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Post details: Airshow on the River

Airshow on the River

Vltava is neither the longest, nor the widest Czech river. But it is certainly the most beloved one. Springing to life in the gently rolling Sumava Mountains, gathering its strength in idyllic countryside of Southern Bohemia, it passes through Prague as an elegant young lady. It is not a coincidence that one of the major Czech radio stations is named after her.

This Friday I went to Prague and with a friend of mine rented a rowing boat on a quiet stretch of Vltava between the Bridge of Legions and Charles' Bridge. From the river we could still see the ever-hustling world of taxi cabs, of crammed street cars, of people hurrying to their destinations. But that was part of the Dry Universe. We were now floating in the Wet Universe. Rowing at a safe distance from the weir at Novotneho Lavka, we could see mysterious and legend-ridden Kampa on our left, the National Theater on the right and straight ahead - the majestic Prague Castle presiding over a lava stream of tourists on the Charles Bridge. And we also saw an unusual construction protruding into the river from the Slavic Island. Some mischief was afoot.

Vltava loves to have boats launched on it. Much like any young lady that knows in which dress she looks best, it knows it looks best from a close up distance of water surface. Today, however, Vltava had different kinds of vessels launched on it. An elevated pier jutting from the Slavic Island turned out to be a venue for the Annual Airshow in which teams of amateur engineers, pranksters and jokers drove their preposterous winged contraptions off the pier's edge in the mock hope that they would fly the farthest for the prize of about $10,000.

Their creations, mostly made of carton and papiermache, were muscled up an inclined ramp and onto the launching pad. There each team had a short one minute show thematically tied to their vehicle. We saw soccer balls being kicked into the river, we saw a mock medieval melee, an army drill, scenes from famous movies etc. The captain then embarked, climbed onto, crawled into or was inserted into the flying monstrosity and the remaining members pushed him off the edge and into the river. The flight was brisk, downward directed and 10-15 meters long at best. After the flight, judges assigned points for artistic merit and divers retrieved the sunk debris. Vltava is fairly shallow here. The creativity of people, on the other hand, was unfathomable.

On regular days the most eccentric vessel Vltava sees is a steamboat called Klondike. Today Vltava saw a UFO, a chopper-apple, a flying steam engine locomotive, a Fantomas car, an Eiffel Tower, a soccer field, Jurassic Airlines featuring a pterodactyl, a Trabant (an infamous East German car) with wings, an F-16 Jetsam, a flying alarm clock, a model of shark, a Viking ship, numerous gliders and a head of Michael Jackson falling in less than graceful manner into its puzzled waters.

Rivers don't usually witness too many crash-landings. Vltava saw plenty today, and being the most beloved Czech river, it softened their impact the way no concrete runway would.



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