Wandering the Czech Republic

This may be a brief post or it may not. I never know how long they’ll be until I start writing but if you don’t want to read too much then this is the summary of my time in the Czech Republic – I walked around a lot, taking photos. In fact, I’d urge you to head to the Wandergrin Facebook page over reading this blog to just look at the photo albums of Prague and Cesky Krumlov, as you will get a better feel for my time here. The Czech Republic is so stunning and even though I only saw a small fraction of it, I believe that any point and click photos taken of the beautiful urban vistas the country constantly offers are going to be good photos, so please take a look at mine and enjoy.

The reason why I included a brief interlude in the Czech Republic on this trip is due to Stephen, a good friend of mine, who is a tour guide and used to do regular trips around Europe. I have such vivid memories of his Cesky Krumlov photos and swore that one day I would go there. Being so close to the border while in Germany, I decided now was the chance to make good on that promise and make my way there. Logistically, it is easier to head to Prague and then make my way down to Cesky Krumlov, so I boarded the bus from Erlangen, waving goodbye to Diana as I left and even on my way to Prague, I could not get enough of the stunning green landscape which rolled past the windows.

Initially I was hesitant about returning to Prague and the Czech Republic on this tour. I had a beautiful time there with my ex-partner some years ago and I was worried that each twist and turn I took in the city would evoke feelings and memories which I have spent so long masking and suppressing. Needless to say, Pandora’s Box did open and a flurry of emotions whirled around my head, as bracing and confronting as the wind which was blowing through the city. I spent a lot of my time going over old ground thinking about what could have been done differently during my relationship, what could have been said or even left unsaid and then I realised that although the city is steeped in histories including mine, I wasn’t living there and I wasn’t living in the past. It was time to make some new memories and put my mark on the city as an independent wanderer and as a happy and healthy single man. As the sun set on the city that night, so too did it set on my feelings of sadness and uncertainty. It was time to look forward to a new dawn and a new day.

My first full day in Prague started with a walking tour. These free walking tours have become a staple for each city that I go to and they’re usually really enjoyable. The tour guides work for tips only, so the better the experience, the more they make and they often make a great impression with their knowledge of the city and the way they convey this to the group. We were very lucky and had a hysterical local guide who had the whole group in stitches each time he told us about a monument, statue or ancient building. He would ask questions about different parts of Prague and would give a banana to the person who got the questions right. There were 4 bananas to be had and I managed to peel away with 2 of them. As the walk ended at Charles Bridge, I carried on over the bridge and into the old city, where the castle perches high on the hill, overlooking the whole of Prague. The queue to get in the castle was excessively long and I decided to leave it and carry on wandering. I spent the day weaving in and out of lane ways and cobblestone streets admiring every building and every facade, just taking photo after photo, wishing that I had enough room in my bag to pack my DSLR camera, but making do with my phone instead.

Tourists as an attractionOld Town tramCharles BridgeJewish Museum

On my walk I met a fellow traveller and we ended up spending the rest of the day together, taking photos, drinking cheap Czech beer and swapping travel stories – pretty much 3 of my favourite things! We agreed that the following morning, we would meet before sunset, to get some more photos of the city as the sun rises and the light is magnificent. Waking up at 5am was a bit of a confrontation for a backpacker with a limited schedule but I did it and I have to say, it really was worth it. Seeing Prague look even better while bathed in a dawn glow was certainly worth the early start. The only people who seemed to be up at that time were us, professional photographers and lots and lots of Asian couples in their wedding outfits, taking many photos and trying to get the weather and the light that they didn’t actually achieve on their wedding day.

Prague sunrisePrague sunriseCharles Bridge sunriseCharles Bridge sunrise

After such an early start and as much caffeine needed to get me to the bus stop, I left for Cesky Krumlov to see if it was as good as I believed and am so happy I did.

Cesky Krumlov is a UNESCO World Heritage listed city and is situated in the South Bohemian region of the Czech Republic. It is just breathtaking. I have often heard the phrase ‘words don’t do it justice’ and this is one of those times I can agree. So here are my highlights and some photos, taken from the Wandergrin album on Facebook.

  1. Having my breath taken away by the view three times, just walking the 15 minutes from the bus station to my hostel.
  2. The absolute tranquility of the place, despite the throng of Asian tourists and their dedication to taking the most amount of photos ever.
  3. Feeling such immense happiness and gratitude that I am fortunate enough to be in this stunning place.
  4. The glorious weather.
  5. Meeting Veronica on my walking tour, knowing I have made another lifelong friend.
  6. Everything about this City.

Cesky KrumlovCesky KrumlovCesky KrumlovCesky KrumlovCesky KrumlovCesky Krumlov

Cesky Krumlov

Do get a chance to go here if you can. It is just a few hours on a bus from Prague and is worth staying for the night, just to feel the magic and wonder of the place at all times and lights of the day.

I headed back to Prague for another couple of days, relishing in the ability to create new memories in such a beautiful place. I saw an advert for another free walking tour, which encompassed the old city and although I had been there, I was keen to learn more about the history so met with the group at the allotted time and off we went. Walking tours can be a good way to meet people and this was a prime example of that. There were a few on the tour which you could tell were going to click and we did pretty much straight away and we had another awesome guide whose dry wit and measured humour served the group extremely well. We wandered the old city and the guide told us he was going to do a tour of the castle in the afternoon. Having decided not to go a few days earlier and getting the chance to jump the queue by going with the group, I signed up. So did most of the group and when the guide asked if anyone wanted to join him for lunch before the next tour, we all put our hands up and crammed into a local Czech restaurant for beef goulash and cheap beer. The tour group expanded with the addition of Katy and Martina, as we made our way to the castle and they fit right into the energy the group was expending and we had such a fun afternoon exploring, learning and just laughing so much. We were so silly and it was hilarious. I’m laughing now as I type this at how everyone got the right queue for jokes and how everyone had the right thing to say at the right time. The camaraderie was on point.

When the tour ended, we all seemed a little like lost sheep and when our tour guide said he could continue the tour back to the main area of the city, we all readily agreed. When he left us, we all stood around, not wanting the day to end. So it didn’t. We once again crammed into a local restaurant for dinner and the laughs and jokes continued and although one by one, people had to leave for various reasons, we had an absolute blast and at midnight, there were four of us left before we called it a night and headed our separate ways. Now when I think of Prague, I think of all the fun I had on this trip and am really glad I got to close Pandora’s Box with all sad memories firmly trapped inside.

Oh yeah… earlier in the blog I said I wanted to make my mark on this city and to an extent I did, as I left a little permanent reminder on the John Lennon wall…

I’m so glad I went back to Prague and I’m so happy Cesky Krumlov was as stunning as I hoped it would be. I really enjoyed my time there and am happy that when I look back, I will look back on this trip over my last one and I will smile when I think of it and am glad to have made so many new memories and new friends.

 

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