Last week we took an American style road trip (🚙) through the Czech Republic. Originally we were thinking about Holland. Also Norway. But we procrastinated and airfares went up. So we decided to drive North.
On the road
Like other vacations, this one started by dropping Leo (🐶) at his second home - a beautiful kennel ranch outside of Linz.
Here’s an aerial view:
Nice place right? Leo agrees. He’s very waggy about it. He prances in there, with confidence, like the mayor of dogville.
After dropping off Leo we crossed the Czech border. Only thirty minutes to Český Krumlov. It’s a fairy tale sort of place, encircled by bridges, only accessible by foot (no 🚗’s), inhabited mainly by elves.
We’ve been to Český Krumlov before. And since we rarely hit the same place twice, we continued to Prague without stopping.
Vítejte na! (Welcome)
We arrived in Prague a few hours later and unloaded the luggage from a temporary parking spot next to the Powder Tower.
Here’s the tower - right next to our hotel.
The hotel is also a short walk from the Astronomy Clock, which is the oldest functioning clock of its kind (14 hundred and something).
Sitting and talking
Our friend, Christie, visited Prague a few weeks ago and recommended a restaurant called Maitrea. It’s a fun place - but fun isn’t easy with teenage kids. Dinner conversation can be trying. Like picking a lock. I’ve got no idea how to do either one.
Over dinner, instead of beating our heads against one another, Alison and I play Twenty Questions with the kids.
This isn’t a new thing. We did it when we lived in California. But it’s different playing here in Europe. Europeans are quieter than Americans. So we attract some attention. Doesn’t help we’re the only ones speaking English. But this way of bridging the teenage dinner gap is way more important than subtlety.
We played Twenty Questions a lot on this trip. Sometimes with a slow start. Like “ugh, not this again.” But eventually it’s always good fun.
The next day we visited Prague Castle, which included a little 16th century neighborhood called Golden Lane where working class castle-folk once lived, drank, and made candles.
There is a great armory behind Golden Lane with shiny coats of armor - some from the 1400’s.
Here’s a view of Prague from the castle.
Getting to the castle means walking across the Charles bridge. People say it is wall-to-wall tourists, but it wasn’t crowded at all.
There was a great band playing Cab Calloway songs on the bridge.
Later on we visited the Jewish Quarter, with Prague’s famous Jewish cemetery. There are thousands of hebrew headstones, the oldest dating back to 14-hundred-and-something. Underneath are seven or eight layers of buried Jewish folks piled up like a big cake.
Next to the cemetery we visited the Old New Synagogue, built in 12-hundred-and-something. The synagogue is still in use. A nice woman showed us where modern day circumcisions are performed - the same way they did ’em eight-hundred years ago. She also explained that women can’t attend services - they must watch from outside - again just like old times. How nice?! 🤬
It’s called “Old New” because it’s supposed to contain a stone or two from the original (old) temple in Jerusalem, destroyed a thousand years earlier.
The edge of Bohemia
After Prague - our second destination was North towards the German border, in Bohemian Switzerland, which has nothing to do with the other Switzerland. Names are weird sometimes.
Getting there is not very pretty. Google Maps (blessed be thy name) sent us through a place called Děčín. It’s an industrial place - but only twenty minutes from the national park.
We happily escaped Děčín, dropped into the Elbe river valley, and made our way to the park entrance town of Hřensko. This place offers half a dozen stores filled with kitschy plastic stuff. Also not super pretty.
Things got greener and prettier as we got deeper into the park. We eventually pulled into the Hotel Kortus - in a quiet little village overlooking the hillside. We checked in and enjoyed a beer in the sun.
The next day we woke up and hiked to Pravčická brána - a big sandstone arch. It took us a few hours to hike up. We bought french fries and coke at the top to celebrate.
Last stop: Kharlovy Vary
After two days of hikes and rock formations we jumped into the car and headed Southwest, back over the Czech border, to the town of Kharlovy Vary.
For centuries people have come to this town for the supposed healing properties of its mineral water. One of those people was this guy, below, who also found an extra “E” someplace in town, and crammed it into his first name.
Here’s what you do in Karlovy Vary:
- You go to a store
- You buy a ceramic mug
- You wander around and drink hot mineral water
Making it work
So there we have it. An American style road-trip through the Czech Republic. Overall I’d call it a huge success. A mixture of city-stuff, natural beauty-stuff, history-stuff, with mugs of metallic tasting water.
Thanks, again, to Google Maps. A life saver. Even bigger thanks to the game of Twenty Questions. This is the sauce that makes dinner possible.
The best rounds for each person:
“I’m thinking of something related to money.” Answer: a sand dollar. 👍👍👍
“I’m thinking of something with three parts.” Answer: a braid. 👏👏👏
“I’m thinking of something hollow.” Answer: a piñata 🌮🌮🌮
“I’m thinking of something bad.” Answer: communism ⛔️⛔️⛔️
This last one is my favorite - not because it’s especially clever - but because of the chat we had in front of Karel’s (🤪) statue.
“Marx wasn’t a bad guy,” Max said. “People just screwed his ideas up when they put ’em into practice.”
Back to reality
Yesterday we left Karlovy Vary and returned to Vienna by way of Linz (🐶). Thirty minutes from home, on Highway A14, we got a stark reminder of the suffering across the Slovakian border in Ukraine. Two dozen emergency vehicles, and some supply trucks, with French license plates, making their way East.
This was the second French convoy passing through Austria en route to Ukraine in less than month. Hopefully Macron can squeeze as many shipments as possible before the election, which Le Pen might pull off. Come on Europe. Let’s keep it together.