Shining down, reflecting up. I am in the middle, sizzling on the outside, cooked to the core. Wishing to be submerged, floating under the surface. Breathe, breathe, lungs on fire. Just stop, don't move, it will pass.
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.
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.
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.
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.
So Summer finally began. Sun, heat and fun. It’s all been pretty hectic so far, and there is still more to come. Excellent!
I will be writing, in more detail, about my family’s trip to the UK. But, for now, our trip was divided into two parts. Portsmouth in England, and then Wales.
First of all I have to say that Portsmouth was awesome. Two nights was just not enough, even for the historical dockyard. You could not imagine a place so full of history, so much to see, so little time. Historical ships, museums, hands-on exhibits and even an action centre to use up some of the kids excess energy. The city itself is a mixture of the old and the new. Historic buildings, quite often pubs, for the old and a modern shopping and entertainment complex for the young and the young at heart.
And then on to Wales, home. We spent more time in Wales. My nephew got married, we went to the beach, and then it rained. But that was no big deal, we were tired and just happy to spend time with family. And the Welsh countryside was, as usual, just stunning. If you want lush green rolling hills then this is the place, but you need a bit of rain to produce this combination. So, if it rains while you are there, bad luck. All you can do is pray that it stops, and then what you see will have been worth it.
This was the major holiday of the summer, so there were plenty of special moments to speak of in more detail. I will get to that soon, for now these two pictures tell the story so far.
Summertime aromas, drifting through the air. Juices dripping and sizzling on the coals. Laughter and joy, carried on the gentle, warm breeze. Steaks, cooked to perfection. Crisp, colourful salads. Ice cold beer. Exhausted, but happy children. The journey home. Reflection. Good times.