I spent hours on Saturday trying to get to the castle. Not Prague Castle, or even Vysehrad (which is meant to be lovely – let’s go in the spring), but a polystyrene castle on a ski slope in a tiny ski resort in the Jeseníky mountains, in northern Czech Republic. We spent a happy day snowboarding with the lovely girl who sits in the office next door to me at work. Lovely work-neighbour had found us a great deal www.slevomat.cz (which I think is the Czech equivalent to lastminute.com), which included transport, board hire and tuition for a very reasonable price.
Hubby can, in that irritatingly Alpha-male way, snowboard really well, despite having only gone about four times. This is in the same way that he can run really far with seemingly little effort, learnt how to drive in about 3 days (I had lessons for 14 months) and would know where he was on the map even if you air-dropped him blindfolded into a foreign land and spun him round for about an hour. Of course he can snowboard.
So hubby went off on the proper runs, stopping by the baby slope every now and then to see how I and nice-work-neighbour were getting on. And we were getting on just fine, albeit rather slowly. Snowboarding is tricky.
Our lovely instructor (Honza) was ever so patient and kept smiling even though the poor bloke must have been freezing cold and bored out of his brain. Nice-work-colleague and I spent the whole day on the baby slope, which could have been the blackest of all black runs as far as I was concerned. In the morning session we walked the 25 meters to the top of the slope (marked by a polystyrene penguin – seriously, this was a proper child slope, meant for children rather than fully grown but slightly incompetent adults) and tried (repeatedly) to get down to the polystyrene castle at the bottom. In one go. Without falling over.
I can’t bring myself to explain fully how disgracefully bad I was. The fact that I spent much of the day trying to just stand up and stay up was evidenced by the crippling pain I experienced the following day, in my arms and derriere. I displayed such poor coordination and balance that by the end of the day Honza looked amazed that I could actually walk properly.
I did make small steps/slides. After a hearty lunch (and some well-needed beer) I managed to turn right (not left – I think that will need to wait until another day) and also get within 10 ft of our end goal – the plastic castle at the bottom.
Nevertheless it was an amazing day out. Lovely to be outside in the snow and (some) sun, and to feel like I’d really earned lunch. Saturday was another foray into the world of Czech food – lunch was Smazeny Syr. This is apparently very typical and is essentially two 6 inch wedges of Edam cheese, covered in bread crumbs and deep-fried, served with chips and tartar sauce. It’s enough to give your doctor (or yourself) a heart attack. It was just the thing however, to warm us up after all that falling over in the snow, and the perfect accompaniment to the pints (sorry, I am European now, litres) of beer that we had.
This week has been slightly less outdoorsy, as in the new year of staying in and chilling out (see my post on new year’s resolutions) I have joined not one, but two, book groups. This means that although I am staying in this week, I am certainly not chilling out. With a total of 682 pages to read by the end of next week, I have a long way to go and am turning pages like a woman possessed.
One of the books I am reading is Vaclav Havel’s autobiography “To the Castle and Back”. For those of you not in the know, Havel was president of Czechoslovakia and of the nascent Czech Republic. He was a play-wright turned politician/freedom-fighter and effectively led Czechoslovakia out of communism and retained massive popularity in the CR from 1989 until he stepped down 14 years later. The book itself is written in a slightly peculiar way – less linear history and more fragmentary - dotting about all over the place. Nevertheless it’s really interesting and helpful to know a little more about the man and the country. From the cover you will see he is (or certainly was) as smoker, which is clearly why the people of Prague like him so much.
The reason I like him so much is that according to the title of his book, he managed to get to the Castle and back. On Saturday I couldn’t even get there in the first place.