Summer

the shores of bohemia

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last month, i was hit by the annual spring homesickness wave and could think of nothing but the ocean. whether in washington or in iceland, i just wanted to walk along a beach, to smell saltwater, to feel waves lapping against my feet. 

i spoke to a couple of people about this great wanting to be near the sea – something that i feel has been deeply embedded in my soul, if i want to get sappy. one person i talked to (a dane) mentioned they do not share my need for the ocean. somebody else mentioned – well – here in czech republic, we are river people!

fortunately my slump passed with our extremely quick change from winter doldrums to instant spring (if not summer) and has completely cured this feeling, but i really got to thinking about what my american friend said about czech republic and the bodies of water we have here. it is too true that the people in this country are thoroughly river lovers and it seems like all children are taught how to properly handle a canoe or raft as well as swim.

not only that, but i’m here in the middle of south bohemia – the region known nationally for its ponds and lakes strewn all over the area, but especially highly-concentrated near třeboň, about 30km east of budejovice.

so this is me, trying to embrace the beauty of czech ponds, rivers, and lakes… to embrace this aspect of czech life rather than pine away for the ocean. ocean, we will meet again soon, but this post is all about the other water worlds.

more locally, we have české vrbné (below) at the northern edge of the city – the series of ponds to the north of the city that make for a fantastic walk anytime of year. this was the first place alex and i visited when we moved to budejovice, in dire need of some fresh air to break up the cabin fever that can occur with our prolonged, cold winters. a great place for water fowl spotting, if you’re into that, as well as some beautiful forest paths.

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you can’t talk about water in south bohemia without the mention of the lake (reservoir) lipno to the southwest! it seems to be everyone’s favorite day or weekend trip. in the summer, people inline skate around it on the extensive cycle paths (especially from lipno nad vltavou to frymburk) but in the winter during a deep freeze, it becomes an ice-skating wonderland. (here, as seen from near horní planá)

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no matter who you are, if you live in the czech republic, you have just got to go out on the river. this is basically a rite of passage, y’all. i always appreciate the ahoj’s out on the water vs. the more formal dobry den’s from the streets, because when you’re on the river (na vodě), formality seems to go out the window. (you’ll realize this the first time you ever come across a “raft party”)

 here in south bohemia, it’s quite popular to start far down near the austrian border (at vyšší brod) or even further up (krumlov or zlatá

koruna) for a one or multi-day paddling trip. a couple summers ago we had a nice time paddling from zlatá

koruna to boršov, but it was not without its stress. i had never canoed on a river before and man, it can sometimes be more stressful than you think when you are trying to a) go a certain direction really quickly or b) avoid rocks or hitting bottom.

these days i prefer to raft either the vltava or malše – the two rivers that form a confluence in budejovice – so much less pressure and the most fun way to go about the river as part of a group.

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something must certainly be said for the czech national river, the great vltava (of the famed b. smetana piece) which cuts through the czech republic south to north. did you know that it originates down here in south bohemia in the

šumava forest? although it is so great and wide in prague, i admire it the most when i am in quiet (yeah, so outside of the city center)

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krumlov where i can hear the rushing water and watch kayaks and canoes.

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now, i’ve come to the part in this post where i have to state the difference between what we north americans call a pond and what the czechs call a pond. here in czechland, a pond (or

rybník) can be a body of water of any-size but it MUST be man-made. back home, we know ponds as those small, swampy things and would rather term a lake as a larger body of water, either man-made or natural (it doesn’t matter). to deal with this, we’ve just been calling it a

rybník. some things are just better untranslated.

you can find the one of the largest and most beautiful

rybník

in the aforementioned center of the czech pond universe in třeboň. that would, of course, be rybník svět (world). it takes about 4-5 hours to walk around it, so many people often bike. what i like so much about this trek is the changing scenery from pine forest to farmland and lots in between. of course, one must stop for a bohemia regent pivo afterwards – and you will need the break anyways for your feet.

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how have you learned to embrace a new place? i always feel better embracing what i’ve got than thinking about what i don’t have or where i’m not. 

this has been a perfectly-timed post as i plan to head out for a river trip in a couple days. the weather should be good and i am terribly excited. a day on the river is never a day wasted. have a wonderful weekend all, and coming at you next week with another post.

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