Monday, August 14, 2006

The wind beneath its wings

This weekend, flatmate J. and I went off to wander along the banks of a 16th-century fish pond and look at a giant neo-gothic mausoleum in South Bohemia. Třeboň (aka Wittengau), to be precise, footnotes from whose history might eventually feature here if I ever manage to sort out something for rpc on witches and alchemy.

The fish pond was very large and wet. The mausoleum was neo-Gothic and had 27 coffins in the crypt. I've evidently watched more "Buffy" episodes than most of the Czech republic including the tour guide, because they didn't seem too impressed by my badly-mimed requests for a bundle of wooden stakes and some holy hand grenades of righteousness.

We also temporarily sought shelter from the permanent downpour by ducking into an exhibition on the surrounding area called, "Třeboňsko - Man and Nature". It featured little video clips and dioramas on the construction of the ponds, unique eco-system of the area (nature films) and the local peat baths/spa (bathers au naturel films).

As seems to be de rigeur anywhere that has an old castle, the "wildlife" section was partly an excuse to dust down and exhibit some of great-great-uncle Bohumil's taxidermy efforts. However, the exhibitors did seem to recognise that some visitors might have qualms about the enormous quantity of dead, stuffed animals they had managed to acquire and were sensitive enough to provide detailed explanations in certain cases. Here's a typical example (slightly paraphrased):

Osprey - Pandion haliaetus

This osprey was brought into the animal welfare centre with a broken leg after it had been unfairly attacked by a wild boar. The boar was sent to anger-management therapy and has grown touchingly fond of its inner piglet.

After ground-breaking keyhole surgery, the osprey appeared to be on the road to recovery until it contracted a terrible fever and rejected its pinfeather transplant. Despite the heroic efforts of staff, and the prayers of the entire Czech nation the osprey unfortunately succumbed and passed away peacefully in a nest made of finest-quality organically-grown, pesticide-free reeds.

A state funeral with full honours followed, attended by the president and famous celebrities from Velký Bratr (Big Brother) 3, one of whom - the loud one with cavernous nostrils - tearfully expressed the determination to change his name by deed poll to AuspReigh to honour the bird's nobility of spirit.

With its dying squawk, the osprey had expressed a wish that its body be given to science for the benefit of generations to come and thus after the ceremony it was stuffed with sage and onion loving care by tender hands and now features as an honoured part of this exhibit, for which we are eternally grateful.


fiveandfour said...

With its dying squawk, the osprey had expressed a wish that its body be given to science

Because, really, how could this bird not want to do something for the benefit of all man and animal-kind? 'Twas such a brave and noble little thing. ::Sniffle::

(I've always imagined the Czech people must feel about vampyres the same way Gene Wilder's character felt about being called Frankenstein in Young Frankenstein ("it's Frahhnk-en-steen"). This is because it's more comfortable than imagining they are instead thinking "You don't know the half of it, sister. I laugh at your puny attempts at a joke about wooden stakes. Ha!")

EvilAuntiePeril said...

'Tis true fiveandfour. I feel enriched just by spending a few minutes in the bird's presence.

As for the coffins, it was pretty noticeable that compared to the Czech visitors, J and I were somewhat backward in coming forward to examine the coffins in detail. Maybe it had something to do with the way they were taking notes? Maybe I'll skip the side-trip to Romania.