Prague…. .

You are spoilt for choice for campsites, within easy reach of the city, around Prague.  Arriving from the west we chose Prague Camping Džbán as it would be the easiest to navigate to off the motorway and the washing machine was €2.  A bargain.

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Approaching Prague it’s a bit disconcerting when the tram creeps up on your left hand side.

All settled in we ventured into Prague on the underground Metro, a ten minute walk from the site.  Another ‘contactless’ machine for the tickets.  Easy peasy.  24Kč (84p) for a thirty minute ticket.  I’m not really a fan of the contactless system as it seems to me that you can waft your card here and waft it there and before you know it you have just spent several hundreds of pounds which you conveniently forget about until your monthly statement comes in.  Or, more importantly, someone else spends several hundreds of pounds on your card.  But I can’t deny that it does make it very easy not having to fumble about with the correct change in an unfamiliar currency with a queue of locals breathing down your neck.

Day 1.

Not having done much research beforehand, which is the norm for us, we set about a walking tour of the city.  As a capital city it’s actually not too large and pretty easy to navigate.  We started with Prague castle.  The hillside west of the Vltava river is dominated by the castle, the largest castle complex in the world, no less.  It’s huge.  Palaces, three cathedrals, museums, galleries and gardens.  It still serves as the headquarters of the current Czech President.

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Looking up to the castle complex from Charles bridge.
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The back of St Vitus cathedral.
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Castle guard decked out in his summer rig.
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St Vitus cathedral from the front.

The grounds give a panoramic view of the city and river below.

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View over the city from the castle grounds.

Then over to the Petřin Lookout Tower, a sixty metre iron tower, erected in 1891 as a mini Eiffel Tower.  We’ve not been to the Eiffel Tower but I would hope that it’s more impressive.

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Petřin Lookout Tower

Down the hillside then to Charles Bridge, completed in 1492, and brimming with people, artists, tat sellers and the like but strangely quiet away from the noise of the traffic.

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Charles bridge, busy but thankfully pedestrianised.
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 Love locks on Charles bridge. 

We finished up our tour with a look at the Old Town Square and the Astronomical Clock where wooden statues of the twelve apostles parade each hour.

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The Astronomical clock.
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Old Town Square.

We were too early, or was it too late, to see them and feeling tired called it a day on our explorations heading back to the campsite for a meal in the restaurant next door.

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Beef goulash with potato cakes.

Day 2.

For our second foray into Prague we decided to buy the 24 hour train/tram/bus/ferry ticket for 110Kč (about £3.74) as we wanted to experience some of the old trams and the funicular railway.  Tim offered to look after my ticket but I gave him one of my ‘I’m not a child’ stares much like I used to when he would politely suggest that using the strimmer whilst wearing flip flops or leaning on the rusty railings when there is a 100ft sheer drop the other side is not a good idea.  I do now, at the tender age of 49, heed his safety advice but it took many years to get to that point.  I felt, though, that I could be responsible enough to look after my own ticket.

We took the tram overland this time into the city getting off not far from the river.

P1090054.JPGWe spent most the day ambling up and down the river just soaking up the ambience whilst people and boat watching.

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An office block built in 2006 known as the ‘Fred and Ginger’ building owing to its shape.  The concrete bit is Fred and the glass bit is Ginger!
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The palace complex is enorm.
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The National Theatre.
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Penguins in Prague.

Looked at some interesting sculptures.

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A memorial to the victims of communism.
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Just managed to grab a quick photo of these before all the children swarmed over them again.

Up the funicular railway.  Coffee.  Down the funicular railway.

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The fenicular railway took us from the Lesser Town up to Petřin hill.

We ended our walk in the Jewish Quarter where, aside from tracking down the six synagogues, we spent some time window shopping commenting on the ridiculous prices.

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Prada trainers at a mere  €2679.00!

I felt much as Julia Roberts probably did in the film Pretty Woman when she goes shopping on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.  If you aren’t familiar with it you can see the clip here.  I saved myself that up and downer look by not venturing in to any of the shops.

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Or how about a pair of shoes for €1105.00 with the matching handbag for €2762.00.

Whilst wandering back towards the river we saw Gayl and John, a couple from New Zealand, who had parked up next to us in Český Krumlov.  Originally from the UK they emigrated to NZ twenty years ago. We’d spent the evening in Český Krumlov grilling them on all things NZ.  Small world.  Hopefully we’ll see them again to leech more information from them as New Zealand is on our list of possible places to visit in the future.

Having had enough of walking we decided it was time for a sit down.  One of the vintage trams would be the ideal place.  After rummaging around in all my pockets for several minutes, my ego was somewhat dented when I discovered my ticket was nowhere to be found.  I can only surmise that on one of the numerous occasions I pulled the street map of Prague out of my pocket, the ticket, unbeknown to me, fluttered to the ground.  You see, I never did settle on one dedicated pocket for the map and one for the ticket which would, on hindsight, have been wise.  Tim’s ticket was safely tucked inside his wallet.  No chance he was going to lose it from there as his wallet very rarely sees the light of day.  I had to fess up to my loss of course.  To his credit Tim didn’t say a word, just gave me a knowing, smug look.  Mmm, touché.

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One of the vintage trams we would have travelled on had I not lost my ticket.

As it was getting late anyway we decided to head back to the campsite.  So, contactless card wafted once again I purchased a second ticket.

As beautiful as Prague is, two days in a city is as much as we can manage in one stretch so we went off seeking pastures new.

Na shledanou!

A brewery tour in Plzeň…. .

A trip to the Czech Republic would not be complete without at least one visit to a brewery.  The Pilsner Urquell brewery, in Plzeň, is the largest brewery in the Czech Republic so we went on line and booked our tickets for an English speaking tour.  Basing ourselves at a campsite on a lakeside a few miles out of town we hopped on the train to take us into the centre of Plzeň.  Only it wasn’t taking us into the centre of Plzeň as we soon found out when the ticket conductor started chuckling whilst shaking his head and pointing in the other direction.  Ho hum.  Getting off at the first available stop we then realised we should be getting the tram into the centre not the train.  Easy mistake to make.  Tram……train………same thing to me.

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Tram…….not train.

After finally locating the tram stop and waving my contactless card in front of the machine, which duly spat out two tickets, we made it into town.  We just had an hour to kill before our allotted tour time.  Mmm.  What to do.  Walk the town admiring the architecture?  Sit in the cathedral and contemplate the meaning of life?  Or……….go directly to the brewery to see if we can sample their wares before the tour.

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The tour started well……

Having killed an hour in the brewery bar/restaurant we duly lined up for our tour.  Now, maybe I’m being a bit harsh but our tour guide really wasn’t the best.  Lovely though she was she had a very thick accent and spoke in such a monotone, as if reading from a memorized script, that I lost the will to live within the first ten minutes.  No passion, no humour, nothing.

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….but soon deteriorated.

Our group of about fifty was herded onto a bus, which felt remarkably like being on an airport bus taxiing across the runway, which took us to the bottling plant and then on to another area to look at, I dunno, other stuff.  As I said, I’d switched off.

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The cellars……the only interesting bit.

The only interesting bit was going down to the underground cellars, which I don’t think are used anymore, to see where the beer barrels used to be stored.  It was there that the tour reached fever pitch as we were allowed to sample one glass of unpasteurised Pilsner Urquell beer.

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Sorry, rubbish picture but we didn’t have time to stop as they wanted to get us all through quickly.

We had to drink up in double quick time though as the next tour group was coming through.  I was just glad to get out as it was freezing cold down in the cellar.  Disappointed.  Sooo disappointed.

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The beer glass made out of bits of wood was OK.

In contrast, our wine tour in France last year, with an engaging guide and small group, ended in the warm ambience of a welcoming bar where we were able to take our time sampling the four different wines that were made there.

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Sampling the wine of the Bouvet Ladubay cellars after our tour in France last year.  All in all, a much more civilised affair.

To cheer ourselves up we splashed out on the three course set menu at the campsite restaurant for 134Kč (about £4.74).  Potato soup, burger and chips followed by ice cream.  Living it large we are.

Next stop…………Prague.

Mĕj Se!

 

 

Onwards to the Czech Republic…. .

Passau, our last stop before leaving Germany, will forever be associated with punctures for us.  There are three stellplatz’ to choose from in Passau, one is €13, another €8 and the one 3km outside the town centre is €0.  Obviously we were liking the €0 option as a 3km bike ride was preferable to spending money which could be used for other things like beer for example.

Our ride didn’t start off well as the route into town was on a grotty cycleway adjacent to a busy dual carriageway and 1km in I had a puncture.  Not a problem though as we carry two spare tubes.   Long story short – both tubes had perished and Tim was dispatched off to the nearest bike shop to source some new ones.  That left me at the roadside twiddling my thumbs trying not to look like I was in dire straits.  I obviously didn’t succeed though as a total of four cars stopped to offer me assistance.   I thanked them all profusely in my recently acquired but limited German and tried to explain that my knight in shining armour (aka Tim) was just minutes away.  They all seemed to understand and went merrily on their way.  With the new tube eventually fitted we carried on our ride into Passau making a mental note to check the bike spares periodically in future.

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Looking at the Danube towards the old town.

Passau sits on the confluence of the rivers Inn, Ilz and Danube right on the Austrian border.  It’s compact and easy to navigate through the old town which is squeezed into a narrow pointy wedge of land between the Inn and the Danube.  Cruise ships line the quayside for onward trips along the Danube to Vienna, Bratislava and Budapest.  After our none too picturesque cycle into town it grew on us.

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Outside Passau cathedral.

We were impressed with St. Steven’s cathedral which boasts the largest cathedral organ in the world.  We were hoping to catch an organ recital but it seems they were just once a week and we’d missed it by a day. Taking Photographs was forbidden, although we seemed to be the only ones adhering to this rule, so the photo below is from my friend google.

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Inside the cathedral (taken from google images).

After a wander around the old town we had a very relaxed hour sitting outside the town hall supping a local beer watching the cruise ships come and go along the river.

After our quick pitstop in Passau we were keen to get a new country under our belts having spent over three months in Germany.

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Slowly, slowly the map of Europe is getting more colourful.

Across the Czech border we stopped at a campsite on Lake Lipno for a few days of relaxation, free wifi, washing and admin.

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Autocamp Jenisov, lake Lipno, CZ.

We’d been told that the Czech Republic is cheap for food and drink so we walked into the little village to test the theory out.  Tim was a little over excited at seeing the beer prices at a pound a pint (well, 500ml).  The last time Tim paid a pound for a pint was at the Theatre Royal in Plymouth in 1991 when Stella was on special offer!  Needless to say he is liking the Czech Republic very much.

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Our first Czech pub.

Washing done and wifi hammered we moved on to Český Krumlov, a UNESCO world heritage site and said to be one of the most picturesque towns in Europe.  It had been recommended to us by Marianna and Sam, a Czech couple we met on our first Helpx last year, and also by Anna, a Czech helper who arrived a couple of days before we left Alpaca HQ.  Motorhomes can park overnight at the back of the coach carpark for 300Kč per day/night (just over £10).  It was surprisingly quiet there with a bit of grass, shade and was just a five minute walk into the centre.  Ideal.  But before we settled in we couldn’t resist a stop at the local Tesco.

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Lidl took a back seat for the day with Tesco being more exciting.

We were so excited darting here and there with eyes like saucers you’d think we’d just been released back into the community from a fifty year prison term.  Me running down the aisles shouting ‘branston pickle, have they got branston pickle?’.  ‘No, but look, baked beans’.  Yay.

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Baked beans.  Woop!

The euphoria soon evaporated though when I dropped my tablet on the floor, which I’d been using as a calculator, and shattered half the screen.  Boo.  It still works but it’s not pretty.  Finding tins of spaghetti hoops in Lidl cheered me up marginally but the excitement had just lost its edge by then!

Whilst at Lidl I spotted a hairdresser’s tucked away down a side street so braved going in to see if they could fit me in.  After four months without a hair cut I badly needed one.  (I’d had a tip from Hildegard, the neighbour at Alpaca HQ, to get a hair cut in the Czech Republic as it would only cost €10).  The hairdresser didn’t speak any English but did speak some German and said she could fit me in that day.  Excellent.  True to Hildegard’s word it cost me just over €10 for a wash, cut and blow dry.  It’s a tad short but what did I expect after trying to explain what I wanted by repeatedly pointing to my head saying ‘kurz, kurz’ (short, short)?

Nope, no picture.  Too soon!

So what did we think of Český Krumlov?  Oh, we loved it. A Castle, wiggly waggly river, old town square, churches, gardens, views, walks, bars, picnic areas, it has everything in such a compact area.

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View above Csesky Krumlov.

It’s touristy, yes, but it wasn’t too overbearing.

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A UNESCO world heritage site.

My cunning plan was to get up early and take some photos before all the coach parties arrived.  Sitting in bed supping a cup of tea at seven in the morning I saw a few coaches toing and froing about so thought I’d best get up and out.  I set off on my quest just before the first tourist bus spilled its contents out into the carpark.  I managed to get most of the town done before it got too busy.

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Our approach to the town from our parking place.
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Csesky Krumlov castle.
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Inside the castle courtyard.
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Part of the castle.

It was no good trying to take pictures of the narrow streets though as they were full of delivery vans restocking all the restaurants.

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Trips on the river were really popular.

It’s all so compact with a lovely feel about it that we spent a happy few hours wandering around in the morning and then went back in to soak up the atmosphere in the evening as well.

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It’s such a lovely place for a stroll.

Český Krumlov, yep, a big thumbs up from us.

Next we’re heading in the general direction of Prague but first we want to stop off in Plzeň for a tour of the largest brewery in the Czech Republic.

Ahoj!