Fall also brought with it hiking and carrying on. These happened just at the beginning and the end of Fall. I remember our first hike a few days after I arrived in the Czech Republic to Vsacky Cab in the hills above Vsetín. The hike seemed longer than it actually was and I was delighted when we turned the corner and saw the lodge through the trees. But I managed. I was determined not to be the wimp on the walk. That honor should go to someone else. But everyone seemed to be in shape and no complaints were registered. At times I thought I was either Meriwether Lewis or William Clark marching through the forest searching for the Columbia River, and at other times I thought that I really could use a walker. These people, my new found friends were healthy and in shape. I, on the other hand was neither. It would take some time to develop the stamina to climb town hall towers or to go on extended hikes. I guess if I had likened myself to either Lewis or Clark, we would have ended our journey at the St. Louis city limits. Thoughts of the Northwest passage would still be just a dream.
In October we had two hikes planned, the first was the Ghost Walk above the village of Jablůnka through a pitch black, rainy (and I’ll add creepy) Wallachian forest. We have haunted houses around Halloween here in the States that can scare us in a funny way, but this walk through the forest populated by demons and ghouls took the cake and scared the bejeebers out of me. I asked my friend why he didn’t bring his kid to this event and got the reply that it would give him nightmares. Him? I had nightmares! I still have nightmares and I’m home now. It was one of the scariest things I have ever experienced. First of all it was dark…like moonless dark, vampire dark, lost in a coal mine dark and I only had a flashlight. Then the rain started, adding a new layer of creepiness as I made my way through the brush trying not to get hit in the face with a low-lying branch or trip over a tree root. My glasses fogged up. Occasional screaming out of the dark added to the urgency that I really should have worn Depends. There were “stations” located here and there, lit by candles with various scary people with disgusting things in pots for the kids to handle. “Dead bodies” and zombies were scattered here and there. There was a sense of relief when we finally exited the forest and found ourselves in a normal residential neighborhood. My pants were wet but I wasn’t sure if it was from the rain or something else. Even though it wasn’t technically Halloween, it was really Halloween. And you know what? I’d do it again.
The second hike was also above Jablůnka but on the other side of the valley near Pržno. The goal was to reach a pub on top of another hill. I guess hills and hikes go together. One of my friends, Zuzka provided me with nordic walking sticks to help me navigate the ascent. They actually helped. It was kinda like skiing uphill without skis of course. The kids on the walk blew past me early on and left me in the dust but I soldiered on after being reassured that the pub we were aiming for was “just around the corner.” After many “just around” corners we did finally reached the summit and the pub. The food was great and the company even better. I had fallen so far behind I didn’t remember there were so many people on this walk. I had to re-introduce myself to the crowd. I forget what I had for lunch but I think I was just happy to sit down for a while and give my knee a rest.
Both of these October hikes into the “wilderness” of Southern Moravia gave me an appreciation of just how beautiful this country really is. As time went on it only got more beautiful if that is all possible. As many of you know, I am not what you would call an “athletic” type person. Coming from car-loving California I would drive two blocks to the language school here in Menlo Park. How sad is that?? But now, here I was a world away from my CRV hiking through forests and hillsides with friends sampling unusual and unfamiliar foods and feeling more than just ok about it. I know I could have passed on all of these walking adventures, but I also know I would have regretted it in the long run. Each hiking event was a challenge and I surprised myself by not giving up. Of course, hiking with friends and having casual conversations along the way made the difference. Sharing a meal and laughs was more than worth it. I had arrived.
(coming soon, Part 3 of Fall and Winter)
and so it went…