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Czech Republic

CZECH REPUBLIC | Tuesday, 15 September 2009 | Views [606]

Us in front of the crest at Kutna Hora. This is made entirely out of bones.

Us in front of the crest at Kutna Hora. This is made entirely out of bones.

September 11th

Day 63 of the trip, the half way mark unfortunately, but it has been fantastic! We have been through 15 countries and today started our 16th. To date we have driven more than 9000km, and been through 1030 litres of diesel. We have been spoilt with weather so far, with not a lot of rain really (especially after living in Ireland) and the temperatures have been great. I am sure this will change in the coming weeks as there a hints of autumn appearing in the countryside, day length, and temperatures.

It was an early start, we were on the road at 6:15am, to Vienna. Here we picked up John and Anne at 7:30am from the Marriott Hotel, then headed for a small town in the south of the Czech Republic, Cesky Krumlov. We drove for the morning, with our only stop being to refuel in the north of Austria. The trip was full of lively conversation and sharing of stories with our passengers. We arrived in Cesky Krumlov at midday and dropped off Anne and John, then we went to a campground. It was about 3km out of town, and seemed quite nice. We quickly set up camp then rode our bikes the 4km into town, and met Anne & John for lunch. We got into more local cuisine, Em had dumplings and smoked pork, and I had pork medallions, which were nice. After lunch we said goodbye, then we explored the small township. It was one of the most character filled medieval towns we have visited on our trip, and decided we would definitely come back in a few days time with James and Julie, so cut our exploring short and went back to campground, then relaxed in the van for rest of the afternoon.

September 12th

The only thing we had to do today was to get to Prague by 5pm to pick up our friends James and Julie from the airport, who were flying in from London to travel around with us for 2 weeks. We started with a small sleep in, then we did a few jobs in the van before leaving the campground. We drove north to Cesky Bodevich where stopped for groceries and lunch. Although we did not explore Cesky Bodevich we did read up on it and found out one interesting thing. This place is the home of Budweiser beer, but not the American brand. This is what beer was called that was produced in this part of the Czech Republic. The name was synonymous with good beer, so when the American brewery started, they simply used the same name! A bit rude I think – they're still in legal battles over it. Anyway, after lunch we drove north to Prague and went straight to the airport. James and Julie's flight was on time and we were all excited to see each other. We left the airport soon after 5pm and drove through Prague city to get to our campground. Once we had found a campground (which used to be an apple orchard, and still had apple trees in the yard), we set up camp, including putting up our awning for the first time on our Europe trip. We thought we might go out for dinner, but decided against it and had dinner in the van and spent the night catching up, and sampling the first of the 'Primator Double' 24% dark beer, which was surprisingly good!

September 13th

After a small sleep in, we got up and got ready. It all went well for the first time with four in the van. After breakfast we trammed into Prague city. We found our way into the old town without problems, but that is where out sense of direction finished. We spent the next hour getting frustrated and trying to find an info centre to get a map and check that we had all the important places on our list of 'things to see'. During this hour-long hunt we did manage to come across the 'Astronomical clock' at 11am and watched the hour change. It puts on a very nice little clockwork show 'the walk of the apostles', and is one of the great attractions of the old town. It dates back to 1410. Afterwards we finally found the tourist info centre and set our plans for the day. By this stage we were all pretty hungry, and although it was early we ate lunch – some goulash and dumplings, very tasty. We tried the Pilsner Urquell (a locally brewed beer) and were all very disappointed, it was awful. It was about 12:30pm when we finished lunch and set off for some proper exploring. We first headed for Charles bridge, which was first built in 1357, and has 30 statues spaced along the sides. From there we walked up a steep hill to the huge Prague Castle, and explored this area including the interior of the St Vitus Cathedral, which was quite impressive. Down the hill, we stopped into an Absinthe shop, and learned a little about the green liquor – it comes from the Czech Republic. Most of the expensive bottles had enormous, spiky-looking beetles inside them, which we didn't find appealing!

We went back into the old town from here and stopped in at a restaurant on the top level of a building near the main square, where we had some great views over the terracotta rooftops and chimneypots. It was a little cold, so we left there and found a pub in one of the back streets where we had dumplings, smoked pork (ham steaks really) and cabbage for dinner. It was nice local food. We felt like we had seen enough by this stage so went back to the campground and had a planning session where we sat down and made a schedule for our next 2 weeks to make sure that we did not miss out on anything that we wanted to see.

September 14th

We were up early, and left the campground just after 8am. We drove for about 90 minutes East to a small town called Kutna Hora. We had all heard about this place a couple of years ago from our friends in Palmy, Felicity and Russell. We found the main attraction, a chapel which was decorated on the inside with bones from more than 40,000 people who died during the plague, were exhumed in the 16th Century, and then arranged into macabre decorations. We were inside for an hour. It was amazing, impressive, and quite strange all at the same time. Afterwards we went to lunch at a cafe near the chapel, then got on the road and drove south to Cesky Krumlov. We went straight back to the campground we were at 3 nights previously and expected it to be empty. However much to our surprise there were about 30 campervans, and more pulling in. We quickly got ourselves a spot and set up camp. All of the motorhomes were part of a French motorhome driving tour. Once we were set up we had snacks and the Veuve champagne that James and Julie had bought with them, then we ate dinner. After dinner we let off fireworks that Em and I had bought in Poland which was good fun. We played cards in the van before heading to our bunks.

September 15th

We left the campground early and went into the small township of Cesky Krumlov where we spent the morning. There was no one particular attraction here, it was a charming small town, filled with character, yet it did not seem to scream 'tourists'. It was not too busy when we first arrived, so we wandered around a few of the streets, before stopping in at a small cafe next to a stream to have morning tea – the boys had pizzas and the girls had struedel. Afterwards we continued to wander the streets and alleyways before eventually ending up at the castle there. Here we climbed to the top of a tower which gave us a great view of Cesky Krumlov nestled in amongst the surrounding hills. We had worked up another good appetite by this stage so went on the hunt for a place to eat lunch. This took about half an hour, but in the end we found a nice place where we enjoyed a scrumptious lunch. Julie and I had roast duck, cabbage and bread dumplings, and Em and James had deer goulash. Afterwards we wandered around a little more, and bought some more fireworks before driving south east towards Wien (Vienna, Austria). Shortly after we crossed the border into Austria we searched for a campground then drove to this. It was a slight deviation from our route, but not too much out of our way. It was at Waidenhof which is about 30km inside the Austrian border. When we arrived we set up camp and relaxed before having a late dinner. Here we let of a few of the new fireworks, but they were rather loud so decided not to do too many.

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