Friday, July 18, 2008
Cesky Krumlov - The FINAL CUT!
Song of the Day: Paul Kelly (Australian) - Deeper Water
After Prague, I was off to a small village near the southern border of Czech, called Cesky Krumlov. It was really hot that day, and none of thew Czech trains have air conditioning, so I was roasting the entire way there. Actually, the Czech rail system is probably the worst one I’ve encountered yet. Going from place to place always ends up being a nightmare, but at least in most of Europe the trains are quiet, clean, and fast. Travelling in Germany or France is heaven – their trains are always on time, and are really comfortable. I guess Czech didn’t get the memo. Whereas a German train is like riding in a brand new Mercedes, a Czech train is like riding in a 1984 Ford Festiva – the one you bought for $200 from that homeless guy that has one tire smaller than the rest and in which you have to turn off the heat and the headlights to go up steep hills.
But anyway, due to construction work at one of the stations I was going through, they made everyone get off the train, but didn’t tell us where to go or what to do. I looked for another train to Cesky Krumlov, but there wasn’t one. I went up to the window where the 85-year-old woman that didn’t speak English awaited me. "Cesky Krumlov?" I said. She pulls out a piece of paper and draws a picture of a bus, then a bunch of arrows. Okay, I think she’s telling me I need to take a bus, and that it’s somewhere far away (hence the maze of arrows). At the bottom, she wrote "400m." Okay, so I’m taking bus 400m, somewhere far away from here. I grab the paper and stumble out into the heat of the day, trying to find this elusive bus stop.
Outside, there are approximately 67,000 buses, none of which say Cesky Krumlov on the side. I walk up and down every side street looking for bus 400m, but can’t seem to find it. A long story short, there is no bus 400m. The woman was telling me to walk 400 meters in the direction of the arrows. But by the time I figured that out, the bus that I’d been trying to catch had already left. No big deal, right? Another should be here soon, yeah? Nope – two and a half hours I had to wait for the next bus, sitting on my backpack in the middle of an empty parking lot. Thanks, Czech.
I did, however, get to Cesky Krumlov eventually, although it took me about 8 hours for a journey that should have taken 3. Luckily, Cesky Krumlov is very small, so I was able to find my hostel pretty easily.
Now, one thing I’ve noticed throughout my trip is that I don’t find things nearly as impressive as I did when I first started. For example – I’ve seen a lot of cathedrals, and they’re all really nice. But after seeing something like Notre Dame, it’s much harder to be impressed with one. I find I’m taking substantially less pictures now than when I did when I first started, due to this reason. So, whenever I go to a new place, the bar is always set high as to how impressed I’ll be. Luckily, Cesky Krumlov one-upped any of the places I’d yet been to.
Cesky is really small, with a population of only about 15,000 – a big contrast to Prague, where I’d just come from. The town’s narrow cobblestone streets wind through 500-year-old architecture, often crossing the river that runs through the center of town. When it’s warm, you can rent a raft or kayak on every block and float down the river. Cesky even has its own castle, though it’s much smaller than the one in Prague. However, Prague can’t say that its castle is guarded by a bear moat, as the one in Cesky is. Yep, they dug a moat, but instead of filling it with water, they threw some brown bears in there instead. It’s a tradition that’s gone on for 500 or 600 years, so the bears still live at the castle today. Perhaps, whenever I get my first apartment, I could guard it with a bear moat.
While there isn’t a whole lot to see in Cesky Krumlov, it’s definitely a great place to chill out and relax. On my first full day, I went out and walked around for a few hours, and then checked out the castle. The castle tower gave some awesome views of the town. Also, the castle has a huge garden that I hung out in for a while. The gardens are the part of the castle that’s furthest from the town, so they were practically empty. For lunch, I ate pizza on a terrace with a view of the castle (they love their terraces here). Instead of going on for an hour about how nice this place is, just look at these pictures and see for yourself.
Now, when I got home, I had planned on getting some dinner and then getting my life organized. "Getting organized" includes updating the blog, uploading my pictures, booking my next few hostels, making phone calls, checking my bank accounts/credit cards, checking e-mail, checking train times for the following day, figuring out how to get to my next hostel, doing laundry, and normally about a million other things as well. Although I don’t talk about it much, there’s a ton of day-to-day crap that always has to be taken care of, which is always a pain. I try to allocate a few hours every day or two so that I can do all of these things. However, without fail, every time I sit down to do it, I end up meeting someone from a far-away land and hanging out with them for hours, never accomplishing anything. Tonight was no different. When I got back to the hostel, there were a bunch of people sitting at the table in the courtyard, getting ready to smoke a hookah that one of them had. They invited me over, so I sat down for a while.
This time, we had Sam (Australia) and his girlfriend Eve (French-Canadian). Then we had Jhmel, from Singapore, and finally, Mark and Andrea, a married couple from Boston. The six of us sat around talking a while, and smoking the hookah, which Sam had brought. Actually, it’s a funny story as to how he acquired it. He bought it in Morocco, but it was so big that he couldn’t fit it into his bag. Therefore, in true backpacker form, he gave away half of his belongings so that he would have more space in his pack. I remember him saying he gave away a bunch of clothes, including a jacket and a tie, so I thought that was pretty funny. He did say that he’d been wearing the same pair of pants for two months, however.
Sam and Eve were nice enough to cook me pasta for dinner, which was cool since it saved me some money. After that, Mark and Andrea went out for dinner, so the rest of us decided to go out to a tavern that was about 5 steps away from our hostel. They had outdoor seating (of course) which was literally right on the bank of the river, and it was awesome at night. We joked about how people back home would have killed to be where we were at that moment, and all we had to do was walk out our front door. We pretty much stayed until the place closed, and at that point we ordered some beers to go (which they poured straight from the tap into 1.5-liter plastic water bottles) and took them back to the hostel. Once home, the four of us sat around listening to music on my laptop and talking. Jhmel, the girl from Singapore, went to bed earlier, but Sam, Eve, and I stayed up for another hour or two. We would go back and forth playing songs that we liked, and I’ve got some new tunes that I’d never heard of before. The song of the day was actually a song that Sam showed me by an Australian artist. It was a blast, and I made sure to get their contact info before I left for Munich the next day.