A triumphant return to our homeland

Trip Start Jul 11, 2011
Trip End Aug 15, 2011

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city tour

Flag of Czech Republic  , Bohemia,
Saturday, August 6, 2011

Things were a little bit different the last time I was here. A. – this country was called Czechoslovakia.  B. – I was riding my bike, not driving a 20-foot long RV.  And C. – I ended up being "deported" from the country because the Communist government didn't think that my friends and I were following all the rules about where we could sleep each night (but that’s another story).  So it was great fun to awaken early and find that our campsite in Seiffen was only about a 10 minute drive through the mist-laden hills to the Czech Republic.  Today was a homecoming of sorts for me.  I am Czech as my mother and her parents who grew up on farms northwest of Middleton came from a community that was almost entirely of Czech heritage. 

A small river forms the boundary between Germany and the Czech Republic and we crossed easily into another European Union country.  We could see the left-over remnants of communist-era gates and guard houses but today we simply drove across the river and into a new part of our adventure.

Lisa’s family traces its roots to this part of the world as well.  Her mother’s father had relatives in a small city that is now in northwestern Czech Republic called Kadan.  We used this city as the inspiration for Kaden’s name so we had to stop for a visit.  Before arriving in the old town center we stopped for groceries and immediately noticed a huge difference in prices from the rest of Europe.  Everything was much cheaper and the selection of foods was much greater than during my last visit.  I even found a kolach in the bakery.  Kolaches are sweet treats of bread dough filled with prunes or poppy seeds that my grandmother would always make.

The old city center was ringed by beautiful buildings and completely devoid of tourists.  We had a nice stop here looking at the shops and old-fashioned cobblestone streets and even managed to walk down the narrowest street in the entire Czech Republic!

Our next stop was Prague.  As we drove past huge fields of sunflowers it was hard to believe we were approaching a city of 1.2 million.  Even at our campsite a few miles from the city center we were unsure of just what the city would look like as we approached from the west and didn’t get an overall view of the skyline.  To change things up a bit we arranged for a guide during our stay here in Prague.  Not only is the language impenetrable (being of Slavic origin rather than a Romance language) but we figured the kids would have had enough of listening to Mom and Dad by now.  (As a side note, that probably happened somewhere on the way to the airport on our first day…)  Jan, our guide, met us at the campground and patiently explained the tram system and how to get tickets.  We never would have figured it out without him!

Jan led us up a steep hill to a commanding view of the city – just what we had been waiting for.  As the church bells pealed the skies cleared and we could see the entire 4 quarters or sections of the city.  Jan was a wealth of information about the history of the city, the architecture, and the government but also answered all our questions about how people live, why things are the way they are, and was lots of help with the Czech language.  We spent most of the afternoon with Jan winding our way through the castle district (the largest in all of Europe) on quiet streets and alley ways.  We stopped at an abbey, the resting place of St. Norbert, and a Benedictine brewery along the way.

Before leaving us, Jan gave us some ideas for dinner spots and told us where to catch the tram back to our campground.  We had a wonderful dinner of traditional Czech food (heavy on the pork and dumplings) washed down with fresh Pilsner Urquell.  We learned that Czechs have the largest per capita beer consumption rate in the world – nearly 170 liters per person per year!  I remember the quality of the beer from my last trip and it has not diminished a bit since then!

After diinner we had a beautiful night walk through Old Town full of large squares full of people on a Saturday night. Vendors were making everything from wurst, to (really huge) smoked hams, to cinnamon-sugary bread rolled on a stick and cooked over an open fire.  We sampled a few as we made our way to Wenceslas Square and the tram home.  We also walked by beautiful shops full of Bohemian glass, known to be some of the finest in the world.  By the time we trudged up the hill to our campsite we were all ready to fall into bed.  It was a full (and fantastic) first day in Prague.

The Mettels (Carson)
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lisa53562 on

Were you really here before on a bike trip? ;-) we have estimates of between 5 & 50 daily stories that begin "You know on my bike trip..."

Hackie on

Yeah...and last night there were about 25 more of those stories...I must be getting old...cuz I really still enjoy hearing them. ( and the kids did as well) Kiki and Shaun seemed to listen with a different ear...more for information! Carson...nice night shots! Keep the pics coming...I could look at them all! (and want to when you get back)

kip on

I guess I'll have to drink in your honor.....order me some schnitzel and another cold one...

mettel.europe on

Blades Kellogg is featured in several of our stories. . . where is he now?

mettel.europe on

We are still looking for Sonny Bono and the 30 cent beers. It is still true that beer is cheaper than soda here - even in Prague. And it IS the best beer in the world!

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