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part 3 Austria and Czech Republic trip report

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Jul 13th, 2003, 05:53 AM
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part 3 Austria and Czech Republic trip report

Day 8. Weather still bad. Left St. Wolfgang en route to Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic. The driving took us back through Linz. Earlier we had debated whether we should stop on the way at Mauthausen, the death camp east of Linz. Something we felt we should do, but didn't really want to. Combination of emotions and weather tipped the scales. We headed in the direction of the camp. Plenty of signs for the town of Mauthausen but no mention along the way for the camp, until the very last minute, where the small signs cryptically referred to the camp. A very pastoral scene, with the camp looming on the hilltop, looking almost (almost) like a rundown fortress. Unspeakable horrors once inside, 50+ years since the exterminations ended didn't dim the pain. Exhibits there also showed that there had been numerous other camps throughout Austria in places where we had previously had enormous fun -- Durnstein, Krems, and the Salzkammergut region. Better to end our stay in Austria with that awful experience, than to have begun the trip there.

Continued on the road from Linz to the Czech border. Once inside the Czech Republic, we were struck by the absence of development. The Austrian countryside was a combination of farms and industrial areas. The countryside of the Czech Republic was untouched -- mostly still forest. One strange view -- near the border, along this one main road, we kept seeing woman standing by the roadside. The first time I saw one woman I thought she was waiting for a bus. And the next time too. By the third and forth woman (standing alone, not in group, each at their appointed post), we realized they must be prostitutes. Sad.

Arrived at Cesky Krumlov, an overall very easy drive. We found the Hotel Ruze easily. A lovely place, an old monastery decorated in period pieces, also fairly expensive -- equivalent of about $240 -- surpisingly expensive compared to the very cheap cost of everything else the country. Had drinks along the river -- amazed at the low cost of wine, beer and food -- and walked around (oy, again everything is uphill, now on coblestones).

Day 9, took the tour of the castle (tour much cheaper than the tours in Vienna), lunch at a vegetarian restaurant along the river, watched kayakers and rafts get dunked in the river, saw a local orchestral concert in the church (great, and way cheaper than the Vienna concert). Bought a few pieces of Forest glass (not the Bohemian crystal, which I did not like, but the greenish glass, replicas of ancient pieces, originally made in the north part of the country).

Days 10, 11, 12. Prague. We left Cesky Krumlov, drove easily to Prague, but once there got horribly lost in the city (not unexpected but still frustrating). Still have no idea how we found our way. Stopped at a police station, we think in Praha 9, where one person spoke English, tried to point us in a direction where someone else could help us out, and then we just drove around and around. Once we unloaded the car, we took a cab to our hotel -- near the castle, the Romantik U Raka. It was great, although definitely the most expensive -- maybe around $250. A 6-room former farmhouse. The owner and staff could not have been nicer. Drinks and snacks in the beautiful garden were fabulous and breakfast an outstanding experience. Of course, in the highest area of the city. Close to the castle, which was "ok" (guess we had seen enough castles by this time). Skip Golden Lane -- nothing but tacky shops.

For all the other sights, we had to walk down, and of course, walk back up. (we were bound and determined to continue to walk off the wurst/beer meals, therefore tried not to take cabs; plus it was such lovely scenery and so picturesque the walks were great, even though very very tough). Noticed a fair number of people with casts on evidently broken arms -- one guess was that the cobblestones increased likelihood of falling and hurting oneself.

In Prague we met up with an expatriot family member of one in our group, so managed to have meals in restaurants off the beaten track -- hungarian and yugoslavian places, a welcome break. One lunch at the Black Bull pub near the cathedral where meal plus beer was $2 per person. Toured the Jewish Quarter -- the cemetary was unbelievable -- with tombstones stacked and leaning upon each other -- the Jews forced to bury their dead in such a small area, they literally ran out of room. The Old Town square was as great as it gets, the Charles Bridge an experience, the view of the city at night, breathtaking. Shopped at Wenceslaus Square area -- not nearly as nice as the other parts of town.

Prague seemd a much more trendy, with-it and youthful city than Vienna, and the other areas of Austria where we toured -- A very vibrant atmostphere, where by contrast Austria seemed old and tired, with much older tourists. All in all a wonderful trip.

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Jul 13th, 2003, 08:25 AM
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ira
 
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Very interesting trip report Barbara. Thanks for sharing.
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Jul 13th, 2003, 01:48 PM
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Thanks for sharing Barbara. We have done that same trip--staying in St. Gilgen, Melk, Vienna, Cesky Krumlov, and Prague. We found CK to be the least expensive place we have ever stayed. How did you manage to pay $240 for a hotel? We payed about $50 for a nice Pension--has the town gone Hollywood?
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Jul 13th, 2003, 05:54 PM
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Bob, CK has not gone Hollywood, although it was pretty darned crowded. But to answer your question about lodging cost, all I can say is that we are crazy Americans. we have a generalized fear of not staying in at least 4 star places (something about being 50, and needing assurances about a nice bathroom). Probably not a well-founded fear, but nevertheless, we are stuck with it. I remember a few years ago when we were booking places in Italy, my brother-in-law was raving about the $30/night inns he found in Austria, when we were looking at $200/nt places in Italy, thinking, there must be something wrong with us, that we are unwilling to look at lower cost accomodations. I have to say, I was not unhappy about the cost of the hotel because the Hotel Ruze and the U Raka were really great places (esp. the U Raka), however, I do realize that the the trip would have cost significantly less if we had looked at lower cost pensions, and we likely would have enjoyed it equally. The room at the Hotel Ruze was called a suite, but there was nothing to distinguish it from a regular double, except an extended entrance way with a wall of closets, which we never use. Oh well. Also, when we booked all the hotels in late 2002, the dollar was a better value against the euro and the czech currency than it was last week when we actually incurred the cost. We did get hit hard in that respect.
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