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Czechia : Part 1

So... this has been overdue since 2006, but I finally finished processing photos from our trip!

Catching the last light at Hluboka castle.

In October of 2006, mbala and I flew to Germany and took a train to CZ to visit his family and tour a bit of his home country. It was my first time in Europe (and out of North America), along with an absolutely amazing trip! I was especially impressed by the old architecture - the United States has a lot of beautiful places, but nothing so far in the human past like Europe does - old castles, cities, villages. Prague itself was absolutely amazing!

Red rooftops of Prague.

Looking down at the city from the top of Prague Cathedral.

St. Vitus’s Cathedral in Prague (also known as Wenceslas Cathedral).

My humble pictures don't begin to capture the immensity of these towering glass windows. For reference, the tower is about 288 feet high... which is about 28 stories high. The amount of detail and art in the church is breathtaking. And the gothic architecture on the outside... just wow.

Sculpture garden in Prague.

Tons of gargoyles everywhere, so cool!

Hluboka castle was one of the castles we toured (there are a huge amount of them in the Czech Republic, you basically trip over them everywhere you go).

mbala and I outside the entrance.

Antlers, antlers, antlers!

The castle was founded in the 13th century (around 1250) and continued construction for hundreds of years - mixing renaissance, baroque, tudor gothic, and romantic period architecture.

We were unfortunately not allowed to take photos inside the castle - but it was a really amazing place, full of grand libraries, armories, paintings, and all the things you would expect to find inside such a beautiful palace.

This is a different place, the Ohrada hunting chateau - a once funtional lodge that is now a museum. It has antler furniture galore, giant fur pelt rugs, and hunting trophies galore. Including a European bison and (yeah!) wild boar.

Bear skulls.

Ceské Budjovice town square. Budjovice (Budweiss in German) is the original home of 'Budweiser' - the real Czech version and not the American copycat. :)

Outside St. Barbara’s church at night in Kutná Hora. This is the area near the Bone Cathedral (Ossuary) - we didn't get there on this trip since we were in town too late - but the next post I make will have photos of our tour there!

Another night shot of the church.

Downtown Kutná Hora at night.

View looking down at Ceský Krumlov – a historical heritage town.

One thing so different in Europe is the intricate design on every building.

Amazing architecture in Ceský Krumlov.

Entrance area to Ceský Krumlov.

You can see how the natural stone and the stonework blend together. I love it!

Typical street in Ceský Krumlov – complete with tourists, restaurants, and the museum of torture.
Cesky Krumlov was a treat – it is a historical town that was restored and made into a sort of everyday festival – full of restaurants, art galleries, craft shops, and lots of beautiful sights to see.
**Interesting note: Where else in the world do you find a moat that instead of water… is full of bears. Yes, a bear moat. Enough said. Czechia awesome.

Just a really awesome picture Mbala captured of city wildlife.

More exotic city denizen!

And concluding this first trip picture post - a beautiful scene at the shore of a man-made lake between towns.

Most of these photos are courtesy of mbala, though I took a few. They are back from before we had our Nikon camera so we were just using my little old point and click.

One thing I really noticed about going to Europe - there is so much green! For some reason I figured all of Europe looked like Venice (concrete and city as far as the eye can see) - when we flew into Germany there were thick, dense forests everywhere.
Awesome things: Good public transport everywhere. AAaaagh the bread - the most amazing bread everywhere, every morning. Markets with bread sections like you wouldn't find even in the most posh American stores. Amazing food, Little villages where people know each other and have a central pub/restaurant in town as a local hangout.
Spoiled American things: Pay bathrooms - suck. Huge portions and no such thing as a doggie bag - evil! Super limited vegetable types and food ingredients - I wanted to cook for the family but found it really difficult because of the lack of... even the most basic things I was used to (canned beans, soup base/gravy mix, most vegetable varieties, lots of things we take for granted here are quite exotic or unfindable there). NO tap water! No plain water at all - only nasty tonic water or expensive bottled beverages. Beer is cheaper than water or soda... but I'm not a beer drinker (I know, a blasphemy being in CZ).

All in all it was an awesome and unforgettable trip. I was thrilled to meet Mbala's family for the first time and get a tour of not only the 'popular' places, but a slice of the country and real Czech life as well.

Next post : Part Deux (including the Ossuary!)


( 23 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 3rd, 2010 02:50 am (UTC)
Mar. 3rd, 2010 03:07 am (UTC)
Ahh, beautiful! It makes me homesick.
Mar. 3rd, 2010 03:27 am (UTC)
You make me want to go there!!
Mar. 4th, 2010 01:44 am (UTC)
If you ever get the chance, I'd highly recommend it! :)
Mar. 3rd, 2010 03:54 am (UTC)
Very nice pics! I wish I could go too.
I will echo the feeling about bread - it's one of the big things I miss here, along with the excellent cheeses.
On the other hand I always felt there were so many things I couldn't find here, some of which are starting to improve. For instance, when I moved over here it was nigh onto impossible to find a potato that wasn't a russet. These days you can find others as well. Things like that.
Mar. 4th, 2010 01:45 am (UTC)
Yes, the bread and cheese - when you see Wonderbread and 'pasteurized processed cheese product' plastic slices - it's just such an amazing blasphemy to the real thing!
Mar. 3rd, 2010 03:58 am (UTC)
Oh Europe.
Gotta love the Gothic influences of skulls and dead animals everywhere. Just pretend you are walking through a vampire castle in those dim candle lit corridors and ti's like- ooo! Exciting! Werewolves? Ha! No such thing! They shall not break in and take me away! *secretly waiting for werewolves to break in and take her away* XD

aaaannnyyywwaaayyy, yes those are some amazing beautiful pics. The lack of mass production makes those restaurants and foods so much more tasty and less machine made- however yes, the "best" foods are the meaty ones. Telling someone form Eastern Europe you are vegetarian is like telling them you are an alien. They just sit and stare. XD
Mar. 4th, 2010 01:47 am (UTC)
If you come visit sometime I will make Svickova for you - it's my favorite Czech dish and I've gotten really good at making it (Mbala said its some of the best if not the best he's ever had and he is a native!). Being around all that architecture was like being in a fantasy world.
Now I have to check out London... maybe there will be werewolves there. ;)
Mar. 3rd, 2010 03:59 am (UTC)
i am so painfully jealous of this one! my cousin had the good fortune of going to europe and her favorite city out of all of them was prague.

oh my GOD antler castle <3

may i save some of these for reference? its cool if not!!
Mar. 4th, 2010 01:48 am (UTC)
Yes, you're more than welcome to use them as refs! :) I think you'd be in heaven in CZ - the blend of deep forests (and actual wild boars!) and amazing architecture/villages is an artists' dream!
Mar. 3rd, 2010 04:05 am (UTC)
lovely photos. :)
Mar. 3rd, 2010 05:00 am (UTC)
Dang, I'm jealous! Beautiful photos, and you guys are adorable. Also, wow, I want that hunting chateau. o__o

Mar. 4th, 2010 01:50 am (UTC)
Hehe - I thought the same thing, was wondering if I could just move in. I wish we'd gotten some better pics of the antler furniture. None of the ones I see online are much good - http://www.bikeholidays.eu/domain/bikeholidays/templates/default/bike-images/castles35v.jpg - the chairs are literally all red stag antlers and the intricate rugs are all fur!
Mar. 3rd, 2010 06:38 am (UTC)
Astounding pictures! What an amazing trip that must have been!
Mar. 3rd, 2010 05:05 pm (UTC)
Oh, Wonderful photos! Thanks for sharing!!! =D Well, Venice is a very singular case; however, I recognize it, here in Central Lombardy it's exactly like that: city as the eye can see. :P (That's the 'side effect' of the post-war economic boom) Anyway, if you leave the Milanese Area you'll see all green ... with fields, hills and woods. =)

I've never visited Prague, but I know it's beautiful. BTW, that tower reminds me of one of my favourite churches: Santa Maria delle Grazie (1463-1482). There you can admire the 'Last Supper' by Leonardo da Vinci. ;D

Ehehehe ... that's not just intricate design, that's style; style and art, art and history! =)
Mar. 4th, 2010 01:51 am (UTC)
I would love to tour Italy - I've had my eye on some of the European cruises that go from city to city starting in Barcelona and including Tunisia. I am not much of a cruise person but the only time on the boat on these is at night when you're traveling from town to town - which seems like a really cool way of getting around without wasting time! Much better than sleeping on a train anyways! I love all the pictures you post - it makes me want to go out there so bad!
Mar. 4th, 2010 11:13 am (UTC)
Ehehehe!!! Thanks! =D

Mmmmh ... that would be interesting, however I heard that cruise companies don't give you much time to visit the cities you're going to see (however, you'd not be able to see the hinterland, and that's the most interesting part). You'll spend a good part of your time on the ship. :P

My suggestion is ... land somewhere with the first flight available, use a big city as headquarter for a couple of days (3 or 4) and visit the neighbouring areas, then take the train and travel from 50 to 100 km aways (from 30 to 60 miles); with this method you don't have to sleep on a train because you just need 45 minutes or 1 hour and 30 minutes. Then repeat: stay there for 4 days and visit the area, and keep changing until you get tired! XD

PS: our railroad service is a bit "disorganized", but it does the trick after all! ;D
Mar. 3rd, 2010 06:38 pm (UTC)
So cool.

I love European style skull mounts.
Mar. 4th, 2010 01:52 am (UTC)
Me too! They are so much more stylish and pretty than the stuffed deer heads that seem to take their place here. I don't mind a good taxidermy at all but the severed heads are kinda weird - the skulls mounted on those dark plates are so much neater!
Mar. 3rd, 2010 08:16 pm (UTC)
Awesome. I wish I could travel to Europe someday... So many places I want to see... That is if the economy ever picks up so a job that pays enough to support a trip outside of the US is a feasable notion for me :/
Mar. 3rd, 2010 11:58 pm (UTC)
Fantastic photos! I can't get enough of those shots with the antlers on the outside!

....no bear moat photos? FOR SHAME! You can't wave around something like a bear-moat and not take a picture!

Thanks for sharing!
Mar. 4th, 2010 01:31 am (UTC)
I'm amazed!
Surprisingly few photos of that online!


The brown pixel in the bottom-left third is a bear. :) See, they do not really fill it like water would, but at least they can run around..
Mar. 4th, 2010 01:33 am (UTC)
Re: I&#39;m amazed!


Thanks for the photo!
( 23 comments — Leave a comment )