|Overlooking Rhossili beach (It's behind you..)|
In fact Wales is the nearest foreign country to Bridgwater. So who needs France or Spain when you've got a few days spare and want to have a brief jaunt around another Nation just on your doorstep.
The Arabska Gymnasium in Prague have been visiting Bridgwater annually for many years and since the pioneering Dr Soucek gave up his job there to spend more time with his long suppressed interest in Polar bear wrestling in the Algarve, his replacement Pavla Pracnova has taken up the mantle. And this year chose Wales as the onward leg of their trip.
In Bridgwater they stayed at the picturesque Street youth hostel with it's views of Glastonbury Tor and Glastonbury. And Street. Well, mainly Street.
|Walking the Brecon Beacons|
Touring Somerset with the help of glamorous Bridgwater Czech Slovak Friendship Society Vice Chairman, Nigel Carter and his glamorous minibus, they visited Bridgwater College where they were interviewed by media Students, were received by the Mayor and Mayoress of Bridgwater and even went for some Cricket training in the nets at Weston Super Mare. Helping the stricken businesses of wall-collapsed West Quay, we social consciously took them for a meal at the Green Olive restaurant to round off their day.
And then off we went over the Severn bridge to discover Wales. Before the Welsh themselves got round to it. A sunny day in Cardiff saw the group having a stroll around Tiger Bay and an amble within and without the Welsh Assembly followed by a wander in the city centre. That evening they ended up on the Gower peninsula at the curious location of the Port Eynon lifeboat house. Now a youth hostel with a slipway. Ideal for spectacular views of Mumbles Bay, but not so good if a klaxon goes off in the middle of the night and everyone rushes down the half removed ramp and into the seaweed swamp beyond. Which didn't happen. The Gower peninsula is a nicely hidden away bit of rural Wales. Well, you have to get past Swansea to notice it. And as Dylan Thomas said "Abertawe yn cachu mewn gwirionedd ychydig yn". Which is Welsh.
|'Waking the dead' on Anglesey|
Back to Cardiff for a Friday night on the town, the group topped up on civilisation before heading northwards. The Rhondda valleys give way to the Brecon Beacons which give way to miles of mid Wales which give way to the Snowdonia mountains. So you can break that journey by taking the coastal route after Dolgellau. Stopping at Barmouth with it's seaside facade and genteel air of Brummie accents, you could be forgiven for thinking the final scene of Planet of the Apes had been shot in Droitwich. Or wishing. A lovely sandy beach hiding a frightening scenario of monkeys on the rampage and Charlton Heston declaring 'my God they actually did it, they blew it up, it's the end of the world' (or words to that effect). On the positive side the coastline past Harlech castle is a joy to behold as Cardigan Bay sweeps northwards and the Snowdonia peaks rise ahead of you.
|Welsh council estate in the rain|
Reaching Idwal Cottage in the middle of those peaks we looked forward to a weekend of climbing to the top of Ar Wyddfa or as the Welsh call it 'the big mountainy thing' . But that didn't happen because it started raining. Not only couldn't you see Ar Wyddfa, it was quite difficult to see Bethesda. Which even on a good day isn't a bad thing. But when you want to climb every mountain and ford every prefect it's a bad start to the day. So instead of heading up a rockface we went off to the flat as southern beer isle of Anglesey where Pavla thought it would be a good idea to visit some neolithic remains. With the Tory party all but wiped out in Wales, we decided instead to crawl inside the Bryn Celli Ddu burial mound and then, because it was raining even harder by now, opted next for the roofless circular stone huts at Lligwy. Moelfre beach holds a special resonance for the secretary, not just because he was brought up there, well, on the council estate next to it, but also because the weather conditions were coming pretty close to those of the great storm of 1859 when the ship Royal Charter was sunk in the bay with the loss of 450 lives. So a potted history of the bravery of the villagers was given extra atmosphere as the entire group was swept out to sea . Well, had a nice cup of coffee in a little beachside cafe. But they MIGHT have been!
|Nige 'on the job'|
That final night we camped down at Leominster and the secretary headed off to London leaving Nigel in charge of the whole group. After a night in the pubs of Leominster the Czechs were filled to the brim with Anglo-Welsh culture and all set for their final trek home through the border marches, down the river Wye, up the river Who and over the river Not Now Colin to the usually rainy city of Bath - within striking distance of Bristol airport. Within flying distance of Prague.