Monday, July 20, 2009

Czech Countryside


Destination: Olomouc, Telc & Cesky Krumlov (Czech Republic)

Number of Days Spent: 2 days

Where we stayed: Penzion Best in Olomouc (1100 kroners - $55 and not worth it, the accommodation in Olomouc is hard to find and not worth the price) & Pension Anna (1700 kroners for 3 people - $85 for an apartment for 3). In hindsight we probably should have driven to Telc and stayed there instead of Olomouc and we should have looked around for something cheaper than Pension Anna, but the breakfast at Pension Anna was outstanding.

Best restaurant: The breakfast at Pension Anna was quite elaborate, complete with warm pudding and a plate full of fresh cherries! There is nothing like dessert after breakfast!

Best of: The Baroque Theater in Cesky Krumlov was really interesting to see (but very expensive - $18 each - OUCH)!

Worst of: The tour at the Archbishop's Palace in Kromeriz was only in Czech and very long (not to mention boring). We couldn't understand a word of it but even those that did were yawning away.

Most Memorable: The views from the bridge at Telc and the castle garden at Cesky Krumlov were fantastic!

Since we had a car, we decided to make a couple of stops outside of Prague in the Czech Republic. First on the list was Olomouc with it's UNESCO protected plague column. When the plague came calling back in the Dark Ages, it would claim the lives of over a 1/3 of the population at any given time. The disease was so devastating that people became superstitious. One of the beliefs was that by erecting a plague column in the town square, the plague would pass the town by. As a result, these columns appear in nearly every town. The people of Olomouc took it a step farther and their column is the largest of them all.

Aside from the column, the city boasts the typical cobblestone streets, churches and TWO main squares - upper and lower. While it was quaint in some regards...aside from the McDonalds across from the plague column...there was little in the way of charm. We have to say we were a little disappointed in not only the town, but the lack of budget sleeping options and not so friendly locals. We stayed outside of the main square and still paid more than it was worth for a hotel across from the stadium (it was the cheapest we could find with the exception of a dorm).


The Archbishop's Palace in Kromeriz was next on our UNESCO tour. This area of the Czech Republic is known as Moravia. The leader of Moravia not only was the head of state, but also the head of the church. Housing one of the largest and most impressive collections of Medieval literature, the rooms in the massive complex are impressive as well. The only way to see the rooms are on a "guided" tour in Czech. We were handed a handout in English and led from room to room for an hour and a half...which could have easily been a 30 minute self guided tour. The gardens behind the house are equally as impressive. We had a little picnic lunch in the gardens and strolled by the odd, and out of place, display of exotic animals. Not sure where baboons and peacocks fit into the whole picture, but at least it was free.



Far more impressive and fairy tale pretty was the tiny town of Telc, also making the UNESCO list. Usually a day trip from Prague, the town is set on a peninsula and climbing to the top of the bell tower provides an excellent view of the town. Movie makers must think the same thing as we did, they were filming a movie here the day we were here. The view from the bridge looking back at the castle is equally as charming.

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We ended our road trip in town of Cesky Krumlov. Krumlov is the second most visited town in the Czech behind Prague and rightfully so. Set on a bend in the river, the main part of town rests nearly surrounded by water providing for lots of water activities. A popular activity is to kayak or raft down the river with various bars and restaurants to stop and rest at, including the local brewery. We wih we had more time to spend here, it would be easy to while away a few days in this charming city.

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Resting on the opposite side of the river lies the Castle. With caverns, multiple rooms to explore, huge gardens, a theatre and a very odd rotating stage resembling something at Disney World more than a quaint old world town the castle itself warrants a full day of exploring. We opted to just wander around the free parts and take in the unique Baroque theatre.

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During the 17th and 18th centuries, these theaters were dotted all over Europe. Sadly, there are only two left in the world - the one here and one in Sweden. Their demise was not one of wars or external forces but a major design flaw. The shows incorporated lots of candles and even fireworks. Mixing dry, indoor wood with fire results in obvious disastrous results. The theater is operated by a series of ropes and pulleys beneath the stage that change the painted scenes in a matter of seconds by a team of about 20 men. While they only operate the theater a couple of times a year, the tour includes a short video showing the theater in operation. It was fascinating and we would have loved to see it in action, perhaps next time. Unfortunately, no photos were allowed of the interior so all we could do was snap one of the understage area from the window after the tour.


To see more photos click on the town name below!


Kromeriz (Archbishop's Palace)


Cesky Krumlov

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