Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Very Czech Easter in the Mountains

For Easter I was lucky enough to end up with a four-day weekend and an invitation to go with some friends to a cottage in the mountains. 

The cottage in the middle. -photo courtesy of Vlasta
I have to admit a few things here. I was hesitant to go at first. The American professional in me shys away from weekend-long stays with clients. However, I was itching to get out of the city. I just needed a bit of a break from Prague. Besides, I hang out with these guys all the time in Prague, why not outside the city?

So Friday morning we met early and headed out to Josefův Důl, a little village north of Prague not very far from the Polish border. It wasn't until this weekend that I realized just how small the Czech Republic is and how close all the surrounding countries are. 

We stopped off in Liberec for some grocery shopping. Let me tell you, grocery shopping with Czech men in their 20s is kind of hilarious. Let's buy three different kinds of bread, some coffee, some chips, a case of beer, and a liter of Captain Morgan. Who needs vegetables or fruit? 

I insisted on some apples, of which I only ate one by the end of the weekend...

So the boys and I loaded up the car and headed to the cottage where we met up with one of their girlfriends and her dad. It's her family's cottage and they were kind enough to let us stay there all weekend. 

Her dad was there doing some last minute touch-up and also making lunch. Best. Lunch. Ever.

There was ham, potato knedliky (dumpings), nadivka (a Czech stuffing which was freaking amazing) and spinach. I ate until I just couldn't eat anymore. I was so stuffed. But, alas, we were on a vacation in the mountains and there would be plenty of time later to sit around and do nothing, so we went walking about.

It was so nice to be out and about surrounded by trees and hills and breathing fresh air. It was hilarious to be outside of Prague and essentially on a pub crawl.

See, this is how Czechs hike: Go to a pub, have a beer. Walk about "in the nature" for a bit. Stop for another beer. Repeat.

Don't fall in.

I kind of like hiking with the Czechs, though I did wuss it up a bit and brought along my water bottle to ward off possibly dehydration. 

We ended up only going to two pubs and hardly getting any hiking done as one of the boys managed to get his shoes soaking wet when trying to cross a stream. Whoops. 

Who needs shoes anyway?

No worries, it had already been quite a long day. So we had dinner and called an end to the day.

Saturday was a much longer day. Unfortunately, girl friend got sick so she couldn't go with us, but the boys and I went on a super long hike and saw some amazing countryside. Trips like this always replenish my love of living abroad. Just when it starts to get a tiny bit redundant, you find something new.

So we walked. We stopped at a pub. We walked up hill. We climbed up a hill. And the took pictures of this.

Josefuv Dul Reservoir

Well if that doesn't make you love this place I don't know what will. Maybe this view?

-photo courtesy of Vlasta

We continued around the reservoir in search of a small tower in Kralov. We found a tiny bit of snow.
I think he's anti-shoes. :) -photo courtesy of Vlasta

We stopped and ate gulaš and had another beer. (Because what else do you drink with gulaš?) 

Mmmm. -photo courtesy of Vlasta

Then we found a lot of snow

Are those sand traps or snow? -photo courtesy of Vlasta

Well, a lot relative to the fact that it's late April. We made a snowman, of course.

Tiny snowman! -photo courtesy of Vlasta

Then we walked through the forest. Found a tiny baby snake. Got lost.
Follow these signs to not get lost... 

Saw some horses. Looked out over the hills. Drank some cider. Thought we figured out where we were. Got lost again. Saw a pub and gave up on finding where we were for the time being.

Stopped at the pub and chatted with an elderly Czech couple and another couple - a Czech woman and a Dutch man. (Well, the boys chatted, I watched and listened and challenged myself to see which parts of the conversation I could figure out.)

Somehow ended up drinking some Czech liqueur made with eggs. I have no idea what it's called. But it was sweet. And pretty tasty.

Somehow, we figure out where we were and ended up on the ski slope above the cottage where we laid in the grass and caught the last bit of the sun before it went down.

Overall, it was a great hike. I'm not positive how far we went, but I know we were gone around nine hours. 

Saturday night, we watched movies, played games and, you guessed it, drank. But we were so exhausted that we passed out early.

Sunday was a chill morning and then we went to Ještěd in the afternoon.

Martian baby?
Ještěd is basically one of the tallest spots in the Czech Republic and affords some beautiful views of the mountains and surrounding villages. The place took eight years to build back in the '60s and '70s. The whole place is very retro and gives off the vibe of the future as people imagined it in the '70s. It's pretty funny.

Either way though, there were some amazing pictures to be taken many of which I've already posted on Eyes of a Traveling Texan.  

Aren't they an adorable couple?

Sunday night we watched more movies and got warm after being up on the windy top of the mountain. 

It was another relatively early night.

All weekend I had been anxious about Monday. Given the Monday is the true Easter holiday, this is when traditions of most culture take root. In America we do the Easter egg hunt and have a big dinner. Little kids run around in adorable new outfits. We enjoy the Spring of it all. 

In the Czech Republic, men beat women with pomlázka and women respond by given them anything from candy to painted eggs to shots of alcohol. Wait, let me explain.
Pomlázka of all sizes.

According to Czech tradition, men create pomlázka using willow branches. They're essentially twigs  intertwined and braided to create a whip. They vary in length and are generally fairly pliable. The boys (and men) would go door-to-door whipping women's legs. Pomlázka comes from the word pomladit which means "to make younger." This whole beating process is supposed to be good for the women's health and preserve their youth. I'm not so convinced. 

In appreciation for the good health, girls and women would give men some token of appreciation, be it cookies, candy, intricately painted eggs or alcohol. This is the morning tradition.

Then after noon it's the boys turn to get some good health wishes. 

Women are to run around dousing them with water. As far as I know, there's no response or token of appreciation given. Men don't appreciate health. 
Anyway, I only knew a bit about this tradition and personally wasn't all that excited about getting beaten Monday morning. Luckily, the boys either forgot or thought better of it so I didn't have anything to worry about. Hopefully my health and youth won't suffer now.

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