Cesky Krumlov

Left Prague for one night in Cesky Krumlov (Crispy Kreme in Barmylogue).  ‘Cesky’ means bend in the river, and so there are many towns along rivers that start with Cesky.

Cesky Krumlov is reputed to be one of the most picturesque towns in Europe — sort of Prague mini-me and a UNESCO World Heritage Site 

Anyone know how they designate UNESCO sites? They’re prolific over here, not complaining – every one we’ve visited on our travels–well amazing.

We read that Cesky Krumlov has a Baroque castle, a charming town square and small enough to walk from one side to the other in 25 minutes ~ so when planning our trip, we decided it was definitely worth a one night stand (so to speak).

 The train dropped us off at a bus station in Cesky Budejovice (aka Beetlejuice) where we then boarded a bus that took us into a fairly remote bus depot outside of Cesky Krumlov.

We caved and spent $4 for a taxi to take us the final 3 1/2 km into the village.  The taxi could barely make it thorough the narrow cobblestone lanes, having to wait, gently nudging through packed, wall-to-wall  tourists, most of which seemed to be Japanese, earnestly posing for each other with selfie sticks.  We were eventually dropped off at our little pension.

Our room is the one over the door with two windows opened.

It was, by now, a little after 1 pm, and after talking with Jana, our host, were advised these bus tour groups, which arrive in the middle of the day, are all but gone by 4 pm.

We decided this was a great excuse to wash up, get some cold drinks, and relax with books, feet up  in our little room overlooking the one of the charming, but noisy & crowded cobblestone lanes.

As the village clock tower chimed four, a calm fell over our little street.   We ventured out onto the streets and explored the lower town, getting some great afternoon light for the castle and hills beyond. Here’s just a taste. In one photo, you’ll see Husband convinced me to pose (just like the Japanese).

After wandering and taking tons of photos (above was just a fraction), we found a fish restaurant Rick Steves recommended.

The restaurant is in a building that hails from (get this) 1677. It sits on a little island in the middle of the river, and just because it couldn’t be charming enough, it’s also right next to a water wheel. There were even the obligatory swans right on cue….

I had a superb piece of (just-caught-that-morning-from-yes- this-very-river) perch, broiled until the skin was crispy and brown and then sauced with melted butter and caraway seeds.  It was probably the best fish I’ve ever eaten.  Managed to signal the chef to say bravo, she smiled and shyly said thank you (in English).  A lovely meal as the sun went down.

Got up early for Jana’s pension breakfast (meats, cheeses, rolls, hard boiled eggs and even a salad)  typical Czech-German-Austrian type breakfast.  You’re good for the day.

We had the town almost to ourselves, only a few other overnighters in the lanes.  We walked up to the castle and monastery and took more pictures.  As we headed back at around 10:30 we could see the tour vans and buses lining up down below.  One last look at the charming Cesky Krumlov:

Look at this lovely window bar design at street level.

Got the bus to Cesky Budejovice and were directed off the bus down a back street to the vlakové nádražíat (train station).  But alas this was the local’s train station —  the wrong train station – closed up with no one there to sell us tickets to our next destination in Austria.

We had a little moment of panic where we circled around thinking maybe a real train station will appear.  But no we had made a tactical error.

After a few words that shall not be repeated, I reassured Husband that Beetlejuice was not that big, and we could easily find the right train station.

We headed up towards main drag of town and found a bus stop with a young person waiting (the young Czechs usually speak some English) who told us to catch # 5 bus right here at this stop and it would take us to the main train station.  We quietly high fived each other over our dumb luck.

We got to the right train station and purchased our tickets for our next destination ~~

a little village in Austria.

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

Transportation

Next stop Cesky Krumlov via Cesky Beajoivice.

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But first, a public service break;

Barmy Travel Tip:   Transportation in Europe can be confusing and stressful.  The trains and buses leave exactly on time  (I know!).  They wait not for frantic tourists running down the platform.  We rarely miss a train or a bus, but it may be because over the years of travel, we’ve come up with a unique, (shall we say Barmy) system.

We give the town names an easy nickname, so that when you’re rushing up stairs and across vast train stations, you communicate correctly with one another.  Trying to pronounce the names properly (in the regional language) results in different pronunciations each time and unnecessary gritting of teeth.

I’ll show you what I mean ~~ try pronouncing these…

We have fun, giggling as we choose our nicknames (we have to find amusement where we can in foreign countries)

Hey Barmy followers, here’s an interactive game for you:

 

Match the town name below with its Barmy nickname:

 Spittal  Millstattersee                                         Horny Divorcee

Cesky Krumlov                                                              Beetlejuice

Horni Dvoriste                                                                       Spit Mill

Ceske Budejovice                                                        Crispy Krème

 

Back to regular travel programming — tomorrow (or next day).

(Excuse the formatting, don’t have time to wrestle with Word Press)

Prague ~~ Sunday Highs

Our last day in Prague dawned sunny and clear. We decided to enjoy a morning stroll to find one of those Live Like a Local suggestions – a local hotel with a little cable car that climbed a hill for a great view.  Finally found the hotel but sadly, the cable car was not operating — why, we could not ascertain — the front desk staff just kept saying sorry, not today.

With going up the heights on our minds, we decided to attempt the very popular Ujezd funicular which goes to the top of Petrin Hill.  —  a park with spectacular views of the castle and city.  On a Sunday? we thought how stupid are we? but we did it anyway.

Stood in a long line which moved fairly quickly.

Barmy travel tip:  When in an European queue, stay sharp or loose your place in line.  Look away for a minute, point to something for your partner to see — and someone behind will slip in front of you.  When you say, ‘excuse me?’  they open their palms and let you back in place.   There’s no rudeness, they just figure you’re not paying attention, and will take advantage.  

We got to the top and there were gardens, picnic areas, pony rides for the kids, food stalls, people strolling — all very Sunday in the Park.  So we strolled and found a quiet bench and people watched.

Came upon a somber collection of statues that reminded Husband of his Walking Dead TV show, but I argued that I was sure it had a deeper more significant meaning.

 

We decided to avoid another long line so walked down a pretty path to the halfway point where we joined the funicular at its last stop.  Pretty day, nice walk and check out these spectacular views.

Back down in the city we did some more wandering, narrow lanes that led us into other narrow lanes and suddenly found ourselves at the Klementinum — which we weren’t able to find the other day — and here we just chanced upon it.  It occupies two hectares of old Prague and is one of the largest building complexes in all of Europe, so we were confused as to how we missed it.  We got tickets for the last tour and grinned at each other over our luck.

You see Barmy followers, the Klementinum houses another of the world’s most beautiful libraries —the Baroque library hall, a stunning example of Baroque architecture, was first opened in 1722 as part of the Jesuit university, and houses over 20,000 books.  Sadly they don’t allow photos so these publicity images will have to do.

Be still my beating heart…

The tour went on to showcase the Klementinum’s astronomical equipment — a camera obscura  — a room with a long string stretched on the floor and one ray of sunlight coming through a small hole up in the wall — all precisely attuned for determining noon.

Then we climbed up and up inside the astronomical tower on old creaky wooden stairs. Our Czech tour guide advised us not to linger on the stairs as they are about to fall (!).  Husband’s believes they say this to keep us moving quickly along.  I know this old gal never climbed stairs so quickly.

More views of Prague — sorry folks, but I climbed all those stairs!

Back on terra firma, we worked our way back to the main train station.  We leave from this station in the morning, so it gave Husband a chance to time the Tram ride back to our apartment in preparation for next morning departure. (Again, this is why Husband is in charge of navigation.)

Got back and packed for early morning departure, then set out late evening to find some place for dinner.  Not much open on a Sunday night, but we lucked into another traditional Czech fare restaurant.  Again, wonderful food, great beer for Husband and this time, we each had one leaf of lettuce as a nod to vegetables. Luckily we both had big salads for lunch the day before…so perhaps we won’t die of scurvy.

Prague ~ a little train that could

Early on, when planning this trip I discovered the Live Like a Local website…well worth visiting before you go anywhere.  One of the Prague locals posted about a historic two car train that runs only on weekends and goes out into the suburbs and through some forests in the outskirts of the city.  Called Prazsky Semmering.  Here’s the official photo:

On Saturday, having already done our Old Town walking tour and the Castle hill, we decided to flee the weekend crowds and try this little train.  Turned out to be one of those confusing, not quite what we expected,  yet somehow still fun excursions.

First up was finding the platform at a lesser used and somewhat seedy rail station in Prague.  Through sign language and a bit of English-Czech we bought a ticket and following the ticket agent’s pointed directions to walk over the main rail tracks (via a bridge) then down in the back — well beyond the regular trains.  As you can see, it was a bit disconcerting – we seemed to be in a rail maintenance yard.

There was a solitary cute, woman station agent in a red hat…who didn’t speak any English, but dutifully marched us to the exact spot where we needed to be and then pointed which way the little train would come. No seats, no station — just a cement walkway between train tracks.

 

But the fun wasn’t the scenery, as much as the experience.  We were all by ourselves, except for two young families taking the little ones for a train ride.  An hour long, pleasant little ride that  went through the city, then through some of the more sketchy outskirts, through business/tech parks (just like home), and then through forests and some countryside.

This little train finally stopped at a long ago closed station, with just a bench.  We were told to get off  for 10 minutes.  We gamely got off with the others, watched the little ones run around, and then climbed back on and headed back on the same track. The train itself was quite old and nicely restored.  Here’s the photos, inside and outside.

When we got back to Prague we exited the train station only to stumble into an old car show…where Husband took many pictures to share with my Dad – his comrade in the love of old cars.  I’ll save you the boredom and only share a few photos.  Me posing with a 1953 MGTD (Dad has a 1952 red one).  Don’t worry Dad, all the other photos are saved to share with you later.

After looking over (every one of) the antique cars and motorcycles, one of us insisted on (by now) a late lunch.  Our usual practice is to cut down a side lane and find an out of the way café.  Bingo, a wonderful sunlit filled airy little place.  We went native and let ourselves linger over a long, leisurely lunch.

On the way back it started to shower.  We ducked under a cover in a little city park —  just across the river from our building – the yellow one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And this, the ‘dancing building’ is right at the end of the bridge over to our building, turns out to be a great landmark.

Back at said apartment we watched the royal wedding recap with some late evening cheese bits left over from a previous dinner before finally going to bed.

A nice day.

Prague ~~ The Castle

I’m going to stop the count of days, I’m already behind and it’s annoying for both of us.  So from here on, I’ll just focus on the adventure — and happily loose track of the days.

After our heady experience at the Monastery, we hiked down the hill to the beautiful Loreta Church.  (It’s still early in our trip, so  I’m not yet weary of churches and/or cathedrals).  A must see site for pilgrims and considered Prague’s most beautiful Baroque church.  Here, you’ll see,

 

Another hike down hill through some winding streets brought us to the Prague Castle —

 

Beset with long ticket lines and throngs of tour groups each with their own guide holding up some kitschy sort of  ‘follow me’ pole.  After not much discussion, we quickly agreed to tour the grounds and gardens and skip trying to fight our way into the Castle itself.

The complex has been the seat of Czech power for centuries.  A bit imposing for these two little travelers.  Within its walls are several museums, Czech’s greatest hits church (Cathedral of St. Vitus) and various palaces for visiting archbishops and aristocratic families.  Our necks craned, we happily wandered just looking and pointing like everyone else.  Here’s a much edited series of photos.  (If you’re ever bored, let me know and I can show you many, many more…)

A little side note – The Czechs have been crazy for this envelope style of building design – you see it everywhere, even on the buildings outside the castle grounds.

After a couple of hours of photos (see I told you I have many) and gawping, we headed down through the gardens and vineyards and saw some spectacular views of the city.

Thus endeth this fine day in Prague.  We closed our evening with purchasing a European sim card for our phone, and bought some ready to heat pasta and a takeaway salad from Tesco’s for dinner. Total cost of dinner $4 – we live large.

Thanks all, for stopping by.  More tomorrow.

 

Prague Day 2, in which I geek out

First a correction on yesterday’s post, both Prague’s Old and New Towns are located on the East side of the Vltava river. (This is why Husband is in charge of navigation.)

Today we explored the West side of the river – the Castle quarter – the area of the famous castle which dominates the Prague skyline.  In an effort to save our feet and leg muscles, we took the tram to the top of the hilly quarter, resulting in lovely downhill treks for the day.

We started up at the Strahov Monastery and its library (one of the world’s famous libraries and on my bucket list).  And oh my, dear readers, what a library (warning, this is where I loose my mind a bit…).

Strahov was a medieval monastery that functioned not only as a place of worship and learning, but also as a world famous brewery.  The beer hall and brewery are still in full function today. Couldn’t find a happier place for BookBarmy and Husband.

First we’ll visit the library with an official photo (cause you just have see it photographed by a professional), then my attempts from the doorway.  You have to stay in the hallway and crane your neck to peer in at the 10-17th century books all basking under elaborately painted ceilings. (Only my fear of international arrest and a Hague trial prevented me from jumping over the barricades to run through this glorious space.)

First the publicity shot, then my photos…

 

This last photo are xylotéka, a collection of 68 “tree books” made by Karel of Hinterlagen around 1825. Fascinating — each “volume” is really a box documenting one European tree. The box cover is made from the wood of the tree and covered with its bark and any lichen that grew on that specific tree. Inside each box, are different parts of that tree – a root, a twig, a leaf, a dried piece of its fruit, even its insects, such a beetles.  The boxes are protected behind glass though, so you can only see them from the outside. This Strahov xylotéka is one of only two such collections in Europe.  (I warned you I would geek out.)  There were other specimen books, holy books, and a gold locked case at the far end of the library, which contained libri prohibiti — books by Copernicus, Rousseau, and (mon deau) the French encyclopedia.

Walking a bit above the ground and well past lunch time, I was gently led over to the Monastery brewery. We considered eating in one of the many beer halls which go on forever – room after room of long tables in dark stone halls.  (Turns out this is a revenue enterprise today hosting bachelor parties and drunken corporate events.) We chose instead to eat outside, given such a lovely day. Met some lovely ladies with beautiful dogs – the dogs communicated for us over our language differences.

Husband reluctantly posing — but trust me he was smiling over his beer.

Sorry folks, but the rest of Day 2 in Prague will have to wait as sleep calls.

Prague ~~ Day 1

We flew to Helsinki and then here to Prague.  Arrived Wednesday evening and a driver associated with our home exchange apartment (normally an AirBnB), met us at the airport.  A very nice plan as we didn’t have to worry about finding the place.  When we arrived, we were met by our home exchanger’s son who showed us around, recommend a couple of restaurants in the neighborhood and the closest grocery market.  A student with perfect English, he was in the midst of exams, so handed us the keys, gave us his phone number (if we needed anything) and was blessedly quick (given our travel weariness).

Here’s the building with our apartment – we’re on the second floor in back overlooking a little rooftop garden next door. Husband as photographic perspective for the very large front door.

The apartment is on a dead end which faces the Vltava river, so it’s very quiet.  We slept like logs and woke early for Day 1 in Prague.

Here’s the river overlook across from the apartment.

 

This river divides Prague into two sections Old Town (10th century) and New Town –(new meaning only 600 years old). First something very interesting.  We thought our trip was to travel through Eastern Europe — Prague, Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest.  But it turns out the residents of these cities/countries prefer it be called Central Europe – we are, in fact, in the exact center of Europe.   Eastern Europe harkens back to Soviet rule.  So Central Europe it will be.

We donned rain jackets (off and on showers) and head out to do Rick Steve’s old town walking tour. Decided a rainy weekday might avoid the hoards of tour bus groups Rick warns about.

First, we had a wonderful breakfast at a local café, eggs scrambled ever so lightly with cheese and homemade bread to die for.  Even with two coffees and bottled water the entire breakfast came to $9.  Prague, it seems, is going to very affordable.  Noticed as left the café that good Czech beer is less than $2.   Husband is in a very good mood.

 

We crossed one of many bridges and watched some locks in action.

We wandered back streets towards the Old Town area and marveled at the buildings and architecture .  Prague is known not only for its medieval and Baroque architecture, but also for some fabulous Art Nouveau buildings and facades.

Suddenly we came into the Old Town Square

 

We spun slowly to take in all the diverse architectural styles – from Gothic to  Rococo to Baroque and more Art Nouveau.  Prague is largely so beautifully persevered because it was spared bombings during WWII that leveled so many other Eastern– Central European cities.  Sorry for the clouds and rain, but you’ll get a taste of it all.

 

Dodging rain showers we ducked  into some of the less tacky shops.  Such as this fascinating, but somewhat creepy, marionette shop.

 

 

More of our self guided tour and exploring some side areas.

 

We went over to Wenceslas Square which was once (Rick says) a thriving horse market, but now contains every possible fashion store, fast food chains and sausage stands.  Spied a Marks & Spencer (a British department store chain) so went up to their café for a proper cuppa of British tea – a much needed break.

Did some more exploring of Old Town area but then suddenly feeling very tired, we headed back to the apartment, rested up, and had a dinner at a neighborhood restaurant.  I’ll leave you with two images ~~

First, we walked by this office building, a reminder that, not very long ago, Prague was under Soviet rule.

Another reminder of tougher times.  Our dinner at a restaurant near our apartment, was delicious but dominated by stewed meat, dumplings, cheese and potatoes — that little dash of  orange –lower right – that’s  a scant 1/4 cup of carrot shavings – the only vegetable in sight.