Czech Republic: vacation from vacation

Trip Start Jun 01, 2009
1
7
12
Trip End Jul 14, 2009


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Flag of Czech Republic  , Bohemia,
Saturday, June 20, 2009

Because I had extra time to kill before going to Italy
(I preordered ticket, and couldn't exchange it for sooner date), and I
was slightly overwhelmed by all the beautiful cities I'd visited, I
decided to go somewhere not far, but cheap and relaxing. That's when I
came up with Czech Republic. The city was just a random city where
buses run and which has more than 5 hostels to pick from. That's how I
got to Cesky Krumlov.

Actually, these few days were as good as the previous trip, I have to say. But some things did make it a little weird.

First, start with the hostel. Since this was supposed to be cheap and
relaxing, I booked a bed cheaply and not in center. Little did I know
that that cheap price would kick me back, quite a few times, into my
head with it's low ceilings and ropes on the terrace and lack of shower
curtain/door in the bathroom. Overall, the feel was like I was at
grandma's house all over again. The white non-straight walls, double
but insecure windows, bugs on window ceils, spider net hanging from
ceilings, and squeeky floors (and hence ceilings) that reproduce every
sound downwards. Yes, it was a little unexpected. But it was not that
bad. By morning I got used to most stuff, and after having breakfast on
the terrace on the sun overlooking river with live entertainment of
water rafters turning over while passing small waterfall almost in
front of our windows made me forget all the unpleasant stuff. That, and
the hospitable hostess. :) so in the end I was pretty happy I stayed at
this place... I have to add, this is the place for a frugal person to
go chique: 4 star hotels offer rooms for less than $150 a night...

One thing that made my existance there slightly less enjoyable was
deficit of Internet. There are only 2 places in the whole town with
wifi. Besides that, only about 4-5 places offered regular Internet
which was about $1 for 20 min. Not bad, I thought - but not when it
takes over a minute to download the login gmail page. I already forgot
about those slow dialup speeds - spoiled me! In any case, that was
tough!

Otherwise, everything else was great!

Food was super delicious and really cheap - I ate out every evening,
having a whole meal with tea, and it always came up to $10 or less
after tips. I had chicken, pork, rabbit (still cannot believe myself!)
and tried a little venison from another person's meal. Gotta say, I
like chicken the most out of all these. I also enjoyed fish very much,
potatoes Czech style, and potatoe pancakes (I guess potatoe-craving
Belorussian is still alive somewhere deep inside of me!). Besides that,
I tried this carnaval tea -don't try it! After that it was some regular
herbal tea. No beer - still concerned about the dislikes of my stomach
;).

It was quite interesting to see the number of Asian people among
tourists! I was really shocked. That is in addition to a few stores run
by Asians, and a few Chinese restaurants. I wonder if there is some
hidden reason for that. It's really intriguing.

I have to say the town itself is quite small - one can do most, if not
all sightseeing in one day. But there are numerous small shops, cafes,
and triple numerous restaurants and pansions/hotels. Needless to say,
all one can do is wonder those old European cobble stone streets, buy
souvenirs, eat/drink and relax most of the time. It is very very
relaxed atmosphere. But only for tourists. I hardly have seen any
locals (besides those running shops and restaurants). I don't know
where they all are...

That was not the case today, though. Turning to history, I have to say
that the castle has been owned by Rosenbergs for a long time. I don't
think people remember (or even care) who was there before them. So,
this year is 700th since Rosenbergs started ruling here (or something
like that - I am not good in Czech). And the town had those annuversary
celebrations this weekend. Of course, I didn't know that ahead - or I
would have stayed for at least Saturday, but sadly I prebooked ticket
for Friday evening. I still got to see some of it though! :) So, part
of it was, actually, numerous locals. There were many small stands made
for people to sell handcrafts and food. And all those people were
dressed in old-style peasant-like clothes - it was quite awesome.
Moreover, some who did not trade, were dresses up in old-style more
rich looking clothes, with those corcet dressed for women and shirts
and velvet cloaks for men. It felt like good-natured Halloween or One
of those carnivals without masks. Quite nice. And that was on the first
day only. I would have loved to see it over the weekend, when probably
more people would have these costumes on... That was my chance to see
much more locals (as well as tourists!) than on the previous days.

The town is built over the river. It's quite interesting that the river
actually runs like a perfect letter S. So there are lots of view
points, bridges, etc. They also have small waterfalls along the river.
As a result, water rafting is quite popular here. It's really good for
anyone (no prior experience). And the river is not deep and quite warm.
Of course, a lot of people are just beginners, and thus turn over on
those waterfalls quite a bit! Haha it is hilarious to watch. You really
root for them, but in the end - one wrong or missing pedal - and to the
side they go! I wish there was someone I could do it with - I think it
was great fun for partisipants as well as audience... Probably the best
and safest place to learn rafting too. Especially since the water is
not deep and clean.

Apparently, there are direct shuttle buses to Vienna for $30-55 a
person. Of course, it's a little pricier than I got my trip
($20+6euro), but you get there without going in circles through Prague
and Bratislava and catching 3 different buses. Oh well, too bad! Now  I
know. :)

Since it's so relaxing here, and not much to do, I've been reading a
lot. I got before a S.King book. And here I found a nice little
international book shop, with lots and lots of English titles! They
were a little pricey ($10-15) for new, but the used were quite cheap.
Plus, the sales woman was very nice and responsive. Too bad they did
not have any Russian titles...

Did I mention the strange weather here? Well, it's not that strange. It
is quite cool in the morning, them gets really hot during the day, and
again chillingly cool in the evening. I would say average range is 20
degrees... These swings caught me off guard a few times for sure.

One of those times was actually my taking a hike to a hill near town to
a small church. I enjoyed every moment of it. It was true Russian
forest and fields, with 'klever' and rosehip, and birch trees, and
butterflies... You get the picture. The hike is only 20 min, and then
you get amazing view of the valley. So I hung out there, read, relaxed.
Of course, it was hot but windy. So I burnt a little on the sun :-( but
had really good rejuvinating experience! Either way, I would definitely
recommend Kryžovy Vych for some easy hiking, and some time away from
tourists. I was surprised to not have met a single soul during all of 4
hours I was there!

There is one main sightseeing object that everyone has to see - the
castle. It stands on the side if town, and looks quite medieval to me.
It is very pretty too! There is a Castle tower, which was built first.
The structure is nothing special, but the decoration is great. It's
colored in multiple colors, with zodiac signs encircling the top. And
on the bottom, there are different pictures drawn on the outside walls.
I have to mention, this city is very rich with the wall paintings: some
religiouus motives, or arms of previous rulers, or just people, or just
something - drawn on at least a third of the houses on the outside...
Going back to the castle, I definitely recommend going up the tower:
for great view if the city, for a sight of dungeons (with a few
skeletons in it), and for perfect view of a bear. There is a long
story, but Rosenbergs considered themselves far relatives of Italian
family Orsini (Bear-like) and really liked bears as a result. So they
had a live bear in a castle. And I got a perfect view of him taking a
bath while going into the tower. After that, I think, he went to sleep.
:( The castle itself from outside is also a piece if art - a lot of
paintings making stones look 3d (with fake shade) and drawings of
people. Inside one can go only with a tour. The first thing I truly saw
there was another bear, rather it's coat and head on the floor as a
carpet! I couldnt believe the view, after hving just seen a live one!
Anyways, the castle was not very rich - most decorations were just
painted on the walls, but a few good portraits and medieval safe cases.
One awesome sight was a golden (made of wood, covered with true gold
all over) carriage that long ago delivered some message from Rome's
house of Rosenbergs to Vatican. It has a lot of details, and statues,
and so much gold! The only thing it was missing is seats :D didn't dare
maybe to put gold under back cheeks! Another impressive piece was a
masquarade room: painted in half a year, it has people in masks,
costumes everywhere! A few jokes included too, and some hanging extra
costumes are painted very realistically. Also, multiple arms-flags were
painted all over walls and ceilings - i have never seen such
multiplicity! Overall, this castle looked (and probably was) much
poorer compared to others I've seen. But fun nonetheless.

Haha one thing made it really fun. I was drinking tea at a cafe on the
shore near water. There were ducks in the water, going back an forth in
and out of water and quacking. Suddenly I hear lots of quacking at one
of the tables: ducks got into a fight and were yelling and poking each
other! The women there had to push them into the water! But a few
moments later I notice they didn't all fight among themselves, but they
were fighting one. So, all ducks look gray, with heads of black color
with some green or blue shining. This one they all fought was brown
head to toe/foot. Just like 'Ugly Duckling' fairytale!!! And they kept
hunting this poor thing all the way to another shore. Although it
seemed like two of ducks were protecting him. It was very entertaining.
But I do think that duck was put by locals to replicate the story...

One last thing I have to add is what I have seen only here so far. When
paying restaurant/cafe bill, waiters walk up with a big wallet full of
change and money and a bill. You are expected to pay right away, and
they give you change right away. I can see how it can be good: no
confusion about how much was paid or which bill was given, and no
chance to run away... But it also puts pressure on customer to not
check bill carefully and pay whatever the number. Especially fir those
huge parties of 10+ people. Could it also reflect that this culture is
quite open about money?  (may I add, as most cultures/people with not
much money are!)

It is a pity I had to leave in the middle of celebrations (the
beginning, to be exact) :( but one thing I truly was happy about is
coming back to Prague. Although I planned to just take metro to hostel,
and go to bed - but the weather and beautiful shades of buildings from
street lights seduced me into walking again those streets. So I greeted
again the chuches, the houses, Karlov Most, the Clock and the Disney
World church at the Old Square. It felt like Prague was greeting me.
Great feeling! Of course, that meant over an hour of walking with a
heavy backpack, but both legs and shoulders were as excited and didn't
mind the load. :)

It's early morning, and I'm on a bus to Vienna. Then, darling Venice, here I come! :D
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