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Skiing in the Eagle Mountains


Though we hadn't planned it, yesterday we spent a beautiful afternoon cross-country skiing in the Eagle Mountains (Orlické hory) of Eastern Bohemia. This actually started as a continuation of the heritage tourism. Just a few kilometers down the road is Pěčín, the village where my Mom's great-grandfather (probably) lived with his family. He decided to take his family to Iowa at some point in the late-nineteenth century. Fortunately his grandchildren and great-grandchildren got smart and moved to California, Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, and other nice places with more interesting landscapes and weather, but less corn farming. A few people from the family have come back to see the area and we have a smattering of photos and accounts dating from 1972, 1976, and 2002. Unlike my in my stepdad's family, we don't know of any living relatives—or at least, no one in our family has kept in touch with anyone here or visited them for at least thirty years. I was content with driving around and not tiring my brain with translation of endless, multi-branched family trees, and so was everyone else.

There is only a three-bed pension (as far as we could tell) in Pěčín, according to the town's webpage. They don't seem to expect guests since we didn't see a single sign in the entire village with the word "pension." I guess it doesn't need a sign. You either know where it is and can stay there, or you don't. So after driving through the village on Tuesday night, we continued to Rokytnice v Orlických horách, a larger village down the road.

Fortunately this was a destination for skiers. Pěčín (and Rokytnice) are at the southern edge of a national nature reserve of the Eagle Mountains, designated in 1969. The reserve is on the Czech-Polish border and is intended to preserve the unique wildlife and ecosystems. The mountains are beautiful and many groomed ski trails are available for skiers who care to find them. This meant that there were a few pensions in Rokytnice. We stopped at Rampušák, the first one we saw on the village square. It is named after a legendary wanderer from the area – he was depicted in the 'lobby' as a bearded, pipe-smoking, felt-overcoat-wearing wildman. We were greeted by a very nice hostess and host who said we could stay the night, breakfast included!! We ended up staying two nights—the bathrooms had heated floors and the breakfasts were hearty, who could say no?

We departed from pension Rampušák on Wednesday morning with the intent to rent skis and tour the area on our own. We rented skis at a little sports store down the street. Then we climbed the village ski hill (a very short one) to find the groomed ski trail at the top. Everything was in dense fog. There is a curious and dramatic phenomena of inversion weather here, which has plunged the lower elevations here in fog for the last few days. Fortunately, the fog cleared to reveal gorgeous vistas of the surrounding mountains once we reached about 650 meters above sea level.

I didn't keep track of the exact statistics, but my estimates indicate that we undertook a demanding ski. We went at least 15 kilometers, probably more. In the course of the day we went up at least 400 meters in elevation – Rokytnice is at about 550 meters above sea level (in the foothills of the mountains), and the pass below Anenský vrch (the highest point we reached) was about elevation 950. We saw about ten World War II-era pillboxes and border-guarding posts (probably built by interwar Czechoslovakia and used by the Germans). We were accosted by inebriated Czech youths who were hiking on the ski trail, but we escaped with only one or two required shots of slivovice.

Other winter activity of late includes: Julia's mention of her New Year's resolution to attempt winter sports and report on ice-skating; the unsuccessful "ski" trip with Karla to Ždár nad Sázavou.

Comments:

Blogger Karla said . . .

Is there also downhill skiing there?    

10:42 AM, February 03, 2006


Anonymous Jesse said . . .

Yes, we didn't have the time to do it, but we saw at least two areas (one very tiny and one with about three lifts). They are not huge mountains, but it was very picturesque and not overrun with skiers. There is a website for the mountains, and one for the Říčky area.    

8:27 PM, February 03, 2006


Blogger Julia said . . .

Sounds like a great experience - we've been in the area many times in the summer, but never in the winter. How hard were the inclines to negotiate?    

9:34 PM, February 03, 2006


Blogger Karla said . . .

It sounds worth a trÿ. Well--when we recover from the Fulbright conference. Maybe a suitable place to try Dawn's suggested retreat for syllabus-writing.    

9:50 PM, February 03, 2006


Anonymous Jesse said . . .

The inclines weren't bad. Most of the trail was marked 'easy' or 'intermediate'. However, there were two spots that were steady, long hills and these got a bit tiring. The rest of the ski was on a gentle slope. The best part was that it was up on the way out, and down all the way home.

The village was cozy so it would be an appropriate retreat spot. Since these aren't the big areas there were only a few skiers (at least during the week when we were there).    

5:52 PM, February 05, 2006


Blogger Karla said . . .

There was nice fluffy snow in Prague today, but no skiing to the library. Your readers are getting impatient and hope you have not worn out your brain translating again after the conference!    

8:24 PM, February 11, 2006


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