11 September ’04, Saturday. An early start and we were heading for our next campground. This one, we knew for a fact were it was located… We were heading for Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic. Cesky was and still is one of our favorite spots that we visited. We were introduced to it by the Chouinards. This is one village that we did see as completely as we felt was needed, but to come back for a short visit was great. We arrived after 5, so we waited to get into town until morning. Tonight, we barbequed hot wings….mmmmgood !!! When we arrived, we found only 1 other campervan and 1 tent already there. By the close of the evening it ended up with 6 total vehicles for the night. One of these was a Mercedes small bus conversion. It was a family from Australia who had purchased the bus in England. The sister and brother have been traveling and working their way around the world together, and when they got to Europe, mom and dad came along for 3 months of their journey. What an adventure !!!
28 June ’04, Monday. Getting the van packed up and down the road took a little longer than I had wanted, but after we had been on the road less than 20 minutes we had forgotten everything that might have been negative in getting started today. The chosen route took us along the Vltova River for the next 2 hours winding and twisting all the way. Really a wonderful ride !!! The sun was out bright and on just about every corner or twist of the river we saw many rafts and canoes loaded with sun worshipers and water bums having their day with the water. Bumble Bee has been just perfect with all the demands of the hills and dales of this part of the Czech Republic and going into Austria. WHAT A VAN !!!! As we approached the Czech / Austria border we were wondering just how much they might demand of us in regards to papers and who knows what. As before, we were just flagged through after we waved our US passports through the window. I guess the anxiety of the past Communist periods just raise those unknowns…. It really was quite a change once again as we moved across into Austria and how the landscape changed from the Czech Republic, which was a change from Germany and so forth. The Rolling Hills of The Sound Of Music really are beautiful rolling hills….green short cut grass with tall trees framing one pasture land or hill side from another. All this and the houses that sit by themselves just off center of all the acreages. WOW !!! Stepping back a minute, Lou and I just had to have one more meal (cheap) before leaving C/R so we stopped at a little town just a few km from the border. Let me tell you, the meal was fantastic and for both of us including another Czech beer included was less than $11 incl. tip. It was also interesting to find that from about 15 km out from the border we saw a ton of little souvenir shoppes all looking for those coming and going across the border. The owners of everyone of these small shops were Vietnamese. Ok, now back to the point were we had all ready crossed…. About 15 km out of Salzburg we started to see those HUGE mountains that we have been hearing about…quite impressive to say the least. So far we have found Beautiful Rolling Hills, Large Lakes (See’s), and Huge Mountains. Our campground was an easy find and a good one at that….all the pitches have views of Salzburg and the wonderful Austrian Alps. Tomorrow….Salzburg
27 June ’04. Sunday. We joined Mikleane, Ric, Louise, and Drew for breakfast at the Penzion Onyx this morning before heading over for the tour of the Cesky Krumlov Castle.
When Louise and I first arrived in Europe we were looking high and low for a castle to see. Now, they are popping out of the wood work. Cesky Krumlov is one of the best that we have been into. Not only is it large, it is restored very well. At this point I will air one of my personal gripes…..you CAN NOT TAKE PICTURES ???…. Now I know that flash photography isn’t good for all the different fabrics and paintings, but why the HECK can’t we take pictures without flash?????? OK, now let me see, oh yes, this was a wonderful tour and we did see a beautiful castle that had a large number of the rooms filled with furnishings of the period. Nicely done !!!! The rest of the village is very quaint. The roads (very narrow) are restricted to cars for those that officially live in the village. The buildings are refinished to look just as they did in the 15th,16th & 17th century. The Vltova River winds and twists around the village and all the surrounding areas for miles on both sides of Cesky Krumlov…..very picturesque !!!
The food….Very Good and Very Reasonable…. The river is a floater’s dream. The Chouinards all gathered together and rented a raft for the rest of the afternoon and floated the Vltova for about 3 hours. A report from Drew and Louise was ….. “IT WAS GREAT FUN !!!”
Now I must tell you, Drew has become a GIANT fan of the Czech Fotbal team. It isn’t because they have a real good chance to win the Euro Cup either…and they do have a good chance to win it all. He likes them for his own reason !!! Last night we all sat in the middle of the village and watched the game on the big screen….there was a lot of cheering going on and in some corners a lot of beer flowing. The score was 5-0 in favor of the Czech team. Tomorrow…..good-bye to Cesky Krumlov and on to Salzburg……
26 June ’04, Saturday. After packing the van, stopping and getting gas, we headed south for our next destination with the Chouinards. We were traveling a route that took us close to a small town where the Wiener family (Louise's family) roots may have come from….Pisek, Czech Republic. So we just had to stop for a look around. It is a beautiful village that is surrounded by farmland and a beautiful river flowing through the middle of town. It’s on the Otava river and has the oldest bridge in the Czech Republic. The first stop we made was at the electrical power station for Pisek. There is mention of a mill at this spot in 1511 but now it's the spot for the power station. In 1836 the town water works was supplied with a pump by Josef Bozek.
In 1887 Frantisek Krizik switched on 5 arc lamps on the big square giving the town its first electric lights. The power plant has been restored and is operating very well. Very interesting to see and I hope to go back and spend some time looking at records at a later time. We had a great I mean "GREAT" lunch at a small restaurant by the river.
We spent a little time walking around and then headed for Cesty Krumlov to meet Mikleane and Rick. Cesty Krumlov has changed little over the years. It will be fun to explore. Well, we have an appointment at 10:40am to tour the Castle with an English guide so until tomorrow…..
25 June ’04, Friday. Louise and I have had a lot of time on the tram system here in Prague, but today we will join the Chouinards on the underground. We will travel across town, a couple of transfers underground, and end up at the Vysehrad Castle and all it’s grounds, Chapels, Baths, and beautiful grounds. The first castle in Vysehrad wasn’t built until the 10th century…. It sat high on a hill overlooking the Vltava River and all the area that is now Prague. On the grounds are 3 wonderful churches but, the main attraction is the Church of St Peter and St Paul. While in Prague we witnessed quite a few weddings, and also one here. It seems that there are no weddings in the month of May. May lives a curse that if you are married in that month the new wife will live a very short life from that time on and the husband will always live a live of poverty. Not too good….. Anyway, we also saw a canon ball that was shot into the high wall of St Martin’s Rotunda, we viewed the foundation walls of a 10th century chapel, climbed the walls of the main fortress, and climbed onto the “Devil’s Columns. After a full day of walking the grounds we headed down the hill to catch a tram home. Well it seems that Louise and I didn’t have a ticket for the tram…. As we looked for a place to buy a ticket the Chouinards jumped on a tram and disappeared into the far distance never to be heard of again…. Until the next day….. Tomorrow…..Travel day to Èeskỳ Krumlov
24 June ’04, Thursday. Jet lag has done it’s job….after we knocked on the door we were met by someone who looked a little like Ric. We weren’t sure until he finally opened up his one eye and told us “we must of slept through the alarm…”. Well we could understood (even tho we were on time) because we walked their lags off yesterday. Anyway, Louise and I went down and had coffee while they gathered themselves together and soon we were underway. We wanted to get a private tour of Prague’s Old Square,
The Jewish Quarters,
St. Charles Bridge, and any other sites that we could get in the 3 hours tour. In the time leading up to our “Tour” we went to Prague’s Astronomical Clock
and then we climbed all the stairs to the top of the clock tower. Another great photo opportunity.
We then walked into the Wenceslas Square for a bite of lunch before the 2pm tour. Of course the kids saw Mickey D’s so that was that. I had to have my brot, so I found a street vendor real close, found a perch to sit on across the street and had a picnic. Now while eating my lunch I saw something that I had never seen before. At the curb across the street was a 4’ square glass case that housed a couple of dressed up manikins for one of the stores close by. Then a car pulls up and stops right in front of them and all of a sudden a large area starts to lift right out of the ground. It turns out to be a lift that takes cars and moves them from the street to the level below ground for parking.
It was absolutely a great idea…. Time for the tour and we met our guide Myllena. She was good….really good. She has lived in Prague since the early 60’s and loved her job. We learned a lot and had a good time doing it. She not only answered all the questions that the adults asked but she always had an answer for the kids questions as well. I remember (Lil) Louise asked what was the significance of all the marionettes? There are many shops that sell the marionettes in Prague and she thought there might be a reason for it. Well, if you want the answer you will have to ask Louise…
I found the whole tour very informative but in particular, the Jewish Quarters and the Astronomical Clock Tower and all it’s meanings. About 5 we ended the day with an ice cream cone and headed back to camp. Well almost…I dropped off at the Internet Café for a couple of hours work before going on to meet Louise at the van. Just as I arrived at the van the dark clouds above opened up and gave us one of the heaviest rain, thunder, and lightning storms we have been seen in a long time. Boy did “Bumble Bee” and the tent get wet. Even inside the tent…. Well, we dry…. Tomorrow…more Prague
23 June ’04, Wednesday. 10am and all was well….Everyone was up and ready to see Prague. As we approached the room at the hotel, Louise and Drew were there to meet us, and before you could say hi the rest of the family joined us and we were out the door. Our first stop, the tram going up the hill to the Prague Castle. This ride on the tram was the first for Lil Louise and Drew and I think they found it very interesting to say the least…. It was very crowded and a hot ride for all. Poor Drew was dwarfed by all the people as they crowded on, but he held his ground and clutched tight to the rail for the ride up the hill. About 10 minutes later we arrived at the castle and walked through Matthias Gates and into one of the courtyards.
Matthias Gates were constructed in 1614. Going on we visited the Chapel of the Holy Cross, St Vitas (1344, French Gothic) Cathedral and the tomb of Wenseslas the Czech patron saint and good King. We climbed the 287 steps (very tight quarters going up a circular stairway) to the Great Tower and enjoyed the wonderful views all over Prague.
We even stepped inside the very large and elegant Vladislov Hall that was built between 1486-1502. A ramp on one side allowed horsemen to ride into the hall for jousting events. We walked just about every corner and stairway of this large complex. We tried to find the Crown Jewels but found only that it took 7 keys to open 7 locks and they were all in the hands of the very important people here in Prague. They were unavailable to us for an interview. After a very long 4+ hours we all felt we had a very strong need for lunch. Lucky for us we found just the right place. An Italian restaurant with a wonderful patio out back.
We all needed this break. Our next stop was St Nicholas Church on Lesser Town. A big part of Prague and the Prague skyline. Construction started in the last part of the 17th century. The 1st parish church stood in the same location back in 1283. This church is an excellent example of the Baroque Style from that era. Truly a magnificent church. Well, after a long day sightseeing, what is better than ending the day with ice cream cones? Tomorrow….see you at 10am?
22 June ’04, Tues. Tuesday, we found a shopping center just a short tram ride away so we went looking for some things for the van. What we were looking for was not to be found in a shopping center unfortunately. But what I found was great….an internet café. They charged for the drinks and nothing for the time on-line. I spent at least 2 hours on the net and it only cost me for a coke that Louise had and a latte for me. I think the total cost was 65 kn or about $2.10. You bet I will be back !!! Louise was looking for some clothes and found a couple of pieces that would work. Later in the evening we headed out to town to see if we could run into Mikleane and family. Around 8:30 we walked into their hotel and found they had just checked in and they were about ready to go out for a walk.
We joined them until about 11pm and then we grabbed a tram back with plans to meet in the morning to tour the Prague castle.
21 June ’04, Sun/Monday. ( I thought I would follow Louise’s open email with my version)….As we climbed out of bed we knew right then we were going to have a full day just staying right here at the van for the day. We just had too much to get done. It had been well over 2 months since we had put up our “extra room” and today it was to go up. Not only that, we had laundry to do. As soon as I started with the room, Louise had the clock going to see just how long it was going to take me. Now really, this is only the 2nd time I’ve had to put it up and she’s got the clock running…. Anyway, it took me a little more than I had expected…2 + hours. As far a the laundry, after she went to get water she dugout the “plumber’s friend”…the plumber’s friend and a bucket of water and she has her own Maytag with me being the wringer and official hanger upper. Boy it never fails, no longer had the wash been hung out than the sky turned very dark and darned if it didn’t start to rain…..rain, it rained like h___. Lucky enough, I had the room up so we strung a line inside and got it all dry by night. I don’t know when it stopped raining, but when I woke this morning (Monday) it had stopped and the sun was out with total blue sky. All Forgiven. Oh I forgot, yesterday morning we went to the bar/restaurant here at the campgrounds for breakfast. This is a first for us to have a meal at the restaurants at the campgrounds. As it turned out it was really quite good and very inexpensive. Ham, 2 egg, cheese, mushroom omelet with fresh rolls and a cappuccino was $3.00. I can afford that. Ok, back to today. I've had a chance to use the internet here at the campground but it was on their computer and their service is rather slow. It was good to receive email but, I want to up-load pictures and text so today we went into Prague to find a service there.
We did and it is a good one. I got all the text caught up and tomorrow I hope to get a lot of picture gallery caught up as well. Louise did some shopping while in town and found a good value on shoes and 2 umbrella’s for a $1.00 ea. I found a good value on my coffee break…. We did walk a lot today but, we want to save all the real tourist stuff for when Mikleane and family get here. I would imagine we will be getting together on Wednesday. As we were walking back to the tram we came across a neat little place to have a beer right on the river bank. We enjoyed the people in the paddle and row boats below us. There were those that just wanted to float down the river and then there were those that just had to have a water fight with their oars. Looked like fun. We finally had a nice sun break today and it might have gone to someone’s head. Tomorrow….more of today. By the way, HAPPY FATHERS DAY !!! Oh Yes, we've had questions about our kitchen... well here it is complete with the kitchen boss.
Well here we are in the Czech Republic. It is so wonderful, I hope you will check the web site for pictures. Yesterday we stopped at one of the spa towns. A turn of the century retreat, where all the aristocrats came to take the cure. We strolled the promenade and I had my first taste of water fresh from the hot springs. I tried two different springs one was very plain and the other effervescent. Very different. We then traveled on to Prague. We wanted to be all set up when Mikleane, Rick and family arrive. Well I got my East and West mixed up and we had quite a tour of the city before we reached our destination.
I’m the navigator and Joel is the driver. He took it quite well as he had run over our basket of drinks that morning. We keep our extra bottles of Cola, water, beer and wine in a basket under the van when we camp. Bumble Bee (our van) ran smoothly over the basket and we never even knew it. As we were driving off Joel looked back and said is that out stuff? And there it was. We really had a good laugh, so did our neighbors. So we made it to our campground, very nice even has the internet, restaurant and hot showers are free. We are about 5km to the city (3.1 miles). There is a tram that stops near us and will take us to the old city square. Today is a day of rest, we had breakfast at the restaurant this morning. Omelets and fresh bread…very good. Then it was time to clean the kitchen while listening to Czech country music top 100. Most all American songs, a few Czech, it was great. Then I did the laundry and Joel put up our tent. We got it up in the nick of time as it started to rain. Bummer… The weather has been cool but this is the first rain we’ve had for a few days. It has not been the typical local weather. Ever heard that before! Well it’s great for sleeping and sight seeing if its not rainy. The Czech Republic joined the European Union in May but are still using the Koruna as their money. 30 koruna equal 1 euro. This country reminds us of Mexico but with out the warm weather. Prices here are very inexpensive. Gas is only $4.00 a gallon, our camp ground is only $7.20 a night, we’ve been averaging $18. night so far. More money for beer! They have fantastic beer, and no little 12 ounces no sir ree, its got to be a half a liter and 12% alcohol. A real party. We are hoping to try the wines, we’ve heard they are real good too. Well maybe we will have to watch a movie the rain doesn’t show signs of letting up. Oliver the camp manager watches TV in the bar, all old American movies dubbed in Czech. Very funny to watch. The people that camp are very nice and lucky for us most speak English so we get along quite well. We are able to find out about interesting places they have been and share some of our experiences with them as well. In this campground there are French, Italian, Belgium, Netherlands and Czech. Usually it has been 75% Netherlands everywhere we go. Oh Joel has got the heater out, is it June 19th? Well just like Seattle. We would love to hear from all of you, of course we are a bit homesick, stay in touch. We miss you all!