Part II of this week was going to be all about cars, so en-route we stopped off for some castle action. There is no shortage of choice as Bohemia has numerous castles and châteaux from it’s various historical epoques, travelling down any road there are signs in most directions to a historic church, castle or museum.
We went for Frydstejn, perched high on a hill it is a typical rock castle. Built sometime in the 14th century the castle consists of a tall turret on a sandstone ridge, the rooms were carved out of the nearby rocks and have long since gone. The car-park was a 15 minute walk away, where we encountered the most unhappy looking car-park attendant on earth. Once we established a price he insisted I walk over and read his sign stating we had one hour. Not sure what happened if we went over but he looked so glum we didn’t risk the potential repercussions.
Moving swiftly on, after 10 long months we finally arrived at destination nirvana for Iain – Mlada Boleslav – the original and largest Skoda production plant in the world. We weren’t just there for a drive by visit, we had booked a tour inside both factory and museum. It’s fair to say excitement levels were high, mine in case it was like the Guinness tour and you a free sample at the end, Iain’s just because he is a Skoda freak :).
Happiness is a car-plant
A strange system for the tours, you arrive at the museum but the first visit is around the factory a couple of miles away. You take your own car, and also have to transport your guide there and back. We were exempt due to the motorhome, so they shoved us in with a few people who didn’t own a car and we got a lift the Skoda mini-bus.
After much mockery I will concede the factory tour is very interesting, it firstly takes you into two of the pressing plants, where we saw doors and roofs for Octavia being produced. From there it’s into the production line – where we toured the main line as cars were being produced. Other than an instruction to not take photos it was access all areas. A yellow fluorescent jacket was all we needed, cranes moving over-head, gigantic dies being moved, the sound of metal being thumped at a million decibels – a H&S nightmare in the UK but nothing to worry about here as long as you wear the jacket that says ‘visitor’.
The site is similar in size to that of your average town, all the staff have to park their cars outside the factory and walk, with 25,000 employees in the main factory there are a lot of car-parks – oddly enough rather full of Skoda’s! Back at the museum there are many Skoda cars to see, many, many, some old, some not so old. I left Iain to it and went and read a book whilst he indulged in Skoda history.
After an automotive over-load the plan was to visit Kutna Hora. We had toyed with idea of Prague but decided against as a) its mid August and we are told it’s heaving, b) the four campsites in the city all advise they are full. Kutna Hora is recommended by the Czech tourist info as the place next worth visiting after Prague, so that’s where we went.
The city is in the central area of Bohemia, and was established as a silver mining area by the Germans in 13th century. Now a Unesco site (where isn’t?), there are truck loads of thing to see in a very small area, for although they call it a city it’s really no bigger than your average small market town stuffed full of historical buildings, cobbled streets and quaint ally ways of shops.
Cathedral of St. Barbara
Surprisingly, it wasn’t as busy as we thought it could be. There were plenty of people around but nowhere was over crowded and we were able to get to see everything we wanted without queues or hoards of people. Unfortunately several of the buildings we wanted to see were shrouded in scaffolding for repair or restoration, no matter there were more than enough with two cathedrals, a Jesuit college and even an ossuary (bone chapel). We found that if we wanted to shop then we needed to be up earlier on a Saturday – shops were only open from 8am to 11am then closed until Monday.
Just when we thought a place couldn’t get any better we came across more cars – this time a vintage car rally in the centre of town. Iain believes all his Christmas’s have come at once this week. The cars were all pre 1935 and the owners were all dressed in period costumes, my favourite bar none was the gorgeous little girl sat in the rumble seat, happy to pose and wave at anyone with a camera.
The Czech Republic is proving to be a winner with us. My role of chancellor of our tour exchequer is reaping the benefits of some of the cheapest prices we have seen throughout Europe. Campsites are much improved, the weather is good enough that evenings can be spent sat outside until after 10pm with just the sound of campers chatting and the smell of over-cooked sausages on barbecues.
Again there are not too many motorhomes about, as with Poland vehicles over 3.5 tonnes need Go Boxes to pay tolls, possibly why so few larger moho about. The mix of campers in tents and smaller vans here is very cosmopolitan, tonight we are on a small garden site with vehicles from Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Russia, France and one Czech.
Just window shopping