I’M in Czechia, the new and less cumbersome English name for the Czech Republic, writing this in a caravan in the shade of a Scots pine on my son’s half acre of recreation land in the ‘moldavite belt’ of Lower Bohemia, north of the Sumava National Park and the Austrian border.
It’s sweltering outside and I’ve just been cooling off in the bathing pool he’s installed in the overgrown garden beside the 200-year-old barn, cobblestoned within and half the size of an aircraft hangar. Originally winter quarters for cattle, he’s converting it to the family’s summer retreat. The pool, 3.6m in diameter, is a rigid-walled, metal-frame, circular structure, holding 8,000 litres of water a metre deep.
The water is piped by gravity feed from the forest above the land, and is crystal clear. Nevertheless, some chlorine is added. There’s no shortage of water in Czech, despite local temperatures of over 30C every day this week.
Thunderstorms roam the skies above central Europe in summer. Sporadically, they bucket billions of litres of heavy rain onto the land in lightshows lasting an hour or a day. Notwithstanding the furnace heat, the landscape remains verdant, and its many lakes full to the brim.
Right now, at midday, my wife and our two grandchildren are splashing in the cool water. It’s naturally cool, although the pool is never covered in summer. We’re surprised it’s not a bubbling cauldron.
The amount of space also surprises; my son and I were also in the pool earlier and there was no ‘overcrowding’. The small boys somersaulted off the top step of the ladder; the water was deep enough for that.
Around us, the countryside is as still as if poleaxed by the heat. No birds or birdsong; perhaps the birds are taking a siesta. The only movement is of butterflies flitting from wildflower to wildflower, and dragonflies, bees, and winged insects. Otherwise, the broad fields seem lifeless. There’s no sound of traffic. The nearest roads and industry are miles away.
My son tells me that the bathing pool, pump, filter, companionway ladder and cover, bought new, cost him just €240. At that price, who, in a torrid climate, would be without one — it looks like it will last for years! We, in Ireland have had a scorching summer in 2018. I imagine that if such items were available here at that price they’d sell like ice-cream in a heat wave.
But, of course, in Ireland we might not have the water to fill it. However, one fill per summer is enough. My son’s, filled in late May, is still fresh, and will be until late September. The filter, solar driven (solar power will also email this dispatch to Cork) is running constantly and he cleans it every two weeks. For folk living far from bathing places, and who can capture rain water before summer comes, a garden dipping pool is highly recommended. But Irish prices might, of course, be multiples of the Czech.
And — wait a minute — there’s the insurance premiums, in case a trespassing stranger might stumble into it and, of course, drown. Oh, no! Gaffed by the insurance costs again!
I said the ‘moldavite belt’ was the location of my son’s patch, because it is hereabouts that shards of an asteroid, plus vitrified earth-rock thrown into the stratosphere by its impact, is still dug from the earth today.
The Thing from Outer Space crashed into the Earth in present-day Bavaria 14.7 million years ago, but it is in the Ceské Budejovice Basin of Bohemia that its mysterious and valuable debris is found.
Occurring near the surface it has been mined and made into jewellery for centuries. The shards are dark green and translucent, not only beautiful but truly “not of this world” and, as such, reputedly charged with energies bestowing upon the wearer good health and spiritual awareness.
My son’s little piece of paradise is just 12km from the large, medieval town of Ceske Budejovice (pop. 93,000) with its vast 133m x 137m ceramic-tiled square surrounded by Gothic and Baroque buildings and with a tall fountain at its centre. It’s the real thing, the epitome and acme of historic central European towns.
I recall writing in a previous column about the broad arcades that flank the vast square on all sides. It was on a winter visit, and I praised the shelter they provided from the snow and rain. I can attest to a further function, an even greater mercy as appreciated by the citizens who sit about in the open-air cafes, enjoying the slight breeze cooled by the stone pavements, walls and arches and bringing some relief from the ceramic hot plate outside.