The Czech Republic, formerly united as a country with Slovakia; you may remember it from your former Geography Class as Czechoslovakia. Czechoslovakia has an incredible history that I will let you look up on your own if you are interested. Here is the gist: They belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire until 1918, when they declared independence. They were invaded by the Nazi’s and then incorporated into Soviet bloc at the end of WWII. Communism governed the country until 1993 when they went through a peaceful separation to what is now Czech Republic and Slovakia. How many times have you heard “peaceful separation” when it comes to countries wanting independence or a different government model? I find that simple statement fascinating.
Side note: Neither country is Communist any more. They both have Parliamentary type governments. We will save all of that detailed information for our much later class session on world government(s). Please keep in mind I value punctuality and genuine interest. The syllabus will be forthcoming upon completion.
Someday, God-willing, I would like to visit Slovakia. But this time, Czech Republic was on my radar.
I bought a train ticket heading to the city of Cesky Budejovice with the ultimate goal of making it to Cesky Krumlov. I departed Vienna on a beautiful, clean, smooth train along the Danube River. The rolling green hills were lovely, the river cruises were slowly gliding their way down the Danube past quaint Austrian villages, the train stops were well marked and easy to read. When the train pulled into Gmund (Austrian border town to Czech Republic), I had to get off and walk to the other side of the platform to change trains for Czech Republic. What an adventure! The train heading into Czech Republic was old and rickety. I could not understand the announcements over the train due to language barrier and static. The signs at the various ramshackle stops were not always easy to locate. At one point, the train stopped in what felt like the middle of nowhere. We were ushered off the train and told a bus would take us the rest of the way. It too was old and rickety. It is in those types of moments that I take a deep breath and quote Carrie Underwood… “Jesus, Take the Wheel.” I do not know if I am being told the truth. I do not know if this bus is actually going to take me where I need to go. And when I get to the city, will I be dropped off at the bus station or train station? How far apart are they? Do people speak English? If not, how do I communicate? Will I have to get a taxi? How much would it cost? What if I get ripped off because I am a tourist? Oh my gosh, I do not have any Czech currency. What is their currency? Will they take Euros? Do I have enough Euros to pay for the taxi I already know I am going to get ripped off by? Will there be an ATM machine? What if there is not an ATM machine? Then what?!? I could get stranded. What will I do? …AND, breathe. Oh Jesus, take the wheel.
Okay, so my arrival in Cesky Krumlov was nowhere near as eventful as all of that worry. I arrived safe and sound. I later found out there was construction on the railroad so the buses were working with the train system to keep the transport operating. Thank you Czech transport systems for communicating with each other!
The Hidden Gem of Cesky Krumlov
The old part of the town is settled along the horseshoe-shaped curve of the beautiful and narrow Vltava River. Krumlov-ers can trace the town back to the mid-1200’s when the river was used as an important trade route in Bohemia. The second largest castle complex in Czech Republic sits high at the top of the river bank. It has been inhabited by only three families – the Rosenbergs, the Eggenbergs, & the Schwarzenbergs. Over time, these three families renovated and added on to the castle to leave what currently stands today including the elaborate castle gardens. Following the Communist era, the old town area of Krumlov was forgotten about leaving it overgrown and in disrepair. In 1989, Czechoslovakia went through the “Velvet Revolution”. It was during this political season of change that Krumlov was noticed and revitalized. Since it had been left nearly untouched by the Nazi’s, the town was able to be restored to its original, unique look and style. Now, the old town area is primarily tourism with shops, restaurants and museums. The 14,000 people who call Cesky Krumlov home, live outside of the historic areas but many are directly involved in the tourism. Today, it is a well deserved UNESCO Heritage site.
Many people visited Cesky Krumlov for a day trip. Most of the backpackers I met stayed for one or two nights. I decided to stay for four nights. I took my time to see the sights, go on a fantastic walking city tour, find a good coffee shop, eat at a few different restaurants, and even take a four-hour kayak trip down the Vltava River. It was a joy to not have to rush in to see the sights and rush out again but to soak in the town and my surroundings. I was also blessed with unusually warm weather for the season which made the kayak trip even more wonderful. Many more hidden delights exist in this town. Take the risk to see with your own eyes.
More views of Cesky Krumlov:
Beautiful, Wonderful Prague
After four nights in Cesky Krumlov, I hopped a bus to Prague – the capital of Czech Republic. It was also the capital of Czechoslovakia. With the surrounding areas, Prague has an estimated population of two million people. Prague has also been labeled a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its extensive history and amazing attractions.
When I arrived in Prague for another four nights, I connected with a small group of medical professionals who were on their way back to the United States from doing medical missions in Moldova. They extended their stay in Prague to relax and explore before heading home. It was a delight to hear stories about their time in Moldova and the obstacles they overcame in order to provide sound medical help with limited resources. These men and women are amazing problem solvers! If you are interested in joining a medical missions outreach, this organization can use you. They are looking for medical providers of all kinds and non-medical personnel for logistical roles. Check out Global Health Outreach which is associated with Christian Medical & Dental Associations. You can view their website at http://www.cmda.org/missions. Many opportunities to choose from!
My time in Prague was primarily sightseeing. I wandered through Prague Castle, which is the largest castle in all of Czech Republic. I visited the Astronomical Clock in Old Towne – when it was installed in 1410, it was the third oldest Astronomical Clock in the world. It is now the oldest operating Astronomical Clock in the world. I ate at an underground restaurant. I browsed my way through local vendors and listened to live performers as I crossed St Charles Bridge. I visited a gelateria who styles your gelato choices into a flower on top of a waffle cone. I even paid good money to see a marionette opera production of Don Giovanni (You may know it as “Don Juan”). That is right, I said “marionette opera production”. Let’s be real, how many times in your life are you going to get the opportunity to see such a thing? The stranger it is, the more likely I will want to see it.
Everything about Prague was delightful; from the food to the atmosphere to the entertainment to the architecture to the history…absolutely delightful. Once again, there is so much more to see that I was able to fit in. If I have an opportunity to return to Prague, it will be welcomed with open arms!
My photos of Prague can not do it justice. You may want to see it for yourself.