Monday, August 7, 2017

Prague part 2-Day Trips

The Czech Republic as a whole is pretty cool.  As much as I like Prague, it's also a great place to use as a base for day trips.  There are some really great places to visit on day trips or even overnights.

Kutna Hora
This is an old mining town, at one point home to some of the richest silver mines in Europe.  The cathedral is particularly great.  Also designed by Peter Parler, the architect of St. Vitus in Prague, the cathedral at Kutna Hora is perhaps the best example of his vision.  Also near Kutna Hora is the Sedlec Ossuary.  This is a funeral church that was decorated with human bone.  It's a bit macabre, but pretty awesome.  

A pilgrim brought back dirt from Golgotha in Jerusalem and so the cemetery became one of the most desirable places to be buried in the Middle Ages.  It really is a pretty cool town to visit.

I love Telc.  A dear friend used to own a bed and breakfast (called U cerneho orla) on the town square and it was a great place to stay.  The town square is relatively unchanged since the 16th century, with the arcades still intact in most of the buildings.  The castle is also beautiful.  I have enjoyed walking the park around the castle.  It is a good two hours or so from Prague, so be prepared.  If you make the drive, a good stop on the way is Jihlava.  Portions of the old city walls still stand and the square is almost as big as Wenceslas Square in Prague.  The main church is also beautiful.  The Jezek brewery restaurant is a great place for dinner and relatively cheap.  

The only thing here is the castle, but you can reach it by train relatively easily and quickly (like 45 min-1 hour).  The train leaves from Smichov train station.  Also in the Smichov neighborhood is the Staropramen brewery, which is another of the good brewery restaurants and an interesting tour.  

The castle was built by Holy Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia Charles IV to house the crown jewels (the St. Wenceslas Crown) and important state documents and is well-preserved.  

Cesky Krumlov and Ceske Budejovice
The town has remained relatively intact for centuries.    The Vltava River flows through town, and river rafting tours are available.  It's a pleasant place to even spend a night with a lot of hotels and similar things.  

 Ceske Budejovice, or Budweis in German is home to the Budweiser brewery.  This is one of the most popular beer brands in Europe and the company has been involved in a legal dispute with Anheuser Busch for decades over who gets to use the name Budweiser, with varying results worldwide.  In the US, you can find it labeled as either Czechvar or Budvar (the common name in Czech).  Just outside of town is the beautiful castle of Hluboka nad Vlatavou.  

The city of Plzen (Pilsen in German) is famous for their beer (of course).  The Pilsner brewery is a cool thing to visit.  They still have the old ice caves under the city with the giant oak barrels.  Of course it's also a modern brewery, where they invented the pilsner style of beer (bright amber color, clear, lightly hopped).  Pilsen was liberated by the US 3rd Army under General Patton at the end of WWII (they were ordered to stop on the outskirts of Prague, or else they would have liberated that city as well).  

Karlovy Vary 
This is a famous spa town in the mountains by the German border.  The spas were frequented by the rich and famous of Europe during their heyday, around the end of the 19th Century.  The city also hosts a film festival every year.  The spas are still in use and believed to help treat disorders of the stomach.  The city is in a beautiful setting in the mountains and well worth a day trip.  Try the waters.  The popular mineral water Mattoni, one of the more common brands you'll see around the country is bottled here.  

The capital of Moravia.  Brno has historically been the second city, sort of like Chicago to New York.  Major sites include the main square, where there is a building that the shot-up facade from WWII has been preserved as a testament to the fighting.  The Cathedral in the city is beautiful and on a prominent hill over the city center.  The Capuchin monastery has some preserved mummies in the basement because of the conditions of the crypt that dried out the bodies and preserved them.  Spilberk Castle long served as not only a defensive castle to protect the city, but also as a prison, in many ways like the Tower of London.  

Not far from Brno is Pernstejn castle.  Pernstejn is because and has been used as a backdrop in many movies.  Also not far is the castles of Mikulov, which is also a famous wine growing region.  Go during the annual wine festival in September, where there is wine tasting and other activities around the castle grounds.  

By Mikulov is the castles of Vranov nad Dyji, Bitov, and the ruins of castle Cornstejn.  This castle was featured in the film Triple X with Vin Diesel, which also used many locations around Prague.  

Vranov nad Dyji courtesy Wikipedia

Long the ecclesiastical capital of Moravia, the cathedral is particularly beautiful.    Also of interest is the square with the large Holy Trinity Column.  This column was dedicated to the Holy Trinity after the town survived a plague.  

Near Olomouc is the castle of Bouzov, built by the Teutonic Knights.  

Courtesy Wikipedia

 The caves of the Moravian Karst are also in the region.  I have never visited, but I have heard that they are beautiful.  

In my next post, I will return to Prague and give some tips on getting around, eating and where to stay.  

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