Friday, 25 March 2011

Solar Power

In my last post I was explaing that electric central heating in one of these old farmhouses is for the rich only. Worse is to come, as the price of electricity is going to rise above inflation next year. This is due to the rise in solar panels. 

“What?” do I hear you say? “But surely!” 

No, it is not logical. But the Czechs seem to have got themselves in a fix. As I understand it under a laudable scheme to encourage alternative and more sustainable fuels, subsidies were offered to people setting up solar panels with a guarantee to buy the energy produced at a certain price. Nice idea but can you see the flaw? 

Subsidised investment with guaranteed profit. The profiteers were on it immediately. The scheme was too successful – there were too many investors making a killing. And who is to pay the costs? The poor average Czech Joe, through the electricity bills,  who couldn't afford to get on the solar panel gravy train in the first place. When this became public, there was naturally an uproar. The politicians tried to get out of it, but no, the investors had contracts and lawyers. 
And that is why my husband, son and I have just spent the afternoon stacking firewood ready for next winter.

Sunday, 20 March 2011


My apologies for the slight gap in my posts. I have been otherwise engaged. One area of activity was taking delivery of 10 cubic metres of firewood.

Although I have electric central heating, electricity costs thanks to EON's virtual monopoly are extortionately high, far higher it feels (I must do a proper comparision) than in the UK and let's face it electricity prices in the UK aren't exactly low. A friend was telling me recently about the difference in EON's electric prices in the Czech Republic and neighbouring Germany, a ratio of 2:1 she reckoned. It's not as though the Czechs are as wealthy as their teutonic neighbours, the average wage here is still comparatively low. Hence energy makes up a significant proportion of the average monthly bills. One reason the prices we are paying such high prices apparently is the disastrous solar energy subsidy - more of that in my next blog.

But back to my heating, although my heating system is the most cost-effective that can be bought, using only off-peak power and although the house is well insulated with walls at least two feet thick, in order to keep the bills manageable I only use the central heating to maintain a basic level of heat and boost it with wood burning stoves. My stores of firewood were getting badly diminished and so it was time to order fresh.

My experience and those of friends is that you don't always get what you pay for. There are quite a few cowboy suppliers who will charge you a very reasonable price, but then when they deliver somehow there isn't quite as much as you expected. The worst example of this were some local gypsies who sold me 6 cubic metres and delivered 1! I had to admire their cheek and put it down to experience. Of course if they had supplied what they promised, they could have been supplying me for years, but such long-term logic did not enter into their calculations. This time I turned to a neighbour and a friend to organise the supply and I decided to order ten metres on the basis that I would get less.

Last weekend a small lorry turned up and emptied its entire contents on to the road outside my house. The man waved away my money saying I would pay him when he came back on Monday with the next lot. Another lot! The pile was larger than a car. I set to throwing the logs through my open gate to form the heap you can see some of above. It took me two days to move them all into the yard, where they sat (and still sit) waiting stacking. True enough on Monday he returns with a second lorry load - another pile on the road outside the gate. I start to clear away a space so that my neighbours can park their car. Then the following  morning I wake to find I can hardly move.

So the pile is still outside my gate, with the other still in the yard. My back is a lot better, but I am nervous of doing any major log moving. My husband and son are arriving at the end of the week, we were going to have a short-break in Prague but instead we may be doing something a lot less pleasant. I blame EON!

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Saying Yes

Czech Waitress: Would you like some more?

Potok: I wouldn't say no

Czech Waitress:  Does that mean yes?

Potok: Yes. Sorry!

For any Czech waitresses reading this blog the following is English for yes:

I wouldn't say no
I don't mind if I do
I could be persuaded to

There are more and I will add them as I think of them. Comments with suggestions welcome

For any English visitors to the Czech Republic - just say yes or better still "ano prosim" (yes, please)

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Winter sports at Lipno

Lake Lipno in the summer is a vast man-made lake in the south of the Czech Republic popular with holiday makers as a place to swim, sail and generally have fun. In the Winter it turns into the largest skating rink you can imagine.

On Saturday I happened to be passing on my way to Horni Plana when I noticed the lake was particularly busy. Curious I walked along the shore until I came to the centre of all this activity. It was a windboarding event, the lake resounded to electronic music emitted by two large speakers and  trendy young people were setting up the huge kites which would pull them at speed across the ice on their boards. Soon I was watching enthralled as they took to the ice.

For the more sedate users of the lake an ice-skating path had been cleared, it seemed along the several kilometres from Cerna v Posumavi to Horni Plana. Young and old were skating up and down occasionally interrupted when a passing windboarder crossed the path.

The following day I passed the lake again, gone were the speakers and loud music, gone too alas were the bright sunshine and perfect views. But still there were maybe half a dozen windboarders and many more skaters. I even saw a car driving across the lake! The Czechs know how to have fun. 


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