Friday, 23 December 2011

A Czech Winter Slideshow

Some of my best pictures of the Czech Republic in winter set to music from Iva Bittova's album Kolednice (the carolsinger) to just give you a flavour of what a special and magical place the Czech Republic can be winter.

Of course if you fancy visiting we have some lovely cottages and hotels on the new website

Thursday, 15 December 2011

the first snow

We had the first snow of the winter on the evening of St Nicholas, the day when Christmas celebrations begin in the Czech Republic. Unfortunately it was blowing such a gale that we had a virtual whiteout, which meant I was unable to go into town to photograph the celebrations.

The town squares fill up with people dressed as the saint, accompanied by devils and angels, ready for the ritual which repeated in homes too.

Small bells ring and chains rattle and the children, who have been getting more and more excited all day, are asked by St Nicholas if they have been good. On one side of the saint is a devil, on the other an angel - the two sides of man's nature with the saint a balance between the two. The children recount some of their achievements and some of their misdeeds and maybe say a poem and are rewarded with a present.

After the happy children have gone home, the adults get to play. St Nicholases, angels and devils retire to the pub for a warming slivovice or a cold beer.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

The Last Mushrooms

And so at last we come to the end of the mushroom season. The last mushrooms are to my mind some of nature's best - wood blewits with their lovely lilac gills, floral scent and firm flesh. They arrive when the first good frosts turn the other mushrooms to a brown mush, in fact they seem to need the frosts to fruit.

I picked these in the woods above my Czech home, but have picked them among the gorse bushes on Cleeve Hill in the Cotswolds. I was alone in the woods apart from some wild boar snorting in the undergrowth and making me jump and a herd of maybe a dozen deer. Many Czechs are not aware of the blewits, indeed I have been told categorically by neighbours that blewits are not good and even poisonous. It was a delightful walk - the air crisp and still, sunlight glancing through the trees. The blewits were a nice extra, a surprise even because I thought they might be over, but there they were nestling around a fallen fir tree, pushing up through the needles which they clinged on to as I tried to pick them.

But now I think they are over. It snowed last night (more of that in my next post) and there's more to come.


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