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Trip Report Tom & Shirl's Trip Report Czech Republic 2009--a work in progress

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The dust has finally settled at home and I can attempt to get through our notes and get a trip report out.
We left the US on September 8, 2009 from Chicago. We had a direct flight to Frankfurt and then from Frankfurt we flew to Prague. I’ll start out with just a few brief overall notes/observations.
Air India-Out of Chicago, awesome seats, nice flight.
Air India-Out of Frankfurt, hubby found his seat comfortable even though he was in the middle.
Czech Air-Okay, that ticket counter is REALLY a communism left over! They don’t want to be there, they don’t care and obviously haven’t a clue what customer service is.
Czech Republic-Beautiful country with simply lovely people.
Czech roads-In really, really good condition however (and it could have been us) we found the posting/numbering sketchy at best-our GPS was absolutely essential.
Public transportation in Prague-Excellent and very easy to navigate.
Czech Beer-The best my hubby has ever had.
Czech food-We enjoyed every single meal we had!
Personal safety in the Czech Republic-There was not one moment we felt uncomfortable or unsafe. We roamed around at night, took public transportation at night and never felt like it was dangerous. We were well prepared for pick-pockets but didn’t even notice that activity from afar.
Prague-Almost too much to take in. The city is beautiful and there is so much to see! We aren’t “breeze through town” tourists, we like to sit and savor, research and understand and see for ourselves.
Melnick Area Countryside-Wonderful drives with breathtaking country sides, whether it was farm or forest, with lovely sleepy little towns or Cesky Raj (aka Bohemian Paradise, the sandstone rocks) or the České Švýcarsko area (aka Bohemian Switzerland-the gate).
Cesky Krumlov-Wow! Wow! Wow! Did I say wow?
Pre-arranged airport transfer/Guide Services –(http://www.personalpragueguide.com/) One of the best decisions we made for Prague. We were met at the airport by a terrific and animated young man (Martin) that got us safely to our place, pointing out key things during the entire ride-terrific since we were really, really tired by the time we got to Prague. The guide (Helena) for two half days proved to be very informative and really enhanced our visit to Prague. More on the driver and guide in report. Highly recommended!
Studio Platan-Big Thumbs DOWN!
Pension V Raji-Big Thumbs UP!
Pension Pod Skalkou-Big Thumbs UP!

Okay, first I have to start with the negative of our vacation: Studio Platan http://www.platantour.cz/character.htm
They do not really put it right up front that the Studio we were renting was 127 steps up (no lift for this one), but we did know that from notes posted by others. We decided that would be ok. (Subsequently we have decided it does hamper our coming and goings and moving forward our limit without a lift is going to be 3 floors.) The pictures on their web site show a bright, clean and airy room and it was one of the very few rooms we found in the city that had the outdoor space we wanted. Well the picture must have been taken the last time they actually cleaned the room because the room was nasty. (We simply fell in to bed our first evening-it was late and dark-luckily I didn’t notice how bad the room was.) Moving forward the only reason I slept in the bed was because I saw the fresh bedding being delivered so I knew they sent it out to be cleaned. To begin with when we sent our “leaving USA” email and I told them we would probably be late that was when they gave us the key info. Seemed weird, why wouldn’t you reconfirm arrival before 1pm and/or give specific info out? Oh well, that part of the process actually went very well. Motion lights that stay on for 5 seconds made the trek through the hall, courtyard and up several flights of stairs a pain, but oh well. The next morning is when we saw the condition of the place. The bed did have fresh bedding-Thank goodness! The floors were dirty and under the bed had not been touched with a dust mop in a very, very long time. The wardrobe had papers in from other travelers (their directions to get in to the key box, etc.). That was from 2 months ago. The bathroom was just ICK. Small pieces of soap on the very top of the shower stall, icky floor, even the darn mirror was dirty! The hair dryer was there however and did work. The real kicker though was the bag on the counter that had been jammed with small jelly packets, cheese packets, yogurt, etc., two loaves of bread (that were already opened and dried out) as well as several small bags of cereal. Sincerely, this bag looked like someone went in to a late night restaurant and simply swiped all the condiments off the table and jumbled in to this bag. No juice, no coffee and no milk. There were food items though that should have been refrigerated. Tom went over the next morning to the reception and asked about the breakfast. She said it was in the fridge (our fridge was empty-zip, nadda, nothing inside that puppy). He told her there was nothing there, just the bag on the counter. She seemed quite surprised (suggested he look deeper in the half fridge) but said she would check on it. She didn't seem to understand or speak English very well so I think that made communication a little difficult (since we in turn do not speak and totally do not understand ANY Czech). {We had our tour that morning so went with Helena (more on that later) to the Imperial Hotel down the way and finally got our morning coffee, surrounded by some stunningly beautiful and fully preserved art deco tile work.} The outdoor space was compact but served us well. This too was another area that most assuredly had not been hit with a broom in months-pigeon feathers and dust all over. There was a table and 3 chairs. The door didn’t work as it should but we were okay with sort of propping it-we were on the darn roof, no one was busting in. So from my perspective I would not recommend this place to anyone. There wasn’t a bath mat and there were only two towels (we stayed here 6 nights) and one half hand towel. Breakfast was a joke. We did pick up our own instant coffee and the water warmer worked just fine. When we returned after our first day out, all that had been in the bag on the counter, was now in the fridge-the jumble of condiments simply dumped into the bottom drawer, along with several cartons of milk, a fresh jar of instant coffee and a carton of juice. I guess that was the breakfast. Yuk. My hubby drank the juice but I didn’t want anything from this place. God only knows where the heck what finally ended up there was sitting all night long. Unacceptable. Now we are not perfectionists at all. We live in a house that is a hundred years old and I will share with you, dust bunnies reside with us as well. But they are our dust bunnies and we do shush them away when company is coming! In fairness, the microwave, water warmer and refrigerator did work. The hot water heater was sort of noisy but did really pump out the hot water on demand. The location was perfect. The bus stop was right in front of the place, walking distance to Charles Bridge and the underground transport just a few blocks away. Grocery store, with liquor & beer, right across the street as well. And it was quiet-no street noise, no neighbor noise at all. Okay, enough of this negativism, I think it is all out of my system :) The next entry will be about the utterly stunning cities, towns, villages, other B&B’s we stayed at and people of the Czech Republic and our wonderful, wonderful vacation there. Please feel free to contact me if you need any info (before I get to it). We have stacks of reference materials.

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    "Cesky Krumlov-Wow! Wow! Wow! Did I say wow?"

    I concur. Loved CK. Looking forward to more. It helps to put the trip report into shorter paragraphs so we don't go blind reading about your adventure. Thanks.

    ((H))

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    We had set up 2 half-day tours with Sarka several months earlier when we were in the planning stages. We also had her arrange the driver to meet us at the airport. He was from transfers Prague. These were good decisions! Unfortunately Sarka was ill when we arrived so we never did get to meet her. She called us while we were being taken to our place by Martin and to let us know she had arranged for Helena, another tour guide, to take her place. We were not disappointed in Helena.

    The first day Helena did trek up all the stairs to our place and we sort of talked about what we really wanted to see. We then headed out, strolled down Revolucni and over to the Imperial Hotel, where we enjoyed the décor and some coffee and juice. We then headed back towards the Municipal House, Powder Tower and then in to Old Town.

    Naturally we did the Old Town Square, caught the Astronomical Clock doing it’s thing (Helene made sure to point out I needed to bring my bag closer to me, in front and reminded Tom to keep aware of where his wallet was.) We didn’t notice any jostling of any of the visitors, just noticed the hoards that piled in for the “ringing” and then were directed out for the next big site. Helene was quite informative about what life in Prague was like. We strolled through the Jewish town today as well. Our full tour of the Jewish town will be on Sunday. We also went over to Wenceslas Square and she talked about the history made there. She also talked about where religion is at in this country after all the years of communism. It was interesting to get a young persons perspective on all of it.

    We decided to get a five-day transfer ticket for each of us and while we thought it might be a waste of money it turned out to be a great move. The sheer convenience of having the pass was worth it. Helena got us through that purchase and helped us get time on our cell phone as well. She also pointed out where we would purchase tickets to a concert and for the opera.

    When our tour was complete we made a plan to meet in front of our place around 9:30 in the morning and we then parted ways. We hung around the Old Town area, right near the Charles Bridge. We stopped at Hospoda Bila Kuzelka, at the little outdoor offshoot of the hotel there, almost on an inside square. Great spot to people watch and enjoy a few beers and a few wines. Tom had to have 2 baboomba beers to my 1 baboomba glass of wine! Lord there are big pours in CZ!

    That night we took the advice of many Fodor posters and headed to Kampa Island in search of Cervena Sedma. Great directions and good pick, thanks Kwoo ;) Of course Charles Bridge was under construction so much of its charm was not on display. We really lollygagged with our drinks, appetizer, soup in the bread and then a huge showpiece pork! A walk around the area, a gelato and then a leisurely stroll home. We were quite satisfied with our first full day in Prague. The rain began just as we reached our front door and so we fell asleep to the peaceful pitter-patter of a nighttime rain.

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    Thanks for the kind words!
    Our second full day in Prague:
    Our lovely guide Helena meet us outside our place as arranged at about 9:30 on Friday, September 11. Our plan today was to go to Castle Town. We caught the tram right in front of our place and headed for Royalty!

    We had already decided that we were not going to actually tour the castle in Prague, just more or less do the surrounding areas. We had a few other castles on our radar screen and have discovered that two to three castles are pretty much our limit. There were many other beautiful buildings to explore.

    We walked through the historic square and we witnessed yet another wedding on the grounds. All of these weddings were “civil weddings”; religion is having a difficult time gaining a foothold here after all the years of communism. We went to the Prague Castle gates where President Obama addressed the masses. No politics here so I will take a pass… (See Shirl just zipping her lips…). I will say this was a very big deal for the Czech Republic. We toured the Strahov Library and then walked through Loreta Praha. The gardens here were beautiful as were the grounds in this area. The weather today couldn’t really decide what it wanted to do. It was sunny but quite windy and sometimes cool. I felt bad for Helena because I think she was freezing half of the day (a state of which I am normally in), she had dressed for warmer weather.

    We ended our time with Helena at Pivnice U Glaubice. We started out indoors because we were all a little chilly. Personal conversations over beer rather connected us. We cannot say enough about how we enjoyed our tours with her (Helena Martinkova). In addition to the absolute knowledge she had about all of the buildings, sites and areas we were at, personally she was simply a lovely young woman. We surly do highly recommend her as a tour guide. Our time in Prague was utterly enhanced because of the time we spent with her. When she left we did move to the outdoor area and there we enjoyed a lovely lunch while we people watched.

    We milled around the Little Quarter area, crossed over the wonderful Charles Bridge and headed back to our place, stopping to purchase our tickets for Don Giovanni on the way home. There we relaxed, had wine on “our terrace” and chilled for a while. Once refreshed (and me changed in to warmer clothing) we headed out to see the Bridge at night and find Einstein Pizza.

    It was fun to just mill around the old town at night. We had located an Internet café that was in a bar that was in a hallway…. I still wanted to get to Bohemian Bagel for the Internet, but it was nice to have a back up. We found our Pizza place and enjoyed the pizza there. We walked over to the underground and checked out the various destinations. We had big plans for tomorrow-the market and possibly the Zoo and of course, Don Giovanni at Estates Theater!

    As we trekked home we were already beginning to feel overwhelmed by this terrific city-too much to see and to take in! I don’t mean that in a negative way, it was simply that we knew we would have a difficult time recounting to anyone what we had done, where we had been, etc. Hard to describe I guess. It didn’t hamper our experience just made us feel like we should have known more!

    The long walk up all those stairs warmed us. It was good and chilly outside now. The starry sky was a pleasant view before falling asleep. Tomorrow it would be Bohemian Bagel to email, the market, the zoo and then Don Giovanni for the evening. Ha! We were feeling pretty confident about our ability to master this public transportation.

    Our night could not end without a thought and a prayer and a remembrance of 9/11. We silently said a prayer for those that simply were going about their normal lives that day in 2001 and never returned to their families and of course for the families that have had to go on without their loved ones. Freedom isn't free. The debates about that can go on forever but those that died on 9/11 were innocents. Our prayers and our sorrow for the anniversary was a somber end to a wonderful day. We try very hard to not take anything for granted, this night we feel asleep with our arms entwined, grateful for each other and all we have.

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    Hi LuvtoRoamn,
    I love reading your trip report. It brings back so many wonderful memories of our trip last August. I'm happy to hear that my trip report has been useful to other fellow travelers and that you enjoyed Cervena Sedma as much as we did.

    I also concur about Cesky Krumlov!!! WOW, WOW, WOW!!!

    We didn't have time to go to Cesky Raj. I'm looking forward to hearing about that part of your trip.

    How long was your total vacation?
    Karen

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    Thanks for the boost! Unfortunately these pesky jobs we have to attend to have us quite busy…. Ahh, gotta work in order to be able to go… Here we go,
    Saturday, September 12:
    We have just been lazy birds on this trip. Amazing how ambitious we were when planning-grab the tripod, get to the bridge, yada, yada, yada. We slept in (again) and then just meandered over to the Bohemian Bagel, which was really not that far from where we were staying. Weather was shaping up today to be pretty good. We had a great little breakfast and then I did my email duties. After that we hopped on the tram and went to the Prague Market. We were not that impressed, but walked around, took a few pictures (and those were simply awesome) and had a beer. Taking the tram there was simple as pie. We then decided we would head over to the Zoo. Since we are a little sign challenged we got off in the wrong spot, realized our error after walking a block or two and then got back on the bus and exited at the correct stop.

    We enjoyed the zoo. The weather was simply perfect. We found the zoo to be in pretty good shape considering the damage wrought by the terrible 2002 floods. We are always heartened, whether at home or away, to see families with their children, out enjoying their communities. And there were many families enjoying the zoo this day. We did the little train as well as the walks, ending with a nice ice cream and a little more people watching at the concession stand. A very enjoyable afternoon! We caught our bus and headed back home. We would relax with a few drinks and then head to the Opera.

    We had wonderful seats for the performance of Don Giovanni. It was probably an hour too long for my hubby, but he is the perfect date and no complaining was heard ;). The National Theater is a wonderful building and the opera was lovely. We did have a really loud Italian couple next to us though (we were glad it was “Ugly Italians” and not “Ugly Americans” as is often the case…).

    After the opera we went looking for a place to grab a bite to eat. Surprisingly we ended up at a Chinese restaurant, Shanghai Duo Wei, at Hotel Esprit. Go figure, at home if you aren’t at your Chinese restaurant by 7:30 you are not having Chinese! It was late and there was only one other table there and they were way ahead of us. No matter, a lovely young woman brought us menus and the staff had no problem serving us with absolutely no rushing us out of there. In addition to a really good meal (by our standards for Chinese food) we were given a nice little shot of plum wine to complete our meal. Okay, it all goes back to my years in food service…. I just love good service when dining and when we get it, for me, the entire experience is enhanced.

    Stuffed to the gills we waddled on back, winding through this beautiful old town, to our place. Up the stairs and out to our nice little balcony. This is the way to live!

    Tomorrow we are off to Vysehrad and an evening concert at the Municipal House.

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    Kwoo, we had 16 full days in the Czech Republic. We took off on Tuesday morning from the US and on Wednesday spent a whole day in Frankfurt (which was very enjoyable) before we caught our flight to Prague. Our way home was even more convoluted! On Thursday 9/24 we left Cesky Krumlov, drove to Prague and stayed at a little place not far from the Prague airport. The next morning we left Prague and flew to Frankfurt. There we grabbed a train to Wiesbaden, spent a wonderful day there, stayed overnight at Hotel Klemm and then took the train back to Frankfurt and caught our flight home. Cancellations and changes by Air India was one of the reasons but in the end it wasn't really that bad. I will probably post on the Germany board as we enjoyed both Frankfurt for about 7 hours and Wiesbaden for a full day.

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    September 13, 2009
    Today we wake to a pretty overcast day. Warm in the sun and a little chilly if the sun goes behind the clouds. No matter, we have decided that today we will head to Vysehrad. We have so mastered this public transportation….

    Vysehrad did not disappoint! The views on the walks were wonderful. We strolled along the river through the grounds and enjoyed the musicians along the way. It was very peaceful and a nice break from the inner city. The pictures I have of the doors of the Neo Gothic Church of St Peter and St Paul from Vysehrad will be a great addition to our collection of pictures of doors and windows (it’s what attracts us). We walked through the small little museum as well and found it worthwhile.

    We took a slow walk down and out of the area, stopping at U’Semika, a little café outside the grounds, and had a nice beer (well Tom was drinking 2 to my 1 glass of wine-the wines were simply huge pours), wine and caprese’ break. It was starting to get a little chilly, but our mini-break for a small lunch was very nice. We decided we would head to the Petrin Observation Tower.

    Once again, we cannot say enough about the public transportation here in Prague and how easy it was for people like us (not normally public transport utilizers and non-Czech speaking or reading…).

    By the time we got to Petrin Hill the weather had clearly taken a turn and was on hold-gloomy and quite chilly. We walked up, caught the funicular and enjoyed the view at the top, well, not all the way to the top. We did not climb the tower, just sort of looked up at it and decided we were not dressed warmly enough and simply didn’t feel like climbing it. Hey, we are on vacation here! So we took the funicular half way down and stopped at the little café and enjoyed a nice hot chocolate. And of course, while sitting there under the canopy we listened to Willy & Julio singing “All the girls I’ve Loved Before”. Music is universal.

    We found our way home, rested, freshened and then headed out to the Municipal House for the concert-selections by Hanel, Vivaldi, Bach, Mozart, Dvorak & Tchaikovsky-Hey, we have CD’s with all of these guys! Our seats were wonderful, third row-we were all by ourselves in that row-with only two other couples in this front section. The back half of this terrific venue was pretty much filled and they, as did we, thoroughly enjoyed the concert.

    After the concert we went to U Provaznice for dinner. A loud, boisterous and sort of smoky place, we had a great little server and good food for a reasonable price. I just love, love, love their cranberries! I should research just exactly how they harvest them or where they come from but they were such an addition to several of the meals I had. At home (and Wisconsin is a big cranberry state) I eat a lot of cranberries, canned and fresh, but they are huge compared to those we had in the Czech. One of the perfect fruits-filled to the brim with all good stuff (okay, forget they have to add sugar..). Here is where I had the best dessert too. It was hailed as Plum Pie but was really more like a plum kuchen and it was to die for! We lingered with coffee and once again went over the great day we had.

    A slow walk home and of course the long walk up. We settled in enjoying the nice little bed lights that allowed us to read in bed. Tomorrow we were going to go looking for the “Strudel Man”.

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    September 14, 2009
    How did this happen, today is our last full day in Prague? Once again we slept in and once again the weather started out sort of drizzly and not especially warm.

    We bundled up, grabbed our umbrella’s, the trusty hand-held GPS and headed out in search of the “strudel man” in Prague’s Zizkov neighborhood, a character we discovered in our research of Prague. You can google strudel man and it will come up if you wish to read the article. We took the underground and got to the area with little problem although we did rely on the GPS as we walked. The written directions Tom had were almost backward for the direction we were actually going in but we persevered and along with the GPS, trudged past some really butt-ugly apartment buildings and did find the strudel man!

    They talked about apple strudel in the article but when we got there I discovered he had poppy seed strudel as well (really, my people must have been Poles or Germans or Czechs, how else does one account for the taste I have in schnecks and meat???). So we had to get an apple strudel and a poppy seed strudel. Clearly he spoke no English and I surmise he figured it out that we spoke no Czech. Food and the sale of food is universal though and we got through that transaction with little trouble. Off we trotted with our neat little packages of nice fresh strudel. Sincerely, this area he works in is about a big as a large bathroom. Obviously since we sought him out whatever he is doing is working. And now this may inspire others to go looking for him. We sort of headed back the way we came and that worked out okay for us. Tom did finally get his street-dog though, just outside the entrance to the underground.

    We went back to our place, dropped off our goodies and then headed to the Jewish Quarter. On the way we stopped at the Old Town Square and relaxed with a few drinks. Once we got to the Jewish Museum we bought tickets and a hand-held English guide and began the tour. We found this guide very useful. We went through the museum, the cemetery and several synagogues. It is quite a somber experience. There are silly, kitschy stands selling items outside the entrance, seems sort of weird, but since I am a capitalist at heart, okay I guess. We just didn’t see anything here we had to have.

    After the visit to the Jewish Quarter we wondered back through the side and back streets and stopped at a little outdoor café (I think it may have been called Blatnice). We needed to call our daughter, as today was her birthday. As always we made a spectacle of ourselves singing happy birthday to our Kimmy into the telephone (it’s what parents do). After a few drinks we decided to have a few appetizer type dishes here and just people watch. It was perfect. While it was chilly there was no wind and all of the rain had subsided.

    We strolled towards the Charles Bridge for one last time, lamenting never getting up early and getting over here. We attempted some photos of the castle, but since we didn’t have our little mini tripod the nighttime shots just didn’t come out. We passed by the Klementinum and snapped a few shots and then just sort of wandered. We hit the little hidden internet café we had discovered earlier and dropped a few lines to everyone letting them know we would be leaving town tomorrow and not to worry if they didn’t hear anything. Reluctantly we said a nighttime good bye to this city knowing there was much we never really got to see.

    One last trudge up (not) and reflections in the chilly air out on our balcony. Prague was good, we were glad we had visited here. Tomorrow would have us leaving the city-picking up a car on the way out and heading for wine country. The task of packing we left for the morning. Tonight we needed to just savor the sounds around our place and gaze at the night sky that amazingly seemed to have a million stars in it.

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    September 15, 2009
    Well another morning we simply lollygagged, we will have to return to Prague to get to the Charles Bridge at daybreak as that never happened this trip-good to have a reason to return :)). We had naturally prearranged our car rental with Avis and the office we needed to get to wasn't that far away. Originally we thought we could just walk to it, never seems like a good idea once there with bags, etc. So Tom went down (and then back up) to have the gal at Platan get a taxi for us. We trudged down with our luggage and waited for the cab. He got us safely to the city-center Avis and there we picked up our car. Actually he charged us less than quoted once we arrived. It was a cute little Peugeot, fine for the two of us but would have been too small if there had been four travelers. Tom had preprogrammed our little Missy (the GPS) so after driving in a few circles to calibrate her, we were on our way. We got out of Prague with no trouble at all.

    Our plan was to hit Terezin on the way to our place (Pension V Raj, in Mseno). While it wasn't "on the way" it was in the area. And that is what we did.

    Naturally Terezin was another somber stop. We had done a good deal of reading about this place and really felt we needed to include it on our trip. There were not really hoards of tourists this day so the visit here was one that offered the peace needed for much reflection. Always hard to believe that human beings treat other human beings in this manner. We did drive over to the Ghetto Museum as well and spent some time there.

    After leaving Terezin we were looking forward to a nice little place in the country and that is exactly what we found! Our Missy got us there (despite us) and once there we were not disappointed. We were greeted by Lucas (this is who all the emailing had been with) when we arrived. This was in farm country with forests surrounding it!

    Our room was perfect (read that nice and clean). There was a little fridge in the entryway, a good-sized bathroom, a nice sitting room, with a TV and a large upper bedroom with a large bed and single bed. No TV up here and that was nice, did do lots of reading on this trip. 4 windows made for a nice cross of fresh air and light. Strangely, not a closet nor a hanger. Not to worry, I bring hangers (the cheapo's from the cleaners) and can always figure something out.

    This place was great! First off Lucas gave Tom two huge bottles of beer when we inquired about where to buy some. I had bought wine in Prague so had a few bottles along (I was willing to share my wine buy my man simply wanted Czech beer!). There was a very nice covered area outside, in addition to the balcony right outside our room. A fire pit for all to use and a few other couples were grilling their own supper! It even had a foosball table under another canopy, which I imagine many families enjoyed.

    After relaxing a bit we freshened and then headed out to find some supper. We ended up at restaurant U Zlateho Lva, in Mseno. No English on the menu here-just CZ and German. Our limited German helped us navigate. Good food, good service, good price, really, what more can one ask for? We were too full for dessert….

    We wound our way home safely and settled in for the night. Now go figure, we are in the middle of nowhere here but our neighbors came home just a little bit tipsy and quite loud. I think they must have been at the restaurant that is more or less in conjunction (ownership wise) with this place, which is simply down and across the road a step. This was not an owner occupied place so no one came out and said, hey be quiet! It pretty much seemed that it was simply guests at night. They eventually quieted down and boy, in the morning didn’t even come in to the breakfast room.

    We had no trouble falling asleep. Here there were thousands of stars in the sky and in the morning we would hear our neighbors in the field. Tomorrow we would head out to Cesky Raj for a nice walk.

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    September 16, 2009
    When we woke up we heard the sheep in the field baaing.. They were just about 20 yards outside our window. A donkey in the mix and he liked to make a little noise every now and then. What a pleasant way to wake up.

    As will be the case for our time here, mornings are gray until the sun burns off the moisture. Today we will go to the TI in Jicin, get some cash and then head to Cesky Raj, also known as the Bohemian Paradise. First we will have breakfast here at our B&B.

    The breakfast nook was adorable and the gal that did breakfast was just as cute. Coffee, yummy rolls, cheese, a sweet and sometimes eggs, sometimes meat as well as yogurt, cereal, etc. we enjoyed the mornings here. She arrived about 8-8:15 and at 8:30 breakfast was ready.

    We had no trouble finding Jicin. We parked and walked through the small square. I'm quite certain we checked email here but for the life of us we cannot remember the TI! (Don't be laughing, this too will happen to you.) We did stop at a little place and had a few drinks. After that we headed to Cesky Raj.

    The weather was perfect and thankfully we were appropriately dressed. This is a beautiful area that we highly recommend. We even saw climbers while here, hanging on the side of these huge rock formations! The ground itself in many areas was quite sandy. We started out on the red marked trail but being as sign challenged as we seem to be we ended up on the green.... In our defense we are always in conversation or simply drenched in the beauty of our surroundings and I swear, that has to be how we miss signs, markings, etc. :) Since it was so lovely out it wasn't that big of a deal. We eventually reached a junction of red yellow green and picked up the red back to the starting point. We did snap many pictures here and surprisingly they came out quite nice. A little bit of everything; walking through the woods, tall pines, rock formations, high look-out points, rock steps sandwiched in-between two huge rocks. Terrific, simply terrific! This is how we justify all the eating and drinking....

    After our walk we took a nice scenic drive to Rovensko pod Troskami. It was a very small, pleasant little town. We passed Restaurant Melodia just as he was putting his little plastic table in front. We sat and had a drink and decided to eat here. We moved inside because the bees were quite annoying outdoors. The owner was a very gregarious man and we enjoyed interacting with him as well as watching the interaction between he and his staff and the locals that came in. One old guy came in with a huge empty bottle, looked like one of the water bottles that you tip upside down on the water dispensers, and it was promptly filled with beer! Okay, that doesn't happen in the US! Our meals here were also very good. Again, we managed the menu because we caught the German (in our own limited way).

    We enjoyed the winding ride home. Fruit trees line the sides of many of the roads and there were folks out picking up what had dropped. We did find that Missy had us “recalculating” a few times…Some of the roads don’t have clear definition, like should you stay the curve or go straight. As I said, probably just us. Tonight we would sleep well again.

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    September 17, 2009
    Wake slowly and gently to the low sky and creatures milling in the field next door. We enjoyed our breakfast today as we did yesterday. One of the fellows staying here on holiday was from Prague. He said he worked at the botanical gardens there and was quite proud of his job. He and Tom shared a few drinks outside when we were "home".

    Today our plan was to go to the Bohemian Switzerland National Park and walk to the Pravicicka brana land bridge. It was still quite overcast, a little chilly and beginning to sprinkle. We vacillated on whether to go or to perhaps find something inside to do. In the end we decided to head out to the park and are very glad we did.

    By the time we got to the park all of the rain had subsided. We had a hot chocolate at the hotel next to one of the little TI kiosks and then headed out.

    What a walk! Lucky for us there really only was one way! We did the 4 miles to the land bridge and the restaurant there. It did seem like it was up, up, up... We quickly shed some of the outer clothing we had on. The scenery was awesome. We found the trail in pretty decent shape.

    Once we got to the restaurant we had a drink and a snack. This would be the half way point and we would have to go back the way we came. As we left this place we saw the "lift" that obviously hauled goods up and down for the restaurant. One of the servers was leaving as we were and she did the walk too. Imagine, 4 miles up and 4 miles down...

    Another winding ride, we stopped in Kamenicky Senov at a place called Restaurace U Tumu (this was also a pension I think). It was a nice place, we sat in the first dining room and there were a few other locals there. No English or German on the menu. We navigated pretty well and ended up with two huge dishes of some really delicious pasta. We waited for this, it wasn't a speedy meal, but when it came it was apparently fresh and made to order pasta, perfectly al dente'. A couple of old guys in the corner playing chess, with their oil cloth board and real chess pieces, they yelled for the girl to turn up the lights! Don't need ambiance when playing such a serious game with another old man I guess. All American music here heavy on the 80's rock n'roll. One of the gals in the place was about 8 months pregnant and drinking down a huge beer, a big no-no at home here for pregnant women. A truck driver that spoke no English came in looking for the owners of a blue Peugeot...

    We were ready to depart anyway so we got out of his way and headed on home. Another perfect day under our belt. Tomorrow, Nymbrurk and then to the Wine Festival in Melnik. Fat and sassy we hit the hay and had a great nights sleep.

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    >> All American music here heavy on the 80's rock n'roll.


    lol...Yep. Keen observation. Glad you noticed. That's the Czech Republic. :-)


    >> One of the gals in the place was about 8 months pregnant and drinking down a huge beer, a big no-no at home here for pregnant women.


    And if you have ever been in a fitness gym in Prague...you'll notice that some of the staff / fitness trainers smoke (esp. the ladies!), a big no-no at home here for fitness buffs and healthy people who exercise. I was shocked at such a dichotomy. Oh, but hey, this is Europe...

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    Our rule is we can go to a spa but absolutely, positively no fitness gyms while on vacation ;)

    Seriously though we expected smoking everywhere we went, based on our research and unfortunately that did keep us out of a very few places that just were too smoke laden. Overall it wasn't a problem and luckily the places we stayed didn't allow smoking on the inside, all had outdoor areas with ashtrays. Didn't note any pregnant smokers, just the beer drinker. Oh well.

    And American music....the universal language. Not to dis the Masters, also universal or the British or Irish, but overall, even when the lyrics were in CZ, the music was American rock or country.

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    · Friday September 18, 2009
    Another pleasant morning, gentle wake-up, beautiful surroundings and breakfast already prepared for us. Oh once we return home this is the harshest reality of all-clock radio waking you, commutes and no one in the kitchen with coffee and breakfast all set for our enjoyment. We are savoring every moment of it.

    The plan today is to go to Nymburk and then to the Melnik Wine Festival. The weather looks like it is going to be quite nice and as it turned out we had perfect weather in to the night. Naturally when you have a car you can have the "cold weather back up" clothing along, just in case. My best friend when traveling is my black Pashmina and I can have that with me at all times, simply tie it on to my bag.

    We found Nymburk with little trouble and also parked with ease, right on the square. Parking has not been a problem at all on this trip. We walked around the square and stopped for a drink at Plzensky restaurant. After watching these great plates arrive at all the tables around us we decided to have a lunch here (it has after all been almost 4 hours since breakfast!). Mmmm, schnitzel, we do not eat like this at home and boy, what a guilty pleasure. And while we were here we enjoyed another wedding down the way at the city hall.

    We strolled around the town and found there were all sorts of places tucked in the back streets. We walked over to the medieval walls and did a little people watching there. There is Internet access at the library-a satellite information center and we did manage to find that, rather tucked inside and upstairs off the street (have to keep vigilant in the search for the i) so I was able to check in (for free) and drop a quick note home.

    After a few hours here we headed out to Melnik. We arrived just as they were closing off entrances and charging for entry so we did have to pay to get in. Parking once again was no problem and actually we parked right where we entered. In retrospect we would have gone on the second day, not the set up day. They were still in the setting up mode to a certain degree although the rides portion of the festival was going great guns.

    There were 3 music stages and many, many wine booths and food stands. We milled around, stopped at the main stage and enjoyed the Gaelic rock band Navostro (we did buy one of their CD's and we really have enjoyed it). We then went over to the country stage but they were still setting up. There were lots of trinket stands, etc., your typical festival fare. Here in Wisconsin there are festivals from May to September so we have really seen most of this stuff if you know what I mean.

    Even though we were stuffed it was hard to resist the smell of the food on the open grills or spits. Or the huge crepes being made. Here too, when you ordered a wine, a baboomba glass! We also had some great cheese and naturally a nice hot pretzel.

    We did sit for a while and listen to the second band at the main stage and they were pretty good. It was more like folk music and easy to listen to. For the most part all was in CZ and I swear they did Hotel California. One of our all time favorites and the very first time we ever heard it in another language! We walked around some more and when we returned to the main stage the crowd was decidedly much younger and the music pure rock. Time for us to move on.

    We staked out a spot at the Country stage. One lone guy doing all the set up, made me think of my brother, who many, many years ago was a roadie for a band and did this very thing. The band that played here was pretty good. Again, music that was familiar but in CZ. Wow, Alabama in CZ. This is why we love to travel.

    The ride home was a pleasant one. The GPS has been utterly indispensable and we are thoroughly convinced we would still be driving around in circles somewhere still looking for our farm B&B without it. Tomorrow it would be bones and a mine, Oh My!

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    Saturday, September 19, 2009
    Mornings are just heaven here. Anything more I say about this place or the rest of our stay in the Czech Republic in regards to the mornings would simply be redundant.

    The plan today is to head over to Sedlec and visit the Ossuary and then possibly a mine tour.

    When we got to the bone church the tour buses had just arrived. We went across the street and sat and enjoyed a wine and beer (it surely is after noon somewhere in the world) and simply waited for them to depart. That happened quite quickly and then we went in and got to look at all those bones with just a few others in the small area that is the ossuary. What can one say about bones that are stacked, made in to art and designed as a chandelier? We walked through the cemetery there as well. Think I would worry about being buried there....

    After that we went over to Chram Sv. Barbory (St. Barbara's) and walked the grounds, which were lovely. We couldn't go in the church because a wedding was going on. Then we went over to the mine museum to make arrangements for the tour. We hung out and waited for the tour to begin. There were two guides and one spoke English however since he was at the back there wasn't a lot of English going on during the tour. On the inside they gave you a laminated sheet to explain what she was going through but once down in the mine there wasn't any reading going on.

    One thing that was clear were the warnings before entering the mine, we laughingly took a picture of the big warning sign. So after all this, getting our gear (a coat, hardhat and flashlight) off we trekked to the mine entrance. As we neared where we would enter one of the fellows just dropped like a rock! Not a faint, not a fall, just splat and he was down. How this guy didn't crack open his head is beyond me but the sound when he hit the ground was sickening. The young guide called out for a doctor or nurse in the crowd and everyone took a step back (no medical personnel here). Everyone got out a cell phone though and the CZ version of 911 was called. They really arrived quickly and did what paramedics do. Scary though. Off he went with his terrified wife. And onward we went after a delay of about a half hour or so. Clearly the guide was shook up. Additionally now she was worried about the time as this was the last tour of the day and I think she had transportation home to worry about.

    Once through the door it was down, down, down, etc. to the mine. Truly this mine was not for the faint of heart or for a fatty! I am barely five feet tall and I had to duck in many spots. I am not very big but the walls even closed in on me. Sincerely, if that poor man would have gone down in here I am simply clueless as to how we would have gotten him safely and swiftly out of here. I had sandals on and had asked at the desk when we bought tickets if it would be a problem, no she said. Well, it was wet in there so I would rather have had regular shoes on. Unbelievable though that folks actually worked in here, day in and day out. I felt like the cowardly lion, "I love my job, I love my job...". The persistence of humans is amazing!

    We decided we would have our supper at the restaurant that was associated with our B&B. Made the winding ride back to the area hoping it would not stop serving early. We had not checked the hours of operation. It was still open so we sat outside on the patio for a bit. By now it was nighttime and the night chill was in the air. We moved inside and had a lovely supper. We were among the last in here though and even though it was only 9pm we could hear the cook yelling at our server.... back to my roots in the restaurant biz, these cooks are darn prima-donnas and apparently no manager was on duty. Oh well. The meal was good and the server certainly didn't rush us out. The other couple in the place sure didn't let it bother them, they continued to order drinks.

    While here we made another observation. Lights flicker and dim on a regular basis and we found this to be true everywhere we were, throughout the trip. Don't know if it is a problem with the internal wiring or the grid. A little disarming, normally that is a recipe for fire if it goes on for a long time.

    Finished our dessert listening to "These boots are made for Walking" in CZ. I love it here.

    A hop across the street home and another good one under the belt. Tomorrow we say goodbye to wine country and are off for fairy tale town. We will stop at a fairy tale castle on the way.

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    One of the fellows staying here on holiday was from Prague. He said he worked at the botanical gardens there and was quite proud of his job. >>

    we visited the Botanical gardens [they are near a very good micro-brewery and the church where the german bullet holes can been seen in the wall] when we visited Prague a few years ago. unfortunately as it was between Christmas and New Year there wasn't much to see but we did meet a very pretty red squirrel and the tropical house was nice and warm! My poor DH gets dragged to the botanical garden in every city we visit - i quite like them in off seasons. we even got chased out of the one in Krakow!

    loving the report, Luvtoroam. we've had the idea of doing a tour based on the czech republic since we went to Prague - so you're giving me lots of good ideas - thanks.

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    Sunday, September 20, 2009
    A slower breakfast this morning as today is our last day here. We organized our luggage and packed up. Good-byes to our morning gal and we were on our way. The plan was to stop in Tabor, catch Hluboka and then on to Cesky Krumlov.

    We stopped in Tabor and while it was a little overcast and chilly we did enjoy this town. We walked around the square, found the TI, did some emailing and then decided to climb the bell tower. Up, up, up and under three different bells (bend down to get under the big bell) up to the reward, the chance to see for miles. Too bad it wasn't a clearer day. Even at that the views were wonderful. You paid when you got to the top, a little shop/museum sort of place. For me going up wasn't near as bad as the first several flights down...rickety wooden stairs with open backs. I held on to my hubbies back and that helped steady me and block that vertigo view going down :).

    Ummm, for some reason I thought this little bell tower tour was a tourist attraction only and didn't think for one minute that bells here were rung. Imagine my surprise when after we departed the building the bells promptly tolled the hour? Yikes!

    We had lunch at a place on the Square, Skochuv Dum, a Harley-Davidson cafe, going right after our little ol' Wisconsin hearts! Now we were in Budvar country for sure as those were the only beer signs we were seeing. Our meals here were wonderful, today was another pasta day I guess. Every glass of beer or wine we had on this trip looked like a picture for an advertisement-very appetizing and of course they tasted as good as they looked.

    The town center here had a great deal of charm. We have also been amazed by some of the truly ugly buildings left over from the communist era; sometimes sadly smack in the middle of some of the most beautiful buildings we have ever seen. We really haven't run in to any Americans yet, English speakers but no Americans. I had my Green Bay Packer hat on in the hopes of attracting other Americans, but no takers.

    And the music plays on as we enjoy a yummy ice cream dessert. Meatloaf, Bon Jovi...appropriately at the Harley place Small Town by John Mellencamp serenaded us as we readied to depart.

    Our ride along the highway was pretty uneventful, more observational. Lady Bird must have made it over here too since the major roadways were devoid of hoards of signs (unlike some of the smaller cities and towns-bridges, etc.). The same person that has been commissioned here in the US must also have been commissioned there to create the "sound barriers" as they are as stone cold ugly here as they are at home. We were driving along green, green country and then there, smack in the middle of it all, four huge nuclear towers.

    We stopped at the Chateau Hluboka and unfortunately there wasn't a tour happening that we could go with. We walked the grounds, took some pictures and lamented not being aware of the schedule here. The gardens are worth the stop though.

    Onward to Cesky Krumlov.

    Our little missy got us right in to town and to our B&B, Pension Pod Skalkou, with no trouble at all. We were greeted by a terrific young man who was very helpful to us. He gave us several good tips for some day trips. Our room here was exceptional! Clean and very spacious, we had a tiny little patio and the outdoor covered pool was right outside our room. We sort of settled in, enjoyed a glass of wine on our patio and then changed and headed for Old Town, a mere few blocks from our place.

    Wow, wow and did I say Wow is exactly (even now) how we remember feeling when walking on down and looking at the town from a slight distance as we crossed over the river. Dusk was upon us so the lights certainly added to that fairy tale aspect. We found a set of stairs nearby, climbed them and then over another bridge, through a little tunnel and there we were, in wonderland! Cobbled streets, interesting building signs, boisterous laughter and chatter from the hostel, we just drank it all in as we strolled under the streetlights.

    We walked around a bit, did locate U dwau Maryi, but planned on eating there a different day. We ended up at Nonna Gina's pizzeria. It was slightly chilly but we were dressed for it and did eat outside. Another wonderful little server, a great pizza, good wine & beer and a fancy huge banana split to share.

    When I say we were fat and sassy when we headed back you can believe it! Tomorrow we would explore during the day, find the TI, perhaps do a brewery tour and see if we felt like the night tour.

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    Thanks Annhig for the kind words! The joy of writing the report is reliving the trip, remembering what we have already forgotten and sharing with those that may be interested. We only saw a small portion of the country and will most assuredly return to the Czech Republic soon. We saw many beautiful gardens and met so many truly wonderful folks on this trip. And honestly, based on previous trips to other areas, our money went much further here.

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    >money went much further here.
    Food is cheap, electronics are expensive.
    For a tourist traveling in a country with an avereage income of below $9000 per year is heaven. Rather safe and full of history not only in the capital. Krumnau is a gem.

    Enjoy the food and don't let them rip you off ;-).

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    Monday, September 21, 2009
    Awoke to another beautiful day. Up the hill was the sound of a rooster in the morning; it just doesn't get any better than this. Oh wait, breakfast is yet to come

    Breakfast here does not disappoint. I should weigh 100 pounds more after this trip. The bread in the morning was just too good. Normally I eat my bread without butter (or at home I would weigh 100 pounds more!) but here I splurged and slathered the butter on. I can still taste those wonderful rolls from this place. Here we had two kinds of meat, several kinds of cheese, rolls and bread, yogurt, a sweet, jams, juice (well the juice was more like Tang so I had to pass on that), the other usual drinks, fresh tomatoes and cucumbers and a basket of fresh crisp apples. Another of the boys took care of this each morning. Nice young men.

    We walked in to town to the TI. I did the Internet and we purchased tickets for the Eggenburg Brewery tour. We found the tour interesting. This brewery filed bankruptcy some time back, was shut down a few days and reopened, supposedly some foreign money kept them alive. The problem, as the guide told it, was being a Unessco site, the brewery cannot do some of the things that would be more efficient (such as paint that would last longer) because they must comply with the standards set forth by Unessco. Additionally since there are so many really good brews around it is hard for this one beer to be offered in all the pubs.

    Our guide was a nice young woman but clearly she had a great disdain for beer drinking. She wasn't a teetotaler, just must have been jaded by seeing too many drunks or something with the "beer culture" here. She was informative and certainly did know the brewery.

    After the tour naturally you get a beer, so the tour ended outside the door of the pub, a few doors away from the brewery, and got our free beer. There was a single man from Canada and a couple from Sweden on this tour with us. He was well traveled and this trip was his first alone since losing his wife awhile back. His travel was all on public transportation and he was leaving the Czech in the morning. The couple had come from Sweden on a motorcycle! In addition to that they just go, don't pre-book, didn't have a GPS...we were feeling just a bit wimpy. You meet such interesting folks when traveling.

    We walked around town a bit more and then headed back to our place. Tom enjoyed the pool and we relaxed on our patio-had a few drinks and did a little reading. We can smell that someone is obviously smoking some meat or something up the hill. Pleasant, not a bad smell at all, sort of apple wood.

    As evening approached we got ready to once again enjoy the city center at night. It was a little chilly now but we wanted to eat at U dwau Maryi and sit outside alongside the river. We went down the stairs and there at a table was the fellow from the tour. He was already enjoying his dessert.

    Night was coming on quickly and it was pretty dark. Our waiter brought us several candles from other tables and also brought a blanket for me. We had a good meal here and nice service. He did forget to bring Toms soup but we had so much other food it didn’t matter. As he prepared out bill and realized his error he offered us some plum pie to make up. Oh, okay.

    A nice walk home and we settled in with our books. Tomorrow would be a few more tours and then maybe Katakomby for supper.

    Forgive any errors. It is 3:15 and the Pack is playing Minnesota, gotta stop! Go Pack!

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    The little cranberries you liked so well in prague may well have been lingonberries. In Germany I was told they come from Scandinavia. They're a little sweeter than cranberries, altho sugar might have been the catalyst.

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    Well, the Packers sucked and Brett shone....
    Tuesday, September 22, 2009
    We wake to another simply beautiful day after another really good night of peaceful, restful sleep. It is just heavenly here. Breakfast didn't disappoint. We lingered this morning (read that went back for more bread, I'm telling you it was to die for).

    Our plan for today is several tours. We started with the City Tour, which we caught at the TI on the square at 10:30. Our guide was another lovely young woman. She was very engaged and quite knowledgeable. Here we had another American couple on the tour. They had been here just after 89 and found the changes in this city as well as the country overall amazingly improved. Make no mistake, especially here in Cesky (the beautiful jewel) there are buildings that really need attention, right alongside lovely renovated buildings. A work in progress and one can only imagine what it must cost to bring these building back to life.

    Our guide had been (and still appeared to be) very politically engaged. It is a struggle here. No doubt the elderly that counted on the government for their retirements, etc. truly got the shaft. Now with the "global crisis" (which she mentioned many times) everyone is pointing fingers and really, much like here at home, the free market is becoming the villain. Hopefully it will work itself out here. We've been through it at home and so we know we emerge.

    After the walking tour we stopped and had a drink at a little place on the river in the area we ended up. We strolled through town and then over to the Baroque Theater for a 2pm tour. We also planned a Castle Tour for 3:30p.

    As it turned out, Rose, our lovely talented and animated guide, did both tours. Starting with the Theater she gave some history, then sang an aria so we could appreciate the acoustics and then took us below to see the workings. Very well preserved. At 3:30 we caught up with her for the castle tour. She was very knowledgeable and informative. The royals lived in their own little world! In the "party hall" she once again sang. She had a powerful voice and the sound was awesome. As we toured she also talked about the "spooky" past of Cesky, many ghost roam here!

    So we are back at a river cafe, enjoying a drink when the trumpet sounds and out goes our candle.... spooky indeed.

    We planned on dinner at Katacomby and so that is what we did. It was wonderful. Amazing, inside this "cave" with them cooking right there and it wasn't greasy or smoky at all. As has been the case, our meals were wonderful, service superb and we enjoyed everything.

    A slow stroll home and fat and sassy we fall in to our comfortable bed.

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    Wednesday September 23, 2009
    Well, ditto, ditto, ditto for our mornings here. Sadly this is our last full day in Cesky. Tomorrow we will begin our journey home.

    The plans for today are to hit the road. We are going to Rozmberk nad Vltavou and tour the castle and then to the picturesque village of Holasovice.

    We headed out of town and really sort of paralleled the river (or some body of water) most of the way to Rozmberk. A perfect day for driving, bright and slightly cool.

    We found a place to park in the sleepy town. Construction was going on in one sector and the hotel across the way appeared to have some kind of seminar group in attendance. We stopped for a coffee, oh, excuse me, a cappuccino. My man is so continental now. He actually can tell, see and taste the difference between a jar spice and fresh ground nutmeg in his cup. They are pieces of art and quite scrumptious. On this morning the nice warm drink takes that morning chill off. We walked around a bit and then headed up the hill (no castles are down) to the castle.

    Naturally the English tour is a book for us to read as we go along while the gal speaks Czech. The castle was in very good shape and the tour quite nice. A nice clear day the views were spectacular.

    We meandered back down the hill and then headed for Holasovice. We found the sleepy little town with no trouble.

    It is like a post card. The town was very quiet the day we were here. We did walk over to the TI but there was no Internet access here and not much real information. We walked over to the circle drive that is lined with little story book houses and stopped at the restaurant sandwiched in between the houses there and grabbed an outside table. A very Czech menu we just winged it and each ended up with a delightful lunch. No one spoke English here.

    We enjoyed a very pleasant ride back to Cesky. There we enjoyed our little patio one last time. We planned on walking in to town to have supper and enjoy the old town at night.

    It was chilly, as nightfall arrived, but not awful. We strolled around and then decided we would just enjoy a pizza at Nonna Gina's again.

    There was only one outdoor table that was empty when we arrived. We had the same friendly gal as the other night and she remembered us. Once again we enjoyed a pizza along with our drinks and the finale, our big banana split to share. A warm cappuccino and we were able to stroll around in the evening for one last time.

    A beautiful night sky with a castle, what a view! We truly lingered for one last nighttime view. Wow, wow, wow, we have not been disappointed here. This is just the loveliest little town we have ever seen.

    Arm and arm we head on back. Tomorrow we will pack up and begin the convoluted journey home.

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    Thursday, September 24, 2009
    Today we have to prepare for our journey home. Our plan is to drive towards Prague and find a place to stay near the airport. Our flight to Frankfurt leaves very early in the morning. At Frankfurt we will grab a train to Wiesbaden, spend Friday there, stay overnight at Hotel Kemm and depart on Saturday for the airport at about 5 or so. Our flight out of Frankfurt to Chicago is scheduled to depart at 8:50am.

    We enjoyed one last breakfast at this lovely B&B. We decided to walk in to town to get a few gift items to bring back home. It was only fitting to walk through the town and snap a few more pictures and stop for one more cappuccino. All of these places are tiny from the front side and open in the back, whether to the river or to an inside/outside patio. Very quaint, very relaxing.

    Reluctantly we said our good-byes to this little jewel of a town. One last stop at the TI to send off our getting ready to go email and back to finalize the packing. Car loaded we headed out with Missy, our GPS, at the ready.

    We planned on stopping at Pisek on the way back to Prague. Initially we had several grand plans for the ride back; stop at the Wellness Hotel and get a beer bath and massage, or tour castle Krivoklat or Karlstein.... Sounds good on paper but after lollygagging the morning away and not really getting on the road until well after noon this didn't seem like a good idea any longer. We didn't have a place reserved so did want to end up near the airport while it was still light outside.

    It was a pleasant ride to Pisek. We parked and then meandered around the town. It really was in wonderful condition (the areas we saw) compared to the flood pictures we saw. The bridge there was under water in 2002! One of the two oldest bridges in Central Europe, certainly it took center stage in their rebuilding efforts. We had a sandwich at one of the outdoor cafes and then hit the road again.

    Naturally we ran in to road construction once near the airport. I'm pretty sure we got off the main road because we noted a sign for Otto Plus and figured we would try that. It was in Prague 6. We drove around a bit and did finally find it and they did have rooms available. It was dusk now, we were glad to have found this place before nightfall.

    We had a few drinks in the back outdoor area and then moved inside to have dinner. We enjoyed our meal here. There was only one other fellow eating and then a large group came in and took over the backside of the place, looked like they were going to have some kind of awards ceremony.

    The place was old but it was serviceable. Tiny bathroom, two people couldn't be in here at the same time. But it was only for a night. At least it was clean. And the woman that manned the desk there, actually slept right there at the desk!

    We managed to get to the airport, drop off the car-there was actually an attendant on duty that early in the morning-not just a drop box (5:30am or so). Then we went to check in...

    I don't know why we were so surprised to see the long lines when we arrived. We heard the planes in to the night arriving what seemed like every 10 minutes. This is a hopping little airport. They had windows for Czech Air in several different spots. Folks were in queue and man, they really had lots and lots of luggage. In the first line we noted as we waited that the staff was very combative with those trying to check in. When we were finally the next in line they smacked down their closed signs and said go to another window. Ok, pretty annoying, we went around the corner and once again waited in another long line. Unbelievably after another long wait they did the same thing at this window. Hubby had to gag me because he didn't want to have the authorities drag his wife out of there. By now time is ticking away pretty good and we are beyond the first boarding call. Our luggage isn't even checked in yet!

    Well, the third window was the charm, we got checked in and then ran for our plane. The flight itself and the staff aboard the flight were very nice. It just was a stressful way to start the morning.

    Our plan for the suitcases was to pack them up and leave them at the left luggage in Frankfurt. We would just carry our small carry on bags, drop them at Hotel Klemm and then be off. And that is what we did.

    We had no trouble getting our train tickets and hopped on the train to Wiesbaden. We did take a cab from the train station to the Hotel Klemm and that worked out nicely. She let us drop our bags in the room as it was empty and we had her arrange for an early morning taxi. That done we were off to enjoy the old town.

    This was a pleasant area. We hopped on the THermine (a little tour-train vehicle) and it took us on a little tour of the area. We stopped at a few places and enjoyed a few drinks here and there. They were setting up for an evening festival but we knew we wouldn't be hanging around in to the night as we would be up around 4 or so. Always nice to start that journey over the ocean fresh and refreshed.

    We had our supper at a cute little Italian place. The restaurant itself opened to the front patio area and there is where they had set up their "booth". We sat on the inside and it was fun to watch them work the crowd, getting people to come on over and try what they were selling. We really lingered here.

    We walked around town a bit more and then headed back to our place. Our room was huge, a suite really with a very nice bathroom. We were on the top floor (I think there were 4?) but the place had a lift, not a big deal. We peeked in the breakfast room and were very sorry we would not be around for the morning breakfast, place looked nice.

    In the morning we got up and out with no trouble at all. Our cab arrived on time and got us to the train station. There we grabbed a coffee and then caught the train to the airport. Once there we retrieved our bags from the left luggage and then proceeded to check in.

    If we thought the lines were long at the airport in Prague, Oh My! These lines snaked down the aisle, at least a block or two away for the counters. Luckily there was AI staff walking around and calling out for NY and Chicago travelers. Boom, just like that, we are at the front counter checking in. That was service.

    The flight home was okay but there was a lot of turbulence.
    Food was okay, again nice staff and both Tom and I had decent seat partners. I read two books, he slept.

    Finally, once in Chicago we retrieved our bags and walked out to the area we would catch our bus. In about, oh 5 minutes, there is the bus. Sincerely, this entire trip that is how many things fell in to place. An easy ride to Goerkes Corners, a pick up by a friend at the park and ride and we were home.

    Now we can start (Tom has already been at it) planning for Poland next year..... Thanks to all those that wrote trip reports, those whetted our appetite and gave us many good tips and ideas. Hopefully anyone reading this one will get an idea or two or a confirmation of what they might be planning. Happy Travels

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    Thanks for the thanks ;) I'm pretty challenged when it comes to the picture posting....but I'm working on it. Any tips on user-friendly sites? I was trying to use Photobucket but it is very clunky and I'm having difficulty getting them now in to some kind of order. As I said, it is probably me. blh you will love Czech Republic, it is just a wonderful country to visit.

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