Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Czech Workmen

A British ex-pat was talking to me the other day about the infinite fascination he finds in watching Czech workmen and their ability not to actually do any work. There always seem to be, as in this photo, a great deal of discussion involved, which can appear to be heated, heads are scratched, hands waved, shovels leaned on. Then there is "moving things" - piles of stones will get moved around alot, from one side of the site or hole to the other. This moving things business can take a lot of time, as was very apparent when the riverworks were underway in Cesky Krumlov, stones were dredged from the river bed, deposited on one side of the river and then moved to another. It took months. My ex-pat friend is convinced that Czech workmen are as expensive as their British equivalents not on an hourly basis but per job.

There are of course exceptions to this. Over the last few months the cliff by the road that enters Cesky Krumlov from Ceske Budejovice have been stabilised. Cliff falls had been known to close the road at times. The work required men to climb the cliff face and there hanging from ropes to drill into the cliff face. I watched the work in awe, especially as these guys seemed to be working all hours and through the weekends too (a remarkable occurrence). The work is now finished, alas. Alas - because unlike most Czech workmen who show the results of too much imbibing of Czech beer in the shape of their bellies, these guys were lean, muscular and fit, and in the heat of the Czech sun were usually stripped to the waist.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Music in Cesky Krumlov

Cesky Krumlov has been playing host to some world-famous musicians. Cura was performing here for several nights, whilst yesterday the town made national news broadcasts as it played host to a concert by Placido Domingo. As I drove home yesterday evening the town was awash with people dressed up to the nines, the car parks full and the police directing traffic. The best tickets for Domingo's concert were priced at 9000 czech crowns (at 27 crowns to the £ I leave you to work out how expensive they were).

I didn't go. I am in the middle of a tour and besides an outdoor concert in the centre of Cesky Krumlov does not appeal. If I'm going to pay that sort of money I'd rather be in a concert hall with proper accoustics.

But you don't have to pay anything sometimes to hear wonderful music in Krumlov. Last weekend the town square was taken over by Slovaks. There were information and market stalls in the centre and on a stage near the town hall I watched these wonderful Slovakian musicians. Their music is in the gypsy tradition, and done superbly.

Friday, 12 August 2011

What a difference a ten days make.

The day after I drove back to the Czech Republic from England I did what I always do on my return and went for a walk in the forest above the house. I went of course with mushroom basket in hand. I returned with it full of giant chanterelles - as you can see from the picture above. I had two meals of these treasures and froze enough for probably six more. I duly made a mental note to go back this week.

So it was that a Czech friend and I arrived in the forest this afternoon, but despite nearly two hours walking we found only small and sometimes dessicated mushrooms. This seems just weird to me as we have had several days' worth of rain in the village in the intervening time. Maybe our weird microclimate meant that the forest above us did not receive any rain. Mind you I'm not complaining I still have enough for a couple of meals and there's only limited space in the freezer compartment (which is full of wild strawberries, cherries and now chanterelles).

One point of note is that this wet and for the Czechs mild summer has had an interesting impact. The Prague News is announcing that as a consequence the famous bark beetle is dying off. It seems the environmentalists were right - nature is taking its course and intervening to restore balance and the Sumava authorities' drastic logging actions may not have been necessary afterall.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Update on Sumava Protest

The stand-off between environmental protesters and the Sumava Park Authority and its loggers continues. The protesters have been chaining themselves to condemned trees in an effort to stop the felling of trees in a restricted biological area. Apart that is for a brief period when there was a bomb scare, which the protesters claimed was designed to portray them in a bad light and seems to a cynic like me to be a means of getting them to leave the area. If so it worked briefly, but before the loggers could move in the protesters returned.

The protesters are arguing that the trees should not be felled and removed as proposed by the Authorities but left to decay and nature allowed to take its course. The Authorities claim that the trees need to be removed so that neighbouring trees are not attacked by the beetles.

Politicians have been divided over the issue. Now the European Commision is looking into what is happening, as the Sumava is part of a network of protected nature areas in Europe. The argument has been going on for some time. Back in November last year the former Park Director resigned, environmentalists believe due to pressure from the environment minister. The new director is Jan Stráský, former Prime Minister, who has been praised by the Czech President and climate-change denier Vaclav Klaus for his agressive approach to combatting the beetle. One thing seems certain -  the issue is unlikely to be resolved through dialogue as the two sides have a totally different attitude to the forest and nature generally.


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