Monday, November 08, 2004

Family Fun in a Bee-Filled Atmosphere
September 2004

Recently, we went to Špindleruv Mlýn, a Czech ski resort area two hours north of Prague, practically on the Polish border. The Spouse had a work event, so he stayed in a separate hotel.

My guidebooks all spoke rather despairingly about the area: the acid rain has devastated the landscape; the Spouse’s hotel was “an aberration.” “You can’t help but feel saddened,” I was warned. “Head for the Tatras instead,” the books advised. “It will be windy, rainy, and cold.”

Then there was the supposed over abundance of prostitutes eager to greet the tourists from nearby Germany.

My expectations were low.

Ok, the Spouse’s hotel was really hard to look at from the outside. But from the inside, it was fine. I wasn’t staying there anyhow. The children and I stayed at the Hotel Bedriška (, which was cute and charming and, best of all, accurately represented by the website. I can’t pronounce it, but I can recommend it.

Yes, there was some acid-rain, but my view of the hills was about as close as you can get to The Sound of Music without being anywhere near Salzburg. The weather was glorious September: blue, cloudless skies and crisp nights. And nary a sign of the world’s oldest profession.

Youngest Daughter suffered two vicious bee attacks. On Day One, while standing in line for the chairlift, she got stung. On her ear. Mission aborted. On Day Two, while standing in line for the chairlift, she got stung on the hand. At least this time we were at the top of the hill, waiting to ride back down. Bee, in Czech, is vcela, by the way. I learned this by making bee noises in the pharmacy on Day One. And it was reinforced by the chairlift operator at the top of the hill on Day Two. He said it when he tried to explain to the nice elderly couple with the dog why the little kid was crying.

That’s right. There were dogs on the chairlift. I am still recovering from the unfortunate incident in Pennsylvania where I unsuccessfully executed my chairlift dismount and the entire operation came to a crashing halt so I could be rolled out from under it, skis and all. Here I am, snarling at the children to “Sit still! Do you want us to die!” And there are folks with dogs, just riding away merrily.

Speaking of riding merrily, there was a great summer bobsled ( by the Spouse’s hotel. I was a fearless speed demon. After our final run, we had a chat with the souvenir photo guy. He said they lose three or four bobsled riders a WEEK. I’m pretty sure he meant that they just fly off their toboggans and land in the grass, but maybe not. It’s a vivid image. We paid for the photo ($10), which was a good quality action shot of the Spouse on the bobsled run, hair blowing in the breeze, hands clasped on brake, face twisted in a rictus of fear. It came glued in a nice little folder covered with lots of pictures of other people having more fun than we did and captioned “For a nice remeber.”

Then we drove to Telc for a night because it is on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, and my guidebook said it was one of the three best destinations in the Czech Republic ( I was sold by the descriptions of an arcaded main square and 500-year-old gabled Renaissance houses. Seems most of the town burned to the ground in 1530, and what was rebuilt remains largely unspoiled. High expectations this time.

We followed The World’s Oldest Fire Truck towards Telc, cursing the dilapidated vehicle. At first, we couldn’t find the center of town. Not an auspicious start. We drove around and around what was an unremarkable village, managing finally to lose the fire truck. Suddenly, there was a B I G public parking lot and scores of tour buses. We parked, and followed the crowds of tourists into the main square where we found hundreds of ancient fire trucks. It was the Volunteer Firefighter Olympics! There were teams representing every volunteer fire department in 100 km., racing with hoses and cranking up portable generators.

Our hearts sank. It was 7:00 p.m., and this wingding was just getting started. This did not bode well for a quiet night in a Renaissance environment. We found our hotel, and quizzed Desk Clerk about his noise level predictions. After careful consideration, we elected to put the children in the room facing the street, reserving for ourselves the quiet room overlooking the hotel courtyard.

We dined. We returned. We opened the door to our room. We were greeted by clouds of barbeque smoke and loud music from a party in the courtyard just behind our hotel’s. Curses! The children’s room, although overlooking the festival, was an oasis of calm.

Over breakfast, we watched a Czech children’s TV show about two young boys who, though charged with minding their infant siblings, somehow mixed up the babies. Hijinks ensued as diapers were removed (and cameras zoomed in on baby bits, first female, then male, for Extreme Genital Closeups) and confusion reigned, but, in the end, order was restored.

The next program was a sort of Children’s Rap Session. Two little girls proudly showed drawings they had done of fairy tale princesses. Whew. Nice, wholesome, breakfast fare. The sweet-looking boy on their left then eagerly held up what looked like a floorplan, but over the rooms was written, in English, the words “YES,” “NO,” and, “FUCK YOU.” We reflected upon the innocence (and gullibility) of youth as the other children applauded his drawing. Clearly this kid had an older brother who was at that moment laughing his ass off somewhere in Moravia. But then we had to artfully avoid the probing questions from Eldest Daughter, who did not understand the Czech but could easily read the English.

No bees to speak of in Telc, but plenty of the birds and the bees! So while I can’t recommend the morning TV schedule, the town castle was stunning. And all evidence of the volunteer firefighters was gone in the morning. Ah!


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