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!
19 June ’04, Saturday. Our campground was quite different from any we have been in before. What made it different, was there was only 3 of us that were “camping” and all the others had rented “bungalows” that are found on the campgrounds. Not only had they rented the bungalows, they also had one heck of a Czech Party complete with camp fire. A good time was had. We pulled out and headed back into Mariánské Lázne for the morning.
Mariánské Lázne was founded in 1193 by the grandee Hroznata, a later prior of the monastery. Thomas Edison proclaimed that there is no more beautiful spa in the entire world when he visited in 1911. This town is an “electrifying freeform collection of romantic turn of the century Art Noveau hotels, pensions, colonnades, and promenades.
Many other famous people have visited this spa including Mark Twain, Kipling, Chopin, Strauss, Wagner, Freud to name just a few. Again, this town is known for the special spring waters and their healing powers. As we were walking around the area of the springs, people were drinking water from “their own cups”. There was even a nice storage area that the “regulars” could store their cups in. Each time they wanted a drink, they would check-out their cup and enjoy the “spring waters”. We had to be part of the party so we bought a cup and joined in with the drinking of the “spring waters”. This town has some of the most beautiful buildings that are set in the hills above the town and right in the middle of some very nice forested areas.
The streets and the sidewalks are wide and flow in nice arching way to enhance the beautiful lines of the buildings, gardens, and parks. It was 2pm and we were on our way to Prague and with one potty stop taken we arrived at our campsite just outside of the big city in time for dinner. Now we will take it easy for a couple of days while waiting for Mikleane, Ric, Louise and Drew to arrive.
18 June ’04, Friday. Readied the van for travel and by 09:30 we were headed to Františkovy Lázne. Now I must admit, we had heard the story from Gerda and we were still shocked as we pulled in to this unique little city.
Our question is “Why Hasn’t The Tourist Literature got this listed as a must see?” The first “written” mention of local mineral waters dates back to 1406. The waters have been drank from the local springs for “Curing” By 1714 there was an inn at the springs with 12 rooms and 14 bathing cabins.
Today, there are “many” hotels and spas to accommodate the masses that come for the curing waters of Františkovy Lázne. I tried to take pictures that would do justice to the city but as I was doing my editing it didn’t show the “true” beauty the city deserves. For that reason I took a picture of a painting that would do a lot more to give you a glimpse of what we saw.
Now, saying all that, there is a lot of cosmetic fixing that must be done on the buildings to bring them up to the standard they once had. It will take a lot of money and I hope that the government of the Czech Republic will help. Next we were off to another “Spa” town and then onto Prague tomorrow evening. Our next destination was Mariánské Láznì which we pulled into at 3pm. This gave us a hour and a half of sightseeing before heading off to our campgrounds for the night. This wasn’t near enough time so we will….. Tomorrow….More Mariánské Lázne and then off to Prague for Saturday night at the campgrounds
17 June ’04. Thursday. We had the longest walk to the showers and potty this morning…. That will never happen again if I can help it. Anyway, it was one of the coldest nights that we have had since starting our journey and we were looking for extra blankets (can you believe we couldn’t find them…). It must have been a front that brought all that cold in. Today was quite nice all day long (Thank You Lord). We had breakfast looking out over the lake this morning and it was warm even then. After doing the dishes we went into town for our first visit to a Czech town. One of the first things that had to be accomplished this morning was to get some Koruna’s (Czech money 30 Kc = 1 Euro). Cheb has a population of about 30,000 and all the main town area was very quite all day. We went looking for the Tourist Information Center to get up to date maps and find out what was going on in the area that we might be interested in seeing and doing. This is always a good way to get started in a new area. I love the architecture of the buildings and the soft pastel colors that each is painted.
We also visited the Dom (St Niklas’) and tried to get into a couple of other churches but they were closed. There is a wonderful castle that was founded by Freidrich Barbarossa. It sits right on the banks of the river. An original Romanesque fortification. It houses the “Black Tower of Cheb”, St Erhards and St Urlulas Chapels.
This town isn’t really on the tourist maps so there were very few people to see this beautiful structures but we were very impressed. After we got back to camp we met with Adrian and Gerda for a beer and exchange our stories of the day.
They have a motorcycle that they use to get around in the more remote areas and today was one of them. Gerda was telling us of a place just 6 km north that they had discovered this afternoon. She got us both excited to see it so…. Tomorrow…Františkovy Láznì
16 June ’04, Wednesday. Today is “Cooolllddd” !!! A lot of the campers are pulling up camp and moving out to find warmer weather if they can. For us, we are going to do laundry, grocery shopping and then put the van in gear and head further East toward Prague. We hope that the weather will be warmer there but we kind of doubt it. This is just a traveling day and will try to make it close to the border with Czech Republic.
Well, catching us off guard, we found ourselves approaching the Czech/German border before we were physically and mentally ready for it. We know we were getting close but we were looking for one more night in Germany to get ready for the crossing. As we pulled off to the side of the road about 100 yards from the guard house we started digging for all the paper work that we thought we would need. Well, as you might have already guessed, they just asked us where we were from and they waved us through…..”Hey, here’s my passport and papers !!! to which we got no response. Up the road beyond the border we found a gas station to pull into. We had heard that we must have a pass for our vehicle. These passes are good for from 10 days, 30 days, or 1 year. The stickers are a must and have to be posted in the window. It cost us 150 KC (koruna) or about $5.30 EU. I expected much more to tell you the truth. A short 20 minute drive in to Cheb and we found our next campground. It was after a 5km drive down a narrow road, that reminded both Louise and myself a lot of Mexico, that we made a turn and there at the end of the road was a beautiful lake and our camp for the night right on the beach. It didn’t take us very long to set the barbecue up and get dinner started because we wanted to explore everything around us after dishes (yes, I dry…). After a walk down to the beach we met a couple who are expat’s from the Netherlands and now live in France. Now talk about travelers, Adrian and Gerda should write “books” on the subject.
Night has come and it is COLD, COLD, COLD. We should be looking for extra blankets tonight. Tomorrow…more of Cheb.
15 June ’04, Tuesday. If we have learned anything on this journey it is that you will find lot’s of wonderful surprises at each and every village, town and city we pull into. Bamberg Germany is by no means an exception. Our campground is on the Main River bank. I would say there are approximately 200 + rigs here with a little more than half being permanent. That is pretty common here in Europe. The Europeans have so many great campgrounds to use that they will pull their caravan (average camper trailer in US) into their favorite location. They live fairly close by so that they use it as their second home in most cases. If the campground closes in the winter then they will have to move everything out until next season. The season usually runs from April to November and will cost around $900-1200 per season plus electrical. Well getting back to Bamberg…Louise and I walked out to the entrance to the campground and there was the bus waiting to take us into town for $1 EU each. We were dropped off in the center of town and it was really quite a ride. First the streets here in the old town area are very narrow and even with that they will allow cars to park on one side. With the large buses it is quite a challenge for the driver to weave through. After a short walk we were in the Grote Markt which is a traffic free area and filled with all the shopping your heart and pocket book can handle. Surrounding the Markt are buildings from a great history and each has it’s own story to tell. As we walked through one of the city gates which has a rushing river under it we noticed the remains of a white water kayak event. A tour through the “Lower” and “Upper” Parish Churches and the Bamberg Dom proved to be a wonderful event. Each church has it’s own personality and valuable pieces of history to be proud of. The city dates back to the 15th Century. Bamberg also host’s a large contingent of military families from the U.S. Tomorrow…..Closer to Prague.
14 June ’04, Monday. Last night we were handed a catalog from a distributor of camping equipment. The catalog was very impressive so we planned to go shopping in the morning. Off we went about 10:30 ready to spend, spend, spend. Well you might say that after we found the place we were greatly disappointed. It was more of a catalog store that a store that had things that you could walk out the door with. A great disappointment to say the least. The only positive was we came back with money saved…. We had set this day apart just for that bit of shopping so we just headed back to camp. Louise has one of those books that she just can’t lay down so that has given her a full day of reading. As for me, I dug out the car wax and waxed the van….boy that was fun. One thing that we do look forward to is meeting as many people we can at the campgrounds. Because we are running with Dutch license plates it is often very confusing to our camp ground compatriots when all they hear from us is English. Most of the campers here are German and a few from Holland, Poland, and Italy. We have found that just about 60% or more will speak English once we have gone through a little conversation of both languages and it is hopeless to continue on their side. All are very gracious and interested in our journey. They are also a people that travel quite extensively. We have gotten many interesting ideas and locations that we should see and do while we are here in Europe.
Today we did find a Internet computer that we could use for our email. I just happened to see a sign across the street from the grocery store that said “come browse the internet”. Well it didn’t take long for me to make it across the street. The shop was owned by a young German who had a chance to live in Texas for 4 years while working for a big telecom company. His English was perfect, even with a Southern accent. He even offered me the opportunity to use my laptop to up-load to the web. All this was free…Thank You Greg !!! Tomorrow…..Busing it to Bomberg for the sites of the town.
13 June ’04, Sunday. Last night after dinner we met a wonderful couple from Sterling Scotland….John and Muriel. We’ve been anxious to see Scotland and now we have another reason to look forward to our visit. Well we pulled out of Frankfurt about 10am and believe it or not….again we went the wrong way….we have got to do better on leaving these bigger cities. It didn’t take us long and we saw our mistake so we did a “U-ee” and got back on track. We are heading for Prague and taking as many back roads as we possibly can. As we travel these smaller roadways we are constantly amazed at the beauty of all the small villages and some of the big surprises they will show you. Today was no different….about 1pm I was looking for a place to have lunch and we drove into a small village called Lohr A. Main. The small town of Lohr in situated on the river banks of the Main and the Rechtenbach. Today it is pretty much a tourist village but is also very busy in high tech, lumber, and glass (especially mirror glass). Also there is a beautiful castle that was the home of “Snow White”. Yes, Snow White. After many years of investigation, Dr. Karlheinz Bartels was able to prove conclusively, on the basis of facts provided by “fabular” science, that Snow White did come from the castle in Lohr. His study even goes on to include the 7 small people around the area of Lohr. One more bit of information on Lohr….The mirrors were so elaborately worked that they were accorded the reputation of “always speaking the truth” and become a favorite gift at European Crown and Aristocratic Courts. We just thought you would like to know about this little village. We really did enjoy it. Now back to the back roads and onto our final destination for the day, Bamberg. Tomorrow….More on Bamberg, Germany.
12 June ’04, Saturday. We didn’t have any real “sightseeing” plans in mind for Frankfurt today but we were on the tram by 10:30 anyway. The weather was very nice but did give the feeling that it might not last throughout the day. As we walked out of the underground tram station we noticed right away the clouds looked threatening again. But our thoughts of the probable inclement weather was soon forgotten as we saw that we were once again right in the middle of another celebration of some sort. It turned out to be Corpus Cristie. Just about as far as you could see down the main street of Frankfurt was music, food, wine and beer gardens just waiting for the crowds to arrive. Well here we are !!!! The biggest problem we encountered was what to order….it really can be a problem you know. Enough about our gastronomical delights. The history of Frankfurt is deep with life and legends but as for the old structures of history past, almost all were totally destroyed in the bombings from World War II. Frankfurt has and still is being rebuilt. Of those buildings that were left untouched was The Dom (Cathedral). It is beautiful and it was wonderful that it survived. We were only able to glance inside because they were just getting ready to bring into the church those young people for their first communion. It didn’t take too long before the thunder and rain started. Although it wasn’t the down-pour we experienced yesterday, there was enough that it made you go into one store after another until you’d had enough and decided that it was time to grab the tram back to the van. Tomorrow…..East
11 June ’04, Friday. The head was doing just great this morning and we decided to pull up stakes and head up the Mosel to finish a wonderful leg of our journey. The weather was still slightly overcast but overall, things looked good for continuing. About 15 km up the road we had one more stop that we wanted to make. The Burg Eltz castle is one of Rick Steves favorites, so that in it’s self made it one of our “most see” sites. After we parked the van we knew that we would have at least a 45 minute walk ahead of us through the woods above the village of Moselkern. It was just like walking through the woods back in Washington State. It even smelled like it. Almost, allllmmmoosst made us a little home sick. It was, as described by Rick, just as it appeared when we got there. As you come to the end of the trail, the Burg Eltz is just sitting right there in front of you. Prior to that you only knew that it was supposed to be out there somewhere. It is pretty spectacular, but I will have do disagree with Rick on this one. In my opinion, the Reichsburg Castle in Cochem is “the” castle on the Mosel to see. I’m sure Rick Steves really cares about my opinion don’t you think?…. A little history on the family Eltz…. They started building the castle over a thousand years ago. The surrounding forest provided a wealth of food and natural resources, and from their high vantage point the Eltz family controlled traffic between the fertile Maifield plateau and the Mosel River, a major trade route. Otherwise, income from taxes on goods going by or out of the area. There is much more, but you will have to read the book. Now that we are back to the van we head East by North East to the meeting place of the Mosel and Rhine Rivers….Koblenz. As we were just arriving in Koblenz, the sky opened up and it rained as hard as I have ever seen it rain. Right there and then, we decided to continue on across Germany heading toward Prague. We made it to Frankfurt and left the rain a little ways behind for now. Tomorrow….let’s see Frankfurt and hope the rain hasn’t caught up with us.