As always in travel, as in life, the most unexpected places surprise you. Ask anyone you know who has travelled to the Czech Republic where they went, and 99% will answer Prague. They will have traversed Charles Bridge, admired the Astronomical Clock in the Old Town Square and probably ate what they thought was a traditional Czech Chimney Cake, a dessert that actually comes from Hungary!
Ask them to name a city in Czech Republic besides Prague and their brow will furrow, eyes will tighten a little and they’ll tilt their head to the right, pretending to pluck a name from their head. The sad truth is, most people only know Prague and nothing else.
They don’t know any of the other ten World Heritage Sites, the fairytale castles, the beauty of Bohemian Switzerland National Park or the joy of drinking a coffee from Bohemian Coffee House while looking down on Europe’s largest sandstone canyon.
It had been a few tough and very long days, hiking up to 18km a day in 35-degree heat, a race against time to capture each sunset and an attempt to click that perfect golden hour shot that will set my Instagram alight. Energy levels were fading but the promise of fresh coffee and unbeatable views kept us placing one foot after the other as we hiked up the top of Elbe River Canyon.
As we emerged out of the forest, we were greeted by Jiri and Jiri Duzar, father and son coffee makers, brewing up a storm. Keen to set up a family business but not sure what area to venture into, they soon realized that coffee inspired them the most.
With the help of other local businesses and hiking guides who knew all the best viewpoints in and around Bohemian Switzerland National Park, they came up with the idea to collaborate with local tour company Northern Hikes to create and a “Coffee and Canyons” tour which would combine hikes in the National Park with a unique coffee ritual overlooking the canyon.
“We wanted to spread the crowds and distribute the flow of people to more unknown and lesser visited places,” says Víťek Slezák, founder of Northern Hikes that aims to take people out of Prague and into the stunning Czech countryside for day hikes.
Following the hike to the top of the canyon, our group sat around in the shade, hiding from the searing heat of the midday sun, learning about three traditional coffee making techniques.
Our guides were both passionate and knowledgeable, explaining how one of the methods they were using, Chemex, was invented by a chemist in the 1940’s and the original invention is now on display at MOMA in New York City.
Once the coffee was allowed to “bloom”, we were all treated to a cup of our choice – Ethiopian or Colombian, which we drank while perched on a rock, taking in the panoramic views of the river and canyon below. One guide set up a slackline, as his gorgeous Irish Greyhound lazed under a tree never too far from his side.
The atmosphere was mixed; excitement at being served coffee on the side of a cliff, calm at being able to get back to nature and pure joy thanks to finishing the hike, making new friends and being able to simply relax and take it all in.
I’ve always believed in the power of good food to bring people together and make a moment last forever. To cook together, learn together, to share elements of your culture. If food is the glue that starts friendships, then coffee is the key to making them last forever.
It could easily have been just a regular day tour from Prague. A forgettable blip in my never-ending travels. Instead, I started my coffee education, made new friends, tested my hiking abilities, and learned what sustainable tourism is really all about.
Want to join a canyon and coffee tour? Click here for more info.