After a fun and busy week in Berlin, Bethany and I hopped on a bus headed toward the Czech Republic. We split our time in the Czech republic this past week between Prague and the quiet village of Cesky Krumlov. Here are some of the highlights from our stay in bohemia…
The western skyline of the Prague is dominated by the buildings and church spires of Pražský hrad – the Prague Castle complex. We spent an afternoon wandering through the different gardens, courtyards and castle buildings. The gothic architectural detail and sheer scale of the centuries old buildings and cathedrals is staggering. On the way out we decided to climb to the top of the Cathedral bell tower for a view of the city. It took 287 steps through a congested and claustrophobic stone spiral staircase, but we made it to the top and the view was well worth it.
Set on the east bank of the Vltava, the Old Town is a maze of cobblestone streets historic buildings, and huge crowds of tourists. We were disappointed that these crowds included the worst tourist of all: the ever ridiculous, helmet wearing, Segway tour participator. Oddly enough everyone riding a Segway appeared to be genuinely unhappy. As though someone had forced all these people to take the tour against their will. But I digress… Tourist crowds aside, the old town has some really impressive history, buildings, and if you get outside of the main town square, some really nice cafes and quieter places to spend the day exploring.
This is the slightly less crowded and more quaint left bank equivalent of the old town. Both districts are a must to see, but we found that this side of the river had a more authentic / less touristy feel. While walking through the streets here we found the John Lennon peace wall and the Charles bridge with it’s love padlocks.
Coffee: Cukrarna Alchymista
Bethany and I switched apartments mid way through our stay in Prague to be closer to the center. We found one above a coffee shop in the mostly residential 7th district of Prague, just a few minutes from the AC Sparta Football Club. We really weren’t expecting great coffee in this part of Prague, but we’re totally surprised by this place. Friendly baristas bring coffee on small silver plates to marble tables in a quiet garden out back. People are reading newspapers and there’s a pleasant buzz of leisurely conversation in the background. It reminds me how far I am from the crowded midtown Starbucks across from my office.
Cesky Krumlov is a historic village 3 hours south of Prague where the Vltava river snakes back and forth creating a small peninsula shaped like a turkey leg. The winding cobblestone roads are often not large enough for cars and it takes no more than 10 minutes to walk from one side of town to the other. A massive 12th century castle looks over the town from a hilltop across the Vltava. Restaurants along the river serve traditional bohemian dishes and massive glasses of locally brewed beer on thick oak tables and benches. It’s truly unlike any place I’ve been before – The couple days days we spent here was the highlight of the Czech Republic for me.
Cesky River Rafting
After seeing the town and castle on foot we decided to rent a river raft and float through town. We got the raft through a company in town and they drove us a couple miles upstream to the put-in point. Floating towards town we passed by riverside bars, young (usually drunk) rafters wielding squirt guns and several wiers (small dams which were basically a water slide for our raft). Entering town you pass through a wier and then under a bridge where tourists are watching to see if you’ll make it without capsizing (we saw several people tip over). Further along you start passing riverside cafes where we were greeted by a few people (mostly little kids out for an early dinner with their parents) saying “ahoy!” and waving.