It's been more than a month now since I moved to Marianske Lazne. More than a month since I finished work and started an uncertain sort of summer holding plan. It remains uncertain, that tremulous transient moment in which I'm poised between worlds. Still in Czech, and yet no longer a part of what my former life here entailed. I know I'm only about half an hour away from my past three years of life, but it's hard to figure out how to schedule events, to make connections, to tie what is now with what was then and what I'm waiting for to come. So I mostly stay in this world and leave that where it was and try not to let my wander to far into what I'm uncertain about. The paper trail continues and continues to be out of my hands even when I'm holding it. It's no longer about what I can do, but how I can pass the time.
On Monday a bit of the past drifted into the present. After a month of travels and camp business, Tammy finally had a free day. It was amazingly great to have her come and visit. My first trip to Marianske Lazne was with Tammy. It was in the fall of 2007. I'm not sure where Naomi was, but she wasn't around that day for some reason, so the two of us came here alone. Tammy had been here before, but didn't really know much about the place.
It's three years ago now, just one little trip in the midst of oh so many, but for some reason I can remember it with such clarity. Perhaps it's because what should be dim has become a part of my daily life. We arrived early in the day. Took the tram-bus up to the center. She couldn't remember where to get out. We got out early, but that meant we had the clear shot up to the Roman Orthodox church on our left shortly after our walk began. It was raining. In fact, it rained every time I visited Marianske Lazne that year. I thought it was always raining here, perhaps. Now I'm more sure of the fact. We looked for umbrellas in a Vietnamese shop. I didn't buy one that day. There would be plenty of those junky ineffectual mistakes in the future. I wore my red raincoat, the one that is now rather shredded, which I left stuffed in a bag with other clothing memories in the closet of my old flat, the flat that has now been rearranged to erase me, despite the two years it was my home.
We wandered up through the park and I saw my first black pointy eared European squirrel. (Eerie how our minds remember in what order to place adjectives. How any other order has a false sort of ring European pointy eared black squirrel. It just doesn't sit right or easily. And we weren't ever really taught, never looked at the carefully laid out formula in ESL books, we just know. Like the way we know what phrasal verbs mean without even knowing what phrasal verbs are.) We went to along the stream with the flowers and the white fenced bridge, up to the colonnade and took pictures sometimes fuzzy with rain.
Cold and wet we went to a place for hot chocolate that was not really the sort of place where we belonged. It was devoid of people and full of stiff backed chairs and folded cloth napkins on beer emblemed tabelclothes, or maybe they were pink instead of green. Hard to recall the smallest things, but I do remember that Eurosport was on the TV and we watched it because we hadn't seen a TV for some time and the compulsion was deep seated in our collective memories of normalcy. Moving pictures should be viewed, even if the events are lacking in any importance or even interest.
We wandered on a trail up into the hills. A trail I know quite well now, have been on many times with Mark. I was impressed by the large and well spaced trees. The trail winding between them made of soft brown earth. We sat on a bench that was mostly dry, the rain stopped for a while to eat sandwiches Tammy had prepared. I'm sure there were red peppers and salami and spreadable cheese inside. We went on, wound around with no real sense of direction. Then we headed up and caught a glimpse of an interesting building through some flowery undergrowth. We hiked and discovered a little chapel. It was a place Mark would later take me with closed eyes, only to be disappointed when I had to confess I'd seen it before. But better than to have seen the photo of me there with Tammy, many years later, knowing it had not been my first time.
We wandered through the geological park that does Goethe proud, and slowly wound our way back into town. We didn't have oplatky. We should have. We really should. But we didn't know that it was important. I avoided tasting the springs. I already knew I wouldn't be pleased after the sip I'd forced down in Frantiskovy Lazne already. I know now that the springs here are very different, but one foul sip had been enough to put me off them (note the phrasal verb, it's separable after all) and so we only approved of the colonnade's aesthetically pleasing beauty and moved on. We followed sings that led the way through other springs. We went through the parks I now traverse on an almost daily basis. The Ferdinanduv Pramen where I often sit when it rains. Watching the bubbling water that can't resist rising to the surface in frothy billows of joy. There are even bits of conversation I remember. Words about her history and past jobs. I've always done better one on one. This was my first moment to get to know where Tammy came from on my own. We wound our way down paths, continuing to follow the call to yet another spring. The park ended, the signs still drove us on. We didn't know anything, but at long last we did discover the little spring that is so very close to the place I now live.
We'd walked a long way, and were glad the rain hadn't persisted the entire time. We conjectured about our location with no real sense of knowing. We decided to walk along the tram-bus lines, sure they would eventually lead us back to the train station. We'd walked for some time, arriving at Penny Market, without realizing the lines were no longer over our heads. Retracing our steps we found them once again, we walked back and followed them up the street. As I know it all now, we walked right past Mark's house. Right by without ever knowing it. Only noting the funny bags they have for scooping up dog waste. I saved one then, wrote a letter to Julie on it. And now I use them on occasion for Katcha. When we're close enough for me to be willing to bother. Which isn't often because she's a pill and poos where she chooses, rather than where it's convenient.
We walked and walked, and made another wrong turn, but we had no particular time schedule and at long last we did make it to the station. I don't remember what we had for dinner, or what we did the following day, or the previous, but after all the walking I've done here in the past month it's been amazing to realize that it was all pre-viewed in my first visit. Like something well planned by some master novelist, showing you everything that is to come without your ever suspecting that you've learned a thing.
We didn't talk much about that day in our visit, but I did laughingly tell Tammy what we'd done so long ago and with no intentions. On this day we just enjoyed having the chance to catch up on our lives from the past month. And with my real knowledge of this area now, I walked her into the hills past the glorious decaying image of the Panorama Hotel where the Queen of Norway and Sweden once came for tea in 1857, around the romantic tower ruin that was built to be a ruin for dramatic effect, and then to Boheminium, the place she was interested in seeing. She'd forgotten her camera, so I made sure to get a few shots to commemorate the day.
We walked around where they are rebuilding the amazing Hotel Krakanos. I took her to see the statue and was happy to see that his jewel has been replaced. I couldn't remember the whole ritual, I believe it has something to do with hopping around the statue on one foot and then jumping up to touch the jewel in his belt, but we stuck with just standing carefully on the stone base and reaching up to feel the smooth red-orange rock.
We headed back down, but enjoyed a lovely view of the town, looking down over the edge of the ski slope. It's amazing to imagine back in the day when they had ski jumping competitions here, and a full fledged bobsled course. Today we just carefully walked down a narrow trail betwixt tick infested grasses, trying not to roll down the steep slope.
It was really a lovely day. We went out for dinner later, once again failing with the Mexican restaurant. Despite signs all over telling of its greatness, we found the door locked, and the only visible signs of life in the dodgy non-stop bar/herna version of the restaurant, not the sort of place we wanted to visit. So I took her, instead, to a place we took my parents and Julie when they visited and we relaxed on the terrace until it was time for me to deliver her safely back to the train station.
A good day to be certain. It was full of girlyness from the very beginning, having started with a glorious phone call from Rebekah when I was sweaty and breathless after my Denise Austin boot camp workout. Definitely a good day.
I'll end this post now, as promised, with a fungus that Mark and I met on a walk the day before yesterday. The really funny thing was that I had walked on this very same trail with Tammy two days earlier, and yet somehow had missed this massive umbrella of a mushroom. It stood roughly a foot tall, and had a diameter of at least six inches. It's apparently edible, but we didn't pick it, just marveled at how something like that could just grow there in the woods, apart from any others of its kind. And truthfully, I'd rather not imagine a mouthful of this: