Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Three Aspects of Petrin Hill

[Note: click on any of the photos for a larger version]

I'm back in Prague again and lucky enough to be staying near Petrin Hill. In 2009 I walked this hill many times, and I posted my experiences here and here. I already know what a pleasure it is to walk in the park, and I don't need to be reminded how important it is to spend time in the natural world. But because nature is under threat in so many different ways, it's obvious that some people need more reasons to care. I followed with interest in May as media personality and environmental activist David Suzuki launched his 30 by 30 challenge, designed to encourage more Canadian people to spend  time in the natural world. People were encouraged to spend 30 minutes/day in a natural setting over a period of 30 days, and Suzuki gave compelling reasons to participate in the program. This infographic contains some stunning statistics, including the fact that North Americans spend 95% of their time indoors or in a vehicle, so people are rarely outdoors anymore. How can we care about what we don't know? Suzuki also makes a convincing argument that connecting with nature is good for our mental and physical well-being.

I have neglected this blog since our last trip to Prague in 2011, but I want to do some postings about Petrin because it's such a diverse and beautiful place. I'm convinced that it doesn't take a back-packing trip into the wilderness to give a person a sensitive appreciation of nature. Public parks and gardens play a very important role in letting people know how beautiful the natural world can be and how we can benefit from our time there. And one of the reasons I love Petrin so much is that it's a remarkable amalgam of parkland, garden, and wildland. Though no substitute for a protected wilderness area, places like Petrin are an important addition to urban life. And in Prague so many people spend time there -- to relax, to walk dogs, to exercise, or just to sit on a bench and read. I'm glad I'm able to join them.

On Sunday Greg and I took a walk on Petrin that we've only taken once before (in March 2009). We visited the Carpathian Church of St. Archangel Michael again. Here's a view of the church from the back.
The last time I walked this way the weather was cold and rainy, but Sunday was a warm sunny day. The manicured waterways had small hanging gardens beside them:
And at the top of the hill there were roses blooming:

The next day I took a walk on the north side of Petrin with the intention of looking at wildflowers. Swallows were flying over my head, screaming after insects, and blackbirds were singing sweetly. As an example of the way the natural and the domesticated mingle together in the park, I found wild strawberries growing among the ivy:
I chose a path that was bordered by grass and wildflowers. Ahead of me was a typical postcard view of Prague:
Behind me was the park, deeply green and filled with birdsong:
Nearby there were apple trees and pear trees, with young fruit growing:
And yet I still found native plants and insects in the grass that was humming with life. Bees everywhere:
Here's another view of cranesbill, which is a native plant:

Beetle in the burdock:
A strangely split tree:
And even the much-maligned bindweed was looking lovely:
Petrin is a park, a garden, and a nature preserve, and it's always excellent at whatever it does.

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