Horse fights, rafting adventures and mulled wine

Trip Start Aug 09, 2009
Trip End Oct 28, 2009

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Where I stayed
Pension Na Ostrove

Flag of Czech Republic  , Bohemia,
Monday, October 5, 2009

Day 1 – Monday October 5th – We were up on time and even had time at breakfast to view some photos on Facebook of Marek's 50th – looks like it was a great night and so sad that we missed out! We have even decided what we would have dressed up as if we could have gone!

We had to catch two trains to Cesky Bodejovice and change trains there to our train to Cesky Krumlov.

We had about an hour to kill before our Cesky Krumlov train so of course we found the nearest pub and went for a beer. We got a 500ml pint each for 1 euro!! We knew we were going to like Czech Republic then and there!

We finished our beers and went over the road to explore a shopping centre. There wasn’t much but we stocked up on some toiletries and checked out a pet shop. The pets here are weird! They sell Chinchillas, Chameleons, strange turtles and even Galahs! So many snakes as well, I guess most snakes aren’t poisonous in Europe so they have a few available compared to us.

Back at the station we found our platform and waited for our train. There were two tiny little old carriages on the track at the very end of our platform and I thought to myself 'I hope they are going to move those little carriages before our train comes’.

Well, it got to within five minutes of when our train was supposed to arrive and these little tiny carriages were still sitting there. They looked like fat versions of the old Glenelg trams. I started to worry that a) these might actually be the train we were supposed to board, or that b) we were at the wrong platform. All of the announcements were in Czech or really bad English and we couldn’t understand them, so I assumed the latter would most likely be true.

I approached the station guard and asked him where to get the train to Cesky Krumlov and he pointed at his feet and said something in Czech. There was a passenger nearby and he reiterated ‘here’. Since he obviously spoke English I asked him where to get the train again, and this time he pointed to those two tiny carriages, to which I couldn’t help but respond ‘THAT?!?!’ then giggle to myself!  ‘Ok,’ I said, ‘thank you’, then walked back to Witek.

Witek’s face expressed the same disbelief as my exclamation when I told him, I’ve rarely seen his eyebrows go so high! We couldn’t help but laugh though. Our train from Vienna was this modern beautiful German train with LCD screens displaying information and comfortable seats, now here we were on a Czech train that looked like it needed to be wound up before it could go anywhere! There wasn’t even an engine carriage! Just two little carriages that drive themselves! It even had bench seats!

Somehow this train managed to get us there though, and once we arrived I realised that once again I had forgotten to look up how to get to our accommodation. I had looked at the map and thought that Cesky Krumlov wasn’t that big and we were on a little island, so it wouldn’t be too hard to find. Was I wrong? Yep!

At the train station there were no signs directing us to a bus to town or anything so we snaffled the small (like a TV Guide size) Yellow Pages we found there so we could look up the address of our accommodation. We approached the bus driver we found out the front and showed him the address, expecting him to nod knowingly and invite us on to his bus. No such luck. He shrugged his shoulders and looked at us quizzically.

There was a map of Cesky Krumlov on the signpost near the bus stop so we examined it and found the street of our hotel. We then found the nearest bus station to there and asked to bus driver if he went there.

This time we had success! He nodded and we boarded the bus to town. One of the locals kindly pointed out to us when we needed to get off.

It was then off through the old town to find our hotel. We found the area pretty quickly and only had to ask for directions once so that was pretty good.

Unfortunately when we arrived at the hotel there was no one there! There were some guests out the front who all knew each other, all in probably their 50’s and holidaying in Europe together. They were from the UK, New Zealand and Australia so it was nice to have people to speak English to! They were a very lively bunch full of jokes and quick to laugh.

They told us that they had arrived at about the same time as us the night before and had no problems. They went off to dinner promising us that if we were still there when they returned we could bunk with one of them for the night for the price of a bottle of wine!

Fortunately I rang the number on the door and after breaking through the language barrier she said she would fix it and to call back in ten minutes. I didn’t have to, after about eight minutes a guy arrived with some keys to let us in and get us organised.

Our room was really lovely, it was actually more of an apartment. There was a separate bathroom, living area and kitchen and the bedroom, all of which were quite spacious. We liked! We were in a great location too, right in the heart of the old town and right next to the river.

With our room we received 20% discount vouchers for five different restaurants in Cesky Krumlov, so we decided to check them out. The first one was closed and the next three we looked at all seemed pretty similar with the same Czech menus, but the fifth one was different. They had an open flame grill in the middle of the restaurant and a real medieval feel to it. We liked it and found a table.

We ordered a soup each and the mixed grill for two and we were fascinated to watch this guy work the grill. He had so much meat on there at the same time I am not sure how he kept track of it all!! The waiter was working just as hard, there was only one of him and the place was packed!

The food was fantastic and the mulled wine just as good. As per usual we had ordered much more food than we needed, but we got through it anyway as it was so yummy! We ran into our neighbours there too and had a bit of a chat, they were happy to hear that we had gotten in to our room.

We had a short wander around town after dinner before going back to our room for a quiet night relaxing.

Day 2 – Tuesday October 6th – We had a little sleep in today but we were up in time to catch the end of breakfast at 10am.

Our first stop for the day was the tourist information office where we grabbed some brochures outlining what we could see and do in Cesky Krumlov. In summer it is known for its water activities and this is actually what drew me to the place. Donna had been there and told me about how her and Josh had floated around the town on inner tubes, stopping along the way at restaurants or pubs to grab a drink or a bite. Sounded great! But it was a bit cooler while we were there so we preferred to stay dry if possible.

We got some brochures on raft trips, horse riding and a few other bibs and bobs and ventured off to visit the tour operators. Only one of them was open so we organised with them to do horse riding and rafting the following day.

Today we decided to see the castle and the town in general so we headed over to check out the castle.

The castle is huge and perched atop a hill in the old town overlooking the whole of Cesky Krumlov. You can see it from almost anywhere in the old town and we actually had a nice view from our hotel room too.

We climbed the sloped path to the castle entrance and came to a bridge where we found a few people looking over either side of it at something that obviously seemed quite interesting.

We walked up to have a look ourselves and we very surprised to discover that under the bridge to the castle was a large enclosure housing three brown bears! We couldn’t believe it, it seemed so random!

They were very cute though and we spent a while watching them lumber about and watching people’s reactions when they discovered them too. We weren’t the only ones who were surprised!

We went and checked out the tours and prices for the castle and decided on two tours we wanted to do, but when we got to the counter to ask about tickets they said they were only doing one a day and not for another 3 hours! We decided to skip it and just have a walk around the outside gardens and courtyards, those seemed big enough on their own!

There were some beautiful views of the old town from the castle to enjoy and we gradually made our way around the whole place. One of our favourite spots was the castle pond at the very back of the property. We pulled up a piece of grass there and sat for about an hour just chatting and enjoying the peace and quiet….. "Ahhh, how’s the serenity".

On our way out of the castle we found an art gallery they had set up to display the work of a local artist, so we went in to have a look. It was a bit weird, he had created all these alien like sculptures and made furniture and stuff out of giant fingers. I didn’t like it, it was actually quite disturbing. The strange part was that when you go in you read his short biography and he sounds quite normal, doesn’t match the artwork at all!

Of course I was hungry by now and Witek wasn’t, but we are getting used to that! I wanted to check out a vegetarian restaurant that I had read about so we wandered over there to take a look.

On the way we came across a wine shop selling local wine, obviously I wanted to have a look! They had some really beautiful glassware and I really wanted to buy some, but it was so expensive! A set of six small shot glasses alone was 100 euro! Bit much for my liking, I was too scared to ask how much the wine glasses were after hearing that!

We did try some of the wine and it turned out to actually be Italian, I’m not sure why we thought it was from Czech. We did learn later that Czech Republic have several wine regions but unfortunately this shop didn’t have any wine from there.

It was quite cute actually, we asked to try it and she poured us each a glass and then pulled up a couple of seats for us to sit right in the middle of the shop! It was funny! The wine was quite nice though so we ended up buying a red and a white to enjoy later.

We found the vegetarian restaurant after this and unfortunately it was closed, but next door was another restaurant that I had also read really good things about so we went to check it out.

It was set up in kind of a medieval fashion and it turned out that everything was made out of recycled materials, mostly from medieval buildings that had been demolished or restored. There were tables and bench seats outside right on the river so we decided to sit there and enjoy the view.

They had their own vegetarian menu and we decided on the medieval vegetarian platter for two, which had dishes made of things like buckwheat, millet and barley. I never thought I would do anything with those things past feeding them to our budgie, but here I was about to eat them!

We also got some hot mead or mulled wine which was amazing. It became a favourite drink of ours in Czech Republic and it is very easy to come across. Most restaurants sell it and in some places you can even buy it from kiosks in the street!

The food came out and we tucked in. Witek really enjoyed it but I was a bit so-so. I think it needed more something……flavour! That’s it! It actually did taste a bit like something I would give my budgie. No, that is a bit unfair, there were a couple of things on the platter I really liked, probably half was good and half was budgie food. But as an example of middle-ages food I guess we had to expect that!

We went for a wander around town after this, in and out of shops and just exploring in general. We found an English bookshop which was great! Both of us were out of reading material (yes, I do blog most of the time, but the batteries of this thing do run out sometimes) so it was perfect timing.

It was back to our room after this to just chill out for a while. It’s good to have nights like that because all the sightseeing and running around can get a bit much. We got takeaway and enjoyed some wine and watched some TV. We were tired and we were both asleep pretty early that night. It was nice!

Day 3 – Wednesday October 7th – Had such a great sleep! We were woken by the alarm at about 8:30am as we had to meet the tour for the horse riding at 9:45am.

Dressed and breakfasted we walked over to the tour office and got in the van to take us to the horse riding. We picked up three more people on the way who were from an Asian country but I’m not sure which. They didn’t speak English so there wasn’t much to talk about!

At the horse riding stables the guy with the van just dropped us and left. We had paid the tour company a deposit but had to pay the balance to the stables. This is where we had problems.

I went to pay the remaining balance of our bill to the guy and he wanted 200 more Czech kron than I had expected (ok, it’s only about 8 euro but that’s not the point!). The horse riding was 600 and I had paid the guy at the shop 240 and this guy still wanted 560 from me! He didn’t speak a word of English so I must admit I kind of lost my cool a little bit. He kept saying yes, I kept saying no and we continued to bang our heads against the wall until he called the shop and put me on to the guy there.

It turned out that there was a 100 kron transfer charge each for Witek and I, but this wasn’t mentioned, nor was it clear on the invoice. I got angry at the guy over the phone but he either pretended he couldn’t understand me, or he really couldn’t, I’m not sure. But either way I was getting nowhere so I let it go. I just thought it should maybe have been mentioned!

I was very embarrassed to have to go back to the guy at the stable and admit I was wrong, so this made it even worse, especially since I couldn’t explain to him what had happened. He was quite good about it though.

Anyway, out to get on the horses now! We got our helmets (as usual I had immense trouble finding one to fit my big head) and went outside to wait for our horses. The stable guy actually helped me and laughed with me at my difficulty in finding a helmet big enough for my head, so I assumed there were no hard feelings over the money dispute!

They led a horse over to us one by one and we climbed on. It was so funny because we have been horse riding a few times in Australia and they always go over all the instructions on how to handle the horses and all the safety stuff, but here there was a language barrier, so all we got was the name of our horse!

They put Witek on a horse, gave it a pat and said ‘Wendy’, then same with me but it was ‘Bonza’. Oh well, off we go then! I was glad that this wasn’t our first time or I might have been freaked out a bit!

Of course the horses are all old and know where they need to go so you don’t need to steer or anything. This doesn’t stop them from wandering off the path to nibble on some grass, or walking you into an overhanging branch!

At one stage the horse behind me tried to pass me and my mate Bonza, and Bonza sped up a bit to try and stay in front. This other horse went a bit mad and actually launched himself onto us, with teeth out and everything!! I pulled Bonza back because I think he wanted to have a go too, but I patted him and told him it wasn’t worth it.

Everybody in the group turned around to look when this happened and looked a bit shocked, but the girl who was leading us barely even batted an eyelid! So funny!                               

A few times on the way back Bonza tried to get in front when this other horse stopped, but I pulled him back. As soon as Bonza stepped forward this other horse snarled at him and I had no intention of getting involved in a WWF match between horses.

It was a really nice morning out though, despite the fisticuffs and the multiple bruises from the overhanging branches! We enjoyed some really nice views of the town and the surrounding countryside and even saw some deer.

Back in town we went and organised the details of our raft trip in the afternoon and went and got some lunch.

This time the vegetarian restaurant was open so we had a quick lunch there. This food was awesome, we had vegetarian burritos and it was so yummy! We then jumped next door to the restaurant from the day before for a quick mug of mead seeing as the vego place didn’t have any and then went to go rafting!

They picked us up in a van and took us to the rafting spot after a quick stop to pick up the raft. It was really more like a big kayak but whatever.

When we got to the departure spot he dropped us off with the raft, a paddle and a waterproof container to put our belongings in, then realised he had forgotten a paddle. ‘Wait’ he said then sped off to get the paddle.

We were left to wait while watching a couple return from a trip they had obviously just finished, and she was not happy! They pulled up to the bank and the girl stormed up the side yelling that she had enough and was flying home! I’m not sure where they were from, either England or Australia, but it was pretty funny! She was furious, and she was wet, so I assume they must have tipped over or something. He was standing there yelling ‘what about the boat?’ but she just kept walking and he eventually ran after her. Not sure what became of them or the boat!

Anyway, our guy came back with the other paddle and I waited for him to stop and give us some instruction, but no, he just dumped the paddle then tore off down the road leaving us to work it out ourselves. Shouldn’t have been surprised after the horses I suppose!

We worked out how to get in and get the boat on the water and we were on our way. We did all right I think because of the couple of times we have been white water rafting. We had picked up at least how to steer and stuff, but very basically!

It was actually quite easy and the water was really shallow so I wasn’t too worried about falling in. At least we would only get wet up to our knees!

About half hour in Witek wanted to pull over as nature was calling. It was for me too but I have never taken a squat in my life and didn’t plan on doing so now! However, the prospect of ‘holding it’ for another two and a half hours wasn’t very exciting. There was no one around and we were in the middle of nowhere, so I am proud to announce that I finally took my first ‘squat’ at the ripe old age of thirty!

We were having fun with the rafting and we were actually rowing towards the ‘rougher’ parts of the river just to add some excitement. These rough parts would not have even rated a 1 on the white water scale though so it wasn’t too exhilarating, more of a laugh really!

About halfway through our trip my shoulder started to play up so Witek very nicely took over the paddling duties and I stuck to helping him steer. I have had shoulder trouble for years but it has been pretty good on this trip. I was optimistic of it surviving a 3 hour paddle for this reason!

I helped him when I could but for most of the second half of our journey he did the paddling. He is such a good husband!

We had been told to watch out for a bridge followed by one rapid and then we were to stop at the campsite after the rapid. Here we would call them and they would come and collect us.

We found the bridge and afterwards the water got a bit choppy so we wondered if this might be the stop. We started looking for the campsite but couldn’t see it anywhere.

Then we saw the real rapid. It wasn’t a rapid in the traditional sense, it was actually more like a dam of some kind. There was a long stretch in the middle then a small ramp on the side with water rushing down it. We decided the small ramp looked safest as we would at least stay facing the front that way seeing as our raft would only just fit down it.

We crossed our fingers and rowed towards it, it was a bit scary as you couldn’t see the other side of it so we didn’t know what we were riding into!

Remembering our white water rafting we just ducked down and held on as we went through it and hoped for the best! At the bottom there was a dip and our raft went into it. We struggled to keep the boat upright but managed, despite getting covered with water anyway! Then we had to try and control the boat again, but the water was rushing so fast it was almost impossible! We actually floated into a guy fly fishing in the river and I apologised profusely as I pushed off of his shoulder and down the river!

Here we thought we were supposed to stop as it looked like some kind of campsite to us. The water was still rushing though and we couldn’t get the boat under control! There was no boat ramp so we would manage to get it to the side of the river but we couldn’t manage to get a hold of anything and get ourselves up! We just hit the bank then would spin off and away again! It was so funny!

We gave up after three or four attempts and decided to just float down to a calmer spot and get them to pick us up from wherever we ended up.

Around the corner we actually found the correct spot, and it was very calm with a boat ramp and everything. Lucky! There was another group of people waiting there who must have started just before us so we knew it was the right place.

We guided the boat over to the ramp with ease and got ourselves and the container out and the boat parked. Yay!

The other group of people had already called for a pick up so all we had to do was wait for the van. We got chatting and they were Aussie and were doing a similar trip to us, so we had some stories to share!

We were drenched but these guys had somehow managed to stay dry! They had a big raft so I guess that would have made a difference.

On the way back to our accommodation we spotted a bridge that we hadn’t seen before so we got dropped off there to admire the view and take some piccies. It was reall gorgeous and a fun walk back to our hotel, which fortunately wasn’t too far away at all.

We were wet and cold by the time we got dropped off, so we had showers and once again got take away for dinner. This time we also got some mead to take away from our favourite restaurant, yum!

Day 4 – Thursday October 8th – We intended on catching the early train this morning but the sleep in was just too tempting! This gave us a bit of time between breakfast and catching our train so we decided to get some bread from the bakery and feed the ducks! We had seen people doing this the whole time but had yet to indulge.

Bread in hand we found a spot where there were ducks perched on a little island in the middle of the river. Unfortunately it was a particularly windy day and the river was flowing quite quickly, so the ducks were hesitant to take a leap and go for our bred. I guess the prospect of being swept kilometres down the river didn’t appeal to them.

We found another spot upstream from these same ducks which was actually right out the front of our hotel. It was a bit more sheltered but only in a patch about 2 metres squared, so it was still a risk for these ducks! They took it though and we successfully fed them most of our bread. As soon as we finished a huge lorry came barrelling down the hill behind us and into the water, scattering the ducks completely. Good timing I guess? Poor loves! Ah well, it was time to get our train anyway.
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