Life goes on in Cesky Krumlov, a month after the floods

r_2100x1400_radio_praha.png

The picturesque town of Cesky Krumlov in south Bohemia is built on the Vltava river, which was an important trade route from the Early Middle Ages. After severe flooding over a hundred years ago, the residents of the town created flood defences, which - sadly - were not enough to withstand the rising Vltava, when, in the middle of August, the Czech Republic was hit by the worst floods in centuries.

Martin Hak: "It was quite a wet city, no tourists and quite depression. We saw water like never before. We were working together and nobody was caring who is a director, who is who, everybody was working."

Girl working in gallery: "Here there are not so many people, because I think the problem is that on the television, like CNN, BBC and so on, they say that here there are illnesses and so on. I don't think there are illnesses here, I think it's normal."

Martin Marek: "I think this town is very sad, we have no tourists and the river is not so much romantic like before."

Residents of Cesky Krumlov, all of whom work in the town's main industry, tourism. Clean-up and renovation work has been continuing apace over the last month, as life gradually gets back to normal. Industrial fans are being used to dry out some shops on Dlouha street. Miroslav Pouch has an antiquarian bookshop on the street.

"I've lost 95% of my books, but what about graphics (prints)....only 5%."

How did you dry the shop? Because I see other shops here, they have industrial dryers and fans.

"I let it so, only I heat here during the night and now the windows are open."

Did you have insurance?

"What about the house, I had. But what about books, art, it's impossible to make insurance. It costs too much, it's very difficult, very hard to make insurance of art."

Have some shops in Cesky Krumlov been destroyed completely?

"My colleague has an antikvariat, he is in Parkan street...destroyed, everything completely, he's lost everything. But he starts next year, I hope."

The Vltava river flooded Cesky Krumlov after the regional water authority were forced to open Lipno Dam, down river from the town. Some locals say they did not receive enough warning, while others are more philosophical. Martin Hak works in tourist information.

"We never had this experience, I mean, the local people,the boss of Lipno dam. We are now more clever then before, but before nobody knew."

Martin Marek: "I have no problem with the flood; it's nature, you can't be against nature."

Were people angry about the water authority, Povodi Vltava?

"Yes, they were!"

Why were they angry?

"Because everybody thinks that the management of the Povodi Vltava slept during that time."

How much warning did you get here?

"The flood came here very fast, it was during two or three hours. Nobody's guilty for that, nobody's guilty."

Martin Marek is a tour guide, and isn't as busy as he'd like to be these days. Antiquarian bookshop owner Miroslav Pouch lost hundreds of thousands of crowns worth of books when the floods hit, so he - understandably - was more critical of the water authority than most.

"Nobody said Lipno dam will be opened. It must be opened because it was full, but we had no information, we didn't know how the water will rise. If I knew, if I knew the water would come so high...I had four hours, and I could save everything."

What was the atmosphere like the day when the water got very high?

"Chaos. They gave us no information, and they had some information...so this part of the town makes this operation and this part makes this operation. For example, I know here people who closed their door with bricks. This is for nothing, it was useless. So if these people had more information they could make another work, not these (sic) uselesses."

And how high was the water here?

"Not so high, one meter and thirty centimetres. Some houses were until the first floor, two meters."

How many days was it before you could return?

"Here it was quick, one day. But for example on Parkan street it was three days."

I spoke to Martin Marek on Parkan street, beside the river. Most of the houses here are guest houses or 'pensions'. Are most of the houses closed?

"Just for the time, two or three months, but it isn't a problem for the tourist industry."

Where we are sitting now it's quite high, how high was the water during the worst of the floods?

"It was five metres higher then normal."

And its almost to the ceiling here in this house.

"Yes, it is. But you know what, everybody thought that this flood was 100 but I think it was 1,000."

You mean the worst flood in 1,000 years?

"Yes."

What would you say to people who are thinking about coming to Cesky Krumlov, and aren't sure if they should or not?

"Come here, come here! We need you!"

Cesky Krumlov does indeed need tourists. The day I visited the town there seemed to be a lot of visitors, though the locals all said that numbers were way down for the time of year. Martin Hak explains why.

"If you open any newspaper or look at a TV you saw just high water, rubbish, smell, and I don't know what. So many people they decided, OK, I will come to Cesky Krumlov, or maybe to the Czech Republic, next year or later on. But in the end really nothing happened, our city is clean again and there are some destroyed houses and streets, but we are ready to have business again."

Would you say most places are open again now?

"I think now the castle, museum, restaurants and shops are open, you can see, I think 75 percent, something like that."

Some tourists have been disappointed that Cesky Krumlov's Egon Scheile museum is not currently showing the artist's work. There's a good reason for that though, says a member of staff at the gallery.

"We can not exhibit pictures of Egon Scheile because the air is still a little bit wet."

I see you have an exhibition of photos of the floods.

"Yes, this exhibition is free of charge and you can contribute some money to help."

How long do you think it will be before life is back to normal in Cesky Krumlov?

"I think life is normal already now, you can see tourists are back."

Are they satisfied, the tourists that come here now?

"Yes, I think if you don't know that there was a flood you would not notice now."

Tourists from the United States: "I haven't really noticed so much changes. There do seem to be people cleaning up their houses and repairing the damage that was done, I see a lot of rubble and wood and people trying to fix up their basements."

Do you find that you can see most of the things you want to see?

"Yes, definitely."

Is there anything that’s closed to you, that you would like to do and you can’t do because of the post flood situation?

"I think a couple of the bars we wanted to go to actually got swept away pretty much completely by the floods, and I think there were a couple of other places down by the river, but in general everything seems great. I honestly wasn't quite sure what to expect, but I know how to swim so I wasn't really too concerned."