Czeching out Bohemia

Trip Start Apr 13, 2010
Trip End Sep 11, 2010

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Flag of Czech Republic  , Bohemia,
Saturday, June 26, 2010

(24/6) It was a long drive from Krakow to Cesky Krumlov. It's basically at the south west corner of Czech Republic.  We broke up the drive by calling into Olomouc for a few hours. It's a nice Czech city, student focused and is quite chilled out.

We got into Cesky Krumlov on dusk. Apart from some great locally brewed beers, CK is better known (aside from some cultural things) for it's river which winds it's way around the town which is a major tourist attraction for locals and foreigners alike. Every day, hundreds of rafts, kayaks and canoes make their way down the river, tackling a few rapids along the way.  It was definitely on our to do list for this town.

It took a little longer to get to CK than first estimated as Penny took us for a scenic drive through the southern bohemian area of CZ.  It was a brilliant drive and it would be even better to explore it by bike. The rolling hills were filled with crops and flowers and there were numerous camp grounds and adjoining lakes to pull into for the night. Places like his however are really difficult to come across when trying to plan for a trip via the internet, as I think they are still coming to grips with the telephone... nar it's not that behind the times but it seriously has that feel, plus with the summer season beginning we weren't really keen on winging our accommodation from day to day.

Our hostel was on the cusp of the old town however Penny ended up directing us through it. As we found out later you need prior authorisation and a permit to drive within the old part. No one stopped us however we were lucky as we could have easily passed blame on our french number plates.

We also ended up encountering our second Simpson's crazy cat lady for this trip (with Sarajevo being the first). I drew the short straw and had to defend the car from said crazy lady who was blurting something out I don't even think the Czech's would understand, while Graham and Chris went in search for the hostel host.  It's a good thing the hostel had a park available for us.

We took it steady on our first night; dinner by the river, a few local beers and a stroll through town. Awwww, how romantic, but it was good to stretch the legs after spending the majority of the day sitting in a car. That and we were keen to find a bar and make some new friends. CK as we discovered, doesn't really deliver on the social front after dark.

The next day was going to be full on, so much to squeeze in, in our only full day in CK. Walking through the old town we found an outdoor equipment hire shop with some mountain bikes. Apparently the Bohemian area of Czech Rep is made for bike riding; we learned that there are hundreds of kilometres of well marked bike paths. We only had a few hours left of the morning and early 'arve so we could still leave enough time for a raft down the river later in the afternoon. In the end, we hired some mountain bikes and headed into the country side for a different style of sight seeing.

The first leg of the journey was torturous, it started out okay but we soon found ourselves riding through the hills out the back of CK navigating inclines and declines, soft gravel roads, grassy fields and water crossings. We made it out about 15km to the next town over and stopped in at a grocery store and picked up some bread, salami and cheese for lunch after the cafe that advertised pizza didn't actually have pizza... or food.  Having been quite some time since we had all done some proper exercise, the three of us decided to take the bitumen track back into CK as all other roads took us further away from CK and involved more hills on soft gravel and dirt.

Later in the afternoon we hired ourselves a raft to make our journey through the town and further downstream along the Vltava river.  It's a pretty good deal, roughly a 3 - 4 hour paddle, not including the stops along the way (more on that later) and you get to tackle a few rapids and they come pick you up at the end.  Unfortunately our driver ballsed up our drop off point so we ended up skipping the raft through the town and 3 out of 4 rapids.  On top of that, none of us brought a camera as we weren't sure on the availability of dry storage which ended up being provided to us. At least our money was dry. The journey took about 4 hours in the end, even though we skipped the 1st 30mins of the course.

Now we know why it's so popular to most... not only can you make it a great day amongst nature, but there are several pubs and grills situated along the river's path.  What a brilliant afternoon. The first 45mins took a toll on our hydration levels... it was tough call but we gave up on rowing and instead threw the oars in the raft and lay back letting the current do the rowing for us :).   We exerted ourselves a little by rowing to the shore line and mooring to a tree so we could make our first beer stop of the afternoon.

What a show that place was.  It was one of the first few stops along the river and clearly a large number of people had arrived in the early morning and hadn't made it much further.  One guy was passed out in a raft and the rest were playing silly buggers around a camp fire whilst frequently attending the bar... 'nuff said. After a beer it was time for us to move on.

It was an interesting departure to say the least. Some of the inebriated rafters tried to disembark with us. The first decided to jump from the top of the bank and land in our raft which he did with great success. Chris managed to counter balance well, while managing to not spill a drop of our two roadies (beers). The second didn't make it to the boat. It's one of those moments where you wish there was a camera rolling. I might also add that the second was the bloke who we saw passed out in his raft some 20mins earlier.  So he proceeded to board our raft by what I'd describe as a penguin slide down the muddy embankment; head first on his stomach. I don't think a professional could have achieved the same result if they tried. He came to a halt with his head in the water. Chris, Graeme and I looked at each other as he lay still, head first in the water. After a few moments he decided to make motor boat sounds in the water. Unbelievable.

So we managed to coerce the first guy out of our raft and once again we were making our way downstream.  We made another stop along the way for a top up, rakija and hot food as some light rain had begun to set in.  It took us nearly 4 hours to reach the end of our journey and we got to tackle 1 set of rapids.... wooooot! Actually they were pretty tame, but I still managed to get wet.

It's now our second morning in CK and it's time for us to move on to Prague.  We'll go out this morning and explore more of the old town and surrounds before we head off. Also it was nice to have experienced a town where there is more to the place than old town squares, old churches, museums and old statues.
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