Monday, 25 April 2011

Zvikov to Pisek and the pull of the E10

With an extra day to recover it was an ideal weekend to get back on the road and get a few more kilometres of the E10 under the belt. I am following this European long-distance path on its route through the Czech Republic from Varnsdorf on the northern border with former East Germany and Vyssi Brod on the southern border with Austria. Now about 100km south of Prague, Saturday's stage took me from near Zvikov to Pisek (pronounced pea-sek).
Most of the weekenders had got away on Friday so the bus trip into Prague and out to Zvikov was reasonably quiet. The path took me immediately into the forest along the River Otava and the sounds, sights, smells, taste and feel of the place on this sky-blue, sunny morning welcomed me with open arms.
As I walked my mind slipped back into the groove of this walk, time away from home and working life. The sight of the signpost had prompted thoughts of what has happened in my life since I have been following the E10 when I started on that first stage from Varnsdorf back in May 2004. I've dabbled in other work but drifted back to teaching; in my more negative moments I would say that is because I follow the old adage, "Those who can do and those who can't teach". Blogging has taught me to be more positive, there is a pull towards this work and I have something to offer if I choose to listen to feedback offered to me.
Since the last stage I have had some back trouble so I was keen to see how this has affected my performance. Physically it has slowed me down and I get tired quicker but mentally I am more determined than ever to finish it. I learnt on this stage that a plodding approach can be just as effective as running at what lies in front of us and is certainly more invincible when you are tiring. With this thought I found myself at  Krkavci Skala (Raven's Rock) overlooking a smaller river, the Lomnice, which the path follows upstream to cross.

After this I lost the path for a while and then when I finally came across the red stripe reassuring me I was back on track, I had to walk a little way in each direction before working out which way I should be heading. This area is renowned as resistance territory during WW2; according to the map I passed near to a monument to a group of partisans executed here in May 1945 but it proved as illusive as the trail in places.
The path made its way down to the river's edge and continued upstream to a recreation centre built during the communist era. Many organisations had these centres for their employees and families, a pity that most have been thrown out with the dirty bathwater of those years.
After cooling my feet in the water at the river crossing I set off for Nova Vraz in search of some lunch but was out of luck; the village formerly boasted 3 pubs but all have closed. So, I made do with the sandwiches I had and made my way around the large fishpond on the east end of the village and headed back towards the Otava river passing a stone quarry on the way.
The path followed the river for less than a mile before climbing steeply up between the trees again. Plodding now kept me going, slowly but surer than ever; I was going to get , not only to Pisek, but one day also to the Austrian border. I thought why I am doing this; not questioning whether I should be, there is no question whether I should, I belong there, I have to do it. I will return to this on later stages for sure; it may be just sheer unadulterated cussedness, possibly escapism but there is certainly self-realisation in there. What exactly I mean by that there will be plenty of time to ponder if I continue to plod at this speed.
Finally, after climbing to this view of the river near Koblya, I returned to the banks of the river and found a wonderful small pub at the weir, Plynova Lavka. To my surprise I wasn't hungry, my needs amply satisfied by a plate of garlic and potato soup and 2 glasses of (non-alchoholic) beer. The final 5km of the path into Pisek followed the left bank of the river with the right bank carrying a cycle track, well-used this sunny Easter Saturday afternoon.
Pisek is a wonderful old town with a stone bridge older than the Charles Bridge in Prague, visted by millions each year. There are buildings of every style, from gothic to present day. I will return to pay it the attention it deserves but on Saturday I headed for the bus station for the return journey.

Monday, 18 April 2011

On Blogging

I have frequented the bloggersphere for somethiong less than 18 months. I entered very dubiously; questions of privacy; don`t talk to strangers; it will be addictive; it will take over my life and so on ...
In this time, dabbling on the edge of whatever the bloggersphere is  and producing the occasional post,  I have "met" some wonderful people also experimenting with both the self-expression and communication which this medium offers. I thank you all for the richness of your variety and individuality. You have given me much to think about, to be grateful for; much to inspire me and to pass on in some form to others I meet in everyday life.
Now just suppose one day I really met some of the characters that I have "met"  in the bloggersphere. What would that day be like?

GRIZ (of RIVERDAZE): would be there in the steel cold of dawn. Cradling a large mug of freshly-brewed coffee, he would remind me that my day ahead is a unique personal gift; only I can decide how to use the possibilities that its ups and downs will offer me. So what else to do except head out with Lady, enthusiastic as ever to show me what the world has to offer.

SOLITARY WALKER: would stride up behind me, and in the brief encounter he would enrich our conversation on something we are observing with references to works of literature that I would make a mental note of looking up later. Our conversation will go deep but be made all the more special by its seasoning with humour.

GAIL: I would encounter somewhere surrounded by flowers. I can't imagine it any other way because it is Gail who has taught me to seek out and appreciate the flowers in life, whatever the season.

GEORGE: would walk directly beside me, giving me his full attention, patiently explaining the point he was making. If he sensed he was exceeding my speed limit, either in his explanation or in his walking, he would slow down to accommodate me. That's George, he is not a person to take advantage.

FRIKO: would naturally have Benno with her. He would be in deep active dog conversation with Lady while I listened intently to Friko relating one of her stories that she tells so well. It is clear that I am not alone in being enthralled by her mastery of the blogging medium.

WEAVER: would call me over to look at something she was eagerly examining in a hedgerow. I feel her excitement in sharing her observations and her quiet wisdom soundly built on an enthusiasm for anything natural.

JULIE (of FOREST POPPY): is someone I "meet" less often these days; but I feel some empathy as she started her blog about the same  time as me. If I met her on this day, we would exchange a few brief words, she would have one eye on the children and dogs with her and they would be off; a trail of positive feeling in their wake.

There are others who I have "crossed paths with"; there are others I will "talk with" more  in the future. I have just dipped my toe in the ocean of blogging and I haven't drowned yet, thank you.







Thursday, 14 April 2011

The Fog of Spring

April brings with it a dramatic change in tempo. What has been idle for so many months springs to life. The whole world changes; it takes on a new appearance, a new feel.
Sometimes it seems too much; it is so easy to be overwhelmed by it all as I try to make something out of the blur in front of me. Somewhere in there is life, the future; I must step into it although I will be bowled over and washed along by it gasping for breath.
I want to know more of the meaning of this and my relevance to it all. It is hard to accept that were such questions answered I would not comprehend. The only hope is to venture in, but in the confusion it will operate differently. There, life will question me and my responses will help me towards some understanding.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Coffee flavoured contemplation

After a sunny weekend when temperature records around the country were falling like flies, the Monday morning air is full of heavy warm dampness and my soul is of a similar disposition. Here I am sitting in a café, a cup of coffee adequate company for my thoughts.


Misleadingly, Czechs call their standard coffee "Turkish". Usually served in a thick glass cup, it is made by pouring boiling water onto 2 or 3 heaped teaspoonfuls of coffee grounds; repeated tips of the kettle aiding and abetting the water to penetrate the muddy mixture forming at the bottom of the cup. Briefly stir and add any milk and sugar required at this stage and then remove the spoon. Do not attempt to drink yet, it is necessary to wait patiently until the larger particles have drifted back down to the murky depths. It will never settle completely but eventually it can be sampled; it should have a powdery feel as pushed up to the roof of the mouth with the tongue. Slowly sip and savour, both coffee and thoughts until just before reaching the residue at the bottom; large uneven particles lodging themselves between your teeth ruins the effect entirely. Playing with the centimetre or so of remains in the bottom of the cup with the spoon is not compulsory but many find it an ideal culmination to the encounter.


Now with coffee drunk and thoughts thunk another week can be faced with life in proper perspective.