What we did on our holidays (or, If it's Thursday, it must be Slovakia!)

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Re: What we did on our holidays (or, If it's Thursday, it must be Slovakia!)

Post  Paul B (Scotland) on Thu Jun 09, 2011 11:40 pm

Hiya Steve,

Wow! Great trip so far.

I'd said on one of Pavel's threads that I'd love to see Mirek's garden....it's even better than I imagined. I'd love to spend lots of time there.

It looks like great countryside to be walking about in and some nice trees you all collected.

The food looks amazing too - I've just had a black pudding and fried egg piece, but I could really handle some of that wild boar and sheeps cheese. Very Happy

Looking forward to the next updates, keep the photos coming.



Paul B (Scotland)

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Re: What we did on our holidays (or, If it's Thursday, it must be Slovakia!)

Post  Stone Monkey on Thu Jun 09, 2011 11:51 pm

Episodes 1 & 2 Fantastic!!!!1

Bring on episode 3, it 2348hrs and I am up at 0500hrs. Mr Jackson you tell an enthralling yarn, I am so so jealous. I so hope I can wangle Burrs this year to see the fruits of your high altitude labour

All the best


Stone Monkey

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Re: What we did on our holidays (or, If it's Thursday, it must be Slovakia!)

Post  Rob Kempinski on Fri Jun 10, 2011 4:03 am

Wow, what a great trip and report. Kudos to Pavel and Mirek for such great hospitality.

Thanks for posting all the great photos and anecdotes.

If you come collecting in Florida its not falling from mountains nor eating too much that you worry about but getting eaten - by assorted reptiles.

Rob Kempinski

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Re: What we did on our holidays (or, If it's Thursday, it must be Slovakia!)

Post  Ian Young on Fri Jun 10, 2011 9:14 am

Amazing Dance

Like everyone else, we are patiently waiting for the next instalment. Looking forward to the Mugo collecting. Were the pines already shown Sylvestris?

Ian Young

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Re: What we did on our holidays (or, If it's Thursday, it must be Slovakia!)

Post  Mikey P on Fri Jun 10, 2011 12:36 pm

I have got to say, I think this is the most viewed and interesting thread on the forum. I will be going back to this story many a times to keep my bonsai spirit high. Great story so far Steve. I think this is more catching to people than there daily dose of Corry or Eastenders hahaha. Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy

Mikey P

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Re: What we did on our holidays (or, If it's Thursday, it must be Slovakia!)

Post  Chris Cochrane on Fri Jun 10, 2011 5:28 pm

Two well-fed Englishmen are pronounced by local critters as "Bambi" & "Thumper"-- to be served on a mountain plate with selected Mugho pine as the garnish. Can hardly wait for the next episode! Thanks for the VERY generous sharing.

... visit the U.S. National Bonsai & Penjing Museum, Washington DC USA-- http://www.bonsai-nbf.com

Chris Cochrane

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Re: What we did on our holidays (or, If it's Thursday, it must be Slovakia!)

Post  Harleyrider on Fri Jun 10, 2011 6:25 pm

@ Stone Monkey: Thankee kindly mate, one does one's best. I'm up at 5am every day, so you won't be getting any sympathy from me in that direction, me old china.
I hope you make it Burrs Andy, it won't be the same without your friendly abuse floating across the room. Oh, and your pots Very Happy . Seriously though, I need a good semi cascade pot for Pavel and was relying on you to come up with the goods.

@ Rob: Again, thanks for the kind words. It really helps to know someone actually reads my waffle. As for the 'local predator' issue, we were deep inside bear and wolf country here mate. Mind you, I wasn't worried.....I can easily outrun Tony!

@ Ian: Yup, all sylvestris mate, but I seem to recall seeing a couple of Junipers in there somewhere that Pavel collected for himself.

@ Anyone and everyone who has commented thus far: Thank you all for your generous words. I hope at least some of you are inspired to visit the Czech Republic or Slovakia at some point. Believe me, you will never regret it.


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Re: What we did on our holidays (or, If it's Thursday, it must be Slovakia!)

Post  Harleyrider on Fri Jun 10, 2011 7:00 pm

To everyone who has asked me for pics of Pavels' garden and trees.....unfortunately, I lost all but 3 of them when I busted my phone on the mountain. I have asked his son to take some more for me and I am planning a Pavel Special once they arrive. I've asked if I can interview him too, so if you have any questions, PM me and I'll pick out the best.
If he agrees to the interview, and if the Special proves popular, I might make it an occasional series.


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Re: What we did on our holidays (or, If it's Thursday, it must be Slovakia!)

Post  DangerousBry on Fri Jun 10, 2011 7:16 pm

"Again, thanks for the kind words. It really helps to know someone actually reads my waffle."

I defo Appreciate the brilliant blog of your trip!! I'm checking in on IBC at every opportunity waiting for more... Killing my 3G access on the iPhone logging in!
The scenery reminds me of my trip to Austria, even the food.... Stunning

Bein able to collect trees from that area with that backdrop, with great company, makes them all the more special!

Thanks again.... Bryan


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Re: What we did on our holidays (or, If it's Thursday, it must be Slovakia!)

Post  Harleyrider on Fri Jun 10, 2011 7:37 pm

Amen to that, Bry!


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Re: What we did on our holidays (or, If it's Thursday, it must be Slovakia!)

Post  Harleyrider on Sat Jun 11, 2011 11:22 pm

Oopsie, I made a boo-boo! After I had posted yesterdays' episode, I went to bed with the nagging feeling that I'd forgotten something. That feeling persisted today at work, so when I got in I reviewed all the pictures and realised almost immediately what, or rather who, it was.
After lunch......or was it before we climbed the hill?......Oh, I can't recall, I've slept since then and we saw and did so much in such a short space of time it all blurs together after a while. Anyway, at some point during day 2 we called on another of Pavels' merry band, a delightful chap by the name of Roman. True to form, he greeted us like old friends and insisted we sit and eat. His wife and daughter promptly arrived, laden down with plates full of goodies (Blackcurrant cheesecake, pasta in cheese sauce with bacon sprinkles, biscuits), bottles of Vino Collapso and the to die for thick, black coffee that only the Europeans seem able to make.
After a brief tour of his bonsai garden, we settled in for a chat (he and his wife speak good English) about tomorrows events. It turns out that there is a big construction project going on where the trees are, and there are huge diggers ripping the Mugo's out by the bucketload and dumping them in piles to be burned. Say WHAT? To make matters worse, nobody is allowed in the construction area. Houston, we have a problem.
Enter Roman and his old friend, Mr Construction Site Manager! YAY! It turns out that an old neighbour and business acquaintance of Romans' is currently overseeing all the work being done on the mountain and, with the aid of a nice bottle of wine, he not only gives them access to the trees, he drives up the mountain in his big car, collects the trees and delivers them and the lads safely back to the carpark, 5000ft below. That, my dear Watson, sounds like a plan, says I.
Ah, says Roman. Bit of a cock up there, I'm afraid. The one day we've chosen to be up the mountain, Mr Manager can't be there. Damn and blast! All is not lost though, we still have permission to be there, but we can only collect 1 or 2 small trees each as the cable cars we will be travelling in are snug to say the least. Not good with our rapidly expanding waistlines.
Phew, says I. In the immortal words of someone somewhere's wife (probably), I'm not bothered how small they are, just as long as I get some.


I suppose you want to know now why we were so keen to get these particular trees from this particular part of that particular mountain? Well, while we were sat having our nibbles, about 6ft behind my head was a Mugo collected from the very spot we were going to. Before I show it to you, I need to expalin that this tree was collected last year and has had NO WORK WHATSOEVER DONE ON IT YET! Nothing. Not even a needle pinch. The tree is in EXACTLY the same condition as it was when it was lifted. Gulp!

Not too shabby, is it? The bloke scratching his head is Roman, our host. Even he can't believe it!
Here are two more Mugo from the same location.

And a Juniper. Not sure where this came from, but I just wanted you to see the kind of yamadori that is commonplace over there. If you know where to look, that is Wink

So, now you can see why we were so eager to get up there.
Having made arrangements to meet Roman on our way through Slovakia (for that is where he dwells) in the morning, we headed off back to base camp, undoubtedly for more food.

Right, I think that brings us up to date again. On with the tale.......


After staying up chatting with Pavel and Kuba until after 1am, I was up with the Lark (albeit a bleary eyed Lark with a bad cough and aching thighs). We were scheduled for a 6am departure, heading deep into Slovakia to look for ancient Mugo Pine that grow in a certain location on a certain mountain. Sorry for all the secrecy folks, but I've got to protect Pavels' collecting grounds.
After scaling Mount Breakfast as a training exercise, we loaded up (including vast quantities of chocolate in case a certain person went a bit wobbly so high up) and pointed the car Slovakia way.
After an uneventful 2hr drive through yet more jaw dropping scenery, and having collected Roman and his terrifyingly fast Beemer (isn't it, Tony?), the decision was made to stop for a spot of post breakfast breakfast. Or was it pre dinner dinner?
Ham and eggs was the order of the day. Lots of fried ham. And 2 fried eggs. With chips. Looking out of the cafe window, we could see the mountains we were heading for in the far distance. Even at this range they looked massive. Could I really haul that big rucksack up one of those things, as well as several kilos of partially digested breakfast? I guess we're about to find out.
Our first view of the mountains. I can't tell you which one we were heading for. Notice how busy the motorways are over there.

Our second view of the mountains. They're getting bigger by the minute!

At this point, dear readers, I fear I must begin to be a little vague, if not positively obfuscatory, in my descriptions of location, and to be very selective in the pictures I show you. Whilst it would be relatively easy for someone who knows these mountains to work out which mountain we were on, owing to it's remoteness it would be almost impossible for anyone to find the exact location of Pavels' collecting zone. In order to protect it, I have included a number of pictures that are of a different, but very similar, location altogether. There are no pictures showing the exact route to the trees either. So there.
So, here we are in the car park, eating choccy bars and wondering just who's idea it was to get up at the crack of dawn and then spend the day clinging to the side of a 5000ft, rock-strewn mountain.

And here's what we were looking at....there's bonsai gold in tham thar hills, my friends. Yee-Harr, Chhhk...ppttt....DING!

Having crammed our party of 6 into 2 tiny carriages, we were off. Tony, Mirek and Roman in one....

.....and Pavel, Kuba and me in t'other.

I have no superlatives expansive enough to convey just how awesome the views were, so here are pics to prove it.

What neither Tony or I were prepared for was just how steep this mountain was. None of the pictures we took accurately show the ridiculous gradient we were going to be climbing, but if I tell you that for the last 5 minutes of our cable car ascent we were travelling almost vertically, you may get some idea of what awaited us.

A 20 minute ride later and we reached our disembarcation point. According to a sign, we were now exactly 1 mile above sea level, most of which, I pointed out, was straight down. A comforting thought indeed.

We interrupt this report to bring you a few minutes of shameless self indulgence. No rodents were harmed in the making of this commercial break.
Here's Tony with his ex KGB minder, trying to avoid the press......

.....with little success. The Pavelazzi strikes again!

My wife says this one looks like an undercover police surveillance picture of a mafia don having a meeting with his capo regime

Realising he'd left his wallet in the car, Tony took to busking to raise a few Euros. Here, he's belting out a medley from 'The Sound Of Music'

He wasn't really. He was trying to set off an avalanche with an almighty sneeze, Mythbusters stylee.

Having been coerced into taking this next picture, I refuse point blank to be responsible for captioning it. Besides, I'm sure you can come up with a few crackers yourselves. (I was going to put "Insert Beaver related gag here", or "Tony can find a well crafted beaver anywhere", but decided against it)

I swear by all that is Holy that whoever took this next picture, and I will find out who it was, is a dead man walking! No sniggering at the back.

And just before we set off on our half hour hike, here are the three voted "Most likely to fall and smash their phone" Just look at the length of my right arm!

We now return you to our sceduled programme. Thank you for watching.

Having rested up and acclimatised ourselves to the altitude, we freed Tony from the clutches of the Slovakian RSPCA and made our discreet way towards our goal. Cunningly disguised as English tourists looking for a Tesco, we managed to avoid any unwanted attention as we snaked along the worse public footpath I have ever seen. It was like walking along a set of stairs laid horizontally on the floor, except there was a certain-death drop on one side of it, and not a hand rail in sight. Every single bit of green you see from here on in is Mugo Pines. The one's on either side of the path are around 6ft high. The ones we are after are much higher than this, and in a different place. Maybe even a different direction, who knows?

We walked a looong way. Actually, that's wrong. We stumbled and tripped a looong way.

Despite the ramshakle nature of the footpath, it did provide us with a sample of the kind of trees we could expect to find. These were actually growing between the rocks of the path!

Having reached our destination, we dumped the bags behind some large rocks and did a starburst manoeuvre, leaving Kuba behind to look after our stuff (although he's become very knowledgeable about bonsai through translating for Pavel, he's not actually very interested in trees, except as photographic studies. He was perfectly happy sitting on a rock, snapping away. In fact, most of the pictures you will see from here on are his work).
First out of the blocks was Pavel, who literally sprinted up the ridiculously steep and ridiculously dangerous wall of loose, jagged boulders in front of us. He covered a good 50metres in less than a minute and it took Roman and me 5 minutes to catch him up, and he didn't even have the decency to be breathing hard when we got there! Tony appeared a minute later and we started our upwards trek again. The trees around the edges of the boulder field were getting noticeably smaller and more contorted. The omens were good! A few seconds later and Pavel vanished before our very eyes. 'Oh shit!' I thought, 'he's gone down a crevice,' How wrong can you be? Suddenly, up pops his head with a beaming smile 'Come, come,' he said, pointing towards his feet.
Heaving ourselves up to where he was, this is what we saw as we peered over the rock

Our first Mugo! Not bad eh? I'd love to tell you just how hard it was to collect this little beauty, I really would. But I can't. Because I'd be lying! With absolutely no effort whatsoever, Pavel just lifted the whole tree, roots and all, with one hand. There was absolutely nothing holding it onto the rock. God only knows how it had managed to stay put for so long. Now I was really getting excited! Somehow, this tree was designated as mine. I wasn't going to argue!

Leaving Pavel and Roman to collect the tree, I decided to head even higher and see if I couldn't find myself a little something special before anyone else got there. After several minutes of scrambling over the thousands of boulders around me, Pavel and Roman appeared as if by magic. Then, just as we stood three abreast, studying the terrain above us, one of those magical moments that live with you forever began to play out before me. Not knowing why, I had the sudden urge to look down at my feet (as you do). Apart from my size 10 climbing boots, all I could see was a gorgeous little Mugo Pine, perched atop a rock and snaking its way downwards in a beautiful cascade of dense, green foliage, a long, twisting jin poking out from the cushion of needlles. YES! Thank you God!

Still not being entirely confident with Pines and what makes a good one, I pointed it out to Pavel. The way his eyes lit up and the speed with which he jumped down to inspect the tree told me all I needed to know. In a second, Roman was next to him, scraping away at the Pine needle mulch that was the trees only source of sustenance in this remote landscape. (Bloody hell! How poetic am I being here, lol). Now the really magical thing happened. I realised I needed a pee and, not wanting to upset Pavel and Roman, I checked the wind direction and took a step to the side to hide behind a particularly hefty boulder. Not very magical so far, is it? Try this on for size then. On the other side of my erstwhile latrine, I found yet another Mugo, and this one was even smaller, more contorted and more cascady than the last one. And it had a twin trunk, one of which came complete with natural shari!
'Erm, Pavel? Is er, is this one ok?' Again, his face lit up when he saw my find. 'Yes, yes. Good tree, good tree!'. That was all I needed to know. As far as I was concerned, you could kill me now and I'd die a happy man. And just to put the icing on the cake, I'd found my quota before Mr T had even got out of the starting blocks.

Unfortunately, I can't supply you with pictures of the trees being collected, as in my giddy haste to carry them down the mountain to our rendezvous point, I ended up doing a back flip from one huge, wobbly boulder onto a pile of smaller, sharper rocks some 10 ft below. Fortunately though, the ground broke my fall. Unfortunately, it also broke my Blackberry, wiping all the photos I had taken up to this point. On balance though, looking at things from a ying-yang perspective, I didn't come off too badly. I had 2 cracking little Mugo's and everyone else had been taking pictures, I could just swipe theirs.
Sitting rather gingerly with Mirek at the halfway point between Kuba below and Pavel, Roman and Tony above, I was content with my lot. Mirek, ever the joker, decided to inject a little humour into our isolated waiting. Carefully unscrewing the lens cover of his obviously expensive camera, he fumbled it and we both watched as it fell in slow motion, end over end, until it clicked off first one rock, then clacked off another, our heads moving in tennis crowd synch as we watched it bounce it's way downwards, just out of reach of both of us, before disappearing down a gap in the rocks, where it carried on clicking and clacking as it made its way out of earshot. Considering how high we were, it's probably still going!
Mirek and I looked up at the same time and I just creased up laughing as, stony faced as you like, he shrugged, "It's ok," he said "I have a spare." I nearly wet myself, (speaking of which, I never did get my pee.)
You don't really get the true idea of just how steep this mountain is from these pictures, but believe me, it is. My impromptu breakdancing routine started about 2 inches to the right of Mireks forhead and ended around an inch south east of there. It doesn't look like much, but try telling my buttocks that!

As I sat (very) gingerly with Mirek midway up the slope, we realised that Tony, Roman and Pavel had disappeared from view. Even using Mireks' powerful zoom lens we couldn't spot them. I hoped Tony had got his passport with him, the Poilish border runs just across the back of the summit!
Eventually, a flash of red waaay above us pinpointed at least Pavels' location, and a squinting scan of the area revealed two more bobbing heads snaking their way through the massive rocks. Pavel was making his way back down faster than I had fallen down, so sure footed is he, and he had a tree-shaped bundle under his arm so we knew someone had found something. A distant thumbs up from Tony (at least I think that's the gesture he made...) showed us that another Mugo had been bagged. This was turning out to be a very successful trip indeed.

To give you time to go and put the kettle on before we continue with our adventure, here are a few shots taken by Kuba and Mirek of our high altitude meanderings, interspersed with some of Kuba's excellent arty camera work.
And before anyone says it, no, Roman isn't pinching my arse in the first pic.

Tony getting papped again...

Apparently, this is me in the process of finding my two Mugo's, virtually side by side. You can just see Pavel's head to my left, and Roman to my right. We were a good 100 metres above Kuba when he took this pic, and Tony's trees came from at least another 100 metres above that.

Well, there are lots more pics of our heads bobbing about behind rocks, but I'm sure you've seen enough of that by now, but if not, I'll be posting a link to my Photobucket account at the end of Day 5 so you can go over there and knock yourself out.

Rucksacks full, we began our long descent, grateful that Pavel had opted for the cable car and not his original scheme of climbing down! I have to admit though, my legs and shoulders were beginning to feel every one of their 46 years right about now.

Having reached ground level once again, we somehow managed to shoehorn all our gear and a healthy crop of Mugo Pine into the back of the car and we bid a sad farewell to this amazing place. The sadness was lifted however, Pavel and Mirek said they had a suprise for me. Hmmm.
After a weary drive of quite a lot of kilometres, during which I found myself 'just resting my eyes' several times, my suprise suddenly appeared before in in the shape of The Harley-Davidson Steak House!!! Wha....who.....when...how.....??? There in front of me, in a town somewhere in the middle of Slovakia, was an honest-to-goodness American-style ranch house, themed around the finest motorcycle manufacturer the planet has ever seen! I was totally gobsmacked, and to be honest, not a little overcome that this side trip had been arranged especially for me. Aww, shucks you guys!

I couldn't wait to get inside! Lucky for me I'd dressed for the occasion. Not that it's very often I'm seen without at least one article of clothing emblazoned with the H-D logo.
A quick scan of the bill of fare showed me that this was indeed my kind of place. Everything on the menu, and I mean everything, was named after either the company itself, or one one of its classic cycles. Genius!
Once inside, I immediately felt at home. Ok, so maybe sawdust on the floor, spitoons and loud rock music aren't to everyones tastes, but hey, I'd done the cordon bleu thing for the last few days so now it's my turn!

We had the Devil's own job keeping Mirek off this pole!

I didn't expect to see much evidence of these two guys on our trip.

This place is the club house for the Chopper Club Slovakia, and judging by the long table, and the coffin suspended above it, this is their meeting room. I didn't dare tell Tony the trouble he could get into just by going in there uninvited, lol

I ordered the steak burger with fries. Little did I suspect that it was to be the biggest bloody burger any of us had ever seen.

And all that after we'd had bowls of soup you could paddle in! I can recommend the Mexican chilli bean soup, if you're ever in the area.
Roman's chin nearly hit the table when his Farmer's Plate arrived. It wasn't so much a plate as an 18 inch square of wood with at least one piece of every kind of meat imaginable balanced on top of it. And he ate every last scrap.

Everybody else had steak. Well, when I say steak, what I mean is a 3inch thick slab of perfectly prepared, prime beef that could choke a gorilla. As Tony said though, if you call yourself a steak house, your steaks had better be pretty damn good. Judging by the silence in which everyone ate, and the licked clean plates afterwards, I'd say they've got theirs pretty much spot on.

When we first set foot inside the bar, the manager (a less likely looking biker I have yet to meet) was quite obviously taking note of my Harley t-shirt, Harley tattoos and general air of being someone to stay on the best side of (or so I've been told). Looking like you're just about to rip someone's head off has its advantages sometimes Cool , and no sooner had we sat down when he appeared at our table, hurriedly handing out menus', asking what we'd like to drink and ushering waitresses off to bring our orders. He returned at regular intervals throughout the meal to enquire nervously as to our satisfaction. Poor sod, lol.

Anyway, long story slightly shorter, after the meal, I had a wander around the place, taking in the atmosphere. I made my way downstairs and asked if I could buy a couple of the t-shirts the staff were wearing...

The guy looked absolutely distraught when he had to tell me that they only had small and XL left. He brought one of each for me to look at and the small was indeed very small, while the XL looked like it probably fit maybe 1 or 2 people on the entire planet. he was starting to look a little bit jumpy at this point. In my best, most polite English, I said "Not to worry mate, I'll send you a cheque and you can post them to me when you get new ones in." Obviously taken aback somewhat with this unexpected approach, he nodded. Then, just as I turned to walk back upstairs, emboldened by my not having bit his head off, he said "If you give me that t-shirt you're wearing, I'll send you them for free."
"What?" I thought, "You want me to give you this shirt, the one I got from Harley-Davidson headquarters in Milwaukee? The pride of my extensive Harley t-shirt collection? Are you feckin' insane?" After a brief moment to breathe, I laughed. "Sorry mate, you've got absolutely no chance."
"But other people have left their shirts here. Look, we have them nailed to the ceiling."
It was at this point that he realised what he'd just said, and obviously pictured himself being nailed up there next to them.
"I tell you what. I've got my work shirts from when I worked at Manchester Harley. They've got my name and loads of Manchester Harley logos embroidered all over them. How about I send you one of those?"
I could see the options rattling around behind his eyes.
"Erm, here's our address. If you send your address with the cheque I'll post them off to you as soon as we get them."
Nice smile, "Cheers mate, nice one."

As we were leaving a few minutes later, he met me outside and whispered conspiratorially in my ear, "I'll send you the shirts for free, it's only fair." Result!

Ah well, dear reader, that's the end of Day 3. Apart from the long drive home to Pavel's, yet another buffet supper and late night bonsai talk, smoking on the balcony and aching, that was about it. We had decided to leave the unwrapping until the morning when it would be light.

At least I think we did. I can't quite remember now.

Whatever, we're leaving it 'til tomorrow anyway 'cos I've been sat at this keyboard for five hours now, and I want to go read what's been happening on the forums before I fall asleep. So go on, sod off before I give you one of my hard stares.

Last edited by Harleyrider on Mon Jun 13, 2011 9:42 pm; edited 1 time in total


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Re: What we did on our holidays (or, If it's Thursday, it must be Slovakia!)

Post  fiona on Sun Jun 12, 2011 12:02 am

Most excellent!!!!

"Espouse elucidation"

my website


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Re: What we did on our holidays (or, If it's Thursday, it must be Slovakia!)

Post  Guest on Sun Jun 12, 2011 12:14 am

A round of applause to Steve for an illuminating sojourn. Cleverly crafting a mixture of trees and food gets my vote every time Very Happy


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Re: What we did on our holidays (or, If it's Thursday, it must be Slovakia!)

Post  Ian Young on Sun Jun 12, 2011 12:27 am

I should be going to bed now but for some reason I'm feeling rather peckish!!

Ian Young

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Re: What we did on our holidays (or, If it's Thursday, it must be Slovakia!)

Post  Harleyrider on Sun Jun 12, 2011 12:38 am

I can suggest a rather extensive supper menu, Ian. You would need to replenish your cupboards and fridge tomorrow though.


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Re: What we did on our holidays (or, If it's Thursday, it must be Slovakia!)

Post  fiona on Sun Jun 12, 2011 1:12 am

Ian Young wrote:I should be going to bed now but for some reason I'm feeling rather peckish!!
it had that effect on me too, Ian. I've sent some onion soup sandwiches over on the ferry for you.

"Espouse elucidation"

my website


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Re: What we did on our holidays (or, If it's Thursday, it must be Slovakia!)

Post  Russell Coker on Sun Jun 12, 2011 1:37 am

Blown away Steve, I'm just BLOWN AWAY!

How are you EVER going to top this???????????????? Thanks so much for sharing. Schmucks like me appreciate being able to live vicariously through you!

Russell Coker

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what we did

Post  alex e on Sun Jun 12, 2011 10:38 am

Russell Coker wrote:Blown away Steve, I'm just BLOWN AWAY!

By the look of it as was Tony!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!pmsl Laughing Laughing Laughing Laughing Laughing Laughing I dunno the lenghts
some people will go to Rolling Eyes

Alex e Bagpiper

alex e

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Re: What we did on our holidays (or, If it's Thursday, it must be Slovakia!)

Post  Harleyrider on Sun Jun 12, 2011 10:59 am

See, I knew someone wouldn't be able to resist, sigh.

That picture is going to haunt me for the rest of my days now.

So much for attack being the best form of defence, eh? B****cks!!!


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Re: What we did on our holidays (or, If it's Thursday, it must be Slovakia!)

Post  ferdy-san on Sun Jun 12, 2011 11:14 am

Hello Steve,
i am amazed, simply amazed...and not a bit jealous, well, maybe just a little bit, maybe just f..... dying of envy... Twisted Evil Shocked Smile


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Re: What we did on our holidays (or, If it's Thursday, it must be Slovakia!)

Post  Harleyrider on Sun Jun 12, 2011 11:16 am

Sorry Ferdy-san.

Hold on a second........you live in sunny Portugal, with ancient Olive trees and Junipers growing like weeds everywhere you look. And you're jealous of me? HAH!


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Re: What we did on our holidays (or, If it's Thursday, it must be Slovakia!)

Post  Morea on Sun Jun 12, 2011 1:15 pm

Dear Steve

Saw the little video's of Mireks garden , must say on the pictures
its even more superb ! I love the wooden house and the one with the pagoda!
The mountains are so beautiful !!! and You all collected so many trees !!
Hope to see some at Burrs this Year !!
The food !!! the pic of the bread with cream(?) cheese(?) and an
orangeslice made me drewl !!
Laughing Laughing The Harleybar !!!! You were in Heaven !!!
Love the picture of You as "Gorillas in the mist"
I keep tuned , thank You for showing all this beauty and friendship !
Kind regards


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Re: What we did on our holidays (or, If it's Thursday, it must be Slovakia!)

Post  Mikey P on Sun Jun 12, 2011 3:29 pm

Steve i don't think you are liked any more haha. I think EVERY one on the forum is jealous. What a great story so far. I laughed hard at some of the bits and my jaw dropped for others. I can not wait to see the trees you collected in person. I would also like to say i am looking forward to meetin Pavel and Mirek at this years Burrs, and to every one else attending. Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy

Mikey P

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Re: What we did on our holidays (or, If it's Thursday, it must be Slovakia!)

Post  Harleyrider on Sun Jun 12, 2011 4:14 pm

YAAAAAWWWWwwnnnnn!! Hmm? Whassat? Is it day 4 already? My, how times flies.

Ah well, no rest for the wicked, as they say. Just give me an hour to work my way through this light breakfast that Vlad'ka has got ready and I'll be right with you......

As has been the norm throughout this epic report, I forgot to include something yesterday. I was reviewing all the pics this morning and it took me a while to work out what was going on in a few of them, and then I realised....it was Tony's little side trip on the way to the big mountain.

For those of you who didn't know, Tony used to be a big cheese in the UK kayaking world, team manager I think it was. He gave it all up around 15 years ago which, coincidentally, was around the same time that the Slovakians built a brand new white water training facility right alongside the road we were travelling on to reach the mountains. Apparently, they diverted a river to make it, as you do.
Finding the lure of the water too much, Tony had Roman take a small detour to allow him to see the facility for himself, and they would meet up with us on the cable car carpark.

Wouldn't you just know it, no sooner had he stepped out of the car and made his way to the river when "Tony? What are you doing here?" Honestly, is there nowhere in the world that man can't go without someone knowing him? There he was, thousands of miles away from home in a small town miles from anywhere and he bumps into someone he knows!

Apparently, he was a Czech guy who used to compete when Tony was in the mix, and he was there to train the Czech women's team for next years' Olympics. He had a good chat with him about what they'd both been up to, the kayaking world and the training facility before Tony had to leave to meet us. And he still can't remember the bloke's name, lol.


After the last two hectic days, today was going to be a much calmer affair. Or so we thought. We hadn't counted on the arrival in our story of the force of nature that is Roman number 2, more commonly referred to as Crazy Roman.
Well, that's not strictly true. We had been told he was coming, but that was days ago and we took it in our stride then.

I won't introduce you to Roman no.2 just yet, I'll ease you into him gently. It's the best way, I find. Besides, you've done nothing to upset me, so why should I punish you so early in the day. Laughing

So, the plan for today was this: Pavels' mother-in-law was 70 today, so he and Jakub would be at the family party for most of the day. In order to keep Tony and me occupied, a workshop had been arranged at Mireks' greenhouse, with Roman (the not crazy one), Roman (the really crazy one) and Mirek bringing trees for Tony and I to work on. The fools!

That was scheduled for around lunchtime though, so that left us with a couple of hours to kill unwrapping and potting the Mugo's from yesterday, with another stroll around Pavel's garden should time permit.
As I have already told you, I lost all of my pictures of Pavels' garden and trees, and am awaiting an e-mail from Kuba with replacements. I have managed to find a few tucked away in the hundreds of pics that were taken over the trip though. I don't know who took them. Here's a brief look at what we saw every day......

This is Three Snakes. If this tree doesn't win something at some point, we all might as well give up now! You can get better views of this tree and many more in the thread posted recently by Jakub, "Bonsai Exhibition, Na Zvonici"

The stunning pot is by Eric somebody-or-other. (Tony....HELLLP!) I've seen a few of his pots on this trip and I have to say, the guy is a genius.

The tree in the left of shot here is Three Way, another stunning find and future winner. To see the story behind the collection and development of these trees and more, visit Pavel's brilliant website. Links at the bottom of most of his posts, but I will supply them at the end of the report.

That's all I've got for the moment, I'm afraid. I know it looks a bit cramped in the garden, but he has so much yamadori it's hard to find space to put anything! He's already planning a brand new, bigger, bonsai garden, hopefully for next year.

With breakfast finished, we headed straight outside to sort out our Mugo's before the weight of all that food rendered us incapable. Tony and I had 2 trees apiece, which very soon became 3 apiece, as you will see.
For some unfathomable reason, I seem to have neglected to take any pics of my trees either before, during or after the potting process. What an idiot! I did manage to remember to take pics of Tony's though. My excuse is that I was too busy preparing fresh soil mix and shovelling it around soggy rootballs to be snapping.
On closer inspection, we realised that one of his trees could easily be split into 2.

The end result. For my money, the one Pavel's holding is the best tree of the day.

So, now you see how we turned 4 trees into 6. One of mine had two trunks which, on closer inspection, turned out to be 2 entirely seperate trees. Kerching!
Again, I'll post more pics of the trees when Kuba sends them.

With the trees safely stowed away in Pavels polytunnel and the garden cleaned up, it was off to Mirek's for the workshop. More envy-inducing photos coming up!
The sun came out in force just as we arrived at the garden, and we all took full advantage to take lots of pictures.

The peace of Mireks' garden was soon shattered by the arrival of Hurricane Roman. Not-quite-so-crazy-Roman and Totally-off-his-head-Roman arrived in a cloud of crunching gravel, beaming smiles and rib-crushing man-hugs. And suprise, suprise....they'd brought copious amounts of sheeps cheese and wine, sigh. I've thought long and hard about the best way to explain Crazy Roman to you. This is the best I can come up with. Imagine, if you will, a 6ft, 12 stone 5 year old who has spent the day at a kids party, drinking gallons of Cola and eating nothing but large handfulls of blue Smarties. That's Crazy Roman. If there is a tree that you think is just to dangerous to collect, he'll happily launch himself over any cliff to retrieve it. But keep your eye on him though, he's apt to wander off looking for bears to torment. No, seriously!
They also brought some of their trees for Tony to look at/style.
Here, Mirek, Roman and Crazy Roman listen as Tony explains what needs to be done with Romans' Itiogawa. See how worried Roman looks?

More explanations, and still he looks worried!

Before Roman even had chance to blink, Tony whipped out a pair of Mireks' Masakuni clippers (he has a full set of Masakuni tools!) and set to work, Edward Scissorhands style. This is part way through the 1st styling.

Having finished the basic clipping and styling, Tony left a stunned Roman to finish up the fine detail wiring and moved on to Crazy Romans' problem Mugo.

In complete contrast to Roman, Crazy Roman remained smiling, even after Tony told him about the major bend he was going to put into the tree. His smile did waver slightly though, when he actually saw the branch bending! All in a days' work when you hang around with the Tickle.
Here's Crazy Roman, jinning what until a few moments earlier had been a big branch. We'd never seen the tools he was using before, but they were absolutely lethal!

Steadtler and Waldorf, heckling from the sidelines.

Having wrapped the trunk with raffia and tape, the bending could begin...

Crazy Roman is still smiling, but only because he thought we'd finished. You have much to learn, young Jedi!

One photograph I wish I'd managed to get was the look of sheer horror on Crazy's face when he walked out of the bathroom to see Tony holding an axe high above his head, about to swing it down heavily onto the trunk of his tree. All Tony was doing was, in the absence of a proper hammer, using the back of the blade to knock in a hook to use as a holding point for the major bend, lol. Priceless. He couldn't have timed it any better if he'd tried, lol.

Much of the heavy work being finished, it was decided to head off for lunch at a traditional Walachian restaurant in the forest. Not by us, you understand. Tony and I were just innocent bystanders when it came to eating arrangements.

It was while we were eating that the weather took a slight turn for the worst. Another of those Hollywood style thunderstorms appeared out of nowhere, and didn't let up for at least 2 hours. We reckon that it must have dropped 3-4 inches of water in that time. And then the sun came out again. Make your bloody mind up, fer chrissakes!
Back at the greenhouse, it was time to put the finishing touches to the Romans' trees. I busied myself with helping Mirek to unwire a beautiful Pine that Tony had wired and styled last year. Despite my absence from the picture, I was there and did actually do some work! I wish you could have smelt the strong lemon scent that came from this tree as we worked it. Beautiful.

Here's Roman's Itiogawa after styling....

Despite all the stress, Roman seems very happy with his new tree!

Mind you, he did need a lie down afterwards!

And here's Crazy's Mugo after being Tickled....

He needs to let the tree rest now. More bending and styling next year.

One of the reasons Mirek had asked Tony to his greenhouse today was to go around every tree in his garden and put either a red sticker or green sticker on each tree. Red to denote 'get rid of it' and green for 'keep it'. A brave request, I thought.
Tony had sent me out into the garden earlier in the day to pick my top 7 trees, and my reasons for picking them. It's the kind of thing he drops on me occasionally, just to keep me on my toes and gauge my progress. As he made his way around the garden, stopping at every tree and explaining to us all why he was putting that particular sticker on it, I was pleased to find that all my selections had made it through the cull intact!
I have to admit that my heart sank when I saw the quality of the trees Tony was red stickering. I'd give your right arm just to have one of them in my collection, but Mirek had decided that only world class trees have a place in his garden, and that means taking some brutal decisions. Suffice to say there were more green dots than red ones!
As we neared the end of our short tour, a beautiful Sylvestris, styled (as most of Mireks' trees are) by Pavel came under scrutiny. Tony explained that although it was a great tree, Mirek had at least three better ones in his collection, and so a red sticker was slapped on the pot. Without pausing for breath, Mirek picked up the tree and dropped it into my arms. "For you," he said. I was absolutely stunned! My mind was saying "Did he just give me this tree? Nah, he couldn't have. He must have meant me to put it over there somewhere. Did he?" Not knowing what to do, I walked slowly around the garden, looking for somewhere to put the tree. To be honest, the next half hour or so is a total blank to me. I just sat staring at that tree, wondering if he really did want me to have it, but not wanting to ask him.
As the time came to leave the greenhouse for the last time, I took a picture of the tree, just in case. I've since asked Pavel to explain to Mirek that I didn't leave the tree behind because I didn't want it, or was ungrateful. I just couldn't believe that someone would give a beginner like me the responsibility of caring for such an amazing tree. Hopefully, Pavel will be bringing it to Burrs for me in November.
My Mirek/Pavel tree. I need to think of a suitable name for it. Serendipity springs to mind.

What do you think?

Our time with our Czech and Slovak friends was rapidly drawing to a close. We headed off to the restaurant near Mireks' house to meet up with Pavel and Kuba for our last supper.

Expensive steaks all round Garcon, merci bien! (I can't do Czech)

Hees a crayzee guy!

Pavel and my attempts at keeping a straight face........

......rapidly descended into farce!

Some views as we walked across to Mireks' house for, belch, another buffet supper. Not bad with a mobile phone, eh?

As our last evening together drew to a close, there was much laughter, drinking and talk of trees and meeting again at Burrs. The 2 Romans were about to leave for their drive back to Slovakia, and much back slapping and promises of another trip were passed around the room.

A few miutes later, it was time for us to leave Mirek and his good lady wife in peace. Not quite ready to bring the night to a close, we decided to head off into the village and hit a few bars. Our plans were thwarted however, by wedding parties having taken over every bar and restaurant for miles around, which leads me to an interesting story about a Czech tradition.
During the party after the ceremony has taken place, the friends of the groom 'kidnap' the bride and whisk her off to a random bar where she is plied with copious amounts of alcohol and food. The groom, who has been prevented from stopping the kidnap is eventually allowed to go in search of his bride. When he finds her, he has to pay the bar bill for all the alcohol and food she and his friends have consumed, then he has to buy another round of drinks as ransom for his wife. Obviously, the sooner he finds her the better it is for his wallet!
Kuba was quite taken aback when I explained that if anyone tried manhandling a bride like that at a British wedding, they'd end up in A&E, friends or no friends lol. I think I prefer the 'groom's mates pay for everything' approach, to be honest. Much more to my liking. Besides, I'd be way too tempted to say "Bugger it, you can keep her" if I got slapped with a hefty bill for her release! Twisted Evil
For God's sake, don't tell my missus that or she'll kill me!
After trying our luck at a couple of bars, we gave up and headed back to Pavels' for a nightcap. By this time, the events of the last few days had begun to take their toll on all of us and it wasn't long before we were saying our goodnights and drifting off to sleep. We had to be up at 8 for a 9am departure, followed by the long, 3 hr drive through the Czech Republic and Poland to Krakow airport.

Breakfast was a pretty quiet affair, each of us lost in our own thoughts about the previous 4 days, tinged with sadness at having to leave these wonderful people and their beautiful country behind. I took my coffee down into the garden for a cigarette and a last look around and was soon joined by Pavel. We walked in silence for a while, looking at his trees. He presented me with two cracking shohin Prunus Mahaleb yamadori that he collected this year, as well as a shohin Picea (I had expressed my admiration for Picea earlier in the week, and bemoaned the lack of decent material in England). As if I wasn't overcome enough with the generosity of our hosts as it was! Tony was also given a cracking Prunus, and after he and Pavel had wandered off into the seclusion of the Tea House, he emerged as owner of a particularly impressive Sylvestris he had been admiring all week, in exchange for a Yew previously styled by Pavel.
My new Prunus Mahaleb....

And my 'practice' Picea, before I get myself a proper doosie!

Here's Tony and Pavel with the tree they will be styling at Burrs in November.

Dodgy dealings over, it was time to reluctantly load our somewhat heavier cases (thanks to Pavels' gifts of lovely pots for both of us and large amounts of various sheeps cheeses for my wife) into the car and wave a fond farewell to Vlad'ka (Pavels' wife) and his lovely garden.
Pavels' youngest son, Radim, was coming with us to look at the aeroplanes. This is Radim with Mr Tickle....

A lovely lad and a credit to his family.

Nearly there. You have no idea how depressing the sight of this sign was.

Light relief on the flight home was provided by 2 large stag parties returning from Krakow full of 'high spirits'. Did nobody warn him that you should never fall asleep on a stag party?

Every time we looked across, he had a different label stuck to his head.


Well, that's it folks, 'What we did on our holidays.' I hope you enjoyed reading of our adventures as much as we did bringing them to you. All that remains for me to do now is to thank Pavel for inviting us over and allowing us onto his collecting sites, not to mention for the amazing trees we now own thanks to his generosity, his good humour, incredible capacity for driving long distances without getting a numb arse, late night conversations about trees and invaluable advice on their care and styling, Vlad'ka for inviting us into her home and making sure we didn't leave it hungry! Jakub for his excellent skills as translator, tour guide and photo-documenter, Radim for letting me use his room and leaving lots of his toys for me to play with when I couldn't sleep, Mirek for his overwhelming generosity in all things and his encyclopaedic knowledge of local food hot spots and traditional Walachian cuisine, Mrs Skrabal for allowing the gang of sweaty, mountain-stained yamadori hunters into her beautiful home and complimenting Vlad'ka's efforts by making sure we didn't go to bed with rumbly tums, Not-quite-so-crazy Roman and his wife for the yummy cheesecake and deceptively filling pasta, not to mention his assistance in lifting and wrapping the two trees I found, absolutely-certifiably-insane Roman for keeping us all entertained throughout the last day of our stay, his hilarious good humour and infectious cheeky grin, and Tony, for inviting me along on this trip in the first place. I suspect it was meant as something of a learning experience, and perhaps to show me there are two ways my bonsai education can now take. Believe me, mate, it worked!
I would just like to say another huge, sincere Thank You to everyone I just mentioned above for your generosity with your time, friendship, humour, knowledge, patience and advice. You are all truly wonderful people and I am happy and honoured to call you my friends.

Finally, I would like to say a big Thank You to you, dear reader, for sticking with me to the bitter end. Anyone who is prepared to read through my inane ramblings for this length of time deserves a bloody medal!

Now, bring on Burrs 2011!!!


I'll post links to Pavels' website, Kubas' photography blog, Tony's sons' food blog and my Photobucket account soon.


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Re: What we did on our holidays (or, If it's Thursday, it must be Slovakia!)

Post  Harleyrider on Sun Jun 12, 2011 4:55 pm

@ Morea: I'm glad you are enjoying my little story. Yes, the food over there was totally delicious, and the Harley Bar was one of the highlights of the trip for me. As for the trees, you will be seeing them all at Burrs in November as Pavel is bringing them across with him.

@ Mikey P: Good to hear I made you laugh mate, and believe me, if you'd been sat in some of the precarious places I was on that trip, and seen some of the scenery I did at first hand, your jaw would have dropped even further! I can guarantee that you will enjoy meeting Pavel, Kuba and Mirek at Burrs. They are truly wonderful people.


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Re: What we did on our holidays (or, If it's Thursday, it must be Slovakia!)

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