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Published: July 10th 2011
We enter the Czech Republic through the Southern Bohemian region (now where have I heard that name before – well think of some of that fine crystal glassware bought over the years)
The countryside takes another change and the area is covered with man-made lakes and rustic looking villages. The Czech drivers think they are Greek and the road rules once again go out the window.
We make our way to the Prague suburb of Chodov, about 15 minutes by metro to the city centre and A V Pension will be our base here.
Besides being on the way to Poland, where our next destination will take us, we have come at the request of a friend, (Barbora) whom we met whilst in Turkey. I will be the first to admit that I am somewhat ignorant as to what to expect and my knowledge of The Czech Republic is next to nothing.
Whatever my preconceptions may have been, they couldn’t have been further from reality..
The Czech Republic or Czechoslovakia as it was previously known took the side of Germany during the Second World War and hence a majority of its grand buildings were spared considerable
damage in the initial conflict that took place. Hence we are astonished to find such an elaborate network of such fine architecture in such pristine condition.
Following the war Czechoslovakia came under the prefecture of The Soviet Union and with the return of democracy (in 1989) and subsequent split with Slovakia, the Czech. Republic seems to have flourished, unlike its Polish cousins.
The metro system in Prague is as good and efficient as we have seen anywhere to date. Travelling into the city is a pleasure; the people are quite friendly and despite many claiming that they do not speak English we find that once you get past their shyness they are quite willing to converse and help.
The city of Prague is split by the River Vitarva and we take a river cruise (for about an hour) and enjoy the sights and some of its history and what a history.
Charles Bridge, one of the city’s most famous monuments is a wonderful spectacle (both day and night). It is on this bridge that it is said that you will meet the love of your life. I wonder, why is it Michelle keeps walking back and
forth over the bridge. We did see a couple in their wedding clothes stop in front of a fiddle player and dance whilst onlookers snapped off shots on their cameras.
On our first day we strolled through the Royal Gardens and then made our way to the Castle, which overlooks the city.
Interestingly enough and maybe just a little surprising was that there were no tours in English, on the day we were there and they had run out of English Audio Guides. This raised the hackles of a few irate tourists. Needless to say we made do with our own recourses and had a magnificent day. I must also stress that one day isn’t enough and we were pleasantly surprised that with the full entry ticket you had access for two days.
Do you remember the Christmas carol about “Good King Wenceslas”, well he actually existed and was revered in this area. King for only 5 years (around 925 AD) and assassinated by his brother, for his Christian beliefs, was to become the Patron Saint of Czechoslovakia.
On our second day we went for a drive into the countryside visiting Krivoklat and Karlstejn Castles (built to
once hold the crown jewels). Both set in beautiful forests and we have again realised that we will not have enough time to see nearly enough of this mystical land.
On our last night we caught up will Barbora and she took us on a walking tour of the city explaining the various stages of architecture and its history. Then off to a traditional pub for dinner, oh ok and a couple of beers as well.
Thanks Barbora, we had such a lovely time and also for the candid stories of your youth, growing up in Soviet Czechoslovakia.
Once again, our bags are packed and its time to make tracks. During our drive through this the Czech Republic we had commented about not coming across any toll booths and about 40 km from the Polish border we find out why. A police custom van pulls in front of us and signals for us to pull over. The office proceeds to enquire why we are not displaying a toll sticker on our windscreen. What sticker we enquire. It would appear that on entry to the country we were required to purchase a pass to drive on the national
motorways and that the maximum fine is 5000 Czech Koruny (about AUD300). “Bloody hell” oh and you can pay that in cash or we have a credit card machine in the van. After a chat and humble grovelling we managed to get away with a $40 fine.
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