged, "They had a soft landing." I could not help thinking that that might not have been the case for the ones that fell through first.

Upstairs there was an open space with large exposed beams, however in places it did seem as though timbers were missing - taken perhaps to prop something up or feed the winter stoves. Crowded higgledy piggledy into the barn were chicken coups, unidentifiable structures, old beds, and even a couple of wild boar skins, discarded probably where the animal had been carved up. The roof was made of concrete tiles, which no doubt had fallen off the back of a lorry. These were far heavier than the traditional Czech ceramic tiles and were placing quite a strain on the remaining timbers. I didn't notice this in my first flush of enthusiasm for the house. Suddenly instead of a simple retreat in this lovely country, I could see potential, so much potential.

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