Tuesday, 30 June 2009


On Monday I drove back to the UK from my Czech home. I can't tell you how it feels to have two places with so much hold on me, it is as if both have strings attached to my heart. I am sorry to leave Czecho always, but I always also love to come home to the UK. I have developed something of a routine when I leave, which of course includes tidying up but also a farewell walk in the woods above my house. On the walk I collected the first chanterelle mushrooms of the year and wild strawberries, on which I feasted on Saturday evening.

I also went for a short walk in the Vysenske Kopce nature reserve, where I had been watching the martagon lilies. On my previous walk these treasures had been in bud, now I was glad to see them with their dainty pink turban flowers. These lilies are so rare that they are a protected species in the Czech Republic and grow in only a few places.

The other farewell I needed to make was to Salamander's new kitten (see Krumlov expats for the kitten story). I had been the driver when the kitten dashed across the country road and into our lives and I had looked after her when Salamander had been away for a few days. She therefore very much feels like my kitten too. It was very hard to leave this spirited and delightful little cat, but leave I must.

I drove back to my house at about 9pm and was just opening the front door when I noticed what I at first took to be some embers in the garden. But as I looked I became aware that these were moving, flying around - little fairy lights floating around the orchard. I realised then that I was watching a display of fireflies. I have never seen them in the garden before, the house had kept this piece of magic till the night before my departure. I just burst into tears.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Celebrations of the Five-Petaled Rose - Sundry

As my final post on the Celebrations of the Five-Petaled Rose I wanted just to talk about the many other activities that happened. These included historical reconstructions, such as medieval jousts, a Thirty Year War reenactment group, firing cannons and muskets.

There was a show based on some of the characters that appear in the frescos in the Masquerade Hall in Cesky Krumlov Castle (one such is above).

Clowning, juggling and puppet shows for the children (and adults).

Then there was the opportunity to take part in such things as ponyriding and archery. There were falconry displays in the Castle Gardens. On Saturday there was a huge firework display over the town at midnight ( but I being exhausted had already retreated to my bed). And then of course there was all that eating and drinking that goes on all over Cesky Krumlov. The Celebrations may have suffered from a unusually bad weather this year, but they must have brought millions of euros into the local economy. Great stuff, I am looking forward to next year's already

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Celebrations of the Five-Petalled Rose - Markets

In the first courtyard of Cesky Krumlov Castle throughout the Celebrations of the Five-petalled Rose you would have found a wonderful market offering the very best of local crafts. These included a wide range of pottery, jewelry, clothing, wickerwork, toys and woodwork.

I went twice to the market on Saturday and on Sunday. In the first case I went to get a present for a niece with an 18th birthday, but there was so much that I liked and was very reasonably priced that I went back the day after and bought several Christmas presents. Yes I know, I confess I am one of those annoying people who buy Christmas presents whenever I see them. Though I am not as bad as my Granny who bought her presents in the January sales! I won't describe the presents here, as I know this blog is read by people who will be receiving them.

Also on sale in the market were a variety of foodstuffs - cheese, herbs, wine, mead (medovina), jam, nougat. I bought a large bottle of medovina for half the price in the shops.

For a blog on last year's festival visit our sister blog "Krumlov Expats"

Monday, 22 June 2009

Celebrations of the Five-petalled Rose - Music

The Cesky Krumlov was full of music for the Celebrations - concerts, buskers, music in the processions. The Town Square featured prominently a stage from which amplified music (not entirely to my taste) blasted out, there were some indoor venues for classical concerts, and music as I have already mentioned in my previous post played an important part in the processions.

But my favourite music was what one might call "found" music, music which one just comes across when doing something else. This was very easy to do. In the case of the bagpiper he was tucked between stalls in the craft market in the Castle Courtyard. Then also in the Courtyard on a green in the centre there was an area where children were entertained and entertained, here I watched this recorder troupe from a local school (sorry my only picture of them is in the procession) and I must say they were very good given the age range in the group.

The last found music I want to blog about was perhaps the most fun. I was walking past the Koh-i-Noor artshop when my attention was drawn to an open window on the first floor of a building nearby. From it on a string hung a saucepan, into which a man at the window was urging the crowd in the street to put some money. When someone in the crowd paid up, music was struck up and a quartet of musicians passed one by one by the window, like the horloge on Prague Townsquare. The music was traditional Czech folktunes and the crowd cheered its approval.

Celebrations of the Five-Petalled Rose - The Procession

A highlight of the Celebrations was the procession which wound its way through Cesky Krumlov's twisting streets. I waited for nearly an hour along with many others to see it pass, and it was worth every minute's wait.

The procession was enormous with people in costumes from throughout Cesky Krumlov's long past - from the middle ages to the 19th century. Many costumes were exquisite as you can see from the photograph above.

It was noticeable how as in this picture just wearing the costumes resulted in the wearer changing their bearing. It was hard not to act the part when one's costume is that of nobility.

Also in the procession were bands of musicians, soldiers, knights on horseback, foot soldiers, jesters and jugglers, an old carriage, and a lady in a palanquin.

As if one procession was not enough there was another torchlit procession in the evening.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Celebrations of the Five-Petalled Rose

Every year at the end of June Cesky Krumlov celebrates its history with a three-day festival, but as 2009 was the town's 700th anniversary, this year's event was special. Some 2000 people were dressed in period costumes, some were participants in the celebrations (in the processions, performances, markets, and other activities) and some were simply part of the audience; you get in free if you dress up. I, being British, and therefore reserved, chose instead to pay for an armband that gave me access to the town centre.

The event and the celebrations were so large that it was quite impossible to see everything. Everywhere I turned there was something happening (either in the programme or spontaneously). One surreal pleasure was the feeling of timewarp; as people from the past supped beer from plastic cups and chatted to friends in 21st century clothes. I even saw one renaissance lady remove a ringing mobile phone from her cleavage!

The event was so large in fact that I cannot do justice to it in one blog, so I propose writing a whole series of posts over the next few days on different aspects of the event. Watch this space!

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

A visitor to the local pond

I know I have mentioned the arrival of the storks several times already this year. They are such a sign of summer and given their size and liking for building their monster nests on prominent buildings (churches, mill chimneys etc) they are very noticeable ones at that. However I realised I had not featured a photo of one on the blog. So when this chap started prowling the edges of our local swimming pond looking for frogs in the waterlogged grass I had to take a photo for you.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

A walk in the woods

In my last post I told of my discovering (and eating) wild strawberries on a walk in the woods. Well, they were not the only thing that caught my eye. My walk was one I regularly take (frequently take in the mushroom season), it leads up across the fields and into the woods, where it loops and even does a figure of eight if the mood takes me through a mixture of coniferous and some deciduous trees, past an old and now overgrown quarry together with pool, down to the road to Kvetusin and Olsina.

June is a lovely time for wildflower lovers in the Czech Republic; the sun has not parched the soil and turned the foliage brown. The field was full of meadow flowers – clover, buttercups, ox-eye daisies, speedwell, ragged robin, harebell to name but a few – and they hummed with bees and small beetles with bright, metallic-coloured coats. As I walked, clouds of butterflies billowed before me. I identified painted ladies, various fritilaries and small blues.

On entering the woods my eyes were drawn to two orchids – a lesser butterfly orchid and another barely open on a slender stem with spotted leaves. Under the eaves of a dense conifer plantation I spotted what I hope will be a hellabore close to opening. I will be returning with my flower book in a week's time to check. Here too were hosts of butterflies, woodland ones my English eyes are not used to recognizing. However mental notes were made and I can now report that at least one was a banded grayling and another a brown hairstreak.

On the wood's edge I passed this plant, at first I took it for the common (in the Czech Republic) wood ragwort, but on looking closer I realised I was mistaken. I looked it up in my book, but am still unable to identify it. I wondered whether I had found the rarer arnica montana, which can occasionally in the woods round here, but the leaves look wrong. Ideas welcome. But nevertheless what a climax to a lovely walk! Maybe some day these Czech flowers and butterflies will no longer fill me with such delight. I only pray that that day never comes.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

First Fruit

I ate my first fruit of the season yesterday. First there were the early cherries from our orchard. I spent half an hour collecting a large bowlful from the first of our two trees. In a few days it will be a bucketful and I will be resorting to freezing them.

Then whilst on a walk in the woods above our house I came across a bank of wild strawberries. The bank was in full sun and the plants were way ahead of the other strawberries I had passed which were in flower and such fruit as there was was small and green. No, here on the bank the fruit was red and glistening with that “come and eat me” sheen. I duly obliged, savouring each little berry as its flavour exploded in my mouth. The intense taste of wild strawberries is so far removed from those waterlogged Spanish monsters that one gets in British supermarkets as to make one believe them to be totally unrelated.

My feast finished, I walked on through the woods past slopes covered with bilberry plants and raspberry canes. The first boletuses were pushing their velvet crowns through the loam. I made a mental note to bring mushroom basket next time.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Miracle After the Storm

One afternoon I was sat with Salamander at her house looking out across the river when suddenly a thunderstorm formed. The sky went black and river was soon a cauldron, as large raindrops shattered its smooth surface. The storm was over as suddenly as it came on. I drove home. The road up to the village was a river; my yard was white with hailstorms.

The following morning Salamander rang, “I haven't woken you, have I?” It was 7am, she had not. “But the mist this morning is amazing, grab your camera and get out here. It will disappear soon.”

I have spoken before of the mists that lie in the valleys after summer rains, of the way it sometimes appears that the trees are breathing smoke. That morning these were indeed spectacular. I drove past Lake Lipno where the mist was so thick I could see and photograph very little. So I drove up on to the hills above Horni Plana, where the mists were folded between them. From there I took the road to Lake Olsina, where ghosts of mist rose from the surface as if Vodnik, the watersprite, had his stove on in his house under the water.

When I returned, I called in at a favourite spot of mine, near the ferry at Horni Plana. Now Lake Lipno was clearer and a deep blue against the orange of last year's reeds, and beyond that there were wooded hills with a scarf of mist.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009


I promised to blog about scything a fortnight ago or so. There was a danger at that time that I would turn into a scything bore, as I was much taken with my new found skill (although skill is probably too good a word for it).

Faced with a large orchard, which has been allowed to go wild over several years, I had employed over the last few years a number of people to scythe the grass. With the exception of the first year, when I had employed a group of locals to have a scything party, the orchard has always resisted being completely cut. This year I decided I would have a go.

I bought a scythe and sharpening stone and started. I was pathetic, my technique was clearly rotten, and, as I later found out, by trying to cut the shorter less thick grass I was attempting to cut a section which was less conducive to scything. So what to do? Well thank goodness for Youtube, there were a number of videos by scythe advocates showing me how to do it. My first reaction was "I'll never do that", but on watching and rewatching I began to understand the errors of my ways.

I also got some good advice from a Czech friend, who told me the best time to scythe was early in the morning when the sap was up in the grass and before the midday sun. So I started rising at 6 and getting four hours in before the day started. I managed to mow all the areas under the fruit trees and paths to them as well as the area at the back of the house and in the yard, approximately one third of the orchard.
I actually started to enjoy it. There is great pleasure to be had as a swathe of nettles bites the dust. The exercise is good for the muscles in the arms, legs and waist and indeed for the heart. I could think about other things as I mowed and I found that the orchard birds came to see me as part of the orchard fauna and so ignored me as I scythed.

After a fortnight of showers and sun of course I need to start all over again, as I want to keep the growth down. But that is not the point, I will never turn the yard and orchard into a neat lawn and I don't want to. What I want is to mow enough and at the right times of year (once in early summer and once in the Autumn) to create an old-fashioned haymeadow, to keep the more rigorous weeds down and to allow the wildflowers to take over.

On my mother's side my family has worked the land for generations, and it gives me a certain amount of satisfaction to gain a skill that my ancestors would have had in abundance. I imagine my lovely Uncle John and the granddad I never knew watching me, and commenting on my rubbish technique and what was that scythe I was using (I have an Austrian type not the British one here). I am sure Uncle John is just itching to get in there and show me what's what.


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