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
Aug 10

Ardnamurchan peninsula – Glen Shiel

Iest's Birthday morning :)

Iestyn’s birthday! I totally let Iestyn sleep as long as he pleased (no ‘unintentional’ nudging, twisting and turning or anything), and after he woke up (from completely natural causes) he got all his cards and presents. He got a whole big box of hazelnut Tatranky (I think that was a winner) but also a very cool and sleek Apple remote, so we can finally watch stuff from our bed without getting up!

After that we got up, packed everything in the car, only to find out that we can’t get out of the campsite back to the road because the ground got wet and soggy overnight. So we had to take everything out of the car again to make it lighter, and it didn’t help either. That didn’t look good at all, and Iest was getting pretty un-birthday-y pissed. We gave up our combined efforts and decided to get help. Luckily, the first car to drive by was a 4×4, with a guy in a nice shirt and a tie going to work, still offering to help. So, after a little confusion with where the hell does our car have a hook for a rope (turns out it has it in the boot :)), we were rescued and back on the road.

That gave us a little bit of a delay for the day, but soon we were in Mallaig having breakfast including a proper birthday cake for Iest. After that there was no holding us back from sea kayaking for the rest of the day! (Except may be that we couldn’t find the guy with the kayaks for a while, until he actually put a red kayak by the road next to his house so we wouldn’t pass it again.)

Kayaking was fun though, the water was surprisingly warm (not that either of us would care to turn the kayak over), and after a couple of showers we even got sun for the rest of the afternoon. The coolest thing were seals playing in the water right around us, lots of them. We also got to see some big sea birds and a nice part of the coast.

For dinner I took Iestyn to our favorite Indian restaurant in Fort William, which once again served us some awesome grub in abundance. Camped in Glen Shiel.

Thanks to Mike at http://www.seakayakhighlands.co.uk/ for renting us the Kayaks, and being super patient with us! :)

Wildlife sightings:
Seals

Little bunny rabbits in the campsite


03
Aug 10

Ellenabeich – Fort William

Putting on Gina's Gaiters

Late-ish start, but who could blame us in such a lovely place. Drove up by the Stalker castle, which I finally got to see in the sun, we even had our morning coffee outside with a view. But then we wasted no time no more, and got to Glen Coe to do our first epic route over one of the Glen Coe ridges.

The clouds were low, which meant the views were mostly obscured, which was quite a pity as this route was named #3 most beautiful route by the Trail magazine (and that certainly does mean something :)!), but we still got a really nice walk out of it. Also the fogginess and occasional rain brought some good stuff with it, namely 1) the opportunity for me to put on my new fancy waterproof e-vent gaiters, and 2) there were no other people on the trail, which I assume otherwise in good weather turns into somewhat of a bloody tourist highway (I don’t count the unfortunate couple we met at the beginning, who decided to do the route with a rope, and who both looked so uncomfortable on the rock that it was quite scary to watch, and we can only hope they finished it ok).

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22
Nov 09

Ben Nevis (and name sake for the Blog)

Today, didn’t go as planned. Today was a day that will stick with me for the rest of my life. Fact. It’s a day that I feel made me and Regi grow to be really close. It had it’s high points, but boy, there was desperate times. Times where I closed my eyes, and wished that I wasn’t where I was. Teamwork got us out of this day – alive – and I’m so thankful  for Regi for being there, and doing what she did at the time. We both worked so well as a team, and it made me truly realise how amazing she is.

Before coming up to Scotland, I prepared some walks for us to go on. These walks were based from the Trail Magazine, and an awesome wee book called ‘Walking the Munros’ by Steve Kew. I was stupid on this day, I didn’t bring a map. The one thing that I’m never ever doing again – the only ‘map’ I had was the map that was in this book – it’s a very very simplified map, which doesn’t show much of anything.  I was stupid.

We were heading up Ben Nevis. The route was to go from Glen Nevis, up towards Loch Meall an t-Suidhe, drop down into the heather filled valley to the North of Ben Nevis, up Carn Dearg Meadhonach, Carn Dearg, over the CMD Arête, and scramble up the last 200m or so to the summit of Ben Nevis.

We set off early, and it was all going really nice and well.

On our way up Mr. Nevis

Regi by Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe

We reached the Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe, and hooked left to go round the Ben, so we could drop down the valley, to go up Carn Dearg Meadhonach. At the bottom of this beautiful valley was a beast of a river – and it’s been raining. It took us a little while to find a safe crossing place – Regi just took her boots off and walked through, while I waded through – and my lovely boots kept my feets all nice and dry. The super steep climb up towards Carn Dearg Meadhonach was a climb and a half. Walking through heather, for me is a nightmare, I hate the stuff. I was being really slow – my foot was giving me some intense pain (the bath incident), but I put my head down, and went for it. About half way up, I stopped and looked up to see where Regi was – she was a good 50m ahead, and about another 50m ahead of her, was this weird looking sheep. I thought to myself – ‘what a weird looking sheep’. I stood there, wondering, what on earth is wrong with this sheep? I could only see his head at this stage, but when it moved, it became clear what is was – it was a deer!! This was my first ever encounter with a wild deer!! I loved it! It totally made the horrid slog up the steep hill worth it.

Once the gradient started to ease out, we flew up to Carn Dearg Meadhonach. The snow was awesome. I really like walking in snow, and fresh virgin snow is just beautiful. We stayed and got our pics taken. Regi had bought with her an awesome, awesome walking ‘biscuit’ from Prague – Tatranky. It’s awesome!!

Me ontop of Carn Dearg Meadhonach

Tatranky muching

We carried on, and reached Carn Dearg quite quickly. The weather was holding, but the daylight was starting to fade. In front of us was the CMD Arête. It looked beautiful, and we really fancied walking over it;

CMD Arete

CMD Arete

It was just like my old friend Grib Goch on Snowdon, but bigger and snowier. We went on. The weather came in. And it came in fast. It was soo cold, the blizzard was so powerful, high winds, and very unstable ground. I’ve been growing my glorious beard for a few weeks, so my little face was all protected, but I felt so sorry for Regina, it must have been so cold for her, but she didn’t complain. This took us a really long time to cross. It was getting really dark, and the blizzard was not easing up. I felt totally out of my comfort zone. It was something else.

I decided to take a look over the Ar̻te Рto see what I could see Рany signs of anything, and just as I did this, the fog lifted for about 10 seconds, and I could see a sign and some metal posts. I decided to head for those.

Panic and fear set in. I told Regi that I really wanted to go down, and we should follow these metal poles. Regi was amazing. She led the way, down the super steep slope. The wind blew her off her feet a few times, and she went flying. Oh how I hated it.

I think it’s safe to say, that I owe my life to my head torch this night. It got dark really quickly, and we just had to get off this mountain. It was something so surreal. The beam of light from my head torch shinning down on the snow covered rocks, and seeing the snow being blown at such a force made it seem unreal.

I think it took us about an hour to get below snow level. We slid down on our bums. Covered in cuts and bruises, torn my waterproofs. I was so happy to get down from that slope. The next challenge was to navigate down, to the river (the same river we crossed earlier) and follow it down the valley. This proved to be a challenge, but I’d calmed myself down a lot with the help of Regi, and just decided to go for it. It wasn’t so bad. Once I hit the Charles Inglis Clark hut at the middle of the Valley, I knew we were alright.

It took us a further 2 hours to get to civilization. We were both wet to the bone, tired, in pain, and just wanted to have a shower. The promise of a Shower, Indian Food, Family Guy,  and bed was keeping us going.

We got to the B&B, after some great generosity from the locals by calling us a taxi. We were sooo happy to be back, safe – and without any serious injuries.

The Indian, and the Beer I Had that night was the best I’ve ever had. We slept so well. It’s a day that I’ll never, ever forget. Thanks for being there Regi, it would have been something else if you weren’t there.