I spent two nights in the Czech Republic. During my time there I ran around various towns and cities trying to see as much as possible. It was here that I learnt some of my first lessons on the practicalities of travelling as my naive expectations were met with harsh realities. While some lessons were difficult, they proved to be vital in the weeks that followed.
During my time in the Czech Republic I decided to base out of Prague, with the belief that I was unlikely to get bored here – I was right. The city offered infinite things to do, but of these things, some were better than others. I had been warned that Prague’s astronomical clock was somewhat underwhelming, but I gave it the benefit of the doubt and visited it with an open mind. While I could imagine the clock being underwhelming on an average day, the clock as I saw it, framed by scaffolding, was even less impressive.
While I enjoyed the idea of the John Lennon wall, the sight itself seemed a little misguided. The wall acted as a confused memorial to the influential Beetle, where genuine tributes mixed with generic graffiti. On my first visit the wall was crowded but a local busker provided some acoustic, tranquil vibes. However, it wasn’t until my second, much quieter, visit to the wall when I could truly appreciate its peaceful sentiment.
Some of the best on offer.
Charles Bridge was as busy as they say, but I think that was part of its charm. While the artistry of the bridge was beautiful, its bustling atmosphere gave it its character. Walking across the bridge as the sunset over the historic city and browsing the little bespoke jewellery stalls while the music of multiple street musicians harmonised was one of my favourite moments in Prague.
Prague acted as a great central hub for my adventures across the Czech Republic. Determined to do as much as possible, my schedule was tight and relied on a quick pace and prompt trains. I had hoped to visit the town Karlovy Vary, and while my paper itinerary allowed time for it, I soon learnt that in reality there weren’t enough hours in the day. Luckily, the streets of Prague offered similarly colourful walks with equally beautiful views.
Where the magic happens.
An adventure I did have time for was a trip to the Pilsner Urquell Brewery, about a 90min train journey from Prague. I set off early and around 2hrs later I arrived. Prior to this train journey, I had been spoilt by Dutch and German efficiency, but unfortunately not all European train lines run with the same punctuality (this would become more evident the further east I travelled).
As a beer enthusiast, I felt a trip to the Czech Republic wouldn’t be complete without visiting at least one of its famous breweries. The Pilsner tour provided me with a dose of history and a taste of unpasteurised beer. It was also where I was taught my first Czech – Na Zdraví!
Ever wonder what 40,000 skeletons look like?
On my final day in the country I planned to visit the small town of Kutna Hora in the morning, before hiking in Bohemian Switzerland that afternoon, and making it to Berlin that evening – totally achievable… At 6am I caught my first train of the day heading to Kutna Hora with the plan of visiting the Sedlec Ossuary, the Jesuit College and St. Barbara’s Church. What I didn’t consider was that I would be carrying my 60L backpack. I walked through eerily empty streets for about 20mins to reach the Sedlec Ossuary. The idea of being alone in such a quiet, rural town weighed on my mind while my 12kg bag weighed on my back. It was at this point that I decided walking any further would be a task for another day.
I waited for the Sedlec Ossuary to open while seated in its surrounding graveyard. While the outside of the church was covered in scaffolding (a recurring theme of my travels), research told me that the inside would be worth the wait. When the church opened I was, unsurprisingly, the first person through the door. You would think a building decorated using 40,000 skeletons would be fairly expansive, but it oddly wasn’t. That’s not to say it wasn’t both intimidating and impressive.
Sweaty highlights of Pravcicka Gate.
Based on my previous Czech travel experiences I left myself with, what I thought was a generous 40min connection in between my train from Kutna Hora and my train to Decin. Delays meant I actually ended up madly, running through Prague main station trying to find my platform and boarding my train with about 2mins to spare. From Decin I would take a local bus to the Bohemian Switzerland National Park and take a hike up to Pravcicka Gate.
So there were a couple problems with this, the first being where to actually get the bus… Speaking English in Decin didn’t seem to get me as far as it did in Prague. A little guess work and a little good fortune meant I eventually found the right stop. When my bus reached Bohemian Switzerland, another problem occurred to me – I still had my 60L backpack. The bag was heavy and the walk was sweaty, but with a little willpower I made it to Pravcicka Gate. The landscape was unlike anything we have in Scotland with views that reassured me that I had saved the best of the Czech Republic till last.
Views like these make it all worthwhile.
In my haste to start the hike, I had actually forgotten to check the return times of the hourly bus back to Decin. I thought my best bet would be to get back to the bus stop as quickly as possible to avoid being stranded. Although, not before making a visit to the bar situated just under Pravcicka Gate. With a water in one hand, and a beer in the other I began running back to down the hill. At the bottom, I discovered I would need to wait about 30mins for a bus that would get me to Decin in time for my train to Berlin. My day ended as it started, with another train delay but I was soon on my way north to Berlin.
My time in the Czech Republic was both exhausting and enlightening. It gave me the reality check I needed while affirming that even though you can’t do it all – you can, in fact, enjoy all that you do.