Friday, 15 October 2010

preparing for the big day at the Lake house

Great excitement, it's only a few days till the next carp-harvest at the Olsina lake. As you can see, the 'lake', really a centuries old man-made pond, has been slowly draining out over the past three weeks and now it's only mud-flats with a small amount of water in the middle. The reason for this is to force the multitude of fish that have been growing there for the last two years into the smallest amount of water possible. On Wednesday next week, men with boats and nets will come and take all the carp away, ready for the Christmas markets.
This is a method that has been in use since the Middle Ages, when the monasteries and the nobles had the bright idea of using valley bogs that would have been of no use otherwise as handy receptacles for fish-farming. All you needed was a stream running through a boggy valley that was naturally formed like a bowl, and a retaining wall at one end, with a sluice to let the water out. This ensured a constant replenishment of fresh water for the fish. In a land-locked country, that meant that there was always a plentiful supply of carp - and if you look at the map of Southern Bohemia, you will see it woven through with blue, a true tapestry of lakes; especially around the town of Trebon - an amazing feat of mediaeval engineering where the massive ponds are interconnected with channels that act as conduits between them.
Olsina lake is not part of such a complex web, it is a pond on its own. But at 167 hectares, there is a lot of room for fish, and if the last harvest is anything to go by, we have much to look forward to: on Wednesday at dawn, we shall watch the fishermen use the same methods that their counterparts have been using since the 14th century - apart from the lorries that will carry the tanks with live fish away. But one can imagine the heavy carts of old, the strong horses, the large wooden tubs ... after all the fish need to be kept alive and well till Christmas!  Because the main reason for the big harvest is that carp are THE Christmas fare for the Czechs, as they have been as long as memory can reach.

Well, I shall be there to watch the spectacle, and take some photos to share the day with you.


Karin said...

Nice blog! I will look with anticipation for the photos forth coming! The whole carp experience was great fun to witness when my husband and I visited Prague for 3 months last winter.

McCabeandco said...

Do Czech actually eat carp?? Word has it that they keep them as pets in their bathes until the novelty wears off before letting them go in the nearest creek or river. In Prague in the middle of the night it is not the Russian mafia backing their cars up to the Vlatava, it's all the carp fishermen releasing their children's unwanted "pets"... :)

salamander said...

This whole carp mania is very funny indeed - as Karin says. Especially just before Christmas with carp-sellers and their tubs of carp at every corner. In answer to McCabeandco, I wrote a blog about the carps in baths here:
Dear me, the Czechs and their baths... I must write more on that subject one day :-)

Philip Wilkinson said...

Marvellous. I remember from two years ago the fascinating mix of activity and ceremony that went with the carp harvest. Do you know the Ivan Klíma story about selling carp for Christmas in Prague? The story is in the collection called in English My Merry Mornings. It's about intellectuals being forced to do crap jobs, and all that entails, in the communist times. But it manages to be very funny too.