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The Curious Japanese Garden South of Prague

The huge gold fish swam in the pond before us. It was teeming with them, the fish climbing over each other to get a breath of air, or to get out of the water, or who knows what they were after.

“If the fish jump up the little waterfall,” my friend said, “And through the gate, then they’ll become huge dragons." She was translating for us. Explaining the myth of the pond was an old Czech lady, the owner of the house slash Japanese garden.

"Do the fish know that?" I asked.

My friend didn’t really understand my question, but she translated it anyway.

“No,” the lady replied, also feeling my question was a bit strange.

“Then how would they know to jump up the waterfall? Why would they ever try it? I think if I were one of those fish, I’d appreciate that knowledge, even if it’s quite impossible to jump up the waterfall. At least there’s something to live for,” I said to myself.

the goldfish pond and the magic gate the left

It was a beautiful place, a weird place. My friend lived out in the village of Olesko, just south of Prague. Olesko is a beautiful village that follows a ridge overlooking the Vltava river. The village is mostly just big summer houses for Praguers, scattered through a thick forest. The summer house is an important thing throughout European culture, a way to get out and get a breath of fresh air, away from the crowded city.

the view from a beer drinking ridge

Just down the dirt road from her forest home was a Japanese Garden. Some time ago, two quite rich Czechs moved there, built a mansion, and developed a healthy obsession with bonsai. The obsession would turn into a full blown Japanese garden, which became something of their retirement job, where they’d take care of the garden and then charge entry for tourists, and give them a tour of what a traditional garden in Japan might look like (I say might as I have no idea if it’s accurate, our Japanese friend who was with us said it was at least).

When we got there, there was some confusion. We were waiting outside the fence in the road. Our friend pressed on the buzzer and had a short talk. Nothing really came from it. She had called them earlier and told them we were coming, and now we were told to wait in the road. Some people came out so we walked in and waited inside, out of the dust, and feeling with a little bit more meaning and purpose. There was a very long driveway, lined with little bonsai trees on either side. There were two large houses, and to the left a Japanese style gate through which I supposed was the garden. There were a lot of people milling around, and clearly this was some sort of strangely popular thing for Czechs to do on the weekend.

the entrance of the gate

Then an angry old man approached us. This was starting to play out like a Japanese manga. “What are you doing here? Why are you here?” he was growling.

Our Czech friend replied, “We made a reservation, so we’re waiting for the tour.”

After the brief interview, I asked, “Do you know that guy?”

“Yeah, he’s our neighbor,” she said. “I told him we were coming, that we were here to take the tour. I don’t know what his problem is.”

It certainly didn’t seem like he knew her. I guess that's what bonsai does to someone.

Then a friendly old lady came up to us, all smiles and cheer. She started us on our tour, starting first at the Japanese gate. They close it every night because evil spirits would come in otherwise. Then upon entry through the gate, we had to follow the stone path going clockwise. Something again about evil spirits. The big dog that accompanied her didn’t seem to care much about evil spirits though, as he trotted around and plopped down wherever he had pleased.

no evil spirits be gettin into there!

one of many statues that adorned the garden

We came to an upper pond, which had a small stream run off from it that went to a waterfall and then down to the lower pond full of goldfish. Down there were a few shelves along the house wall, with some random but expensive looking souvenirs from Japan.

the upper pond

souvenirs and more souvenirs

When the tour was over, I was left a bit weirded out. I mean, the gardening was probably not that much more spectacular than many of the private yards that I’ve seen back in the States at richer homes, but I couldn’t imagine those people giving tours of their landscaping to people for a couple of dollars.

leading a tour

Was it worth a few dollars? I guess so. That’s all it cost. And it seems they’re at least paying for the upkeep of the garden with all the tours they were giving. Just very strange. One day I’m going to turn a room of my house into a magnet museum, so I can charge people entry to see all my magnets from all over the world. The Japanese garden is on Vltavksa 371 in Brezova-Olesko. Call Vaclav Wiesner at 602 315 658 or email him at They're also on Facebook. Reservations required and they don't speak English.

If you enjoyed reading and want more of Prague, then make sure to check out my latest relase, A Facetious Guide to Prague, available now on Amazon (in a couple of days on paperback, and on kindle in maybe a week!)

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