Hiking. It is what traveling families seem to do. We had pretty much sworn off ever hiking again after a number of disastrous failed attempts to successfully put one foot in front of the other as a family. Like that time in Moab USA a few years ago when we'd thought it was just a little stroll along the path. We'd turned up in completely the wrong attire - flip flops, unbroken new shoes on one kid, and no hats, water bottles or sunscreen for anyone... Aargh, sometimes it's hard to believe that we've ever successfully traveled internationally anywhere, truly we are living proof that anyone can do it!
Well, in Moab, we'd eventually had to deal with so much whining and sobbing resulting from subsequent sore feet, blisters and a general lack of enthusiasm that by the time we got to that famous arch...I was in such a foul temper that I was ready to curse the thing and never hit the outdoors again.
Plus, walking for hours...it's kinda boring. I like the views at the end sometimes. If the getting there isn't too traumatic...
But there we were in southern Poland surrounded by lush forests on all sides...and not much else. We'd gained some hope and confidence in Austria when our hiking attempts had resulted in the glorious discovery that we could ride a gondola up the mountain and slide back down! But in the wild Bohemian forests of Borowice, I doubted that we would chance upon any magical huts offering ice-cream sundaes for the weary (This really does exists in Austria!).
Were we game to give it another go? Sure, were were up for anything. Plus, it's a free activity, and a seemingly popular one amidst the travel community. Perhaps there was more to be had from walking past trees and rocks than I had assumed? Maybe we would bond as a family or see some cool animal?
It was a Sunday and we had nothing planned and needed to get out of the house. In our church we fast for two meals once a month and give the money that we would have spent on that food to the poor. It's an opportunity to remember our blessings and also to practice mastery over our bodies. The kids join in from about 8 years old. This day happened to be a fast Sunday. Ross and I figured it would be a good idea to do something to get all our minds off food for a while.
We researched some local hikes and chose one that ended at an old medieval castle, great! The Autumn was beginning and the weather was starting to cool down, we threw on a couple of beanies, strapped the baby to our backs and set off in search of enlightenment in the forest. The map said that the total walk should only be about an hour long, but it's us, so...ya know....maybe more...
It was OK. I mean, I wasn't feeling particularly enlightened or anything. I did enjoy being outside, but truth be told, I kinda missed the ice-cream and the random rope courses that would appear in Austria. The trees were beautiful, and the rocks were...um... big. And then, the baby had had enough. I guess he's not a hiker either. For some strange reason our family hikes looked nothing like what I had viewed on Instagram of other families around the world. Shocking right? Did their babies cry for over half of the way? Did their kids moan about footwear or moan about being bored? Ah, the sad realities of reality as opposed to media fantasy!
Once we hit the castle area we all perked up a bit. Things were starting to get interesting. In fact, yes, as we walked towards the Medieval Keep it looked just like an ancient castle straight out of Lord of the Rings! We all had fun pretending we could see trolls and making up stories as we climbed the rocky stone steps. Chojnik Castle dates back to the late 13th Century and the grounds are wonderful to explore!
All that fantastical scenery can't stop reality creeping in. Poop halts everything. That little wailing baby of mine has had his bum changed in many obscure places around the world. Beaches in Australia, forests of Poland, sidewalks of Germany, castles of The Czech Republic, jungles in Penang, deserts of The Middle East...
I'm sure he'll thank me when I have an impressive collection of embarrassing photos for his wedding day...mmwwaahahaha.
Everyone was hungry and complaining. Not me. I don't complain. I suffer in silence. Unfortunately my kids are yet to learn that particular skill. They did like the mysterious castle ruins in the forest, but they weren't too impressed that we had made the journey on an empty stomach. "No worries" I told them, "we are almost there and then we can explore inside the castle!!"
It really was gorgeous scenery and especially magical with the ruins around us.
Finally, finally, our family arrived at the top. And the castle was open to the public...for a cost. Oh dear. We didn't have any cash. Between wrangling the wailing baby, double checking for nappy changing essentials, and locating a complete set of shoes each, we had totally forgotten that we might need to pay to get in. But it was just as well, because we don't spend money on a Sunday if we can avoid it. It is a way that we keep the Sabbath as a holy and special day apart from the rest of the week, so it was probably providential.
We looked up at that cool castle and promised the kids that we would return to see inside on a different day, with cash and with food. (There may be a miserable child crying in the photo...)
And so we walked home. All sad and hungry and disappointed. Nah, just kidding, I was fine, maybe not the kids, but Ross and I definitely appreciated the mysterious beauty around us. I think I do like hiking if it can involve mysterious ancient crumbling ruins!
Plus, we have created a shared memory and helped to foster some grit. It's all part of the adventure.
And so the saga continues. Did the Gilberts ever make it to the mysterious medieval Polish castle in the forest? Did they remember to bring all needful things and have a wonderful time bonding in nature while hiking through the forest?
I promised to always keep it real. We set off again about a week later in high hopes of a joyous experience. We were finally going to enjoy hiking! It started out pretty good, the ninja was happy.
Unfortunately the baby had other ideas. He did NOT want to be out bonding in nature exploring forests.
I have no idea what he would rather do. Probably eat all the grapes from the fridge, get into the bin, or draw on the wall, you know, all that fun stuff. He seemed to not consider walking through the forest as any kind of fun.
Hinking can be hazardous! Hazardous for your patience levels that's for sure.
Oh dear. it was official, we were doomed to hiking failure. The one exception being Austria with all of it's cable cars, ice-creams, hidden ropes courses and slides down the mountain. But as for normal walking and enjoying nature, this seemed too great a thing to ask. As with other seemingly normal activities, such as walking past a fountain without leaping into it, or riding in the car without killing each other, we seemed to be hopelessly flawed. And a little cursed, because we finally made it all the way to the top of that beautiful blasted mountain and the darn thing was closed. My kids were outraged. No matter, we could take a few photos outside and all remember together the mysterious castle that we visited twice and never actually saw. Family travel, it's all about the memories right?
OK, I'd had enough of walking through the forest with a crying baby, gorgeous medieval castles notwithstanding. it was time to take charge. So we went on a Skyler hike. That would be a wander through the streets of an adorable town and exploring the street market!
Baby gear? Check.
Sense of adventure? Double check!
The town of Jelenia Gora had the most wonderful street market that I had ever seen! I'm talking swords, traditional clothing, antiques paintings, china dolls, wooden carved statues and fox furs...you name it!
This hike involved food adventures (always my favourite kind of adventure!). We tried some unknown grilled something-or-other, not having any idea what it was, and surprisingly it turned out to be cheese! Oscypek is a traditional Polish delicacy made of salted sheep's milk, yum!
Hiking can be hazardous. Parenting can be hazardous. Life can be hazardous! And not always what I imagine in my head, and definitely not what I expect when I compare myself to others, but like I said, it's all part of the adventure.
Along with the crying and grumbly tummies and grumbly kids was a whole adventure that has become a part of our shared history. We all talk and laugh about the castle that we visited twice and never saw, and the kids love to tell everyone about the time that we made them hike a mountain on an empty stomach. I like to remember the magical otherworldly castle ruins that belong in a story, and now they are a part of my story. I like to remember how we can do hard things and adapt and make things up as we go along, and how life can be surprising, challenging, disappointing, fun, crazy, amazing, sad, and magical all rolled into one. Hazards and all.