When most people go to the Czech Republic they go to Prague. Almost 70% of foreign tourists stay in the capital, and why wouldn’t you, it’s historical and cultural attractions are endless and the exciting nightlife is cheap and fun. If it wasn’t for the van we definitely would’ve jumped on a train or plane and gone through the rest of the country without thinking about stopping off elsewhere. Instead of inter-railing towards Krakow or Warsaw in neighbouring Poland, we instead followed the country roads to a national park on the border, and what a joy it was.
Krkonossky National Park in the north forms a mountainous border with Poland offering snowsports in the winter and hiking and biking in the summer. Once again misled by Apple maps, the scenic road which seemed to climb over the peaks and across the border was restricted so we parked up and had a look around the resort.
After an unhealthy week in Prague we decided some exercise was necessary and eyed up the mountain, thought it didn’t look too big, and started walking up.
After roughly two minutes we were proved right that we could do with a wander as we descended into melting, sweaty messes as red as the van and panting like dogs. We were only 50 metres up the 1500 metre ascent.
The boiling summers day was taking its toll on our unprepared, dehydrated selves as we plodded along in our trainers clutching a bottle of water and a frisbee. We passed kitted out hikers in expensive looking boots, walking sticks and full backpacks with a handy straw protruding out the side and into their mouth, and questioned our relaxed approach to climbing mountains.
The idea to trek directly up the grassy ski slope in a more direct route was quickly abandoned due to the obvious fact it was a ski slope, therefore steep and not an easy, well-maintained path weaving upwards. Having done nothing to help overheating and exhaustion we stuck to the unmarked path and soldiered on. Breaking up the walk into smaller frisbee retrieving sections with the occasional rest to dive into the bushes when the throws didn’t go to plan helped distract us from the hard ascent and before we knew it we were in sight of the peak. After a daunting run up a crazy mountain bike trail we reached the top. Only to realise it wasn’t the top. Another, higher peak popped up at the end of a traversing ski run but we chose to ignore it, celebrated our triumphant climb and plopped onto the unused ski lift to enjoy the view whilst cooling down and catching our breath.
The sun slowly fell beyond the mountains on the opposing side of the valley as we enjoyed a beer from the elevated seat, slightly fearing that the chairs would start spinning again and that we would be left dangling twenty metres above the trees all night. This thought as well as the gradual darkening of the route home prompted us to jump off the lift and take the direct route down. Walking down the ski run was only a fraction easier than walking up it and as the severity of slope increased we had to adopt ski lines and walk across the slope, gathering speed until we were hurtling across the grass manically avoiding holes and trying to slow down. As well as making the descent a significantly faster affair it also made it an energy sapping one so we headed back for some signature barbecue baked bean burritos.
Whilst cooking up some innovative wraps Bani sat outside massaging his neck and croaking like an asthmatic frog, seemingly failing to get his breath back from our hike. After some discomfort swallowing the nutritious and delicious superfood I had conjured he diagnosed his troubles as Tonsillitis and preceded to gargle some salt water before organising a trip to the doctors for when he got home in a weeks time.
That night, instead of the usual quiet and uneventful slumber in the van I listened to Bani impersonate the Pokemon snorlax as he loudly wheezed and whistled through the night, restlessly tossing and turning as he tried desperately to suck in air.
In the morning he patiently waited for me to finish a phone call home before asking if we could swing by a hospital. With a sense of panic in his eyes and our supplies of salt diminishing with each tainted bottle of water we headed out of the mountains to the nearest hospital. Jumping out at the A&E doors he went in search of the doctors as I parked the van. Before I could even get inside he was quickly coming back after being rejected. This hospital referred him to one more specialised in throats and we hit the road again. Pleading for antibiotics just to reduce his gigantic lymph nodes we hurried on. Hospital two finally accepted him after relying on google translate to explain the issue and process his documents and we were sent to the waiting room. A doctor promptly came out to assess him, firstly asking for his documents before disappearing. After seeing the other patients who arrived after we occupied the empty waiting room she once again disappeared for a while. Finally Bani was called into the office but a minute later was thrust back out due to the fact there was nothing they could do for him on the gynaecology ward. Having failed to overcome to language barrier (but presumably affirming Bani is capable of reproduction) we ended up back in reception wondering if it would be the labour ward or perhaps surgery next.
The simple solution was that no hospital was required but just a trip to the neighbouring pharmacy where another doctor would prescribe him some tablets to help him out. After walking directly past the pharmacy Bani eventually found his way in only to be told the doctor was out for lunch. When he finally returned he studied my swollen, drained looking friend for all of a minute before sending him downstairs with a prescription to sort out his tonsil problems, I guess there’s no medicine available for whatever else is wrong with him.
After a few pointless hours of driving, waiting and learning about conception, and five minutes of productive tonsil helping aid, we were free to carry on to Poland. Bani had a new appreciation of life after his close call, but still had nodes the size of golf balls and problems swallowing my divine dinners.