Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Ski Adventure, Part I

Jesse and I finally did manage to ski, off in the Beskydy, which is relatively near the city of Ostrava and not all that far from the Slovak border. The experience had, as our former Czech teacher used to say, “svůj plus a svůj minus.”
A bit on the minus side, although not unexpectedly so, was the fact that the train from Brno took about three hours to arrive in Frenštát. Since Jesse had spent much of the previous day on the train coming back from Berlin and I had spent the morning on the train from Prague, we weren’t all that happy to spend the second half of the afternoon sitting on a train that made (for a non-“osobní vlak”) an awful lot of stops. This was especially the case for Jesse, since the seats were arranged in facing pairs and there was a reasonably tall student across from him the whole way, who presumably didn’t want to become too well acquainted with the feet of fellow passengers. (If I remember correctly, the person across from me eventually disembarked. Besides, I have shorter legs—the only time that this attribute proved advantageous on this trip.)
Fortunately, it did not take us too long to locate the bus stop, and even more fortunately, it was not quite dark yet, so Jesse was able to read the schedule. I had finally bought a small flashlight, and had even brought it along, but had not thought to assemble it yet. It was buried somewhere in my luggage. Besides, even when I have good light I don’t do very well at reading small-town bus schedules. This is one reason I like to take Jesse along on my travels. His areas of competence so often fill in for my incompetence, ie he can read and make sense of small print.
We had no trouble finding our pension, which was between two bus stops. The management was agreeable enough to me while I was checking in, but went into complete ecstasies upon noticing Jesse. It was true that he had taken his family there for dinner in the recent past, but you would have thought he was the owner’s long-lost son or something. There was no further interest in what I had to say about our breakfast plans or any other aspect of our visit. Perhaps this was why Jesse spent the first part of the check-in process standing in the entry hall examining a wall map. He is always ready to let me practice my Czech without any interference.
Our room, while quite adequate, could not be said to bear a close resemblance to those advertised on the pension’s web page. Somehow all of those rooms looked extremely spacious, whereas ours was of singularly narrow proportions. This made it somewhat difficult to come up with places to sit where we could comfortably see each other while conversing. It also meant that if I was thoughtlessly digging through my luggage in the middle of the floor, the easiest way past me was to tiptoe across my bed. I don’t think Dawn would have approved had it been her bed. Then again, had Dawn been along we would have gotten a different room. We might have been given one bed designed for three. You never know about these things. As it was, we each got cylindrical pillows along with the usual kind. We weren’t sure what to do with these. Jesse says he dreamt about them. I’m afraid I dreamt about having to sign a form stating that I had never received a piece of mail from my university, and that I was nervous that I might actually have received the mail and thrown it out under the misapprehension that it was an advertising circular. (Admittedly, I also dreamt about some extremely frisky rabbits popping out of a rabbit hole. Not all of my dreams relate to academe.)
*******Not our room, at all*******
In the morning we headed up the road to rent our skis. It occurred to us that perhaps it had been a mistake to pay cash for the room, and when we arrived at the ski shop, our suspicions proved correct: they did not take credit cards, nor did the lift, nor was there a bankomat closer than Frenštát. While the ski shop was willing to let us pay the next day, we didn’t think we had quite enough cash left to try to buy lift tickets and eat. We headed back downhill and narrowly missed catching the bus to Frenštát.
Since the next bus was not due for another hour or so, we decided to walk. After all, Frenštát was only four kilometers and it was downhill. I pointed out that if need be we could probably hitchhike, but as it turned out the traffic was all going uphill.
Trojanovice, the village in which our pension was located, could be said to have a scattered plan. Frenštát proved to be similar; once we entered its boundaries, we hiked past what appeared to be a vast collection of expensive houses each stuck in its own individual acreage. We began to feel somewhat dubious that the settlement had a business district, despite having been in the train station the day before. However, we eventually got there, got cash, bought some essentials, and after some waiting caught the bus back. We rented our gear and set off for the lift.
According to our pension’s propaganda, it was near to the lift. I would say that it was not too far from the ski shop and that the latter was not too far from the lift, but that you could not really claim the pension was near the lift. Even the ski shop, while not too far from the lift, was not close. I did not at all enjoy carrying skis and poles a kilometer or so uphill while wearing ski boots. I am not good at that kind of thing.
Since Jesse had paid for the rentals, I had to get the lift tickets. It turned out that we had to pay separately for little plastic gadgets to attach the tickets to our jackets. In the US you simply get a little wire to which you stick an adhesive lift ticket, but here there was a turnstile at every lift and the lift ticket had to be read by some sort of machinery. This struck us as excessively high-tech. I was unable to figure this system out by myself and had to have it explained so that I could get to the chairlift.
This chairlift proved to be extremely long, and although I have always been subject to paranoia that I might drop something important off the lift, this was the first time I have ever actually done so. We had not been in the air for any appreciable length of time before I managed to drop my glove into the wilderness below.
While I had had that pair of ski gloves for at least six years, it was no less than the third glove I had lost that week. It was a particularly fine glove, I must say. (When it became clear that we were not going to be able to retrieve it, Jesse was so kind as to photograph it in its final resting place. I suppose I could make a little shrine where the remaining glove could commune with the photo of its mate. Then again, perhaps not.)

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