30
Jul 11

A wedding in the Czech Republic

Over the weekend, we headed over to the Czech Republic for a beautiful Czech wedding. Gina’s best friends Jani and Milan were getting married and we were both invited! (Although I was nearly un-invited due to some Facebook comments gone awry).

We left Freiburg late on Friday evening, with an epic 6 hour, 650 km drive ahead of us to Prague to stay the night. The driving went really well, with no troubles, with Henry the Navigator working well, and Claude the Auto doing awesomely. We arrived into Prague just before 1am, and headed straight to bed, as we had some more travelling to do in the morning, as the wedding was in a town, located the other end of the Czech Republic called Znojmo, a good few hours trek from Prague, through woodland, and extremely sleepy Czech villages.

We departed 9am sharp, and our destination was TvoÅ™ihráz, located at the foot of the Bohemian-Moravian Highlands, where the groom, Milan is originally from. We arrived to a very happy Father-of-the-Groom directing us where to park. We parked Claude, and said “Ahoj” to everyone.

Gina Present

Flowers on the Car

To my surprise, there was a traditional Czech Moravian (! Iest wouldn’t know the difference) band playing some awesome music. It was really fun. The wedding was in three parts. The reception came first, this was located here in TvoÅ™ihráz – just behind Milan’s parent’s house, where we were fed with a nice buffet, drinks, and sweet Czech Moravian music. I managed to get the band to pose for me, whilst in the middle of playing a song:

The Band!

Me & Band

After filling our bellies full of goodness, we all caught the bus for about 15 km South to the Town of Znojmo. Here on the trip, I got my first encounter to the Czech locals, and their drinking songs. Everyone, including Gina, were happily merrily sining in Czech as we twiddled over the hills towards Znojmo.

Bride & Groom

Jani & Milan

We arrived at a brewery. This, I thought was epic. I knew the Czech were renowned for their ability to drink, but to have a wedding in a brewery – I thought this was incredible! I was, however, wrong. Located just behind the brewery, was this wee Registry Office, where the ceremony would be taking place – but as we arrived, there was another ceremony in session, this resulted in everyone going to the view point just behind it, over looking the Thaya Dyje River, and the Dam. The valley was beautiful, really pretty views to be had. Jani & Milan was taken away by the photographer of the day for some snaps. Compared to a Welsh wedding, the bride and groom were happily allowed to see each other before the marriage - which I thought was pretty cool!

Gina chilling all pretty

Chapel

We headed inside after the previous ceremony had finished, where the service lasted about 15mins. Again, a massive contrast to a Welsh service. It was all in Czech, so I didn’t catch a word of it. It consisted of some poem readings, and the drunken dude (Uncle maybe?) being funny, and happily drinking a full bottle of wine at the service (picture below).

The Service

The Service

After the ceremony, we all went ahead and took our time to congratulate the new Husband and Wife, individually, by going up to the front of the Service room, and shaking hands, and kissing. This then, followed by something new to me – throwing rice at the Bridge and Groom as they exited the Service Hall:

Throwing of the Rice

The Legend

From the service, we headed back out for some more Wedding photography, this time: group photos. The bus then took us to our final destination – somewhere up North of TvoÅ™ihráz (the place we first arrived to) – but the name of the place has escaped me Horni Dunajovice. Here we were going to be fed, and entertained for the evening. A more Merrily bus twiddled up and over the hills, with a LOT of drunken singing and cheering. We arrived safely at around 4pm.

Eating Hall

We sat with Gina’s Volleyball friends, and I was able to communicate a wee bit with her friends, as they spoke a little bit of English. The food and Beer came out. For starters we had traditional soup. Then came the main meal – and boy it was yum! I had Beef and Dumplings in some good sauce, and Gina had some fried vegetables. I’m a huge fan of the Christmas Cookies that Gina has made over the last couple of Christmas we’ve been together – they are epic – and to my surprise, it’s a traditional thing to bake a massive batch of similar cookies for dessert too!! I was over the moon! Good times. (I hope Gina doesn’t mind me posting a pic of the food here).

Beef and Dumplings

Cookies!!

The stage was set, with a full on live band, and the first dance was ordered. Milan and Jani hit the floor, for a few twirls, then the whole party got up to join them, resulting in throwing the Bride and Groom in the air! The band was pretty good, they played a lot of old Czech songs, and some popular pop songs. Milan’s dad had some seriously epic moves – air guitar and air duck walk!!! Really impressive.

Dancing

Dancing

And that was it for us. The band carried on playing through the evening, but as we had to travel back to Prague that evening. We decided to leave at around 7pm. The drive back was pretty epic, unfortunately for Regi, as we had all sorts of bad weather against us, but Regi did awesome job driving, and took us home safely.

Jani, Monika, Gina & Milan

We arrived safely in Prague just after midnight, and went straight to bed. We had another early start in the morning, as I had to drop off Regi at the airport, as she’s off for a few weeks traveling to the mountains of Tajikistan with a friend – on a well earned, and deserved break. I then, had the epic task of driving all the way back to Freiburg, by myself. To my astonishment, I noticed that the highways, were completely empty of Trucks! It’s a rule here, that on a Sunday, no trucks are allowed on the Highways. This made the journey much easier, and safer.

But, one thing that made the journey even better. I got to have some of my favorite Czech sweets. Kofola and Tatranky! They are both super awesome, such a shame no where else sells them, but it makes getting them from them even more fantastic!

Kofola & Tatranky

It was a great weekend, I really enjoyed myself, and it was a good trip, seeing the back and beyond of the Czech Republic, places that I’d never ever see if I was a tourist there.

Thanks to Jani a Milan for the lovely day!


05
Jul 11

Süd Schwarzwald – (South Black Forest) Trips!

One evening, Gina bought home a couple of books about the Black Forest. One’s full of day trips that we can do with Claude the Auto, and the other if full of hikes in and around the Hills of the Black Forest:

Our Black Forest Books

Saturday: So, over the weekend, as the weather was beautiful, we decided to combine both books, by taking a nice drive up the valley, then depart on a short walk. The drive took us up the beautiful valley of  Höllental (Hell’s Valley) – one of the most impressive valleys in the Black Forest. The valley is rich in history and legends, which our book proudly describes to us, and was beautifully narrated by Gina as we drove along. Our first stop was by the ‘Hirschsprung’ (“Deer’s Jump”) – the narrowest  part of the valley, and was originally only 9 metres wide. Thus a common tale is existing about a red deer jumping across the 9m wide valley to escape from hunters, and in commemorative to these fine red deers, they’ve erected a lovely statue on the (now wider) part of the pass.

Deer Statue

Gina & Claude

After some serious hairpin turns, and an almost full 360 degree corner around a pointed cliff peak in the middle of the road, we arrived at the top of the valley, which we were rewarded with some fine views of the Höllental.

Iestyn & Höllental

Gina &Höllental

We continued East for a few more Kilometers, until we reached a nice lake called Titisee. Here was our walk for the day – a 7km gentle round circuit of the lake. It was indeed a really easy trail, as people from all strokes of life wandered around the lake with us. I enjoyed the leisurely stroll, but we now know, that the blue coloured  routes on our walking book is indeed aimed for old people :)

Titisee

After filling our bellies, we decided to take another route home, and do a circular trip with Claude. We headed West towards the village of Todtnau (where we went to before), and then up the Todtnauberg Valley, where Germany’s highest natural waterfall crashes at 97m high, the “Todtnauer Wasserfall”. It’s a pretty area, where you can climb up above the falls, dip your feet into the water, and look down the valley. Located above the waterfall, there is a bridge, that you can cross the falls, and go hiking up and around the woods.

Gina on the Bridge

Gina Chilling

The Todtnauer Waterfall

And from there, we headed home to Freiburg.

Sunday: Late on Sunday evening, we decided to go for another trip, this time exploring the North. Our destinations were the village of Waldkirch, and the peak of Kandel. Waldkirch looked like a very sleepy village, and is quite famous for creating the musical Organs. Here also, there is a castle – the ruins of Kastelburg. We headed up the ‘Knight Trail’ and was awarded with a beautiful view over the whole village, and the pretty Kandel sitting high above.

A Knight on the Knight Trail

Waldkirch & Kandel

The castle is a fine castle. Built right ontop of a rock. There were stairs going right up to the top, but, as I can’t stand man made heights, I found it very hard to go up two levels. Gina on the other hand, made it all the way to the top without any trouble, and manage to take a few pretty pictures of the view (like the one of the village above).

Gina & Kastelburg Castle

Looking down from the top

After pottering about a wee bit, we set our eyes on the peak of Kandel. Claude the Auto took us all the way to the top, just over 1200m high. We had spectacular views of the Black Forest from the summit, but it was a shame the haze of summer was closing in, and we couldn’t see beyond the Forest, it’s said that on a fine day, you can see as far as the Vosges, and even the Swabian Alb. There’s some pretty epic legends about this hill. In earlier time, the Hill was known as ‘The Witches Mountain of the Black Forest’ – and to this day, the cliff is called ‘Teufelskanzel’, which translates to ‘Devil’s Pulpit’.

Kandel Summit View

Gina locating Claude

And that concludes our epic first trips around the Black Forest. There will be plenty more to come in the future!