Peak Weekend! It’s a thing! Technically, it’s a thing where TMC gets members to the top of all 48 4000+ peaks in New Hampshire in one weekend. I participated freshman year (Moosilauke) and went again just a week ago for take #2. It’s been over two years since I last went to the Loj, but this weekend’s trip was absolutely worth the wait. The Loj, for anyone who hasn’t been there, or who hasn’t heard of it, is the Tufts Mountain Club’s home away from home. It’s the embodiment of every stereotype regarding mountain lodges. It’s wooden and homey and has a wood burning stove and is filled with comfy couches and lots of people reading books.
Peak Weekend is particularly fabulous because it happens at that perfect time between green leaves and red leaves, between leaves on trees and leaves on the ground. When literally every way you turn, you see these colors:
Last weekend, I was lucky enough to peak both Lincoln and Lafayette, which are 5089′ and 5260′ respectively. Unluckily, both peaks were literally in the clouds, with the temperature hitting a grand old 24°, with 15-30 mph winds creating a wind chill of 15°. Needless to say, the hike was long (8.8 miles and almost 4000′ of elevation gain), and cold.
But every so often, the clouds separated a bit, the sun peeked out, and it was so beautiful that everything was absolutely worth it.
My mom was kind enough to remind me that I promised a post about apples, then followed that promise with a post … well … not about apples. So here you go, Mom. Apples, as promised.
Fall in New England means apples. And crisp morning air. And reds and oranges and yellows in the trees. And scarves and sweaters and sometimes boots. I’m a fan of New England autumn for a lot of reasons, but mostly for the apples.
A couple weekends ago, friends and I hopped in the car, drove a mere 35 minutes to the edges of suburbia, where the farmlands back up against backyards, and meandered our way through rows and rows of apple trees. I picked $20 worth of apples, and I’m just about finished with them. I had one tonight on my way to class, and even two weeks after being picked, it was way better than any apple you could get in the grocery store.
Apple picking itself is lots of fun, minus the stomach-ache you inevitably end up with as a result of eating too many apples over the course of just a few hours. But when they look this good, when they’re that crunchy, and their flesh is so perfectly white, it gets really hard to resist.
But the best part about picking apples is what you get to make with them. The day after I brought my apple haul home, I made home-made applesauce for us all. Paired with a bit of Claire’s vanilla ice cream, it made a perfect mid-afternoon snack on a beautiful fall day. Technically, though, I don’t think it was quite fall yet… Needless to say, the applesauce got eaten before photos were taken. My apologies. I’m really bad at taking photos of food that I make. But I promise it was amazing!
And then, the next day, we made pie. Which also got eaten before photographed, but it is fortunately very difficult to eat an entire pie before you remember to take at least one photo. And yes, I did buy a pie plate for this very purpose. There are plans in the works for a honey apple cake, as described on Smitten Kitchen, for which a spring-form pan was also purchased.
The Weekend Part I: Home Alone
My weekends technically start Thursday evenings, since I don’t have any classes on Fridays. That said, I didn’t really do much weekend-y stuff on Friday. I woke up early like normal and came to school to get a letter I had written to Babi edited.
Then I went home to spend the afternoon playing in the flat with Jachym.
In early evening, Anna left for a weekend trip with her friends to a mountain town, and Filip took the kids to Anna’s village, leaving me home alone for the weekend. I went to Anděl to meet some friends for dinner, and then they came over for some svařák and krtek. Svařák is just the Czech name for mulled wine, which is known elsewhere in Europe as gluhwein, glogg, and typically as “hot wine.” Krtek is the adorable mole shown below; the star of Zdeněk Miler’s cartoon goes on adventures with his animal friends all over the world. I’m pretty sure Krtek is the most popular cartoon character in not only the Czech Republic, but also all of Europe. He is truly a classic, and the combination of mulled wine, curling up on the couch with friends, and an absolutely adorable cartoon (even if he is aimed at small children) made for a great Friday night.
I had great plans for Saturday. I was going to do homework and laundry and go to bed early. Or not…
Included in my plans was to meet Alyssa at the second annual Prague Burger Fest, which was as awesome as we hoped it would be. We started off by getting two beers to share, then we got in line for some burgers.
I had a lamb burger with goat cheese and plum chutney, and then a Hawaiin style burger, which meant it had grilled pineapple on it. Both burgers were fantastic and totally worth the long lines.
Not included in my original plans for the day was everything else we did. We started with a trip to a chocolate and nuts store, where we got ourselves a chocolate and yogurt covered afternoon snack, and then wandered around for a while. We then met some other friends at a tea room for afternoon tea, followed by a game of laser tag. Then we grabbed some dinner off the street – the first burrito I’ve had since I left California. No photo here, because it wasn’t all that great. (It wasn’t bad, don’t get me wrong. But I’m from California, and I have some incredibly high burrito standards.)
Anyway, we wandered around the city for a bit and I took a bunch of night photos before we ended up at an amazing jazz bar with amazing life music and some pretty kick-ass mixed drinks.
When the music ended at midnight (4 hours of amazing live music for a mere 50 crowns!), we moved on to Martina’s favorite spot, which was a tiny little pub that I literally would’ve walked by without a second glance had she not ducked in. From the outside its just another building and another black door, but inside was lit by candles, filled with only locals, and full of cheap beer and lots of fun.
By the time I got home (3 am!) I was more than a little bit exhausted, and not at all ready to wake up at 6:30 for another long day.
The Weekend Part II: Trip to Trebič
Nonetheless, wake up early is exactly what I did. And had an amazing day learning about the Jewish history of Trebič, which is a relatively small town about 2 hours south of Prague. Interestingly, Trebič is also about 20 kilometers from Anna’s family’s village, which meant that I was less than a half hour from my host family all day long. When we arrived in Trebič, the day was cloudy and cold, but that wasn’t about to stop me from taking photos of the old buildings in the Jewish quarter.
This was, ultimately, an educational trip, so I will do my best to impart unto you some of the stuff I learned. Architecturally, our professor talked a lot about the different things the Jews had to do to deal with their limited space. The Jewish quarter in Trebič is about two square blocks, and at times each building had 15-20 people living in it. The Jews used really ingenious techniques to make their houses larger than the true square footage they had by building up. Obviously, they couldn’t block the streets because people and carts needed to move around, so they used arches and clever designs to make the second and higher floors of houses larger than the first floors. The arches supporting the second floor that come into the street are commonly found in houses that were built in the Jewish ghettos. They allowed the second floor an extra four to five feet while preserving the street space for carts and shops. Similarly, they used arches between two buildings to allow the buildings on either side of a pathway be higher.
Another thing I saw that was really interesting were the muzuzahs. Jews in the Czech Republic cut space into the plaster of each doorway for the Torah portion, where they were covered in decorative plates, which is apparently different than the Jews in other countries.
In many Jewish ghettos around Europe, they’ve been taken down, destroyed, or ignored. The ghettos themselves have often been destroyed or repurposed to the point where they are unidentifiable. In Trebič, however, the citizens banded together after WWII, when only a dozen Jews out of 300 returned, in order to preserve the history. Trebič is the only UNESCO World Heritage Site that is entirely Jewish, and its entirely because the non-Jews in the town worked to preserve the reality of their past. We visited one of the two synagogues in the Jewish quarter, where our tour guide was not Jewish, because no one left in Trebič is.
Neither synagogue is used today for worship, but the only reason they survived is because the local order of Benedictine monks took it over, converting the synagogue to a church and using it as a place of Christian worship so that the communists couldn’t destroy it.
After our trip to the synagogue and through the Jewish quarter, we stopped by the St. Procopius Basilica. I think the difference between the synagogue and the basilica was the most interesting part of the trip for me. While the synagogue, though large, was mostly spartan, the basilica was huge and predictably filled with stained glass and fancy statues. Don’t get me wrong, both were beautiful, but I couldn’t help but feel like the two houses of worship mirror in a lot of ways the history of the two communities.
The last spot we visited in Trebič was the Jewish cemetery. Perhaps the most heartwrenching thing I’ve seen this trip were the graves with space for generations left empty because the family died off during the Holocaust. Similarly interesting, and almost frightening, were headstones with words scratched off because they were in German (German was the primary language of the Jews in Central Europe). The difficulty of the repercussions of the Holocaust is something that I almost can’t comprehend.
Last, but certainly not least, the day transitioned from cloudy and sad to absolutely gorgeous. I couldn’t resist taking dozens of pictures of the beautiful trees (and really, the beautiful city), and now I can’t resist posting some of them now. Think of it as a feast for your eyes for the fact that you’ve made it through this entire post.
Brown boots, knitted sweater, jacket unzipped as the cool breeze blows by. The perfect fall temperature – crisp but not cold. The smell of damp leaves permeating the air and the sound of chestnuts clattering to the ground and rolling down the hill along the cobblestones. Alyssa’s long blonde hair bouncing as she giggles in anticipation of our trip to Turkey in November.
The scents of cinnamon and doughnuts and hot dogs intermingle with the occasional cigarette as I wait for the tram. A scream of laughter from the park behind me. The now familiar station names in the effortlessly soothing automated voice. A good book and my travel mug for company as a light rain starts to fall outside the window.
Children yelling my name as they run over for a hug, little hands grasping mine and pulling me this way and that. Look at this drawing, let’s play that game. Anna is in the kitchen, putting schnitzel on the stove, potato salad ready in the fridge. Traditional Czech beer to drink and freshly picked plums for dessert. Reviewing Emma’s reading homework, getting help on my verb conjugations. Playing nonsense games with Jachym on the floor as Filip watches the news.
Falling asleep to the pitter patter of rain on the window, cuddled under a warm blanket with a book by my side. My door silently closed as Anna wakes to make breakfast for the kids.
I often forget how lucky I really am. (more…)