a few pictures from snow-covered Prague. Despite the cold weather the streets were full of half-frozen tourists. Everyone with a cup of warm wine in their shaking hands and a face saying one thing - WTF?! Whose idea was it to come here in December?
It's not that bad! At least the Charles Bridge doesn't feel like Tokyo's subway during rush hour. But it doesn't matter what time of the year, you can be sure of one thing in Prague-you are barely tolerated by service people, especially in restaurants.
First Christmas in Poland in 25 years. Spent the holidays with family in Szklarska Poręba. Beautiful place, it was a winter wonderland. Great company and delicious food. It was a very active Christmas (to make up for the delicious food!), we tried snowboarding for the first time which was fun but predictably we spent most of the time on our butts. We also went cross-country skiing. And I even managed to make the summit of Mount Szrenica, despite the extreme wind and cold. And of course, I must mention the weightlifting (pint glasses!) - for good health!
Dublin welcomed us with a huge blizzard and some political protests. Fortunately there are enough bars to help pass the time, waiting for better weather, unless you are as ambitious as Leopold Bloom. Even the worst weather in recent memory cleared up after a few days and we were able to take in the city's interesting architecture and great art galleries, as well as the obligatory Guinness visit. And, of course, back to the bars at night for some fantastic live Irish music. Few pics below.
We needed a change of scenery, so we went to the Tatra Mountains for a few days.
Winter is already there, with snow, wind, freezing temperatures and all that unpleasant stuff.
The town of Zakopane (polish Banff) looks more colorful and "worldly"
than 25 years ago when I was there for the last time before leaving Poland. On this trip we met friends from Canada who stopped in the town on their way to Greece, Italy and other warmer and more interesting places.
We had a lot of fun, alcohol and way too much food.
A few pics below.
The South-Eastern part of Wielkopolska (a region in Poland), where we are staying for
a while, offers a lot of interesting tourist attractions. Especially for history and architecture "buffs". Picturesque Kalisz (apparently the oldest city in Poland, established 1850 years
ago-hard to imagine) is the region's cultural and economic center. The only minus of this area - it's flat here!
We spent a week in Karkonosze, a mountain range in the SW part of Poland. I was born, and grew up, not that far from there so the place is special for me. The mountains are small but the weather is totally unpredictable and unfortunately we got to see this first-hand.
In the fog and wind and rain we managed to make the summit of Mt Sniezka (highest mountain in the range at 1602m). The mountain is very significant to me because that was the first "big" hill I climbed with my father at around 6 years of age. I remember being particularly fascinated by the border stones guarded by the stern-looking soldiers from the border patrol (where are they now?). I guess that experience was pretty influential because mountains and crossing borders became the passions of my life.
Europe! Europe! Europe!
Spring in the Rockies! I did some hiking already but nothing serious (lots of snow still) just "spring classics". The most interesting hikes I managed to do were; Rimwall Summit (2680 m - elev. gain 1020 m), near Canmore; and Mount Cory (2802 m - elev. gain 1370 m) in Banff. I also tried (with Peter Smolik) a ski-touring loop through three glaciers in Kananaskis: French, Haig, and Robertson but due to deep and wet snow we turned around at the first one.
Arches National Park near Moab is is the most colorful and photogenic park in Utah
(at least that's what I think). It offers a lot of well-maintained and interesting hiking trails, and rock climbing is allowed on unnamed rock formations. The spectacularly located campground is unfortunately only available by reservations and usually booked months ahead. Shame!
The state of Utah is very often seen as a bizarre place populated by Mormons with their many wives (officially polygamy was banned by the church in 1890) and lousy, weak beer. Well, it's more than that. It became a center of outdoor activities (especially the Moab area) and a mecca for adrenaline junkies. Open spaces, spectacular landscapes and colorful, fascinating rock formations. Well worth visiting - but bring your own booze :)
The symbol of Arizona, the biggest hole on earth (although Albertans are trying very hard to make even bigger one near Fort McMurray) - the Grand Canyon. It's fricking huge!
It makes you think about the power of "mother nature" and the fact that maybe it's not a very good idea to mess with her. Anyway, if you want to see it, try to avoid the summer season due to high temperatures and thousands of annoying tourists :)
Well the winter is over. It's starting to be almost uncomfortably hot in Cabo. It's time to head back north so we're leaving today.
The small town of Todos Santos, near Cabo San Lucas, is well known for its art galleries and shops.
We went there during a week-long Art Festival, presenting amongst other things, mexican folk art. While in town, we "had to" check out the famous, beautifully restored Hotel California (the legend says that this is the place from the famous Eagles song, in reality Henley has never been there). The food was really quite good. A small sample of the "Colors of Mexico" below.
The main reason for the trip to the mainland was an attempt to climb the highest mountain in Mexico - El Pico de Orizaba, 5610 m. Unfortunately the weather didn't co-operate and I had to turn back about 400 vertical meters from the summit due to high winds, blowing snow and zero visibility. Below are some pictures from the adventure.
I needed a break from the beach (ya, I know, it's hard to believe) so I went to the Mexico City area for a week. It's probably one of the most fascinating cities in the world. This was my second trip and I think everyone should go there to experience the energy, the history, the culture, the people. It's a vibrant, colorful, chaotic place and I really enjoyed visiting again.
All the best in 2010!!!