Last weekend was the occasion of the marriage of a friend of my mother's - I tagged along to Brno for the ride. I'd never been to a wedding abroad before (well, not one I hadn't crashed) and I'm fond of the Czech Republic.
To my joy, we found ourselves in a hotel not in Brno itself but in Brno Bystrc - the suburb to the north-west, by a large reservoir surrounded by yacht clubs, small beer halls and wooded hills. We arrived on Friday night, and on Saturday morning I went for a little exploratory walk, which led me to the huge hydroelectric dam and the river below it, flowing down to the city. It was full of fish, and I watched them for a long while. They beckoned me with their tails. They said 'Algal bloom? Pah! If we can swim it, so can you!' I then hastened away, a 12-hr boozy Czech wedding to attend. Sunday, understandably, was a day of fragility, and we decided to take a boat trip. As we glided up the lake, I saw my first bobbing head. Jokes had been made at the wedding about who would be silly enough to swim in the lake, but it seems the Czechs (and particularly the Naturist Czechs, of which more later) had got there before me. By the time we reached the ruined castle upriver, I was desperate to swim.
I got down there about half past five. It was decently hotter than the UK is at the moment, probably about 30 C. Near the hotel was a lovely park full of birches, pines, and eccentric wood sculptures, some more Henry Moore (smooth humanesque forms), others more Claes Oldenburg (a large matchstick, around 10ft high). There were lots of little steps leading down into the lake. Old and young sunned themselves and swam, and fishing men (always men) stood idly, hanging their coats on the wood sculptures, not expecting to catch anything. The grass was scrubby and dry, the water warm and green. It reminded me of the time I nearly swam on Port Meadow, near Oxford, in last summer's high heat. There was, indeed, a lot of algae. I reminded myself to drink that essential can of Coke.
The strange thing about lakes is that unless you make a firm commitment to swim to the other side, or to the other headland, or something, there's nowhere to go. So I just went up and down a few times, then went out, then up and down again, then out, and so on. I felt incredibly content. Going nowhere in the best sense. Even with strong breaststroke, nothing came discernibly closer. A common tern skimmed the water for fish, contrasting with the chunky 1970s oblong houses descending the hillside behind. Czech Country and Western songs floated across the water from the hotel.