Exploring Eastern Europe: Czech Republic

More than two months have passed since our return from Eastern Europe, but never fear, the trip summary is finally here! Or at least I’ve started typing it.

As mentioned previously, Tracey and I went on a Eastern Europe in 16 Days tour. Touring is not our usual thing, but I thought it’d be a good way to explore what the primary product at the company I worked for was all about.

Czech Republic

We flew in to Prague via Heathrow on British Airways.  Other than eating an outstanding chutney and cheese sandwich at the airport while waiting for the connecting flight, it was largely an uneventful yet sleep-deprived journey. The trick is to stay awake when going East, and we sure accomplished that.

Of course, the price of not sleeping is arriving seriously fatigued. Successfully reaching the hotel was a huge win, and we found a nice vegan restaurant in Prague before a nice early bedtime. The tour started the next day, and we wanted to get in some exploration before we met everyone.

After finding some cool-as-hell old concrete structures and a nice secluded tea house the following morning, we wandered back to our hotel to meet our tour group. Whispers of “oh, young ones!” echoed across the courtyard as we sat down and met tour guide. The lady next to me said “aren’t you a little young to be going on one of these?” in jest. So the demographics of this tour was basically what we expected. After an introduction and so forth, we walked across the river to a group dinner.

(One editorial aside: I won’t be strictly delineating the untoured vs. toured portions of this trip.)

Since we’re in a major European city, there’s likely to be a castle. Prague has a large castle complex on a small hill across the Vltava from the main areas of the city. Although it served as somewhat of a military citadel, it’s largely a collection of government buildings and palaces.

On the hill next to the castle, there exists a tower that looked somewhat liked the Eiffel Tower. Called the Petřín Lookout Tower, we were immediately both terrified and thrilled with the idea of climbing the exposed stairs to the top lookout post.

The views were nice.

Climbing down a swaying metal lattice while cold winds whipped around us was not nice.

Prague was a vibrant city, but the weight of the Soviet era weighed heavily. Many structures were large concrete blocks, and brutalist architecture wasn’t hard to find. Strikingly, on the National Museum exterior in Prague, many light-colored patches existed. When the Soviets repressed an uprising in 1968, bullet holes peppered the building. The patriotic Czech workers used a lighter-colored sandstone to fill in the holes as a reminder that although the movement was suppressed, its memory could not be erased.

After three nights in Prague, we met our tour bus driver and snaked our way through the Czech countryside until we arrived for lunch at Štramberk, a small town best known for a small fortified tower. Immediately climbing the tower, we were struck by not only its rustic interior, but the seemingly unsafe wood observation deck that was attached to the exterior of the structure.

Notice the wood floors and the stone structure of the building on the left.

Upon descending, the tower seemed slightly more robust when noticing that there were lots of stone reinforcements holding up the wooden deck.

A few hours later, we arrived at the town of Pustevny for the night. Mostly a skiing resort, Pustevny was a quiet mountain village in the late summer, which is also known for being quite close to the mountain of Radhošť. In case you’re not too up on your Slavic pantheon, this is the home of the god Radegast.  A trail followed the saddleback from Pustevny to the peak of the mountain, and a few miles of hiking led us to a beautiful sunset in the Beskydy Mountains and a wooden Christian chapel. The chapel was erected to desecrate the sacred pagan site, ‘natch.

Desecration or not, it was still a cool building.

Ah yes, even Radegast makes an appearance!

Settling down for dinner at a mountain lodge, we drank Radegast beer. Turns out a lot of the trail, (including the statute!) was paid for by the company that brewed Radegast beer. So of course we had to drink it.

Luckily it was cheap and tasty, which is a true trademark of Eastern European beer.

We settled down in our cute mountain lodge for our last night in the Czech Republic.

Next up: Poland!


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