Sunday, 31 January 2010

Winter walks on skis

When you feel like a walk in the middle of Winter, you'd have a hard time going unless you put on a pair of walking skis. There are two ways to enjoy this pastime: one, when you take yourself on the many kilometres of prepared cross-country, or 'langlauf' walkways, kept by the municipality and well signed.
You can buy maps that clearly mark these paths, and as moving on skis is faster than walking on foot, you can cover further distances in the Winter than you would in the Summer, and see much of the countryside, stop off in villages for a mulled wine or beer, go alone or in groups, and take it easy, or exercise your athletic prowess :-)

Two - and this is what I prefer - is to go into uncharted territory and make your own marks. There is nothing like the feel of the snow squashing under the narrow ski. Of course you don't cover as much ground as you would on a made-up langlauf highway, but, especially when going quite alone and being quiet you meet animals: hares, rabbits, deer.... I even saw a fox as I was coming back the other afternoon close to dusk.

I love this country with all it has to offer. And being here in Krumlov means you needn't go far to get these pleasures: five minutes outside the town, and you are in a forest. So you have the best of both worlds.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

skating at Lipno lake

When Lake Lipno freezes over, as it does every Winter (and it freezes so deep that people even drive cars, even lorries, over - as ferries obviously don't operate at Winter time) it is time for families to go skating, a must for most people here. When much snow has fallen, the Lipno resort obliges by keeping a clear path over the ice - 11km long - so you can skate to your heart's content and it never gets crowded like normal municipal outdoor ice-rinks tend to at this time. They also keep a path for people on walking-skis - 'langlauf' being another activity beloved by Czechs of all ages and shapes. But that maybe is a subject for some other blog.
In the evening, tired and full of endorphins from the sun and the exhillaration of skating, you get an added bonus of the famously spectacular sunsets over the lake. What more can one ask of a piece of Nature?

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Krumlov under snow

In the previous blog I waxed lyrical about snow in the countryside, but Krumlov is also transformed when covered in its white duvet. So, just so it doesn't get left out :-) here are a few pictures, the one here on the right is looking out from the Riverside house's garden.

spectacular snow

I know my co-expat Potok has also been blogging about this phenomenon, and so did I a year ago, but one can't help it: when the frost covers the trees and frost-on-frost snows come, it is what we've come to call 'a diamond time'. In very cold temperatures an extra layer of frost forms each night and as this country knows very little wind, the masses of crystals stay undisturbed, just grow in thickness and beauty - even on the snow that lies on the ground. So when the sun hits the landscape, it sparkles like millions of diamonds. Unfortunately it is impossible to photograph in its full glory, but here's at least a pale representation of it. So while downhill skiers enjoy the exhilaration of powder snow everywhere, a great alternative is to put on walking skis and slide quietly into the stillness of the forest, and then stop, and wait: Not a sound is heard, and nothing moves save for the occasional drop of snow from an over-heavy branch, sending showers of sparkly flakes through the blindingly bright rays of the sun, and one is in the presence of something eternal, timeless - just sheer, gloriously pristine beauty, a gift beyond imagining.
If only the politicians and all those busy businessmen who shape our future would find time to take themselves, alone and humbly, just for one day into such paradise - maybe we'd have a better world to look forward to?

Sunday, 17 January 2010

oh, the poor cat's homing instinct

I was too optimistic. Our problem is that we still have builders finishing off here so, added to the trauma of moving, the resounding voices, the banging, and the power tools, obviously don't make a cat feel at home. And the bloody builders do NOT KEEP THE DOOR CLOSED. So of course our male cat, though relatively calm when shut in the 'civilised part' of the house, shot off again at the first opportunity. This time he went missing for 5 days. So the routine started again: twice or three times a day I would drive up to the old house, call, walk around, ask the old neighbours - nothing. But his paw-prints in the snow showed he was repeatedly trying to get into the old house via the locked cat-flap. Problem is that the new owners of our old house are not there - the house sits empty and locked up, so we can't even ask them to notify us when the cat turns up. Anyway, during one of my visits he suddenly appeared, miaowing and running towards me - allowed me to take him in the car, let me carry him into the new house and ate, and ate, and ate.... He has a nasty tear above his eye, so he must have had a scrape somewhere along the way. But he is with us again. How long for, we'll have to see.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Moving house, and cats saga

Well, you can see a somewhat exhausted couple of figures here. Moving during Christmas is not the most relaxing of activities - but hey, the photos are from our first night in the house, with hastily thrown-together furniture and a few pictures up. (Always hang pictures first, I say, that's what makes a home from home. Oh, and then the books of course...that's if you have the shelves ready, which we didn't, yet). Not that the whole house is finished. Even now, builders are still working in the attic and downstairs - but the first floor is where we are settling in. My study, at least, now has the required shelves at last, my internet is working again, the rest is kind of functional and still lots and lots of boxes of books and clothes and stuff. Stuff! (that's the hardest to deal with) How the furniture and pics will end up, we'll have yet to see. But it is already beginning to feel like home, and living in this old old house feels a real privilege.

What we seem to have spent most of our time on, though, during this time, was chasing after our male cat. He obviously wasn't happy about the move: over his 3+ years he fought and won a large territory, which his instinct told him to go and attend to no matter what. We knew that would be the case, so we decided to keep both our cats locked in for a week or two - but you should have heard the male cat's howls of derision at having a door closed, and being in a strange place to boot. Especially at night. It was quite unbearable, we felt SO guilty! So we thought, let's open the door to the balcony, at least. Well, he jumped the 12 feet or so, and was gone. He was gone for three days - we kept going up to the previous house, but no sign of him - and it was freezing cold out there- till one day we spotted him and brought him back to his new home. The next night the cat managed to dig an escape tunnel under the door to the garden - the floor there is still just sand and sharp shingle, waiting to be tiled with bricks. And so it went on - day after day he escaped, and day after day we spent hours looking for him - enough if a builder left the door open for a minute, or whatever. But the last few days he suddenly decided that he won't try again. He just stays at home, and doesn't even complain. Eats, plays, sleeps in our bed. So we hope that maybe, just maybe, he has forgiven us. And that eventually he may just decide that this new territory, with the garden and the riverbank, with ducks and plenty of natural cover but no other male cat in sight, will provide enough adventure for the next chapter in his life too.
Needless to say, the little female has taken to the new house with no problems: I let her out every day and she just comes back by herself.
Well. I guess when we are a little more sorted out I will make some proper photos to put up (By the way the pink on the photos is nowhere as pink in reality!). Meanwhile wish us well, please, and let's hope the builders finish soon!