Amanda here- I figured it was time for me to add to the blog. I have decided to write a brief segment about everyday life in bohemia and what we have been up to.
We have been in the Czech Republic for two weeks now and find ourselves at home in the lovely village of Lužnice: 396 people, one bus stop, one small co-op grocery store, and at least 5 pubs, all run out of people’s houses of course. We are living in the bottom story of a house with four Czech grad students and have turned it into the barn swallow field headquarters. As the gear is stacking up in the hallway and the spectrometer is taking over the kitchen table- the season has truly begun with 25 nests that are already full of eggs. We are getting along quite well with our Czech collaborators- we have introduced them to important American customs like chocolate chip cookies and peanut butter and jelly as well as field innovations like google docs, and checking nests with mirrors (which has streamlined things considerably). They have taught us important Czech customs like drinking beer at 9 am, eating meat paste for breakfast, having lunch be the biggest meal of the day, and are trying to teach us to speak some Czech (which is slow going).
We have five field sites here and they offer a little more variety then our usual Colorado horse farm- we have a carp farm where we work in a barn full of adorable lambs and their noisy mothers, a guest house/farm for vacationers from Prague where we work in a pig barn and milking parlor (we have found that piglets are much cuter then their adult counterparts). The other farms include one that has milking goats (we are working on getting our hands on some goat cheese!), an abandoned, crumbling, but enormous communist factory farm where we seem to discover new rooms every time we do a nest check (for those of you that have been to our Colorado field sites: we have decided it is a hybrid between creepy shack, maya’s, and autumn hill), and one of the premier jumper horse breeding farms in Europe, http://www.obora.com, (the contrast between the last two could not be more extreme).
Working with site owners has been a bit of an adventure- since we don’t speak Czech and they don’t speak English. Usually we just smile and mumble dobrý den (Czech for good day) and they ignore us- but sometimes young Czech men take our ladder and lead us around the farm while we wonder if we are being kidnapped or shown where more swallow nests are located (luckily it was the latter). One thing is the same here though- after spending several days trying to read color bands on males, Joey and I have discovered that the barn swallows here are just as cheeky as they are at home.
In other news, Joey has almost mastered the stick shift of our little green car- meanwhile I am still a bit rough and seem to stall it at least three times whenever I drive it. I much prefer to ride the bike that I have borrowed from one of the students that live near by. It is a gem (her mothers I think from the 80s) and my banding kit fits just perfectly in my little basket...when I ride it Joey likes to sing the wizard of oz song. We also keep discovering new animals at our field house- the chickens and turkeys were apparent the first day, then we discovered the outdoor aviary with parrots and parakeets- but the best surprise was when we found the ostriches. Inside we have discovered many other, not so alive, animals, including a badger that Joey has named Brennan.
I want to end this post with a word about fishponds, yes fishponds and a little bit of history. This area consists of rolling green fields, thick mossy woods, and dozens of small lakes. Our Czech friends were quick to teach us the story behind these many lakes. This area of southern bohemia was ruled by the royal Rožmberkové family from 1250 – 1611 (makes the US seem pretty young), whose rose symbol can still be seen everywhere. The family has a colorful history that still lingers here. It began when the widow of Wenceslas (yes that Wenceslas) married Jindřich Oldřich II of Rožmberk (try saying that 5 times fast). One of their daughters, Perchta, became a ghost and apparently can still be seen wandering around from time to time. Anyway- back to the ponds- it turns out all of these lakes that we have been seeing everywhere are actually all man-made fish ponds. In the late 1400s the Rožmberkové family decided that they wanted more carp- so they designed and built a whole series of huge ponds that were all hand dug, that can be filled and drained by a series of connecting channels that link to the river. It is quite impressive and clever. When you want some fish- you just drain the water and scoop them up. The fishermen today still use them the way they were built and manage to move all the water without electricity. We have sampled some local carp schnitzel and must say that it is delicious. As Tomáš would say, “carp, the pig of fishes.”
And now we’re off to one of the pubs for some delicious pilsner!