Contrasts – The Mountains & Berlin

Friday, June 18 -Krkonosy Narodni Park

The day I returned from Marianske Lazne, I drove with Ivo about 3 hours north of Prague to a mountain area adjacent to the Polish and German borders. This is one of two national parks in the Czech Republic and very popular for hiking, biking and skiing. The area was once the Sudetanland and German influences can be found everywhere, as well as German tourists. We joined Lanka and the kids who arrived earlier with Ivo’s mother Tanya. Our destination was a pension tucked away in a valley surrounded by old growth forest. The sign on the outside said a hunting lodge occupied the site since 1725. It was also the Stag Horn Tavern. Once we unloaded the vehicles, the park required them to be parked in the nearby town. The house had a cozy, warm feeling, rustic yet comfortable. The staff was friendly and efficient.

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Saturday we hiked after a big breakfast. Have I mentioned the breakfasts here? Hardy is a good word for them. Meat, cheese, bread or rolls, fruit, yogurt…you get the picture. Our hike followed the old path, no longer on the maps. For a good reason. We climbed a narrow winding path for about 1.5 hours, that included a marshy area and some bushwhacking. The parents with the boys in backpack carriers, the mom & me. It was beautiful, but not easy. Our destination was a café for coffee at the intersection of the main hiking routes. And the weather turned cold – low 40’s at the summit. The views were beautiful. Our real reward was a good lunch (aka dinner) at another guesthouse. From there we followed a road and a challenging forest path down the mountain and back to our house. We were gone 5 hours and covered 6 to 8 miles. People of all ages were out hiking and biking.

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Berlin, Germany

Monday morning I took a bus to Berlin. My plan was cheap transportation and accommodations. The 5 hour bus ride was about $120 roundtrip. I stayed in the 180 hostel for $30 per night. Great choice if you don’t mind sharing a room with 5 other people. My thinking was that I would be spending minimal time there for a two night stay. It worked out very well as my roommates were 4 20ish year old Swiss girls who went out each night around 10:30pm.I don’t know when they got in, but I left before they were up.

I chose to go to Berlin because in 1974 I studied German there for 3 weeks as part of a Marquette summer program. Of course, we stayed in West Berlin, but went to the East for museums, theater and opera. I was really curious to see the changes in the city after the wall came down. This time I stayed in the East end at Alexanderplatz. The city is amazing. Diverse, colorful, flowers, parks, tourist-friendly, great metro and tram system and lots of ENERGY. I took a hop on & off city bus tour to see everything. The English speaking guides were very informative. I spent time in the Holocaust Memorial & museum, Gendarmenmarkt, Charlottenburg Palace and the area around Alexanderplatz.

I also effectively wore myself out walking about 10 city miles in 3 days! There’s something about 9 hours of walking on pavement that’s exhausting. You also have to really watch out for the speeding cyclists. I’ve never seen a city with so many bicycles. You can rent them everywhere, but I’d be too afraid to ride in traffic, with or without the many bike lanes.My recovery time took 2 days. I talked with many English speakers and got to use my German, which was pretty funny.

My solo trip was great. Traveling alone is confidence-building. I like it because you get to do exactly what you want. It also forces me to push the envelope more & figure things out. Fortunately, I don’t mind getting a little lost sometimes.

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