Sunday, May 27, 2007

Czech It Out - Prague and Cesky Krumlov

The drive to Prague was fairly unexciting. We picked some people up in Dresden, including Mel, who apparently hated her time there, so I was quite happy with my drive-by tour of the once distroyed town.

Crossing the Czech/German border was also fun - two big, uniformed men taking all the non-EU passports off the bus to stamp them with German and Czech stamps. And yet again, I went sans-stamp at a border!

I was convinced by Mel and Dave to sign up for the pub crawl and walking tour of Prague, so when we got to the hostel, despite my extreme sleep deprivation, we all got ready for a night on the town. It was a pretty dodgy pub crawl, but there were a few highlights - drinking bad Czech beer in a park with a view across the city, the Beer Factory near Wenceslas Square (beer taps on the tables!), and a crazy pub where each room was joined to the next by a series of tunnels. We also had shots of absinth, which is pretty overrated if you ask me!

[view from the park where we started the pubcrawl]

[Mel with random English guy whose name I've forgotten, doing Vogue.]

[everybody say "cheap Czech beer and Absinth!"]

On Saturday, we headed back to Wenceslas Square for our walking tour. The guide - a local boy with an obvious disdain for the Czech president - was a lot of fun, pointing out some pretty funny little pieces of trivia. The Museum of Communisum above a MDonalds, the Renaissance-topped baroque-style church at the Prague Castle and the unusual relationship between touching a plaque of a priest being thrown off the Charles Bridge and supposedly having good luck were highlights. It was also really interesting to see the different styles of architecture which - because of Prague's relative safety during WWII - was like a living history book of European architecture.

[Wenceslas, of Wenceslas Square...]

[memorial to two students who burned themselves alive, protesting against Communism]

[the amazing Astronomical Clock in Prague's Old City]

[The Jewish Cemetary. Because of restrictions on where Jews could be buried, they ended up burying people on top of each other - the result being this 10ft high cemetary in Prague's Jewish Quarter]

[the Charles Bridge]

[Cathedral at the Prague Castle]

[view from the castle]

During the tour, we stopped for lunch at a "traditional Czech pub." I had fried mushrooms, which were literally deep fried mushrooms. A bunch of us went out for dinner that night, so I had a salad to appease my poor arteries.

I was in bed by 11:30, and so excited at the prospect of a good night's sleep!

I went for a jog in the morning, and realised just what a seedy area we were staying in!

After breakfast, 14 of us went off in our own little mini-tour group to visit the Ossuary - a church 75km out of town (in Kutna Hora), filled with the bones of 40,000 skeletons! The weirdest thing was the chandelier consisting of at least one of each bone in the human body. Weird, weird, weird!

We had a much easier train ride back into the city, but having had a long trip out there and a lovely, long, relaxing lunch in Kutna Hora, the afternoon of wandering around Prague that I'd hoped for was not to be. I returned to the hostel for a backpacker's dinner of soup and fruit, and, after getting my backpack sorted out for the next days' trip to Cesky Krumlov, had an early, quiet night.

Cesky really is a very sweet little town. Our Big Blue Bus rolled in at around midday, and we all trudged a good few hundred metres (grudgingly and somewhat unknowingly) to Hostel 99. After checking in and getting settled - Dave and I in an 8 or so bed dorm in the loft - Me, Dave and I went to explore.

Cesky is a town of around 15,000 people in southern Czech Republic. It is a gorgeous old place surrounded by hills, and a quiet river winds its way through the terracotta-roofed houses. The main focal point is the castle, which towers over everything, perched upon a hill, but also draws attention due to its elaborate paint job.

The three of us walked along the cobbled streets for a couple of hours, popping into various jewellery and souvenir/trinket shops along the way. As we were approaching the castle, we ran into Lauren, another Melbournian, who joined our little tour group.

There are bears in an enclosure next to the castle. Bears! I'm sure there's some fantastic story as to why they're there, but it was certainly a little bit of a shock when we saw them - but certainly helped explain the numerous "Don't Climb the Fence" signs.

After wandering around the castle and its beautiful gardens (which contain an outdoor theatre!), we ambled on back to the hostel and actually ended up watching "The Big Lebowski." Quite random.

[The theatre in the castle gardens. Very cool.]

We later popped next door to the adjoining restaurant for cheap Czech food and beer. I'm not entirely sure what my beer was (shrug, smile sheepishly, point to beer taps and say "what's good?" to barmaid), but it was very good, and great at only Ck22 ($AUD1.30) for a pint.

After dinner, a few of us went into town again to take some photos of the castle by night - and to stalk the bears a little. Then it was off to bed with plans for meeting at 10am for a horse ride through the countryside. Cesky Krumlov certainly is a cruisy town!

Keeping up my promise to myself to run in every city I stop in on Busabout, I went for a jog early on Tuesday, and I must say the cobblestones in Cesky were tougher to negotiate than in Bruges! But it was a lovely run - exploring a few areas we hadn't come across the previous day.

By the time we were all organised, a group of six of us weren't on our way to the horse riding stables until 11am, but it wasn't a problem. Though a few of us had wanted to go off on our own (I decided that because I wasn't exactly a "beginner," I would promote myself to the "advanced" group), we all ended up going ona long, beautiful, but slow trail ride. The countryside was gorgeous, and it was nice just to have a change of scenery!

For the rest of the afternoon, I hung around the hostel, wandered around the town and just genearlly relaxed. Again, Cesky is such a cruisy town!

That night, a bunch of us went looking for somewhere to have dinner, but after the third or fourth too-pricey or somehow inappropriate restaurant, three of us - Lauren, Karina (OT from Cairns) and I - returned to the restaurant next door to the hotel. I had a veggie burrito - not the best I've had, but a darn good change to a cuppa soup!

Once I'd returned to the hostel and had a nice chat to some other backpackers - including "Grandma and Grandpa," a NZ couple in their 70s travelling on Busabout - I was off to bed, to dig around in the dark for my toothbrush and PJs. God bless hostel living!

Wednesday morning was spent desperately trying to spend our Czech money. The weirdest thing happened when I returned from my grocery shop. Everyone says you always meet random people from your past while travelling, and lo and behold - Vicky, Jeremy and Phil from Deakin High were at a table talking to Mel and Dave. Very, very strange. They are apparently travelling together fora couple of months having just finished uni. I said goodbye to them and went off with Dave in yet another attempt to get rid of some Cks (especially the damn half crown!) before boarding the bus to Vienna.


Kim said...


Did you know that you will just miss seeing Nick Marshall in Chicago? He is visiting his sister in Montana and traveling to NY and Chicago in January.

Love the updates! Can't wait to make it into your blog!

Miss you!

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