The 27th was a relaxing day of doing just about nothing. We did spend some time visiting a couple of shops and packing but beyond that nothing major for sure. Nice to have a relaxing day prior to flying home.
On the 28th, our driver picked us up and we headed to the airport. After departing Prague we flew via Amsterdam back to LAX – resulting in being ‘awake’ for 24 hours. It was a great trip and there are parts I can certainly see going back to for more adventures. If you have followed along throughout our trip – I hope you enjoyed it. We had a great time and are already looking forward to our next trip in September 2017!
In 1278, Henry, the abbot of the Cistercian monastery in Sedlec, was sent to the Holy Land by King Otakar II of Bohemia. He returned with him a small amount of earth he had removed from Golgotha and sprinkled it over the abbey cemetery. The word of this pious act soon spread and the cemetery in Sedlec became a desirable burial site throughout Central Europe. In the mid 14th century, during the Black Death, and after the Hussite Wars in the early 15th century, many thousands were buried in the abbey cemetery, so it had to be greatly enlarged. Around 1400, a Gothic church was built in the center of the cemetery with a vaulted upper level and a lower chapel to be used as an ossuary for the mass graves unearthed during construction, or simply slated for demolition to make room for new burials. In 1870, František Rint, a woodcarver, was employed by the Schwarzenberg family to put the bone heaps into order, yielding a macabre result.
A visit to this Ossuary is a bit macabre what with all the bones around – many in piles, many in decorative forms – actually a little creepy.
After our visit, we walked over to the Sedlec – the first Cisterican monastery in Bohemia – founded in 1142. An unusual feature is the ability to walk above the vaulted ceilings in the attic and see some of the construction required.
On either side of the Alter were two glass cases hold the Relics of two saints – on the left is St. Vincent – Martyr of ancient room donated by Pope Benedict XIV on the occasion of the 600th anniversary of monastery foundation.
Another church in town is the Cathedral of St. Barbora. Around the courtyard of the church was a medieval style fair happening with people in costume and period games and entertainment being performed. We didn’t join in as it was rather cool and looking like rain. However, we did venture into the Cathedral for a look around.
After a delightful lunch with Ilona, we heading out for more Castle visits.
One more stop for the day was to was to Konopiste. This Castle had been modified many times ultimately being purchased by Franz Ferdinand d’Este in 1887. At the time, he was the richest member of the Habsburg family at the time and at 21 started to make over this Castle to his liking. Franz was not considered to be a candidate for succession to the throne but that all changed when the King’s brother died of typhus in 1896. Even with this possibility, he married Sophie Chotek – who was not considered of high enough birth to be present at the court of the King. Regardless, Franz was in love and they married and lived mostly in Konopiste only visiting Vienna when required to do so. The castle was modernized during the early 1900’s with electricity and additional bathrooms being installed.
The Castle had a large park around it – all the result of Franz buying up everything around and tearing down all the buildings including a small village. Within the grounds he established various hunting areas, a pond, gardens and all related items to support his luxury lifestyle.
At the moat, just around the Castle, there were kept several bears – still to this day they are present.
We didn’t tour the Castle as the last tour was being done in the Czeck language – didn’t think we could following along.
After walking around a bit, Janeen went to the Gardens of course.
This Castle is significant as the Seat of power for Franz Ferdinand, the successor to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and his wife Sophie. When they were assassinated in 1914 it participated the start of World War I.
Prior to leaving for this trip, I had arranged a guide to take us out of Prague and into some of the historical sites. We were picked up by Ilona and her husband, Peter, who acted as the driver and off we went.
The first stop was to Český Krumlov Castle located about 2 ½ hours outside of Prague. The Castle dates back to 1240 when the first castle was built by the Witigonen family, the main branch of the powerful Rosenberg family. For the next several hundred years it pass through a number of Noble families ultimately passing to the Schwarzenbergs. After WW II it ultimately became a property of the Czech government. The entire area, castle, village and surround areas, were declared a national monument in 1989 and in 1992 it was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
We started our tour in the gardens of the castle at the top of the hill and walked through several squares ultimately getting to the main gate of the castle and into the town. Along the way we had beautiful views of the river, the village and the surround buildings.
With each square there were interesting sites to see – faux windows and doors on the walls, representations of the coat of arms of the Rosenberg family and historical objects like rock cannon balls. Interior shots of the Castle show how richly appointed all the rooms are.
After leaving the castle we walked through a portion of the village and across a bridge to the main section.
The village has winding small cobblestone streets lined with shops, restaurants and open areas – squares. We walked to an over look to look back at the castle and through the church.
Note the stones at the corner of the buildings. This was to protect them from horse and carriage impacts.
After a lunch of local fare we headed back to the car to continue our adventure. This view of the castle shows the walkways created to separate various levels of society. The top level was for the Noble’s to walk from the Castle to the gardens, the middle level was for servants and the lower level was for access to the Theatre from the Castle.
After connecting with Peter, we drove to České Budějovice for a quick tour around the square with it’s impressive buildings.
Budějovice has long been well known for the beer brewed there since the 13th century. For a time, the town was the imperial brewery for the Holy Roman Emperor, and Budweiser Bier (i.e. beer from Budweis) became, along with Pilsner from Plzeň, one of the best-known lagers. Brewing remains a major industry. This is the town that the American brewer took the name for Budweiser Beer
From here we went on to Hluboka Castle. This historic chateau and is considered to be one of the most beautiful castles in the Czech Republic. In the second half of the 13th century, a castle was built at this location and rebult several times over the years. Finally being modified into it’s current form by Adam Franz von Schwarzenberg in the beginning of the 18th century. It is in the romantic style of England’s Windsor Castle. The owner fled the country in 1939 to escape from the Nazis.
Today’s adventures were all south of Prague. Tomorrow we head east to see other sites not normally on the common tour route.
As mentioned in yesterday’s post Janeen found an artist who’s jewelry she liked. This involved her buying a lovely necklace and a bracelet. Well, the design was such that it was a gold and silver piece but the two pieces (bracelet and necklace) didn’t match. So today, as it was HOT, we called an Uber and got a ride to the third shop of the store that represented the artist. Unfortunately they didn’t have anything that would resolve this issue. We went for a great lunch at Kampa Park Restaurant for a nice bottle of Sav Blanc and lunch.
We were right on the river and watched the boats going back and forth on their various tours.
Insofar as we didn’t resolve the jewelry issue, we called Uber again and went back to the original store (also the “flagship” location) to see what they could do. Well, the staff were very friendly and with only a little prompting by me called the Artist directly to see about making adjustments to the necklace and bracelet. Well, not a problem they said – we can ship it to you in 4 to 6 weeks. Naturally I took a picture of them
and with only an addition 200 Czech Koruna (8.40 US) the deal was done. Of course this only made the total value of our purchases in the 7000 Koruna range. But Janeen will be happy and it will arrive in time for our anniversary (I hope).
On our way back to the Hotel we stopped for a quick picture (standing in the street) of the Powder Tower.
The Estates Theatre was built during the late 18th century in response to the Enlightenment thought regarding general access to the theatre, and theatres themselves demonstrating the cultural standards of a nation. The Estates Theatre was designed and built a little less than two years for the aristocrat Count Nostitz Rieneck. Currently productions include a variety of productions – drama, opera, music, plays – and the schedule changes virtually every day requiring the stage to be reset daily. Our visit included a nice tour of the building, a visit to several boxes and a performance by several musicians.
After the tour of the Theatre, we went to the Municipal House. This is a civic building originally built in the 1380’s but destroyed but ultimately rebuilt in 1905. It was finally opened in 1912 and has a large auditorium and a number of “waiting” rooms around the outside of the main auditorium. It is notable for having a good deal of art installations done by Alfons Mucha, Jan Preisler and others. Today it is used as a concert hall, ballroom, civic building and I was temped to get tickets to see Diane Reeves who was scheduled for Friday evening.
Lunch at the Municipal Building wasn’t anything to write about but at least it was filling and in an interesting environment.
From there we went shopping as Janeen had found an artist’s work in the gift shop she liked so we had to track down where we could see other examples. This ended up as trip to a nice shop at which we purchased a lovely necklace (more on that tomorrow). This involved going to two of the three shops but again more on that tomorrow.
We did stop in Old Town Square for a nice bottle of wine. It was SO hot, the water truck showed up to wet down the plaza and people as desired.
Heading back to our hotel took pictures of a couple of interesting buildings.
That evening we connected with Jerry and Gloria and took another Uber to dinner at Divine Cafe and Wine Bar. Sitting in the patio we enjoyed a lovely dinner of the special of the day.
The following day Jerry and Gloria were to fly home so this was to be our final meal on this trip with them and it certainly was enjoyable. A cab ride back to the hotel and the day was finished.
Prague is widely considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world, its called the Golden City. The variety of architectural forms is an extraordinary harmony, the city can watch all directions and styles, where Romanesque and Gothic buildings, built in Renaissance and Baroque whimsically combined with more recent trends: modernism, cubism. It will take several days to experience all the splendor of the Czech capital.
On our way into the city, we passed by this building – called The Dancing House, or Fred and Ginger, is the nickname given to the building designed by Frank Gehry – that’s right the same architect who designed the Walt Disney Concert Hall in LA.
We arrived at the Art Deco Imperial Hotel just a few blocks from the Old Town Square.
After getting checked in, we went down the street to a burger place and had a wonderful lunch (with a couple of brews) and chatted up locals at the adjacent tables. It is amazing to me that English is so common in Europe and yet we don’t speak other languages. O’well, maybe I start classes at PCC.
After lunch we walked along the river ultimately finding our way to the Old Town Square passing interesting restored buildings, the Astronomical Clock. This was installed in 1410 making it the third-oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest one still operating. We were there in time for the 4 o’clock strike where all the movement operates – really something to see.
After another break for a beverage we went to our dinner spot – Wine O’Clock Shop. This was a small place with basically small plates available and lots of Italian Wines. It appears Veronika, the Owner, likes Italian wines and imports them from a small region along the eastern coast down by the boot. As part of our small plate dinner, Veronika made this really wonderful blue cheese dish.
After finishing we headed back to the hotel to get ready for the next day in Prague.
As the river would not allow the boat to go further along our path, UniWorld arrange a Coach tour into the Bavarian Forest. This was a nice alternative and included a site seeing tour along the route, a horse drawn coach adventure through the forest, a visit to a glass museum, a glass factory and a lovely lunch.
After we returned we packed up for tomorrows trip to Prague and had the Captian’s Farewell Dinner. All and all a very nice day.
Regensburg is situated at the confluence of the Danube, Naap and Regen Rivers and is the 4th largest city in the State of Bavaria in Germany. The medieval center of the city is 2,000 years old having been originally settled by the Romans. Many of the buildings have been restored and the entire city is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and thus is protected from any changes being made. We visited this city during our last adventure to this part of the world and I was looking forward to returning for a visit.
Between 1135 and 1146, the Stone Bridge (so called as it is made of stones across the Danube was built. It is undergoing a renovation to restore the road surface and walls so we could not walk the entire length of it only a portion. This bridge opened major international trade routes between northern Europe and Venice and this began Regensburg’s golden age as a residence of wealthy trading families as it provided a major access point across the river.
Wealthy merchants would build towers to impress – not for any other function. There are still a number that are evident throughout the city.
After our guided tour we stopped in for a nice lunch – with beer of course.
Along the banks of the Danube is the oldest Sausage Kitchen originally felt to have stated with the building of the Stone Bridge around 1146 – and is notable as perhaps the oldest continuously open public restaurant in the world. We stopped for a Sausage prior to rejoining our group for the return to the boat.
Just before we got to Passau, we had a lock to pass and a spillway – which I believe is a generating power plant. This lock was about the separate from Austria to Germany. Once we docked, I noticed this canoe group bailing out the rain water that was making their trip quite an adventure. Why you would want to canoe on this river is beyond me. Altho, there was a group of our fellow passengers who decided to do a bike adventure – 17 miles – from our last port of call to Passau arriving just before lunch. Gloria, our friend from North Carolina was part of this group – it rained virtually the entire time of their ride. Again, not sure why this group did this but they all said it was fantastic and thAfter docking in Passau, which is situated in Germany along the Austrian border and lies at the confluence of the Danube, Inn and Ilz rivers. Known as the Three Rivers City, it is overlooked by the Veste Oberhaus, a 13th-century hilltop fortress housing a museum and observation tower. The old town below is known for its baroque architecture, including St. Stephen’s Cathedral, featuring distinctive onion-domed towers and an organ with 17,974 pipes. We arrived late morning and after lunch boarded the bus for a tour of the city.
From the hilltop fortress we could see down to the city and the various buildings and see how the rivers converge on this city.
After returning to the boat we learned there was a significant high water issue and we may not be able to proceed further. Time will tell on this issue – tomorrow we head to Regensburg.
We motored along the river, passing lovely little villages like Durnstein
as we found our way to Spitz for a day tour of this little village.
We started off with a visit to a nautical museum – showing the various boats used on the Danube over the years and how they moved these boats both down stream – easy of course – and upstream – very hard for sure.
To bring the boats back up river they would use horses to pull them – and depending on the size of the boat there could be up to 100 or so horses all linked together. Needless to say, not a rapid process of moving along.
They even built a large sailing ship in an attempt to work their way up and down the river. This model included the ‘poop’ deck at the bow.
After our tour, we walked through the little village of Spitz – fortunately it was Sunday so all the shops (of which there were very few) were closed. It was interesting, however, how the Village has created a wall they can install along the river bank to protect them from flooding As you can see by this picture, they have had a bit of a problem with high water over the years. The high water marks along this building were very telling – we were about 5 feet above the current water level of the river already. To try and save the village they created a barricade wall they can install along the bank of the river. This is a removal iron wall that takes a couple days to install but certainly makes a difference in the safety of the village.
This is the starting point of the wall and insets between the concrete column in the above picture along the curb wall along the river.
Once completed with our adventures in town we returned to the boat for a little wine tasting of local wines. The primary wines are all whites – with Gruner Veltlier being the primary varietal. This was a pleasant tasting and had the wine shop been open I would have picked up a bottle or two. The wines we tasted are only available locally.
For lunch we enjoyed a light repast on the Sun Deck of the ship – very pleasant.