The best way to see any new place is in the company of a local. That's how we came to know the countryside surrounding the northern Bohemian towns of Liberec and nearby Jablonec. Walking with Petr took us to places we would have likely never discovered on our own. Petr was born in southern Bohemia [...]
The best way to see any new place is in the company of a local. That's how we came to know the countryside surrounding the northern Bohemian towns of Liberec and nearby Jablonec.
Walking with Petr took us to places we would have likely never discovered on our own.
Petr was born in southern Bohemia but grew up in Jablonec. He lived in Kansas City, Kansas (I didn't know him then) for nine years, returning to his homeland only a few years ago. Sometime after that I met him on Skype, so he could practice English and I speak a little Czech.
Not long after we arrived in Liberec, Petr magically appeared on the floor of the downtown apartment we had rented for the weekend. I'm not sure how he made it through the various locks for which I had been temporarily given keys, but he somehow talked his way to our floor. Initially he walked us through downtown Liberec, where European Heritage Days were underway, which meant free admission to the beautiful Liberec Town Hall. We walked through various sites around town and Petr hailed some walking police officers, asking directions to our church ('That's what the police are for,' he said.), which we planned to attend the following day.
Petr enjoyed exploring nature, so most of our time with him was spent in the hills to the east, west, north, and south of Liberec/Jablonec. 'The city is boring,' he told us, adding 'and you get tired walking on stone all day.'
So twice he and his dog, Dino (an American Foxhound who flew back to the Czech Republic with him) picked us up in his Renault and drove until we found a place he could park for free and where his vehicle wouldn't be towed (parking is a complicated issue in many towns in Czechia). We cut through forests, down narrow streets, and across open fields between houses, and then, almost magically, we would be walking on a numbered trail.
'In Czech if there isn't a fence, you just go,' he told us, smiling.
Petr's intimate knowledge of the area, including its natural, historical, and cultural landscape, made ours not only a physical journey but also an intellectual one. Petr located wild blueberry and raspberry bushes for us to munch on, as well as some red berries which he said could be boiled, mashed and then filtered through a strainer to produce a high Vitamin C content brew. When we came upon various large monuments while out hiking in the Bohemian Paradise (a beautiful area of the country), he told us that these were a tribute to the Premyslid Dynasty by the Hapsburg Empire. He informed us that the local glass making trade had all but dried up in the area and presented us with a couple of rosaries made from local glass beads.
One afternoon, Petr drove us up a long, winding, dirt road under construction so that we could see, and photograph, a pub that is in the shape of a beer keg (the Czech Republic leads the world in per capita beer consumption).
Petr made our time in Liberec fun, informative and interesting. He is a free spirit who lives off the land to some degree, as he and his girlfriend grow a large garden on property he inherited from his grandmother. He also has a regular weekday job at a chandelier factory and rides his bicycle to work as long as the weather allows him to do so. He only recently bought a vehicle so he can travel places outside of the count