Soon we started our expedition around the lake and set off as planned. The water was a pleasant turquoise, crystal clear and full of lazy fish confidently resting under the shade of the trees and presumably appreciating the fact that fishing here is strictly forbidden.
After only a short while we came across a water park and lido that restricted access to the shoreline, which was a shame but different people like different things I suppose and we cannot always have everything exactly the way that we like them. Actually the water park wasn’t very busy at all so perhaps not a lot of people like it that way at after all.
As the path went back to the shoreline our attention returned to the lake. Quite by chance we spotted something unusual sitting on a rock by the side of the water and upon investigation were surprised to see a Red Eared Terrapin. I tried to get close but this just alarmed it and it jumped into the water and swam away. And then we saw another.
Red Eared Terrapins are not a natural species to Europe but have become common due to widespread release of imported pets by the public once it is realised that terrapins in captivity need a lot of looking after – they can live to over forty years and they are aggressive, give a painful bite, and become increasingly difficult and expensive to keep. After they are released into the wild they can grow quite large and can reach the size of a dinner plate and become a real nuisance, chomping their way through native species such as fish, newts, toads, frogs spawn, dragonfly larvae and, possibly, the occasional young duckling.
About half way around the lake we came across a man with rowing boats for hire who was taking care of a party of nuns who were negotiating a rental agreement and were making hard work of getting their seating arrangements organised inside the craft. This looked like fun and I was certain that they had little chance of making it to the island in the middle of the lake without capsizing the boat on the way and we watched in anticipation but were disappointed when they were joined by a burly man who clearly knew what he was doing and had the job of transporting them across. The water looked inviting so we decided that we would hire a boat too and follow them across to the island with the church.
It had been quite some time since I had been in charge of a boat and my rowing skills were a bit rusty when we cast off and I was called upon to negotiate our passage across the short distance to the island. Rowing can be quite a lot more difficult than it looks and I had some early problems coordinating the actions of left and right hand oars to keep us progressing in a straight line and with Kim in charge of plotting the course I had to make frequent adjustments to maintain the right direction. I found it most helpful however when she began to beat out the rowing tempo in the manner of a Roman galley slave-master but I was worried that I might not be able to cope physically if she decided to up the pace to Ben Hur ramming speed!
We reached the island without incident even though I was slightly concerned by the strange sloshing sound of running water at the back of the boat, I believe the correct nautical term is stern, and I began to worry for a moment that we were certain to take on water and capsize but a quick inspection after we had moored up and with some difficulty left the boat put my mind at rest that this was really quite normal.
There are ninety-nine steps to the church at the top of the island and there is a tradition that if a bridegroom can carry his bride to the top without either stopping for breath or complaining then the couple will enjoy a happy marriage. If you are tempted to try this super-human feat my then my advice is that you get engaged to a skinny girlfriend because these steps represent seriously hard work just to get yourself to the top without any unnecessary additional burden. Or perhaps this is simply designed to get you ready for married life!
The island was an interesting little stop-over, according to legend created as a punishment by God, who stopped by one day and was irritated to find his church full of cattle because the villages were suffering from the deadly sin of sloth and had become too lazy to watch over them and had left the church door open, so he made the lake so that in future they couldn’t get across to it. A nice story but in actual fact the lake is glacial and was formed at the end of the last ice age when water poured in behind the retreating ice.
We left the island and as Kim was convinced that rowing a boat was a straightforward process and that I was simply an incompetent oarsman so she decided to take responsibility for the return journey. She was no better than me of course but I didn’t complain because I was enjoying sitting back in boat enjoying the warm sunshine and the slightly curious meandering route back to the shore. She did however make a perfect docking procedure and we completed our walk around the lake stopping on route for a pizza and a beer at a bar with a raised terrace and a good view over the lake.