We took to the back-roads on our way out from Kutna Hora, decent roads, not at all busy and lovely to be back off the beaten track for a while. After the last few months of forest lined roads through Scandinavia and Poland it was a real change to see open countryside, mile after mile or rolling farmland – pretty much all harvested.
The joy of the back-road without a map is we never quite know what is coming up next. Down through a village, turn a corner over the bridge and hey presto Cesky Sternberk. An early Gothic Bohemian castle, the most impressive fact is that its still in the ownership of the family who built it in the mid 13th century.
Cesky Sternberk Castle
Onwards and downwards to our next stop at the city of Ceske Budejovice. Main reason for coming was that rain was forecast and we thought we might do a bit of shopping. On arrival it was cracking the flags, lucky for us a new swimming pool had just been opened at the motel site we were staying at. Not sure why but hardly any of the Czech’s were in for a dip, everyone seemed a bit reticent – enter us and a very pleasant and cooling dip. We really hadn’t thought of this country as a summer destination but they seem very geared up to good weather with the pool at the site and another very large outdoor pool in town.
The drizzle came in on day two so we had a day in the city, a bit of sight-seeing and a wander around the shops. The old town is on a small island which is linked by several bridges. Much of the town was destroyed in bombing raids in WWII, that said there are still plenty of stunning of examples of Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance buildings, mainly around Ottokar II Square.
Ottokar II Square
Around the edge of the city runs a maze of Skoda trolleybus services, linking the several shopping centres and the suburbs. I managed a little bit of shopping the we went all ethnic and ate at the local McDonalds (at £3 for dinner and drinks for two we wont knock it). By mid afternoon the sky was clear again so we finished our retail therapy and went back to some sight seeing. We found plenty to see and do on top of the architecture, several sculptures, a couple of parks, and some very impressive bridges crossing backwards and forwards over the rivers
“Rush hour” and “Restful” sculptures
A couple of the buildings are Unesco listed, but in the main its a working city and for us none the worse for that. Less of a museum setting and more a chance to see how the average Czech lives. Iain climbed the 16th century Black Tower and took some cracking ariel photos, whilst the square is the main attraction many of the side streets held better preserved buildings and for us were much more appealing.
Ottokar II Square
Other than the war damage, architecture and a stack of ice hockey stadiums, the town is best known for beer production, so much so it was the imperial brewery of the Holy Roman Empire. As infamous is the legal wrangles between the local brewery, who produces Budweiser (and has the legal right to market its beer and name through most of Europe) and the American ‘Budweiser’. The US version is a different beer and a different company, who used the same name to imitate the successful Czech beer. The American company has made many offers to buy out the Czech Budweiser to secure the rights to the name but the Czech government wont let the name go as a matter of national pride. So in some countries asking for a Budweiser gets you the American brew and in other the Czech brew.
Our well earned Budweisers (Czech version of course)
We were moving on this morning but decided on an extra day by the pool. Where we are staying is on the edge of the town park, acres and acres of grass and trees with a lake in the middle – just a good old fashioned park. We walked across to the local Kaufland to treat ourselves to some bits for lunch and then retired to the sun-loungers around the pool to sun-bake (as they say here). By late afternoon it was cooling down so we took the bikes out for a quick mile or two around the park. From the park though we found a cycle path along the river so, as you do, we needed to follow that. And follow it we did for 6 or 7 miles down to the next village, brilliant wide tarmac path all the way.
The cycle path was incredibly busy but what shocked us most was for every cyclist there were at least two inline skaters. A few youngsters but in the main aged from mid 20’s up to mid 50’s, as many blokes as women and they can skate a hell of a lot faster than we can cycle.
The other big sport here is canoeing, at the end of the cycle path we came across a canoe slalom course, again full to over-flowing with people on the water. We sat and watched for a while, Iain pondering if he is buying a canoe (!) before heading back to camp for a quiet evening to work out where to next.
This could be him soon!!