Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Karlstejn, Czech Republic

Ammo for Sam, poppies and wheat(?) fields, and town.

After 5 days in Prague, we held our last practice. Now, we were just supposed to rest up for the tournament. However, my excitement to play at Worlds wasn't going to tolerate that. I was entirely too wound up and needed to do something about. Earlier in the week, someone had mentioned a bike tour out to Karlstejn Castle 20 miles away. That sounded like just what I needed. It would get me away from the city and use it up some of my spare energy.

A one pub town on the way to Karlstejn.

I got up early to dodge the oppresive heat and make sure I was in Karlstejn by time Hannan arrived via train. I started out on the city bike lanes and transferred to the bike paths along the river. I was in heaven biking without any cobblestone or tram lines to jar my ride. It was such a treat to just open up. I followed the Vltava River south past the villages around Prague. It was nice riding, but not super scenic. I think the most curious thing was the number of men out fishing. Some looked like they lived out of their cars near the river.

The Romantic Hotel, just outside of Karlstejn.

Eventually, I saw a road sign that said Karlstejn was off to the side. I wasn't sure how far I'd gone, so I decided to switch to the road since I didn't want to miss it and didn't have anything but my own hand drawn map. In many ways, this was a good preparation ride for finding my way to new areas during my up coming bike tour when I lack enough good information. As it turned out, I could have followed the flat river route farther, but the hilly road route was much more scenic. It took me into the heart of the Czech villages and pass farm fields. Also, coasting down the hills is always a treat. I definitely felt guilty for riding hills when I supposed to be resting my legs, but I had to do something to get the stir crazy out.

Karlstejn Castle.

Bike trail? No, that sign means no biking.

A view of the castle from town.

After 10K on the road, I rolled into Karlstejn. Along the main road, there was almost nothing. However, along the single road to the castle there were more dedicated tourist shops than I had seen in all of Prague up to that point. After 2 miles of walking my bike up the hill through the pedestrian zone (that cars were still allowed to drive through), I finally arrived at the castle, but had to head right back down to Hannan, who, even though we didn't make definite plans, was walking away from the train station just as I biked up. Brilliant.


Hike in the woods.

We went back up the hill, off on a side hike to poppy fields, and through some wonderfully cool woods before finally getting up to the castle. After a short visit, we were back headed back to Prague on the train to try and meet up for a team activity.


Karlstejn Castle

Beautiful castle. Beautiful countryside. On my bike. Great day. I like any place more when I visit it on my bike so this trip could be biased.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Kutna Hora, Czech Republic

Poppy fields on the train ride.

Run down buildlings.

Kutna Hora train station.

During our first week in Prague, we split our time between practice and exploring. One day, a few of us went out to the town of Kunta Hora. It was a short one hour train ride and we were hoping to explore the bone church. It was neat.  I thought it might be a little creepy, but it wasn't. I don't know why. It just worked. I'm guessing it has to do with the fact that the people's remains are so old and so far removed from me.

The center of one of the bone church pyramids.

The family emblem of someone who took over the church for a while and reduced the bone stacks from 6 to 4.

A close up.

These images seemed a little weird side by side.

More bone decorations.

Bone chandelier.

Bone signature.

The bone church goes by many names, including the Kostnice and Sedlec Ossuary. It was once just a regular church that had a very large cemetery due to the Black Plague sweeping through Europe. At some point in the 1400's, the decision was made to shrink the graveyard and 40,000 bodies were uninterred. In 1511, a half blind monk stacked them into six pyramids. Later in 1870, the church was sold to a family who had a wood carver restack the bones, create their family emblem, and decorate the inside of the church.

Sedlec church 

Great wood work. Can we still do this skilled labor?

The rafters.

After a great visit in the bone church, we were off to explore the other town sights, eat a lot, and do our best not to overheat or overuse our legs.  Near the bone church was a UNESCO heritage site, the Sedlec Cathedral. After a few trips to Europe in the past, I'm really hesitant to visit too many religious places and get cathedral overload, but it was neat.  My favorite part was probably the walkway through the ceiling to an overlook from the back of the church because it showed us something we don't normally see.

My own ice tea company.  Who knew?!?!?  If only they spelled my name right.

Pizza place.

Random street.

Old building in town.

Modern meets medieval.

Another old avenue.

This lady was great. Hair dying and smoking and just strolling the streets.

After the Sedlec Cathedral, we went out to eat where I found out that I have my very own ice tea company. I think it was based out of Edinburgh. I'll have to go get some free samples soon.  The rest of the town was a great maze of cobblestone streets. The town was laid out in medievil times so it didn't quite adhere to a particular grid. I loved it. I could spend a fews days just wandering those streets. I felt like the people were friendlier out there too, but isn't that always true of towns in the country versus the cities?

Jesuit college and the Cathedral of St. Barbara.

Too showy for me.

Pagan faces on the church?

Great view.
Our last stop in town was at a Jesuit college and another UNESCO site, the Cathedral of St. Barbara.  I knew I was reaching my limit so I laid in the grass instead of visiting the college. I took a quick peak inside the gothic/baroque cathedral, but it didn't inspire the same way the last one did. I think I love the grandiose buildings, but I don't like the fancy shrines. The second church was decorated a bit over the top for my liking, but that probably has a lot to do with the fact I'm not there for religious reasons.  The outside of the church had some great decorations. However, one of the ones that was most curious to me were animal faces beside human faces.  I don't know my church symbolism, but I didn't that was supposed to happen. Maybe it had to do with most of the builders still being pagan. I don't know. Any ideas?

While we waited to catch a bus back to the train, we found this statue. I don't know anything about Dvorak except that he was responsible for inventing a different typing style from the QWERTY keyboard we normally use. It isn't very popular, but my younger brother, David, loves it. David, this picture is for you. I don't know why he isn't holding a keyboard or at least a typewriter.

Your typing mentor, Dvorak.