Tuesday, 27 July 2010

the sad story of the Island's strange resurrection

Despite petitions and protests (for details search label 'protest'), the Town council last year gave a go-ahead to brutal river-works under the label 'flood prevention'. Thus this beautiful historic town's meandering river is being given a straitjacket. And this morning, I woke up to the strangest sight -
-but before I tell you about this morning, if you haven't followed the saga of this beauty-spot's demise last year, or if you don't feel like searching the blog, perhaps I should give a short summary:
For centuries, the river Vltava with its three meanders hugged Cesky Krumlov's houses, reflected the glory of the castle above, brought wealth to the town and took away its dirt. The banks served as landing and unloading spaces, gathering places for washerwomen, as water-source for craftsmens' workshops, and as a drinking fount for animals. Though some of the banks were reinforced with stones, most shifted their shape from season to season, held only by ancient willows and alders whose roots became safe breeding spaces for fish and other river life. Every century or so a biggish flood would sweep through the town, but everyone knew this would pass and the riverside houses, built to withstand such floods, dried out and stood on.But now we have engineers, computers, and - glory of glories - European grants! What's more, now we like to think we can control Nature. So we can design nice, straight, computer-graphics and Powerpoint driven designs, and ruin what Nature shaped for centuries in one fell swoop. Just look at those straight, concrete-reinforced banks now! And so, for a year now, men in hard hats with massive earth-moving machinery have been at work like big boys in a sandpit. And one of the most gloriously romantic spots in town, its narrow island with trees and much local wildlife, was bulldozed to oblivion. When people protested, the Town Hall promised they would build a new island - a 'hydrodynamic' one, 'akin to an aircraft wing'. We thought they must have been making a very bad joke. But no.
So here we come to these last few days. Truly, a horrendous artificial island, reinforced and sterile, grew under the main bridge. And truly, it has the dimensions of a flat aircraft-wing. On it, a proud stone tablet, like some sad grave-stone, lists sponsors who supported this 'gift to the town's citizens'. Amusingly, the main sponsor is the company that owns the quarries that supplied all the stones for the straitjacket now gracing the riverbanks. Nice to know they had some cash to spare :-)And so we get to this morning: I was aghast as I saw something that looked like Christo the artist has come to town. Blokes with sheets of geo-fabric wrapping the new island, using 6 inch nails to fix it to the stony ground. 6 inch nails! - imagine what will happen when the water rises just a bit :-) - and then I watched them scratch their chins deciding how to plant a few tiny trees so they are in properly ordered straight line. Well, we'll watch this space, maybe I am biased and it'll all look wonderful in a year's time... if the willows are tough enough to root in soilless heap of stones.
As some of you know, we bought our riverside house last year, when it stood in the most romantic spot of the whole Cesky Krumlov. The romance is somewhat lessened now, as you can see, but I feel sad not for our sake only - I feel sad for the town that used to have its ancient architecture softened by the greenery of its riverside trees, by the organic way the river and the buildings fitted together. Of course I still love being here and I enjoy the river and its gifts despite the straitjacket - we all do (see my two blogs just below). But it's a pity that at a time when the rest of the civilised world is tearing down such brutal 'flood prevention' structures and reverting to organic river management, here no-one in authority - EU or UNESCO - lifted a finger to point out such new directives, no conservationist body or Green or ECO parties intervened: seems that money really does make the world go round.


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Karin said...

Hi, Enjoying your blog very much! I noticed work under a bridge when there this winter (February). Didn't know for sure what was happening....but thought the men out in the water with equipment very brave!

We enjoyed Cesky Krumlov very very much, even in the snow! Magic.

Karin on Paros (Greek island)