Daily Archives: July 20, 2013

The River Surfers Of München

The EisbachGerman for “ice brook” –  lazily snakes its way through one of the largest city parks in the world. The English Garden, as the park is known, draws locals and visitors by the thousands each day. In Munich, one of Germany’s best cities for just about everything, the park gets used in every season. It is a source of pride, much like New York City’s Central Park, except much larger. In summer, the English Garden is where everybody in Munich goes at some time or another. Every kind of activity imaginable happens there, including nude sunbathing near the Eisbach. But at the mouth of this artificial stream, one activity has been drawing more and more tourists, forcing the local government to end its prohibition: surfing.

On any given day in summer, dozens of surfers can be found at the mouth of the Eisbach, where just under a bridge a water-pumping system produces very strong waves perfect for surfing. For more than 40 years, surfers have been flocking to the spot to put their balancing skills to the test, to the chagrin of local officials who had threatened to destroy the waves, leading residents to protest and start a “save the waves” campaign. It wasn’t until 2010 – after noticing that the surfers were a big draw for tourism, that officials removed the ban on surfing, even if the ban was never really enforced. From the bridge and from the banks of the Eisbach, tourists can be seen snapping photographs while the surfers ham it up.

I’m not a surfer and I didn’t know anything about this river surfing in Munich until I got to the city and locals told me about it. They said if there’s one thing you should do in Munich, is head for the park and see the showboating surfer dudes and dudettes. I went and I was not disappointed. I even shot some video (above). The photos are also pretty cool, if I may say so myself. 🙂

Anyway, Munich bustles with activity when summer comes. So much to the city beyond what goes on in and around Marienplatz. Just ask a local – connect with one – and you will find yourself at a free outdoor concert on “the beach”. Or eating curried German sausages where the locals eat. And seeing the city in a way you normally would not see. So go on and check out the surfers if you get to Munich during the warm weather months. Cowabunga! (sorry, I had to say it 🙂

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In Western Poland, Peace On Earth

The chartered van made its way up a narrow winding road. With the slow climb, its engine sputtered and seemed to momentarily stall on this heavily wooded slope.

All around us there were miles and miles of trees – many of which have stood in Karkonosze National Park for centuries. On a hike, I paused and tried to imagine the centuries of history they’ve witnessed. If only these tall, proud trees could speak.

A stream of beauty

A stream of beauty

Despite the daily shot of trekkers who come to soak in its beauty and discover the 721-year-old Chojnik Castle (built in 1292), Karkonosze is an amazingly peaceful place. It’s Poland’s slice of heaven. One of many, really. It’s about a 10 kilometer run to its neighbor, the Czech Republic.

As we ambled up and neared our hilly destination – Chojnik Hotel – the houses that dot the ondulating landscape were fewer and farther apart. When we finally arrived at the hotel and the driver shut off the 16-passenger van’s engine, the silence was so evident, so extreme, it would become the subject of conversation and much discussion among hotel guests for much of my stay.

Outdoor seating

Outdoor seating

Having spent much time in cities, perhaps made the silence even more pronounced. It was so quiet that during my 5-day lodging I was taken quite aback when I heard in the distance the footsteps and click-clack of Nordic walking poles of a lone hiker coming up the road.

At least one hotel guest complained it was so quiet she could not sleep, her frayed nerves accustomed to the racket that comes with living in a noisy city. For me, this silence was pure delight. After spending months in city after city across Europe, it was a joy to hear, gasp, heavens, absolutely nothing.

I had come to Chojnik by happenstance, invited to take part in a nearly-weeklong English immersion program. I was joined by several native English speakers and several Polish people seeking to brush up on their English. Poles were paired with native English speakers and they conversed on a variety of topics.

We had set out from Wrocław, the largest city in western Poland. It is located on the Oder River.

Mateusz, the man with the plan

Mateusz, the man with the plan

And now here were, housed at the Chojnik, which we all agreed was the perfect guest house. A few months ago the hotel and restaurnant reopened under new ownership and management. It has been completely remodeled, inside and out.

Mateusz Szymon, a 26-year-old interior designer and architectural student, breathed new life into the hotel when his family took it over seven months ago.

Serenity: The Chojnik grounds

Serenity: The Chojnik grounds

“It’s hard work,” he said recently, seated in the restaurant. “It’s not a good option when you live in a place where you work. You are always working.”

Front entrance

Front entrance

 

chojnik2 The Chojnik is a labor of love. It’s also a great getaway from everyday madness of the city. With it’s private ski slope complete with lift; fish pond, and acres of natural trails, it’s definitely a place of peace. I certainly found it there.

Inside the castle, what remains

Inside the castle, what remains

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