Posted on 3 Comments

St Moritz and Engadin, Switzerland: Stunning Beauty, Incredible Skiing

St. Moritz, Switzerland

Skiing is a dance, and the mountain always leads.  -Author Unknown

In Winter, there is no better way to spend the dark, bleak, cold days than to hop on a pair of skis and enjoy the snow. Growing up, I skied often at the Purgatory Mountain resort in Durango, Colorado, where my grandmother lived. It was fun, exhilarating, and delightful, but also dangerous beyond belief. I love to ski.

Engadin, Switzerland
Engadin, Switzerland

When my family moved to Czech Republic, we skied downhill in the Austrian Alps–great experiences filled with deep snow, steep slopes, and frequent stops at the traditional Austrian huttes. But back at our home in Prague, we had snow, and snow, and more snow. The community farms and public parks in and around Prague were covered in deep snow for months, and cross-country skiers were everywhere. It was after the first winter in Czech Republic that I realized I was embracing the wrong kind of skiing.

St. Moritz and Engadin, Switzerland
St. Moritz and Engadin, Switzerland

I asked for a pair of used cross-country skis for my birthday our second year in Prague, and the day after my guys gave them to me, it snowed. Since roads aren’t plowed where we live, I could ski right out my front door (no more lugging heavy boots and skis), and after the first time out on the new (used) skis, I was hooked. So was the rest of my family, who also tried out my skis. We bought 4 more pairs of cross-country skis the next week.

With my husband, Brian, our first cross country ski outing in Czech Rep
With my husband, Brian, our first cross country ski outing in Czech Rep

Since then, we’ve skied every time it snows enough to cover the ground. We’ve traveled and skied in the Italian Dolomites, and last month, we brought our skis to Switzerland, to the Engadin lake region of the world-renowned St. Moritz.

St. Moritz, Switzerland
St. Moritz, Switzerland

Without a doubt, St. Moritz and Engadin have the most beautiful, pristine, well-kept, well-groomed, first-class ski conditions I’ve ever seen in my life. The trails go for 125 miles around lakes, up and down hills, and are used by novice and professional skiers alike. My husband and I and our kids (ages 14, 11, 10) skied only 15 or so miles, and it was the most beautiful trail I’ve ever imagined.

Cross-country Skiing, the views, at St. Moritz / Engadin, Switzerland
Cross-country Skiing, the views (from my iphone), at St. Moritz / Engadin, Switzerland
Cross-country Skiing, the views, at St. Moritz / Engadin, Switzerland
Cross-country Skiing, the views, at St. Moritz / Engadin, Switzerland
Cross-country Skiing, the views, at St. Moritz / Engadin, Switzerland
Cross-country Skiing, the views, at St. Moritz / Engadin, Switzerland
St. Moritz and Engadin, Switzerland
St. Moritz and Engadin, Switzerland

 

If you enjoy being outdoors in the winter, I highly recommend trying cross-country skiing. And if you enjoy cross-country skiing, there is no place in the world like skiing the Engadin lake valley of St. Moritz.

St. Moritz and Engadin, Switzerland
St. Moritz and Engadin, Switzerland

For You: Have you skied Engadin / St. Moritz? Where is your favorite place to cross-country ski?

 

Posted on Leave a comment

Prague’s Winter Loveliness

morning drive in the snow above Prague

“Prague never lets you go… this dear little mother has sharp claws.” -Franz Kafka, surrealist author

morning drive in the snow above Prague
morning drive in the snow above Prague

The thing with living in a country like Czech Republic is that you never know what each day may bring. It’s always different. Some days, a grocery clerk throws the food you pay for onto the floor (on purpose), and some days the grocery cashier actually smiles. Daily grocery shopping is always difficult, though. I’ll have enough stories to last a lifetime after another year …

My daily drive is always interesting, and truly never is the same. With incredible views overlooking Prague, every day I get to experience the city from the top. And it’s gorgeous. Here, I’m sharing some photos from one day’s drive this week:

the Prague Castle at sunrisethe Prague Castle at sunrise

view over Pragueview over Prague

Beautiful drive through Prague's many forestsBeautiful drive through Prague’s many forests

a drive through a Czech villagea drive through a Czech village

a typical Czech streeta typical Czech street

a Czech wintera Czech winter

Prague is an amazing city in a beautiful country … we are very grateful to get to be here. And it’s a place full of inspiration for writing and the arts. And, winter guarantees I snuggle up with a blanket and my laptop and make solid progress on my novel. It’s coming along…

Thanks for sharing some photos of this gorgeous winter Prague with me!

What do you appreciate about winter?

Posted on Leave a comment

The Winter Wonderland of Austria, Germany, and Czech Republic

Winter Wonderland in Czech Republic Sumava

In the depths of winter, I finally learned there was in me an invincible summer. -Albert Camus, French novelist, 1957 Nobel Prize for Literature

A few weeks ago, we spent time in the Alps skiing. And, on our way home to Prague, we plugged in our Garmin, set the destination to HOME, and started the journey. We didn’t look at the route the Garmin suggested … which we soon found out was different than the Autobahn quick drive home. Instead, we took the LONG road home to Prague, through the high country of north-central Austria, into the National Park in Germany, and crossed the mountains into the Sumava region of Czech Republic. That route meant we got to cross some sizeable mountains in a heavy snowstorm. It was quite the adventure!

Winter Wonderland in Czech Republic Sumava
Winter Wonderland in Czech Republic Sumava

Now, in January, looking out at a blanket of snow, I’m reminded of the photographs I took during that drive. And since I’m working heavily on rewriting and editing for my work-in-progress novel, I’m taking the chance to save words for the novel and post stunning photographs instead. I hope you enjoy them!

The Austrian Alps in WinterThe Austrian Alps in Winter

Austrian Castle in the AlpsAustrian Castle in the Alps

The Stunning Snow-capped Alps, AustriaThe Stunning Snow-capped Alps

German Winter WonderlandGerman Winter Wonderland

Powdered Sugar Trees, Czech RepublicPowdered Sugar Trees, Czech Republic

Starting the Conversation: What off-the-beaten path adventure have you taken lately? Have you experienced a time recently of unexpected beauty?

Posted on Leave a comment

Christmas, Snow, and the Grinch

The sun dazzling on the snow
“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow,
Stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so?
It came without ribbons, it came without tags.
It came without packages, boxes or bags.
And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before …
What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store?
What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?”
-Dr. Seuss, American Writer, from The Grinch Stole Christmas

December has arrived to Prague with a blast–a big blast of snow! This week, what began with around twelve inches has at least doubled to over two feet. This is all at a place where the locals say they get no snow, and where the schools offer no “snow days”. It’s quite an adventure!

For about one hour this week, the sun peeked out from behind its winter cloud covering and shone in all its glory over the snow.

The sun dazzling on the snow
The sun dazzling on the snow

No diamond can compete, I think. There is no more intense sparkle than of the sunlight on snowflakes.

Sparkle!

And the excitement of snow — there are snow forts, and snow balls, and snow angels to make. And sledding, and skiing, and sliding to do. The snow makes toys and games from the store a bore. Instant JOY!

In the midst of the holiday shopping, buying and wrapping gifts, and attending holiday parties, it’s easy to get swept away in the popular spirit of the season: busy-ness. But busy-ness, for me, also steals away the joy that can be found in the simple things, things that come without wrappings and ribbons, without tags and boxes, without the sparkle and glimmer of store-bought things with high price tags.

Maybe the real joy in Christmas can be found in spending time away from the busy-ness, giving of our time to others. Making snow forts. Throwing snow balls. Laughing, wrapped in the smaller, gentler things that Christmas brings. Like the Grinch so eloquently pointed out, the JOY found in Christmas must come from a whole lot more than wrappings– a joy that started 2,000 years ago in a humble manger.

Starting the Conversation: This week, what are ways you can find to escape the run-around surrounding Christmas? How are you able to remember to embrace the simple in the midst of the media storm promoting sales for the holidays?

Posted on 4 Comments

The Benefits of Snow

World Washed White
Never before has my world been so white. I look outside my window, and all I see is snow.
World Washed White
World Washed White

Snow on the balcony, even, a step beyond where I write. Sure, on a mountain pinnacle, overlooking the next ski trail to carve down a snow-covered mountain, I’ve experienced lots of snow. But the snow in Prague is different. For even though we have a deep blanket of snow now painting the world clean, ever-mysterious Prague is also shrouded with fog. It’s amazing, really. And in my mind, I continuously hear the great song by U2, “No Line on the Horizon”, because of the fitting name for my white world. There truly is no horizon line.

 

A few days ago, the thought occurred to me that I love living in a place with distinct seasons. Without four dramatic changes, I feel as if I haven’t had a year. But winter—well, it’s easy to bemoan, but I think it also has a few great benefits.

 

I’m quickly learning that to “drive” through two feet of unplowed snow is remarkably similar to off-roading. Fun, sometimes.

 

In winter, we can hibernate. All the usual demands of daily life somehow fade into winter’s chill. And we can rest, if we let ourselves.

Winter transforms the normal into a magical world of fairy-dust snow and architectural hoarfrost.

We can be kids again: skiing, sledding, snowshoeing, ice skating, and countless hours making snowmen, snow forts, snow angels … winter brings an uncommon youthfulness, one I cherish.

 

Winter ushers in quiet time for reading by the fire, steaming coffee to warm hands and friendships, and soft blankets under which we can snuggle little ones.

Winter gives us time to catch our breath and reprioritize the pieces of life most important.

Oh—and winter is a perfect time to write. So while I cozy up with a latte, blanket, and laptop to write, I’m grateful for winter and the opportunities it brings … time to slow down and fill back up.

Enjoy the snow … -Jennifer

Starting the conversation: What do you appreciate about winter?
(Leave your comment below by clicking on the word “comment”.)