Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Soaking in the Splendor of Sněžka

Our journey to the highest peak in the Czech Republic was preceded by a full week of meetings in Prague, and concluded with one of the most unique and outrageous experiences that most people in North America have likely never heard of. An experience which some would only imagine in their dreams.

Before I get to the outrageous experience, business first. The entire reason for our trip to Eastern Europe (including our tour of Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Montenegro) was to visit the Czech Republic, the homeland of both of my parents. My grandparents had some real estate interests in Prague which were passed on to my dad and his siblings. As a result of my dad‘s passing last summer I joined my aunt and uncle to sort out and help manage some of these matters. Along the way I got to meet some second cousins, longtime family friends and even the Portuguese Ambassador to the Czech Republic! Czechs are of course passionate about their Pilsner, so as not to offend any of our guests at dinner meetings all week I was obliged to drink my share!
Once the meetings were all complete on Friday, my uncle Ian, Denise and I headed 2 1/2 hours north to the Krkonoše Mountains, the “Giant Mountains” which aren’t very giant at all. Sněžka, meaning the Snowy One is the highest in the country at a whopping 5,260 feet. Pec pod Sněžkou is a quaint resort village at the base of the mountain which could easily be mistaken for a scenic alpine retreat in the Swiss or Austrian Alps. We tested the limits of our Czech-made Škoda rental car by driving all the way up a steep single lane road in first gear, and then checked in to the Hotel Emerich. Not only did it have stunning views and excellent service, in the winter the hotel is only accessible by snowcat and sits in the middle of the ski runs. Our kind of place! 
View from the deck at Hotel Emerich with Pec pod Sněžkou below and Sněžka peak on the horizon (right).
The next morning Ian, Denise and I met our Prague accountant, Pavel Kuře who joined for the hike along with his family and two-year-old son on his back. We also met our friends Eva and Antoine who we got to know last year in Vietnam climbing Fan Si Pan (Good Morning Vietnam blog post).
Together we all had a pleasant walk socializing as we hiked up an easy path to the summit. Along the way we crossed the border into Poland for a short while and before we knew it, in less than three hours we were at the top. 
With Eva Beranova and Antoine Kermarec
Pavel Kuře with one of the Sněžka Sherpa Cup competitors carrying 132 lbs on his back.
It was great fun to cheer along the strong and determined Czechs who were reaching the summit finish line of the annual Sněžka Sherpa Cup. Some of the participants hauled 60 kg loads (132 lbs) all the way from the base almost 3,000 vertical feet below. Their reward: a shot of Slivovice (Czech plum brandy, or as I refer to it “devil water”). Next year maybe we’ll have to sponsor a team of our Sherpa friends from Nepal and see what happens! At least we know the big Czech guys will be sure to win any drinking competitions afterwards.
June 8th at the summit of Sněžka, the highest peak in the Czech Republic.
Speaking of which, we are finally now at the point where we had our most unique and outrageous experience which was definitely one for the memory books. Upon completing an 11-mile loop over the course of seven hours, we returned to the trailhead area and the Pecky Pivovar brewery. About a year and a half ago the brewery decided some of its patrons might enjoy (perhaps ecstatically) the idea of soaking their entire body in a beer jacuzzi! So they built a beer spa, adjacent to the big brew tanks where weary skiers and Sněžka hikers like us can rejuvenate their bodies in a jetted tub of warm beer. It even has a self-serve tap to supply copious amounts of cold beer to the inside of the body for a full restorative effect! 
After a day of hiking, toasting our Sněžka summit in a tub full of Czech beer!
Forget Prague Castle and the Charles Bridge, the beer spa at Pecky Pivovar in Pec pod Sněžkou is reason alone for a trip to the Czech Republic! I am proud of my people for bringing into existence this great contribution to human happiness. ...and I suspect it would also bring a smile to my dad’s face if he could see us enjoying the fun!

1 comment:

D. Balding said...

Thanks. Always enjoy your sharing your experiences.