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Prague, Sunday, October 9, 2016
Going up to the castle high on a hill overlooking the Vltava River and Prague was easy since our tour included the bus ride up. We certainly can testify that this is the largest castle complex in Europe. We walked 3.6 miles on the castle grounds! There is much to see–courtyards and village houses and castle rooms and churches. St. Vitus Cathedral is exceptionally beautiful. The stained glass is bright and inviting. The remains of saints are housed in wonderful sarcophagi; a silver sarcophagus of one of the saints features flying angels and lanterns. St. George (as in the dragon slayer) Basilica was built in 950 AD. Going out the exit of the castle complex on the extreme opposite side as we entered, we expected to find our bus waiting, but, no, it was down, down, down the hill we walked toward the famous Charles Bridge that unites the lower town with the old town Prague.
Then we walked some more as we strolled into the Old Town to watch the astronomical clock strike six o’clock. The clock is at the entrance to a major square where we viewed the ornate and colorful buildings and towers that outline this large space. By the time we got back to our hotel we had added many miles to our daily total, but our minds were filled with the beautiful sights of the day. WEG
Český Krumlov is what Bohemia (one of the major divisions of the Czech Republic) has always been. It is frozen in time. Visitors from all over the world come to walk its very narrow and heavenly cobblestoned streets surrounded by ancient medieval dwellings (our hotel dates from the 1490s). The Vltava River rushes its way through the center of the village overseen by a royal castle perched on a rock outcropping, giving it a look of solid strength.
Our trip here from Hallstatt, Austria, was by private shuttle. It was the only viable way. Reasonable in cost and comfortable, our van moved along roads and highways in Austria past beautiful lakes for most of the journey. Once we passed into the Czech Republic the land became rolling hills filled with pastures and farms. Eventually, we followed the Vltava River all the way to our destination, passing castles and churches commanding the hillsides. When we turned onto our final road to Český Krumlov, it narrowed to basically a one lane road. Large trees hugged the roadside, painted white on the trunks to remind drivers that they shared the road. We drove slowly around curves and when we met traffic going the other direction, both drivers moved carefully.
Arriving into Český Krumlov was unmistakable. A UNESCO World Heritage site, towers and multi-spired steeples abounded, and old dwellings in a concrete plaster wash with aged pastel colors greeted us. Our shuttle could not drive us into the narrow pedestrian zone, so our luggage clunked over the heavy stones as we walked. Our hotel is ancient and our room spacious with huge wooden beams and a seating area and Austrian lace curtains and decorated in 1700s Bohemian style…all at a very affordable price. We ate beside the Vltava River and looked out at the 13th century castle above with Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque architectural elements. We then searched out a Trdelnik shop, a traditional pastry/dessert in Czech Republic. We watched as the pastry chef rolled out the dough and wrapped it around a metal cylinder, hand rolling it until flat on the cylinder, then rolling it in cinnamon before placing it on a shallow grilling surface on which the cylinder continued to spin slowly as the dessert slowly baked. When browned, the Trdelnik is slid off the cylinder piping hot with a crispy exterior and soft interior. Delicious. Off to a good night’s sleep under duvets, window’s open to the cobbled-stoned street below and cool air wafting into the room.
WEG – Tuesday, September 22, 2015