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Banbury Cross

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Post details: Memory Lane

Memory Lane

Not all places are created equal. Some are more special than others.

Returning to the glades of your childhood is always calming no matter where you are returning from. Kind of like when you reach for those velvet bass tones on a piano. This is the land whose visual replica entered your memory uncontested by life's later experiences. This lack of perspective magnifies its images, makes them seem more relevant.

My special place is a little trail crossing the mountain ridge of "Jestrebi Hory" in Northeastern Bohemia. It is about 3 miles long and connects a little mining village called Radvanice on one side of the range with a small town of Male Svatonovice on the other. For the first two miles the road winds up slowly through deep spruce forests, sometimes a dirt road, sometimes a mere path, then it crests and the last mile is a steep descent to Male Svatonovice, cutting straight through groves and meadows without so much as a hint of a mitigating serpentine. Because of its sharply divided up and down phase, hiking the trail feels a little bit like climbing from one side of a big horse to another. But it is worth the thousand feet of elevation, because nowhere else do hills roll as delicately and non-threateningly as here. Plus, as an added bonus, you get to see a string of quaint little chapels dedicated to the Virgin Mary at the foot of the trail.

I must have gone that way at least several hundred times. It was my route of choice from my grandparents house to the train station in Male Svatonovice, where I would catch a train to Hradec Kralove. On this very trail I once loitered with my first love Monika - an affair that her dad rewarded with a lengthy lecture about the inappropriateness of two teenagers roaming the woods alone. This is the trail which I often climbed with my grandpa on our way to a soccer match. He was already in his seventies, but still pulling like a Sherpa. And once, after a Christmas Eve dinner, our family decided to go to Male Svatonovice for the Midnight Mass. It was one of those dark nights when a wintry mix froze over, so when a large contingent of dressed up relatives set out on a 90 minute pilgrimage through dense woods, it encountered a terrain that was more slippery than an eel's back. For kids it was an endless stream of mirth though. I don't even remember which we lost more often, whether our way or our balance.

My favorite Czech writer Karel Capek was born in Male Svatonovice. He celebrated this charming region in many of his writings. He called it the Giant's Garden. When you cross the town square, on your way from the church to the train station, you see his statue in the shadow of a huge maple tree - a reminder that it is the people rather than spectacular scenery which renders places special.

capek

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