I’m writing this post on December 31st, which means that it is New Year’s Eve… and tomorrow we will be in 2018! After New Years, we will go back to school on January 3rd. Definitely a shorter holiday than we’re used to in Canada! During this holiday, my host family planned a three-day trip for us to go to the mountain. We went to Harrachov—a small town that is approximately two hours away from where I live. Here, there is a ski resort and great cross-country skiing trails. It is also a very popular destination to go skiing for people from Germany and Poland. Currently in Rakovnik, there is no snow and the temperature is fairly high; therefore, the idea was to be around some snow and explore Harrachov and the surrounding area!
On the first day, we left the house around 9:30 in the morning. We then stopped to get some lunch then continued to a small village: Malá Skála. This is a very small yet beautiful village with a river flowing through it. Where we stopped, there is a very popular pizzeria, pub, and café. We parked then began to hike up to the top of a steep rock that overlooked the highway, river, and village. It was very beautiful and the weather was perfect for our hike. Afterwards, we wanted to see a very popular castle that is in that area, but unfortunately it was closed for the winter season. This didn’t stop us! We then walked for maybe 1.5 km to Frýdštejn castle. This castle was built in the first half of the 14th century and is the main attraction of the village. We returned from our journey (a snowless one I should mention) and continued our drive to Harrachov. As we continued upwards, we observed a lot more snow around us. We arrived to the town and to our hotel. Because dinner started at 6 pm, we decided to go for a short walk around the town. The entire town looked similar to any ski resort that we have in Canada… There were people walking with their ski and snowboard gear and children sledding everywhere. It really felt like home for me to be around this atmosphere. There was a lot of snow, but it was really wet. We ate dinner then went to bed. On the second day, we were woken up to the sound of rain. Because of this, we decided to save our walk for the second half of the day. In the morning, we went to a glass museum and glass factory. I learned that the Czech Republic is very famous for its glass production and in fact, this is one of their biggest exports. We started by going to the museum and looking at beautiful glass art. It was truly amazing to think about how someone could blow and create glass of such beautiful colours and with such intricate designs. Afterwards, we had a tour of an actual factory with workers. We got to see up close how the glass was made. At this time, people were creating wine glasses. They do this all day in a team of 5-6 people. It was very hot in the factory and I was surprised to see that none of the workers were wearing any sort of protective shoes or glasses! After this, we went for lunch and prepared for our walk. The weather had certainly improved and there was just a light snow. We began our walk and it was on a cross-country ski trail. It was really nice and we had snow-fights on the way up! We walked to a waterfall and it was so beautiful. My host mom told me that she has seen this waterfall when it has been completely frozen! We proceeded to walk another two kilometers up, next to the river. On the way back, my host brother and I took turns pulling each other on the sled downhill! On the last day, we had to prepare to leave in the morning. We then went on another walk through Harrachov and we stopped to watch some skiiers go off very large jumps. Overall, the trip was a really great time for me and it felt nice to see some snow again!
Since we are going into the New Year, I’ve reflected on 2017. This year has definitely been one of the hardest years that I’ve had, but also one of the best! I’ve travelled to many different places, graduated high school, and started my exchange year in the Czech Republic. I’m so grateful for all of the experiences I’ve had, and I have definitely seen myself grow and change! Although I’ve had so many great experiences, it has been one of the most stressful years. Finishing high school early, stressing about school way too much, working, applying for a second passport (my mom can tell you all about that…), university applications, learning Czech… I won’t get into more stressful times. But if you know me, you would know that I was very high-paced this year. Although this is true, there have been some of the best times. Travelling to Mexico, Ecuador, Arizona, and finally here to the Czech Republic. I can’t believe all of the experiences I’ve had. I think that each one has allowed me to grow and has really prepared me for the future. I really feel like I made an impact on my school with a lot of the events that I organized and programs I started. I also feel like on a global level, I had the chance to make a difference. I can’t wait to see what the rest of my exchange year adventures will be and I know for sure that I’m stepping into 2018 with a positive mindset and hope! I wish all of you a Happy New Year!