Czech Republic 2007
When I first met Scott I was shocked to hear that he had never once
been out of the country. But then again, there are billions of people
who have never been outside of their own countries and for many, not
even their own towns. Or sometimes, a political line has suddenly been
drawn through their town and just visiting old friends on the other
side becomes next to impossible.
and I passed around many ideas of where to go. Flights to Munich,
Germany were cheap at the time, so we figured at that point we could go
almost anywhere in Europe. Somehow or another, we settled on spending a
month in the Czech Republic. We made only one hotel reservation for the
first 4 days in Prague and with our Czech train pass we'd travel the
rest of the country sporadically and on a whim.
Well, such means
of travel are a certain quick way of breaking someone in to
international traveling. Making no plans, not speaking any Czech, and
flying by the seats of our pants. However, it was the first 30 minutes
after clearing customs Germany that proved the biggest test to
traveling with a new-b.
In Germany the trains run ON TIME. To
the second. Our plan was to land in Munich and then take the train from
the airport to the main train station and then catch a train to Prague.
Well, when we went to catch that 8:27 train from the airport, the door
open, Scott get's on, I bend down to grab my bags, and when I look up,
the doors are closed and Scott is moving away from me with a shocked
look on his face while I remain standing on the platform. As I'm
scrambling to find when the next train will come (20 minutes later I
find out), I keep wonderin how Scott is going to react. Is he going to
get off at the first stop then catch the train back? Is he going to get
to the main train station and catch the next train to Prague? Well, it
turns out it was fine. He got to the main train station and waited at
the platform. I got there 20 minutes later and we went off to find the
platform for our train to Prauge. Breath...
After a 7 hour train
ride we get to Prague in the mid afternoon and start to look around for
our apartment. When we finally stumble across it, it's not yet ready so
we stash our bags and start the search for an ATM and something to eat.
About an hour later we finally sit down to a little pizzaria and Scott
has his first pint of real Pilzen. Ahh...Our
apartment had a cute little kitchen, so Scott and I made sure to grab
some eggs, orange juice, and toast as breakfast staples.
you ever decide to come to Czech, I recommend coming in April as spring
time here is beautiful. There are tulips and daffodils blooming
everywhere and the air is crisp and clean.Prague
is such a wonderful city. On the verge of being Western but with so
much unique Eastern European-ness that its exciting and still a bit
unpolished. Prague only has three subway lines and for the most part
are fairly easy to navigate. We could never figure out the ticket
procedure so we rode the subway "illegally" for 5 days. Sorry Czech
government. But walking the city is fairly easy too and strolling
through the city's many parks is a real treat.
museum is a pleasure to explore and bring your student ID as you'll be
sure to get a discounted ticket. The museum has a whole museum size
floor dedicated to rocks and minerals so if you're a geology buff like
Scott is you can easily spend a whole day on that floor alone, which we
No trip to Prague is complete without a trip over the
Charles Bridge and to the Castle. The Charles Bridge was commissioned
by King Charles IV in the 1350s as a way to connect the Old Town to the
New Town and also because unemployment was rampant in the city, so this
project was his way of creating jobs for his people. The Charles Bridge
is now a gathering of local musicians, street performers, and
Walking around the old Castle is a great
experience for Americans where the idea of castles and palaces has
always been a foreign concept. But the grounds around the Castle also
call for a nice walk and stroll. It is from these paths that a great
overlook of the whole city can be captured.Prague has a huge Jewish community, so often many of the steeples are for Jewish synagogues.
an hour's train ride north of Prague is the small town of Kutna Hora.
Most known for its cathedral, Kutna Hora is also home to a much more
inspiring church. In the 11th Century, a local abbot traveled to
Jerusalem and brought back holy dirt to the Sedlec Ossuary. People from
around the country flocked to have their family buried by such a holy
relic. Well, the Black Death of the 14th century had quickly filled the
ground and yet people still wished to have their bodies kept there
after death. Thus, the chapel started using the human bones as church
As you walk down the steps, the temperature cools
and an eerie feeling takes over you. There are four giant pyramids
(about 10 at the base and just as high) constructed entirely of skulls.
Hanging in the middle is a chandelier that contains every bone in the
human body at least once. Also hanging is a crest of the ruling family
of the area.Once
you leave the cool air of the chapel, a 15 minute walk will bring you
into town where you can buy 50 cent ice cream with all the local kids
and tour the giant cathedral. While you lick your ice cream cone you
can stroll down near the stream underneath all of the blooming trees.
you're in need of some night things to do in Prague, I recommend the
opera. The Prague opera is great. Scott and I saw Carmen, but as you're
going to the opera house, do not confuse it with the Federal building
next door where mysterious men with guns shoo you out if you get too
After Prague we were a bit torn on where to go next. But
because Scott is Mr. Geology/Geography we hitched a train up to Jicin
(pronounced Jichin). Because we couldn't pronounce the name of the city
it took us a little while to find the proper train.
Jicin is to
the north east of Prague and boarders Czesky Raj otherwise known as the
Bohemian Paradise. The Bohemian Paradise is a rolling forest with
towering limestone cliffs which is why many call it the Rock City.
are many trails here to hike and ride bikes. Scott and I opted for the
later, since the trail head to Czesky Raj was 9km from Jicin. However,
the amount of sign language needed for renting a bike in Czeck prompted
us to immediately buy a phrase book.
Czesky Raj would prove to
be the beginning of our Czech bike troubles because on the ride back to
town my bike got a flat and after labourously finding where and when
the bus comes, we found that we couldn't take bikes on it. So Scott,
being the gentleman he is let me use his bike as he ran along side with
my bike for the 9 km back to Jicin.
Jicin is a beautiful old
town with a giant center square where they hold weekly markets and is
outlined by great eateries and again, ice cream. But a good day trip
out of the town is a train ride north west to the Trosky Castle Ruins.
Of course we came on the random day that the grounds were closed, but
just the site alone is something to marvel at.After
playing in the forests of Czesky Raj, we hoped a long train south to
Olomouc, the second largest city in Czech Republic. A note to those
traveling in Czech... a car is faster. Because the country only has
local train lines that make lots of stop a two hour car ride can easily
become an 8 hour train ride.
Scott and I arrived in Olomouc at
the same time as an international flower festival so we spent far too
much time trying to find accommodations. But as always is the case when
traveling like this, we found the most beautiful apartment tucked away
down some random side street.
The main square of Olomouc has a
13 Century clock tower that is the most elaborate time piece I have
ever seen. And just down the road is a wonderful botanical garden to
wonder around and find a tree to read under. But a hidden gem of
Olomouc, besides the most wicked put-put golf course ever, is their
modern art museum, who at the time was showing a collection of
photographer Jan Saudek. AMAZING.
The final stop on our tour
would be a week in Cesky Krumlov, a medieval town near the border of
Germany and Austria. Cesky Krumlov focuses on the oxbow bend of a river
and the large castle and it's acres and acres of gardens.In
stead of a moat, the castle has a trench with bears. While not there
for protection anymore, the bears act as a tourist attraction as they
play with their empty kegs and vegetables. And the gardens of the
castle are extensive. They range from wild pond areas, to manicured
shrubs and outdoor amphitheaters. Since the town functions around the
castle and the river it is no surprise to be greeted by a Roman
Aqueduct that helps support the castle's theater.
There are some
beautiful forests in the region, so Scott and I ventured to rent bikes
again and go for a trek. Scott decided that it would be fun to try and
speak to the local livestock and his bike decided it didn't need a rear
derailleur anymore. At least before the Soviet-aged bike decided to
die, we managed to stumble across some 11 Century castle ruins.
of course our trip wouldn't be complete without yet a little more train
drama. Now I'm sure that many of you who ride trains are familiar with
the fact that sometimes only some cars can continue to a given
destination or that there can be unexpected mid-way transfers. We'll
there aren't many trains in Colorado, so Scott and I were a little
unfamiliar with this. Add to it that we don't speak any Czech means
that when on our way to Nova Pec we got "kicked" off one train because,
as we found out later, the conductors thought we wanted to be going to
Czecky Krumlov, and told us that train is on another track. Well we get
off, train leaves, and then we find out that no, that was the train we
wanted to be on, just only a couple of cars up. Since the next train
didn't come for another two hours Scott and I decided to spend some
time walking around a small agricultural village and eating some lunch
with the railway workers.Cesky
Krumlov is home to some great restaurants, boutiques, and most of all,
chocolate shops. I haven't yet had chocolate like I had in this small
town and Scott was nice enough to load me up with some while we were
there, since it was my 21st birthday and all.
the end of April, it was time to leave Europe so we hitched a train
back to Germany. But before we left I made sure Scott got to experience
some good Bavarian sausage and mustard at my friend Richard's house in
Munich. Needless to say, I think he got a good first out of country
experience and I had a wonderful birthday.