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Archive for the ‘Czech Republic’ Category

Cesky Krumlov

I love how the manhole covers in the Czech Republic are all decorative.

Cesky Krumlov is a small town in the Bohemia region of the Czech Republic. We ventured there for just one day and night, although we could have soaked up the beauty and quiet atmosphere for much longer than that if our return home wasn’t suddenly looming on the horizon. There isn’t much to say about the town that pictures can’t say better. For a brief overview, there is a great castle at one end of town that looks out over all of the red roofs on all the buildings in town. It is walkable from end to end in about a half an hour. The river cuts prettily through town, adding to the views and ambiance. I really liked the manhole covers, which just add to Cesky Krumlov’s charm.

The original Bud, Budweiser Budvar, is from Cesky Budejovice, near Cesky Krumlov, in Bohemia.

These pastries, made by wrapping the dough around a thick stick that spins slowly over the heat, are sweet and tasty, especially when you can get them hot.

Cesky Krumlov's castle looks a lot more imposing that Prague's did.

The aqueduct links sections of the castle in spectacular fashion.

The castle tower is decorated in trompe l'oeil style, like many of the buildings in Cesky Krumlov.

I would love to see the castle gardens when it is fully springtime.

The castle has two bears living in its moat. I can't really see how they might like it, as the space is fairly small and it is just the two of them down there and all of us up top with our cameras.

Here we are standing on the castle's aqueduct.

Views from the castle show Cesky Krumlov's picturesque jumble of red rooftops.

You can look over the whole town from the castle. I suppose that is the point.

I could have stayed just looking at the town for days.

It is a very vibrant city with all the red roofs and lovingly painted homes and businesses.

Like the building, this picture is an optical illusion. Those stones are just painted on for show! This style of decoration is common in Cesky Krumlov.

The town is particularly beautiful as the sun sets and all the buildings start to glow.

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Prague Blog

Dylan and I were going to take a train to Serbia and head up to Budapest from Belgrade.  We were really unexcited about doing either an all-day train or an all-night train.  We talked to lots of travelers at our fantastic hostel in Sofia – Hostel Mostel, also fantastic in Veliko Tarnovo – and after mulling it over and doing some pro and con lists, we decided to instead fly to Prague.  Dylan loved it when he was there in 1996, and it was higher on my wish list than most other places in Europe.  We just couldn’t face another train, too, after the midnight “express” to Plovdiv.  As our days are winding down quickly, we didn’t want to have any more bad days!

Dylan thought Prague’s center had changed quite a bit in 15 years.  Where there used to be crystal shops clustered together, there are now many more souvenir shops and TGI Friday’s restaurants.  It is also very crowded in the major tourist spots.  We still wanted to spend enough time in those areas to see the good bits, but we had several days in Prague so it was easy to get to a bunch of quieter places. 

The old Jewish quarter is popular but not as crowded as the Charles Bridge and the Old Town Square.  In the Old Jewish Cemetery, in certain corners I felt like I was all alone.  It is completely removed from the hustle and bustle outside of the walls and somehow feels quite peaceful.  It is really expensive to get in, because you have to buy a combination ticket that includes six other sites, mostly synagogues that now house museums.  I was determined to get my money’s worth and went to all of them.  I was a little artifact-ed out by the end, but my last stop, the Spanish Synagoge, was absolutely gorgeous.  The Holocaust victims’ memorial was also, unsurprisingly, incredibly moving.  Alas, no cameras were allowed anywhere, and my picture of the cemetery is from a peephole on the outside.

Prague has a fortress south of the center that is really more of a huge park.  Before I got to see these fortress in eastern Europe, I was expecting them to be a lot more imposing and, I don’t know, fortress-like!  But it turns out that fortress and even castles, as far as I can tell, are walled cliffs and parks.  I’m hoping to visit Transylvania in the future (another trip) and see if all the castles there are the same way.  Not to knock Prague’s Castle – it is cool to climb the stairs and see the lovely narrow streets and old church – but there it didn’t feel particularly castle-y to me.

We ended up in another great hostel in Prague.  We had made a booking at a place called Sir Toby’s.  I booked a “double ensuite” – meaning a room with a double bed and a private bathroom.  They accidentally put us in a twin bed room with shared bathroom.  When I asked if I was mistaken or they were – mainly to make sure we weren’t overpaying, since we have stayed in many a twin, shared bathroom room – they moved us to a fabulous hostel that was basically a hotel in the center of town, instead of the tram ride away where the first hostel was located.  I had looked at the new place, Mosaic House, online, and I think it was more than worth the price they were charging if you had a few extra dollars.  So another two thumbs up for this hostel chain.  Sir Toby’s was adorable and eager to please, and I would still recommend it for a budget traveler.  Mosaic House is also recommended for a budget/mid-range traveler.  It was funny watching the travelers in the Mosaic House bar.  Dylan and I decided it was the kind of place that 22-year old backpackers with money must stay, because they all looked so shiny and clean.

There is a lot of delicious beer to be had in the Czech Republic, home of Pilsen, the original pilsner, and Cesky Budjovice, the original Budweiser (seriously, it was around a long time before Anheuser Busch thought the name sounded good).  We’ve gotten a little fatigued with the meat-heavy menus in eastern Europe, but if you are willing to look, you can find some pretty good food in Prague.

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All in all, no regrets about our last-minute itinerary change.  Prague is a stunning city, and it was worth its spot at the top of my list!

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