Yesterday I got to go hiking in what is so far the most beautiful part of the Czech Republic I have seen. It was absolutely fantastic for this Colorado girl to finally head for the hills!
Seymour, Carole's dog, had apparently eaten some indigestible toy part and as a result has been very sick and ended up getting surgery two days ago, so Carole stayed at home and made sure he was ok. He is back to his normal perky self! She took me to the bus station which was just on the edge of town and sent me off!
It was nice to ride the bus and see the rolling farmland of the Czech countryside. Everything here is still pretty green, although signs of autumn are starting to become apparent. When I arrived I chatted briefly with some young Czech hikers, one spoke a little English and asked where I was going and explained they hoped to find a trail with less people. I can see why; the path I was on was gorgeous but I have never seen so many people on a trail, not even on Long's Peak! The cool thing was there were people of all ages hiking, from very little children to older people, scrambling (sometimes slowly) over rocks, logs and bridges.
Karlova Studanka is a beautiful little town that seems to be the jumping off point for many hikes in the area. It is known as a spa town because of its healing waters. There is a little gazebo with faucets in the middle so anyone can fill their water bottles with the water. I assumed it would just be nice clear spring water, but it was fairly carbonated and tasted metallic and strange at first, but I ended up quite enjoying the taste. Here's the gazebo:
I had my first real difficulty with the language barrier yesterday. I got off the bus and didn't really know where I was going, so logically I headed to the information center I had seen in town. I walked in and asked if they spoke English or Spanish and the two women shook their heads...uh oh. Well, here we go! I had seen the word "mapy" on the building so I asked for that and they lit up and showed me a really nice topo map of the area with all the trails. Then with hand motions and broken English I got directions to the trail. The road leading to it was absolutely packed with cars and there were large groups of people starting out on the trail. Nonetheless, the lush, forested trail wound delightfully next to a clear little stream through the forest. Sunlight filtered through and made the green moss seem almost electrified.
The trail was really cool, there were all kinds of ladders and wooden plank walkways in areas the canyon got very narrow and steep. I hiked alongside families and listened to them chatting in Czech and really wanted to be able to learn every single language on earth instantaneously.
As I climbed out of the canyon and higher onto the sides of the mountains, the forest looked more and more like CO. There was even a plant that looked like a species of Vaccinium (blueberry family), then a few minutes later I saw a bunch of kids picking berries and saying the word I saw on a blueberry yogurt drink in the store, so I went out on a limb and ate some too! Delicious!
I also saw a small bird playing in the stream that looked a lot like a dipper, but I wasn't sure until I was sitting quietly on a rock by the stream and watched it do the dipper dance! Then I saw a picture of it on an interpretive sign that was all in Czech so I took a photograph of the sign for Carole to interpret. Sure enough, I saw a Czech Dipper! Can you spot it in this picture? It has a white belly!
When I arrived at the top of the canyon the trail topped out a a ski area!!! There were lodges and restaurants with sunny decks to enjoy a nice lunch everywhere and even more people. I wandered through and back down a trail that paralleled the one I had taken up but was up higher on the side of the canyon wall and really reminded me of Colorado trails. When I got back to town I bought a delicious pastry and asked people where the lower parking lot was ("Autobus do Olomouc dolni parkavista?") and an old woman pointed me a few hundred yards down the parking lot I was standing in. Turns out "parkavista" means parking lot. Perfect. She then tried to explain something to me in Czech and I just said "Nemluvim Cesky" which means "I don't speak Czech" and she kept trying...I think she was telling me to make sure I didn't have to switch buses at a station but Carole had told me which bus to take directly to Olomouc, so I was good.
The bus was packed and I ended up standing an extra 2 hours on the bus, but I made it back! Carole had to unexpectedly move to a new flat last night so we took Seymour to the vet for a checkup (he's great!) and moved into her new spacious lovely flat! Now we're off to the preschool where she volunteers and will begin teaching karate.
Me on the packed bus