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holidays

Sweet

Everything is covered
What will soon be a delight
Hot oven smells like heaven
Don't forget about the contents
White dust on your hands
Lick those fingers clean
Do I have to wait?
I want them now!

Words © Neil Hayes and neilhayeswrites

Discovering Krkonoše National Park, The Czech Republic

I have visited this National Park several times and, having lived in the Czech Republic for more than a decade, thought I knew what to expect of it. But a recent family trip proved to me how wrong I was.

Located along the northern Czech border with Poland, the Krkonoše National Park is one of the most famous and popular in this country. Containing the countries highest peak, Sněžka, it has a stunning collection of ski resorts, hiking and walking trails, as well as beautiful nature everywhere you look.

Now, I am not much of a hiker, my dodgy knees make me wary of getting too high as coming down is a jarring experience. Due to this I have never been to the peak of the highest mountain, so I had never experienced the difference in nature which the higher reaches of this mountain range contain. But a recent family trip, and a small improvement in my fitness, recently changed that.

We still did not visit the peak itself but stayed in a small skiing village, called Rokytnice nad Jizerou, for one week and enjoyed day trips in the surrounding mountains. Now they may not have been the highest, but they were high enough. And since our holiday took place during the recent European heat wave, it was fairly hard work every day. Hard work, but so satisfying. Physical exercise, beautiful nature and plenty of fresh air.

As I said, it was a family trip and we were all kitted out with our Camelbaks. Carrying 9 litres of water, between us, just about covered our needs for the day. But the best item we carried had to be our micro towels, nice and cooling when wet, they proved to have great recuperative powers, for both the children as well as my wife and I.

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So what is so different about the nature? At the higher altitudes, the dense pine forests disappear and are replaced by sparse Scandinavian style nature. Low-growing trees, which look more like bushes, and space. There is much more space, if you can get away from the crowds. But that is relatively easy. There are some very popular trails, like going to the source of the Elbe, or Labe in the Czech language. But if you take a different route back you will be on your own in no time.

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There are also many mountain chalets located throughout this area. Places to stop, take a break and buy some food and drink. If you are Czech this will probably mean a beer, but until I finish the day I stick to the water myself. Some of these chalets can be surprisingly large and offer a bit of fun for the kids too, they never lack in energy of course.

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At the end of the week, I was happy to get home and rest my legs. But this was definitely one of the most enjoyable holidays I have had. A special mention should go to Hotel Helena, where we stayed. Returning there every day, where the kids could keep jumping and playing and my wife and I could collapse for a while, was a pleasure. This small hotel has good facilities and the food was excellent. Breakfast, a snack for the day and dinner were all included in the price. There was plenty of it and every meal was delicious. Oh and, of course, the beer was cold and refreshing too. Even more so than dipping your toes in one of the local streams.

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© Neil Hayes and neilsworldofenglish

Season’s Greetings

Sunday was cold, really cold. When the wind blew, it blew straight through you. But it was the perfect day for a family walk to the Christmas Markets. It’s just not the same, if it’s not cold. So with the temperature hovering just above zero, off we went.

First, walking next to the river, the children playing and being cheeky. Not too cold yet, it was still light at this stage. But you could feel it coming. As we walked, the occasional gust would give us a shiver and make us glad of all the layers which we were wearing.

The closer we got to the town centre, the more the festive spirit grew. We started to see decorations, on lamp posts and bridges. And more people, not too crowded yet but others heading in the same direction as us. Our children were getting more excited. They had some money from their piggy banks to spend, their own choice, what would it be?

As we approached the markets themselves we could see the crowds, not too many people, but enough. Stalls containing all the usual goods. Hot wine, to warm my cockles, food both hot and cold. Seasonal decorations and gifts for all ages. Songs were being sung, children were dancing and the excitement of the season was upon us.

And then for the walk home. Via the old square and it’s Christmas tree, a beautiful sight standing next to the historical buildings contained there. Could the children make it? Both tired and cold now, but of course they could. Then, it was so nice to get home and begin to thaw out. And after dinner, some traditional Christmas biscuits and a cup of tea. Perfect.

© Neil Hayes and neilsworldofenglish

Too Soon?

Letters have been written and collected. Requests made and dreams are being dreamed. Excitement is building, it can’t come soon enough. Traditional songs are being played, an atmosphere like no other time of year. Too early? If you love Christmas, can it ever be too early?

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© Neil Hayes and neilsworldofenglish

The Beach – Barry Island

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There have been many fun days during this summer. Lots of interesting places, chances to both play and relax. But one day stands out, our trip to the Welsh seaside.

My family and I live in the Czech Republic which, if you don’t know, is a landlocked country. No sea or ocean. Lots of lakes, where many Czech people spend their summers, but it’s not quite the same.

My children love water and sand, so this day in Wales was a rare opportunity for them. And the weather gods were kind to us, for once. It was a beautiful, warm, sunny day. The weather, in Wales, is inconsistent. That’s the nicest way I can put it. So when the sun shines, you have to take advantage of it.

So, we decided on a visit to Barry Island. Located in South Wales, near the capital city of Cardiff, this is a famous summertime destination in Wales. It has lovely beaches, as well as a small fun park and everything that a British seaside town usually boasts. Penny arcades, fish and chips, ice cream and seagulls to try and steal your prized treats.

But, of course, the best thing about any family day out are the smiles on the children’s faces. The excitement you can feel from them, when they are doing something new or different to the normal. Swimming in the sea and building enormous sandcastles, with my wife’s help. Looking through rock pools, in search of aquatic life. Being a child at the beach, that was my childhood in Wales.

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For my kids, it is an occasional treat, but life in the Czech Republic has many compensations for the missing beaches, so they don’t miss out on much. And we crammed a lot into our few hours on Barry Island. They had the time of their lives, got some sun and filled their bellies. And even had time for a bit of rugby practice.

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© Neil Hayes and neilsworldofenglish

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