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People who like outings and hiking have a wide choice in our country. Except for the sea, the Czech Republic has almost everything to offer.

There are mountain ranges along the borders where many rivers have their source, e.g. the Elbe in the Giant Mountains, the Vltava in the Šumava Mountains and the Morava in the Jeseníky Mountains. The highest ground above sea level is in the Giant Mountains. From their highest peak, Sněžka, one can see steep wooded hillsides, glacial valleys, or mountain meadows with rare specimens of flora growing only in these mountains. Much of the area is protected as a national reserve. If you set out on a trip along tourist footpaths, you can admire mountain streams, gorges, waterfalls and wild life. Some mountains, such as the Šumava, boast a primeval forest, swamps, but also picturesque torrents like the Vydra, with boulders, waterworn rocks and rapids.

In the mountains you are far from civilization - there are only scattered human settlements - but as the hillside slopes to the foot of the mountains, you can see signs of human presence again, flocks of sheep and herds of cattle grazing on pastureland.

Inland there are highlands, hilly country with mild slopes, woodlands and groves which alternate with lowlands along big rivers. In the lowlands and highlands most of the farmland extends across fields where corn, potatoes, sugar-beet, hops, fruit and vegetables are grown.

Starosta a StarostováA region of spectacular beauty is South Bohemia. It is a gently rolling country with coniferous and leafy trees and many lakes which originally were built for raising fish but now they are also used for recreation. Even if you want to see barren rocks, you will not be disappointed when you visit the Adršpach or Prachov Rocks, the bizarre sandstone rock towns with a number of fantastic and romantic rock formations.

You can also find karst caves here, such as the Koněprusy Caves in the environs of Prague, adorned with stalactites and stalagmites, or the whole complex of the Moravian Karst with underground lakes and rivers and the well-known Macocha Abyss.

lf one is tired of people and civilization, there is no better way to regain new energy than to set out on a hiking trip in the country. As I am not used to hiking and partly because I did not want to carry a heavy rucksack with food, a sleeping bag, a pad or a tent, I decided to take a one-day trip.

I got up at dawn because I had a long way ahead. First I had to get to the starting point of the trail. From the windows of the train I could see cornfields and meadows with grazing deer and hares; clumps of oaks, beeches and birches along the way; a shallow stream fringed with alder trees and willows, lonely farms and villages.

From the station the tourist sign showed the direction along the path among village gardens. The sun had risen and dewdrops glistened in the grass and on the leaves. Fruit trees were in full blossom and were coming into leaf, shrubs had buds on them and flowers in the flower-beds and rockgardens were in bloom. Honey-bees were busy gathering pollen from them. People had a lot to do both in their gardens, digging, weeding, planting vegetables in the patches and sowing seeds and in the fields, ploughing and drilling com.

On a chimney of an old cottage, storks had already arrived back from the south to their nest.

A short way beyond the village at the edge of a wood, a group of campers was making their late breakfast fire.

Someone was carrying water in a fire-blackened pot from a nearby spring. As it was still spring, they did not sleep outside as usual but in a hut. The edge of the wood was full of bushes including raspberry bushes, elderberry bushes and hawthorn.

Before long the path began to rise up to a small spruce-wooded area. As the temperature went up, insects began to bother me and I had to use an insect repellent. The path led me into the wood and there I could fully enjoy bird songs, a woodpecker pecking at the bark of the trees and the calling of a cuckoo. Along the path I saw ferns and a big anthill and I had to step very carefully as a few uprooted trees lay there after the last windstorm. 

When I had climbed to the top of the hill, suddenly a clearing appeared in front of me. I sat down on a stump and had my lunch and then I had a rest on the moss. The sun was shining, the sky was clear and I could hear a cricket chirping in the grass, the wind murmuring in the trees and a stream bubbling somewhere on the other side of the hill .

As my way continued and sloped down, the trees became scant and an open view of a valley and neighbouring hills spread out in front of me. At the bottom there was a lake into which the stream flowed. The shores of the lake were over-grown with reeds and on the opposite rock the ruins of a castle towered to the sky. The sun was slowly setting and in its rays the landscape looked very romantic. As I descended along the path to the valley and walked across the meadows I could hear frogs accompanying me on my way to the station. I almost lost my way and was happy to meet a gamekeeper so that I could ask about the way to the village.

When I got home before dusk I felt physically rather tired but emotionally refreshed and ready to start a new working week.



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