After three months in the United Kingdom and Ireland Nathanael and I were ready for a completely new vibe. We flew out of the Bristol airport and with a quick glance at our passports, stamp-stamp, we were in the Czech Republic!
The energy, the architecture, the food! I loved it! And the best part… My family was joining us for a week and a half tour! We started in the dynamic city of Prague. Just down the street from our apartment was the Old Town Square, where an Easter festival was winding down. We started our day by walking around the little kiosks selling models of Prague’s famous astronomical clock and beautiful painted eggs while listening to local bands in leather outfits. After a tasty trdelnik, a pastry dusted with sugar and almonds, we were off for a city walking tour.
We had a great guide, the start of the tour was timed perfectly to catch the beautiful astronomical clock striking the hour with the (slightly creepy) carved faces of the saints parading across the top and the skeleton ringing the bell.
The next day we opted to do a tour of Prague “castle” with the same guide. I say, “castle” because really it doesn’t look like your typical European castle. It looks more like a modern palace, but what kept it interesting were the layers. There was a brewery attached to a monastery tucked at the one end, a beautiful church (with some of the most incredible stained glass windows I’ve ever seen) bursting out from behind the modern palace façade, and an old toy museum with a naked boy statue out front (!).
I’d say my favourite things we did in Prague were taking a river cruise in the afternoon and walking along Charles Bridge at night. The buildings lining the river looked so elegant and beautiful, it felt like you were sailing through a fairy tale. In contrast, Charles Bridge is lined with statues which seemed to loom out of the darkness toward you, like a spooky movie. To make things spookier, we crossed Charles Bridge on the night of the Burning of Witches. It’s bigger in the country than the city unfortunately, and it’s not as ominous as it sounds (at least not anymore). For the spot we went to in Prague it consisted of great music, a small bonfire, and plenty of food vendors.
Taking a day trip from Prague, we hoped onto a train and settled into the nicest train compartment I’d ever been in. Unfortunately, we were quickly informed via condescending hand gestures that we were sitting in first class with second class tickets and had to move. Oh well. Kutna Hora is most well-known for the Sedlec Ossuary, or the Bone Chapel. The story goes that the abbot was sent by the king to Golgotha and returned with “Holy Soil” to Sedlec. Suddenly, everyone wanted to be buried at the chapel. By 1870, the build-up of bones in the ossuary needed to be addressed, and a woodcarver named Frantisek Rint was appointed to do something about it. The result is interesting to say the least!
Another place worth seeing is Cathedral of St. Barbara and the surrounding area. The Gothic cathedral is awe-inspiring and the cobbled promenade bordering the vineyards is a great way to wind down in the afternoon.
For our final stop on the family tour it was time to slow things down a bit for a relaxing visit to the spa town of Karlovy Vary. Famous for strange sounding treatments (gum irrigation anyone?) and the healing hot springs, Karlovy Vary has been a destination since it was founded in the 14th century. I opted for a safe-sounding aromatherapy massage and, out of curiosity, a Beery Bath. Both were wonderful, and feeling nice and refreshed we all finished off our spa experience with the “drinking cure”. There are sixteen drinking springs scattered across the main stretch of the town, and kiosks are selling cups of every shape you can imagine for you to use. There are even big, toilet shaped cups if you’re into that sort of thing. The minerals in the spring water are meant to be healing, but I imagine that getting people out walked and hydrated can’t hurt either. We managed to do about eleven of the springs, and it was a struggle sometimes to manage a gulp let alone the two-litre jugs we saw people were filling.
Way too soon, it was time to bid my family goodbye as they all headed out on their own adventures. After tearful hugs and a last wave at the disappearing taxi, Nathanael and I went on our way to our final stop in Czech.
Loket is a gorgeously sleepy, little town a short ride from Prague. Camping along a river lined with picturesque, little cottages we spent a couple of days wandering around the town and checking out the little Gothic castle sitting at the top of the hill. I would have to say this castle has been the most fun yet! There was a random dragon statue at the bottom of a tower, an unbelievably creepy gnome in one of the prison cells that scared the bijeebers out of me, barely lit dungeons to explore, and gross torture dioramas to admire.
After all the fun we had had in Czech, we were kind of looking forward to settling in one place for a little while. We had found a Workaway place in northern Poland that was going to be just what we needed, quiet countryside and wonderful company. So we set off to Poland on an overnight bus, naively thinking about what an easy bus trip it was going to be and how much sleep we were going to get on the bus… 😉