Thursday, 29 October 2009

secret well

Deep in a forest - you have to trek a good couple of kilometres uphill from the nearest road - lies, completely hidden, this little spring. No path leads to it. And hardly anyone knows about it - I've lived here 9 years now and no-one mentioned it until a wonderful female friend took me there, with her little daughter. 'I'll show you something truly out of this world', she said. And it was. Someone, long time ago, took the trouble to build a stone-home for this clear spring, perhaps because they thought it healing. And perhaps it is. And then, - I guess in the 19th century judging by its style - someone took the trouble to carve a figure in deep thought and reverence, to gaze into its source. And someone, now, took the trouble to bring a string of beads to adorn the statue, and left a couple of mugs for passers-by who are in on the secret.
We sat in equal reverence, gazing into the water so clear that you could hardly see it. And we drank - to our health.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

a day out at a glass workshop

This is an outing that's been on my 'must try' list for ages - so at last, a friend and I went to one of the local 'open studio' events, choosing a glass workshop near the Hluboka castle a few kilometres from Ceske Budejovice.
The studio makes all kinds of glass objects, from intricate beads to vases and glasses, to wonderful sculptures. But today we were treated to a brilliant 'performance' by an extraordinarily skilled glass blower. There in front of our eyes came to life birds, shells, and other fabulous creations, seemingly by a flick of a hand, a small touch of a tool, a little puff of breath. I've seen the work of glass artists on film before but nothing compares to the real thing, complete with the heat from the furnace and the scent of the fire.

Czech republic is renowned for its glass, a tradition going back centuries - but most of the well known glass comes from North Bohemia. Not so well known is the fact that Sumava, in the South, also has a rich tradition in glass-making. Here they made what is known as 'forest glass' for example: green-tinged, bubbly stuff, intricately decorated, mostly made during the renaissance and baroque periods (bot perhaps more on the history at some other time).

At lunchtime the owners prepared a veritable feast - you can see on the photo a rusty kind of object which is in fact an outdoor spit-oven: in it was a whole lamb, and there were masses of side dishes and sweet delicacies to go with it. And beer on tap, of course :-)

And then the visitors were able to have a go too. What a treat! Of course this was a special day, but I found out that one can book a whole day for a small group where you can have a go at making glass objects by various methods, and come back the next day to collect the results of your effort - so I am sure I'll be back again: this is a kind of activity that could get addictive....

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Airport Ceske Budejovice - news

The long awaited International airport at Ceske Budejovice is now officially going ahead with its proposed widening of services, starting in the year 2012. Although not good news regarding green issues, it's perceived as a godsend to the businesses and international travellers from (and to) this region. Ceske Budejovice is not well connected to Prague (although the distance is only around 150 km, it takes 2 and half hours by mostly non-motorway road, and 2 and half by train) and so air-tourists to the region usually come via Linz airport which is nearer - this is especially true for the Brits and the Spanish, who all use the Ryanair services.
And so our own town, Cesky Krumlov, is full of the topic today: the new airport is 15-20 minutes from here. Up till now it only accommodated small planes, but now it will be able to serve planes such as Boeing 737 or Airbus A320. The airport will serve 300,000 passengers a year to start with, and half the money for the essential new terminal and all the other associated buildings and equipment is coming from the EU.

What will this mean for our small, cosy British 'colony' here? Will Ryanair or their like be jumping in to bring a similar wave of British second-home seekers that seems to have sprung up around practically all the cheap European destinations? Might the Brits go for the pretty farmhouses before the prices rocket, might they want a piece of Cesky Krumlov, or seek out the romantic huts in the woods? Well, perhaps not: with the current crisis it could just mean a huge influx of beer-lovers going for boozy stag-nights at Ceske Budejovice's huge Budvar brewery :-)

We'll have to see: whatever happens, the airport is here to come - and stay.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

works in progress - Lake house

It's been a long time since I wrote about our Lake house works - it's been a busy period and still is. Progress is slow, the two upstairs floors are still a complete mess, but it's at least getting to the point where the ground floor is beginning to function - the kitchen is almost there, the sitting room - apart from the floor which I still hope to restore despite of all my builders' advice to rip it up and replace, as it is really in very poor condition - is feeling quite cosy,
even with its provisional old bits of furniture, and, joy of joys, the bathroom is warm and we don't have to use the outside loo any more :-) There still a lot of decorating to be done and much detail to be tidied up, but after all the months of rubble and mess, it's lovely to be able to make tea and wash up and curl up and feel that the house is beginning to feel like a house at last.... even if the outside still looks so terribly sorry for itself - poor old house!
Well, now the roof covering is off - of course as Fate would have it, the weather turned nasty just as the joiners arrived to work on replacing rotten timbers etc, and raising one of the gable ends. Water is getting into the house despite the plastic covering sheets... now it's even starting to snow, so I need lots of crossed fingers to see us through this moment.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Nicholas Treadwell Gallery: a hidden jewel

Only a short ferry-hop across the Lipno Lake lies a pretty, small town of Aigen - just over the Austrian border. And if Cesky Krumlov is a supposed centre of art and artists in the South of Bohemia, its close Austrian neighbour might beat it hands down in being more bohemian still, in a truly wonderful, outrageous fashion.
This is because it became the home of a British gallerist, Nicholas Treadwell, who moved his famous British gallery here, of all places - into the back of beyond, where he bought the historic Aigen courthouse and town jail, painted it all pink, inside and outside, and voila!, filled it with his collection of paintings and sculptures in what he calls a 'superhumanist' style. His large, fabulous collection ranges from meticulously over-realistic humans, usually in a state of some surprise or torment, to funny, joky, super-colourful views of life as his artists would see it - mostly again with a thorn in the joke somewhere.
Nicholas Treadwell himself is a charismatic man who clearly loves his life in art, and the artists he represents. Besides art, he indulges in theatre and plays music, an iconoclastic figure who proudly puts on his advertising leaflets a quote from a Guardian critic:
'Nicholas Treadwell has done for fine art, what McDonald has done for haute cuisine'.

If you have a few days in Cesky Krumlov, do take a trip there: it only takes half an hour or so. You drive to the Lipno lake and take a delightful ferry ride, and then on through a deep dark forest (empty of humans or dwellings, as this used to be the 'no-man's land' of the ex-Iron Curtain), descending into Aigen which in itself is worth a trip for its Austrian chocolate-box pretty-ness. How apt for the bad taste which Treadwell so loves :-)

When we got there, we were greeted by the man himself, dressed and coiffured in pink, and although there were only three of us, we were given a 2-hr tour with so much information, detail and anecdotes, that it felt like a huge privilege, a true 'insider' view that you simply don't get anywhere else. Certainly not at the immensely boring and stuck-up, grant-fat Egon Shiele centre gallery in Cesky Krumlov!
More on Nicholas Treadwell and his gallery here: take a look.