Last Sunday I went on a rather interesting little excursion. One of my students, Yara, invited me out for lunch and a walk that would possibly require a passport. Yara, a 65 year old Czech grandfather, has been a student at Winfield for about 6 years or so. He's a bit of a monument there, and picks and chooses the classes he wants to attend. Currently he's in my daily class as well as one of my evening classes, so I see him on a pretty regular basis.
I was a little apprehensive about a whole afternoon with him. He's a bit on the deaf side, and awkward conversations aren't always my cup of tea. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the afternoon. He kept up conversation, much of it centered around all the reasons I should come back for another year as well as a nice smattering of stories about his younger years, and we got to see some really beautiful countryside.
After lunch we took a bus to the Czech border and from there we started walking. He filled me in on stories about life during Communism. There was a time when a steady flow of traffic was attempting to leave East Germany through Czech. Long lines of cars were parked at the border, and impatient travelers would just abandon them there and continue on foot, leaving stranded Trabant's in their wake. He also told me about hours spent in border controls which are now just empty buildings.
We paused at this monument near the border, written in Czech and German. The words of Ghandi speak against unnatural borders set up by man, and how they are not able to stop the human spirit.
We continued into the town of Schirnding where I was captivated by this statue. I was just going to take a picture of the statue alone, but Yara insisted that I be in the picture so my Mom could see me :)
We headed through the countryside and I was a bit befuddled by all the benches that looked out at...well...nothing. Yara explained to me that after the war, many Germans how had been living in Czech were sent back to Germany. Most of them just moved right over the border and they set up these benches so they could look back at the land they came from. So sad really. All that longing for something that appears so easily within reach. I can understand that really. Sometimes trying to follow God leaves me looking out at the world around me in search of my home...
Anyhow, we continued on to Hohenburg where there is a nice castle, home to a lovely stork nest. We weren't able to go inside, but we did wander around it a bit. The storks weren't home either unfortunately. At Winfield we now how a happy little couple all cozy in their nest so that's nice. The castle was nice to see though.
During Communism the Czech were forbidden to go near the border. Many villages were completely destroyed to keep them away. A large fence was built around the country, and guard towers and control stations were built up everywhere. The Germans, on the other hand, were still allowed to be quite near the border as is evidenced by this German house, in a cute little outcropping of cottages, that is nestled right up again the plastic border marker.
From there we walked back up into Czech. We climbed a hill and were able to look back over to the castle.
I don't think it took long for Yara to question why he had decided to go on such a long walk with me. He pointed out a couple times how fast I walk. What can I say. I told him about the hike up Victoria Peak with Dad and Gene. Poor Gene thought he was going to die, and was certain Dad had lied on his birth certificate and was really ten years younger than himself, rather than ten years older :) Of course Dad later confessed that, had Gene not been there asking for a break every five minutes or so, he might actually have gotten tired and had to take a break himself, but as it was he never even got winded. At least Gene made good, and kept us entertained with stories every time we stopped :)
We continued along to the small town of Liba. In all Yara estimated we walked about 15 Km, and I think it's pretty much true. It was a good walk. In Liba we came to another lovely castle view. This one is under a lot of construction, but when they finish it off I think it will be really lovely.
We caught the bus in Liba and headed back to Cheb. It was quite the little outing, and it was nice to be back.
In other news, just thought I'd add in this little picture of my new hair. My hair doesn't take dye very well, so I'm sure it'll soon fade, and I'll never be able to style it like this again, but it was fun for the day, and it's still pretty fiery just now :)