Nicki goes on a Czech Republic Famil

Staff member: Nicki // Trip date: Oct 2013


The trip started off to be a bit of a disaster, after a wheel fell off a plane in Sydney my flight from Melbourne was delayed over an hour. I was lucky to arrive into Sydney, collect my bags and transfer in time to check in. Others were not so lucky; because of the delays there was one agent who did miss the connection and the whole first day in Prague. We went from Sydney to Prague via Dubai with Emirates. Our Guide Valsta met us at the airport, along with Miroslav from OK Tourism. We arrived at the hotel at around 3pm. We stayed at the Hotel Paris; each person on the trip had their own room. I missed the first night as I was sick and could not leave my bed in the hotel to get to the restaurant.

 

Prague


Breakfast was at the Sarah Berhhardt restaurant in the Hotel Paris, a full buffet breakfast. We met the 20 seater bus at 9am from the lobby and started our tour around Prague. Our day started off at the Linder Hotel with a site inspection. A beautiful hotel at one of the highest points in Prague, the hotel is built into the mountain, only 2 levels are visible from the front but the hotel is a 5 level, 117 room UNESCO heritage building. Offering different types of rooms and 3 conference rooms the hotel is perfect for those who wish to avoid the city and also have quick access to the airport. As it is on the edge of the city the airport is only 20 minutes away.

After the hotel we walked down to Prague Castle via the Strahov Monastery. The Monastery has amazing views of the city of Prague as it sits above the whole town. We took a look around the Castle grounds and went inside the St. Vitus Cathedral. Construction on St. Vitus started in 1060 and is home to the crypt of the most important families in Czech history, the Wenceslas', the Habsburgs and Luxembourgs. After a tour of the Cathedral we walked through Parliament house. The Parliament house is constantly changing as the First Lady is given permission to change some aspects of the building.

We walked through the Lesser Town. Lesser town is the most historical area of Prague. The buildings are all very old and have a lot of history. We stopped for lunch in an existing club house for neighbourhood watch. Lunch consisted of Potato Soup and Chicken Schnitzel with Potatoes and Apple Strudel, something I have learnt is that the Czech people love their potatoes.
After lunch we walked across Charles IV Bridge. The Bridge suffered from every flood in Prague as it was often damaged by floating debris. It has now been made a pedestrian only bridge. The bridge also has 30 statues, the most famous being that of John of Nepomuk. In 1393 he was thrown into the river from the Bridge at the behest of Wenceslaus, because of this he is now known as the protector of floods, there is a large line of people on the bridge to touch the statue.

From the end of the bridge we boarded a boat trip around the Valta River. From the boat we have a perfect view of the Purple finger, designed by Czech artist David Cerny is directed at the presidential house. The boat trip provided more commentary and also included drinks and ice cream.
After the boat tour we continued to walk back through the old town and the Jewish Quarter. We made our way back to the hotel and had an hour to rest before dinner.

For dinner we travelled in the Bus to view a Folklore show, the show included Czech and Slovakia style cuisine, music, instruments, dances and songs. The dinner again included two types of potatoes.


Karlovy Vary

 

After the amount of walking we had done the previous day it was good to start Wednesday off in the bus. We drove out to Karlovy Vary via the Moser Glass Factory.

The most luxurious style of Bohemian crystal has been produced here for more than 150 years. Every aspect of the glass is still created by hand. From the bulb blowing to engraving and painting it is all done by hand. The factory also runs a school for apprentices; it takes 3 years of study before a student is allowed to touch the glass and then 20 years of work to become a master of glass blowing.
Once we arrived into Karlovy Vary we had a hotel inspection at Hotel Pupp. An amazing 5 star hotel, the hotel has its own ballroom, casino, spa and 4 restaurants. We had lunch at the hotel and enjoyed some fine dining.

After the hotel visit we took a tour of the town of Karlovy Vary including tasting the mineral springs, the springs are known throughout Europe for the healing power and people come to drink or bath in them, we were warned not to drink too much as it can have a unwanted effect on those not use to the water. There are 12 in total from which you can drink at a range of different temperatures. The town is very pretty and has a large attraction from Russian tourists, a lot of Russian weddings are held in Karlovy Vary and most of the signage is also in Russian.

After Karlovy Vary we travelled via Loket and had a look at the castle, we had a quick photo stop and then hoped back in the bus. We travelled to Vlasta's father's house for a visit where he had made us strudel and showed us his crystal glass and ceramic collection. This was not on the itinerary but Vlasta really wanted us to meet her family and her father wanted to meet us, it was great to sit around and have a chat to Czech people.

Once we got back to Prague we had dinner in a Beer Hall near the hotel; traditional Czech food of Goulash with Dumplings and more potato soup.

 

Ceske Krumlov

 

On Thursday we got in the bus and headed south towards Ceske Krumlov. We stopped off at the Kozel Brewery and had a tour of the Brewery. Originally privately owned it is now owned by the state but it still brews in traditional methods of Kozel beer. We had a tasting in the cellar which was about 2 degrees Celsius. The beer here is fresh and has a very short expiry as it does not have the preservatives in it yet. It also has a quicker effect and a higher alcohol content so everyone was recommend not to drink too much. Kozel brewery also has a live mascot, a goat, like the many goats before it it's named Oldrich.

Back on the bus we headed to Ceske Krumlov. There is no main highways around most of the Czech Republic so travel can take a bit longer, it does give you the chance to pass through the smaller villages and see all the country has to offer.

In Ceske Krumlov we went on a tour of the Castle, the Castle stands high over the town on top of a hill and is guarded by Slovakian bears in the moat. These bears are still here today but often hide from public's view. The Castle is a very large building that has changed hands a couple of times through the centuries but has always been owned by very rich noble men, it was never a home to a King. The castle had amazing furnishings and paintings in every room.

We took a tour of the Castle Gardens and saw the one of only rotating outdoor stages in the world. This stage was built in the 1970's. Viewers sit in the middle while the stage moves in a circular motion giving a view of 4 different stages.

We checked into Hotel Ruze, a hotel which is still decorated in 16th century furniture and the staff dress in medieval outfits. Before dinner we went and changed into traditional medieval outfits and had a dinner fit for kings with plates of meet, potatoes and cakes for desert.


Tabor

 

Waking in Ceske Krumlov, which is very eerie when the fog is low, we went and took a tour of the Musuem of Fotoatelier Seidel who was the photographer of the town before the Nazis took over his studio. The family died out after World War II so the house went back to ownership of the state. When they were converting the house to a Museum they found over 140,000 glass slides in the attic which have been scanned and can now be viewed on their website, this is great for the history of the town and country as many people can find photos of their ancestors on these slides. The Museum also offers classes for the local school in photography and photograph processing.

After the Museum we went back and got on the bus and drove to Tabor. Here we met Martin the head chef of the restaurant. We had an amazing 2 course lunch and then Martin taught us how to make traditional plum dumplings. These consisted of some type of flour, ricotta cheese, butter and sugar. Kneaded and rolled out, a plum was placed in the middle, made into a ball, boiled for 10 minutes and then served with a tablespoon of more ricotta cheese, table spoon of icing sugar and melted butter. Not a combination that sounds appealing but was very nice.

After lunch we went back to Prague and checked back into Hotel Paris, we had coffee at Black Madonna and walked past the Powder Tower, this arch way was one of the original city gates. We then had some spare time before dinner.
Dinner was at the Medieval Tavern U Povouka; dinner was on shared plates and came with a show of music, dancing and skits from the medieval period.


Kutna Hora

 

Last day of sightseeing we transferred by bus to Kutna Hora. Kutna Hora is known for its silver mines and was very popular in the first half of the 13th century. We were suppose to go to the St Barabaras Church but there was a wedding, so we took a trip to the art museum next door and then went back to the church after the wedding had finished. The church is an amazing building. With nothing surrounding it you can have a full view of its architecture. We had lunch in a restaurant nearby which is well known in the town; more potatoes and strudel.


After lunch we went and had a look at the bone church. While it does seem to be a grim place the history of the church shows it is more than just a church with decorations of bones. In 1278 the abbot of the monastery was sent to the holy land. He came back with earth from where Jesus was crucified and sprinkled it over the grounds, after word got out every powerful person in Europe wanted to be buried in the church cemetery. During the Black Death and the Hussite war thousands of people needed to be buried so the cemetery needed to be enlarged. A monastery was built over the graves but the amount of bones was more than the area could handle. The job stacking the bones was given to a half blind monk and in 1870 a woodcarver was employed to put the bones in order, he created 4 large pyramids that are not secured with anything other than the weight of the bone on top of it, a large bone chandelier which is said to contain one of every type of bone in the body and also the Schwarzenberg coat of arms which is made from bones. Everywhere you look there is a skull and the church is said to contain more than 40,000 different sets of bones.
Once back in Prague we had a tour of the Municipal house. This is still used as a concert venue and for many other functions, the building is 5 stories high and has had a lot of reconstruction as it was neglected during the reign of communism, however it still contains many lights and furniture which is over 100 years old. We had dinner in the 5 star Francouzska Restaurant in the Municipal house, a very fine dining experience.


Prague

 

We had to leave Prague at 1pm so Sunday morning was free time. I used this time to see what I had missed in Prague. I went and looked at the Astronomical clock, installed in 1410 this is the oldest working clock in the world. I took a trip up to the top of the clock tower which thankfully has a lift. The space is only narrow but gives an amazing unobstructed view of Prague from the Centre. After the tower I went into the Our Lady of Tyne church. I have never before seen a church with so much gold. Everything was gold or gold plated, the church was beautiful from the outside and inside. The rest of the day was dedicated to shopping and trying to find my way around.
We took the bus to the airport and checked in, we then got to experience the Business Lounge at the airport and take advantage of complimentary food and drink. Vlasta left us here and it was back onto the plane to Dubai.


In Dubai we had 10 hours transfer time so we were lucky enough to be put up in the Emirates transit hotel. This transit hotel is not at the airport, so once we got through immigration and waited for the bus it took 2 hours before we were at the hotel. 5 hours later I was back up making my way back to the airport. As the bags are checked through and we already had our boarding passes we did not need to be at the airport till an hour before. Back on the plane to Sydney and from Sydney to Melbourne the trip had ended.


Conclusion


The Czech Republic is an amazing place, I have been to other places in Europe before but not Czech Republic, I would recommend people adding it to their itinerary if even just for a day or two to see Prague. The city is clean and feels very safe, trains and trams can get you around Prague and to most of the places I saw. It is very close from Salzburg or Munich and can be added to the Eurail select pass for roughly AUD $50. Our guide Vlasta was amazing, her knowledge of the country was more than you could read in guide book and she was very patriotic. I was thankful that I was able to go on the trip which was organised by OK tours. The 7 other agents and 2 journalists from Australia and New Zealand were all very friendly and even though I did not catch any trains I was able to get a great experience of the country and great view of the country side from our luxurious 20 seater mini bus.

 

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