After the first day of visiting Prague, I knew it was my favorite city we’ve been to thus far for various reasons and didn’t think it could be topped. Once we got off our 3 hour bus ride to Cesky Krumlov, I realized I was wrong. This little town was so peaceful. We were surrounded by mountains, trees, and a river that made us feel like we had a constant nature sound machine in our room. Abby didn’t even need a fan to go to bed because we could hear the water’s current right outside our windows, which is awesome for me because I broke her portable fan (still a touchy subject)! As peaceful as this town was, we later learned the movie “Hostel” was filmed there. If you haven’t seen it yet, don’t watch it (especially our moms), but it was surprising to know that this little beautiful town could have such a scary movie filmed there.
We were a little tired when we first arrived to the town, but the excitement to explore a new town always gives you more energy. We started off by exploring the Krumlov Castle. The castle and courtyard was nearly 1/3 of the town! The castle, owned by the Rosemberg family, was related to the Orsini family of Italy. In the 1600s the Rosembergs, claiming some fame to the Orsinis (from orsa meaning “bear”), placed bears on the outside of their castle between the castle and moat to help guard the grounds. When Caleb first toured the castle seven years ago, he learned that the two bears there would be the last ones on the grounds because of animal rights and protections. When we looked into the moat, there was still one bear left! Although I felt bad for it being locked up, it did have a larger spot to live than bears in zoos we’ve seen in the States. On our way out of the castle we saw two guys plunge into the castle’s fountain. Us being naive thought they were bathing at first (we’ve seen it happen before) but after watching, they were sadly taking all of people’s wishes from the bottom of the fountain. Most likely to buy their next beer, and oddly enough later that night, we saw them drinking. We all wished we were brave enough..and more built, to confront them, but instead we just muttered words to ourselves saying how disgusted we were with them.
After the castle, we went and explored the rest of the town, which took all about 15 minutes. We decided to grab a beer (shocker) and found a little dive bar called “The Gorilla Bar”. Once inside, Caleb realized he had been to this bar before when he was studying abroad and this was all of his and his classmates favorite place, too. Inside were posters of so many great musicians, like The Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Doors, Soundgarden, Jimi Hedrix, Pink Floyd, Slipknot, Metallica, and System of a Down. And not only did they have these awesome posters all over their walls (which I wanted to take so badly) they also played these bands over their loud speakers. This may sound like no big deal, but over in Europe, most bars have songs you can’t sing along to or EDM/Pop Bull sh*t (I know I’m such a hipster :P) . I immediately knew why Caleb and his classmates loved this bar, and we actually went to the bar every day we were there.
A few beers later (vodka Sprites for Abby) and a good buzz we worked up an appetite. Our host at Hostel 99 gave us a map when we first arrived and Caleb and I of course saw the brewery right away and wanted to check that out. Abby ordered goulash, let’s be honest, she’s had goulash for every meal. (When I first ordered goulash I was expecting noodles, corn, and meat. That is not what Czech goulash is, it’s roast beef or pork, dark gravy, and bread dumplings–and it’s delicious). Caleb and I shared roasted duck, pork neck, sausages wrapped in bacon, and assorted dumplings. Oh, and it should also be known that EVERY meal comes with sauerkraut, which is slowly growing on me, considering I couldn’t even be in the house when my parents or grandparents were making it. After the brewery we made our way back to the Gorilla Bar and had a couple drinks there before we ended the night.
The next morning we couldn’t wait to sleep in, but being in an 8 bed room that’s never promised. We were woken up around 5 a.m. to two of our roommates talking loudly. Everyone in the room, especially Abby, humphed and rolled in our beds trying to give them a hint to quiet down. They were quiet again until about 7 a.m., when the guy beside me decided to watch the most annoying YouTube videos on his phone very loudly. Our other bunk mate, Jason, got up at one point and asked if he wanted to borrow his headphones. He was my savior at that point, but of course, the YouTube watcher declined the headphones! They spent the rest of the morning talking loudly and packing up their bags until they finally had to check out. We’ve stayed in 5 hostels this far and these were the worst roommates we’ve had by far.
Since we were up, thanks to our lovely roommates, we decided to start our day of hiking. We went to the closest grocery store to get fruit for breakfast and pack a lunch for our hike. We kind of forgot how small this town was, but were soon reminded once we walked into the store. We had 1 option for lunch, a sandwich already made with meat, cheese, a pickle, and a boiled egg. After some stretches and chugging our coffee we were off to Klet Mountain. Before we could even start the hike up the mountain we had to walk from our town to the trail. The first 5 minutes of not even being on the trail yet, Abby and I were huffing and puffing and needed a break. In our defense, it was all incline! Right before we got on the trail we saw a roe deer, which surprisingly was the only animal we saw that day! It was a perfect day for a hike, cloudy day with small showers. The first hour flew by quick, probably because we were on the bike path. We stopped for a drink and I said “We’re doing great, I’m not even tired!” I spoke too soon. We decided to go off the bike trail and went on an unbeaten path, which was all incline, all of it! Five minutes on this path and we needed a break; now we started to feel the burn. Lucky for Caleb and I with our long legs, we were a couple steps ahead of Abby for most of the trail: me especially, because Caleb was nice and tried to take smaller steps with her–while Abby thought she was taking extra huge steps to keep up. So, I got a couple more breaks, having to wait for Abby to catch up, and I wasn’t mad about that.
The trail is supposed to take 2.5 hours and we actually made it less than 2, so we aren’t that out of shape. If we would have done this trail at the beginning of our trip, it would have definitely been at least 2.5 hours. At the top of Klet Mountain you can see the Alps in Austria, which is amazing. There was also a restaurant at the top where we definitely rewarded ourselves with a beer. We spent about an hour on top of the mountain, enjoying the scenery and regrouping before we made our way back down. We thought the way down would be easy-peasy but we were wrong, that incline gets you no matter what way you’re going! On the way down we saw a couple with a small child walking up the mountain. The mom was helping this young child walk (I think he was just learning how to walk) and the dad was carrying the stroller the whole way up; made us feel pretty pathetic! Once we were down the mountain we went through another small town called Vysky, and stopped for a couple beers on the patio at a very small bar. The bartender barely spoke any English but came out and asked us where we were from. After we told him Nebraska, we heard him go inside and tell the other locals “Nebraska!” Four beers, two shots of vodka, two Sprites and less than 10 dollars later we started to make our way back to our hostel. It started down-pouring the second we got back to our hostel.
We were all getting ready to go out when we got to know or bunk-mate, Jason. He was from Brooklyn (originally Ohio so he understood our small town life) and was doing the same thing we were: quit his job and was traveling until the money ran out. We are always excited and ready to make friends, so we told him we should exchange information. He kind of dismissed the comment, leaving us a little butt-hurt. Abby told him if he wanted to meet us later at, of course, the Gorilla Bar, he could meet us for a drink. We left our hostel and were ready to go find some delicious Czech food. We found a spot by the river called U Daum Maryi. Abby ordered, you guessed it, goulash, which was the best we’ve all tasted by far. Caleb and I tend to share dishes because we are always wanting to try new things. We had roasted rabbit, millet (loved it) and more assorted dumplings–they seriously have a million types of dumplings, all delicious. After our bellies were full we decided to be a little venturous and try out a different bar, other than the Gorilla Bar. We ended up at a place called the Music Bar. The bar used to be an old mill and had a water wheel running through the inside and outside. This bar was huge and really cool. They had MTV on and it was even playing music, which doesn’t happen in the States. Even though the bar was a really cool place, we still missed our dive bar, so we made our way to our spot. Every time we were there we sat at the same table. Caleb would order two beers and the bartender would finish his sentence with “and vodka and Sprite.” Surprisingly to us, Jason ended up coming to the bar to join us for a beer. We were all going to have a short night, but that never happens here. We talked for a couple hours over a couple beers, sharing stories and enjoying each others company.
The next morning we actually got to sleep in later than 7 a.m., and woke up to a note from Jason, addressed to “the Huskers”, leaving us his contact information. We were all little giddy school girls because we weren’t sure if he liked us, but we must not have been too weird, go us! We had plans to raft that day, so we had a quick lunch (you know what Abby got) and loaded our bags up with beer for the trip. As we were renting the rafts, Caleb had to sign some papers. The girl’s smile grew once she saw Caleb had a Czech name and was very interested to learn more about him. We all got our own oars for the raft but they said the person in the front really just gets to sit back and enjoy the ride. I, of course, sat up front only to give the two love birds some privacy, maybe so I didn’t have to do as much work. We took the nature route on our raft ride, otherwise the whole town watches you raft down the river, and we weren’t about that. We were surrounded by beautiful trees, mountains and even a couple pit-stops where you could get a beer and food. We stopped at a place called the Marina and had two beers, a brat, and fries. Rafting down the river lasted about 4 hours, beer stop included. We reached the end and our guide was there to get us and our raft. I tried to get out too early and ended up falling in the water and scraping my arm right in front of our guide (he was, of course, cute).
We went back to our hostel to shower and being this is the most physical activity we had done in, years, we were ready to eat. After we met our new bunk-mate, who was the oldest one yet, at least late 60’s, we made our way to the brewery for another round of delicious Czech food. Abby, for once, got something besides goulash, sirloin with cream sauce and cranberry topping. Caleb and I shared a Czech favorite, roasted pork knuckle It was very delicious but too sweet for my liking. We were tired as hell from all of our physical activity but felt wrong not going to the Gorilla Bar on our last night. We made the short walk there and could only have 2 beers before our eyes were heavy, making the walk home seem not so short.
Our last day we didn’t have to catch our bus until 5 p.m. We were all so physically and mentally tired from the last couple of days of doing the most physical activity we have experienced all year, that we had very little motivation. We had the day to send postcards, do a little eye shopping, and of course eat more food. Abby and I had pork schnitzel (there was no goulash there otherwise Abby would have gotten that) and Caleb had a Krumlov pocket. Once we were full of hearty Czech food we couldn’t even pretend to act like tourists and walk around, so we made our way back to the hostel one last time to relax. I know some people think it’s crazy that we “wasted” a day relaxing, but those relaxing days come few and far between for us and they are needed! After relaxing we walked to our bus stop and waited for our bus to come. Luckily, it was only 30 minutes late, which is pretty good compared to some of our other rides. We made a quick 20 minute trip and we were in our next town, Ceske Budejovice.
Once we arrived, we still didn’t have enough energy to interact with humans, so we ran to the closest grocery store and grabbed a couple cheap frozen pizzas. Comparable to Totino’s but definitely better than that cardboard. We spent the night having a couple drinks with each other, relaxing, blogging and catching up with friends and family.
The next day we had planned to rent bikes and go explore a new castle but due to the rainy weather we decided to sleep in and save that for the next day instead. Eventually, we ventured out of our Airbnb and walked towards the town square. We found the ‘Black Tower’ and walked about 1 million stairs (225ish, but felt closer to 1 million) to the top of the tower. Next to the tower was the town square, which is the biggest town square in the Czech Republic. In the center of the square is a large fountain called the ‘Samson Fountain’. We continued to explore the area until we got hungry and then attempted to find somewhere to eat. After a quick Google search we decided on Masne Kramy for our last Czech meal. Masne Kramy used to be a butcher shop/meat market back in the day but has since been converted to a bar and restaurant. Immediately after we had all decided where to eat a man that had been at the tower the same time as us walked up to us and asked, “Are you from here?” We’re pretty accustomed to people asking us questions we don’t know the answers to so we all shook our heads ‘no’ and apologized. “Oh, so you speak English?” he responded, “Do you know where Masne Kramy is? We’re trying to find somewhere to eat.” We all laughed and showed him our Google maps to the same destination as we explained to him we had just decided to eat there moments before he came over. “Coincidence and fate are a strange thing if you believe in all that,” he said laughing. We couldn’t agree more: we’ve had a lot of incidences of strange coincidences throughout this trip. Following our delicious meals of goulash for Abby (of course), roasted pork, cabbage and dumplings for Caleb and chicken and pork kebabs with some jacket potatoes (Google it, they’re great) for me. We saw the guy that had asked us about the restaurant with his friend and went over to chat for a bit. We were all stuffed after eating so we bought some beers and headed back to our place to recoup. The night before we had noticed there was a bar a few feet from our place so we decided to check it out after we pregamed for a little at our place. It was a small cafe/bookstore/bar where very little English was spoken. We had a few drinks, one round of shots (Becherovka Lemond) and then we walked the 10 feet back to our place.
When we woke up it was beautiful outside so we got ready and headed out to get bikes and go the the castle. We ate some vendor kebab wraps (goat meat, cabbage and all things delicious) and rented bikes for the 5 mile ride to the castle grounds. Some of us had a more difficult time than others on the ride up due to the steep incline (Abby) but we made it up in one piece despite accidentally riding on the highway for a little bit before finding the bike trail. The Schwarzenberg Castle and gardens were beautiful and we spent a couple hours taking in everything before we rewarded ourselves with some drinks. Our bike trail home took us past a very cool adrenaline park where adults can drink while their kids play on things that we all wanted to play on. Instead, we did the adult thing and got one more drink before we biked the 5 miles back home. We capped off the night with stuffed green peppers back at our place and a few more drinks, getting ready for the next day where we would have a nice 7 hour bus ride to our next destination, Vienna.