Hiking in the Czech Switzerland (České Švýcarsko)

Oh my goodness. I had no idea I did this much hiking.

This is the last of the Czech Republic hikes, but really, this is just the beginning of all the rest. I have a hike in Santorini and many hikes in Colorado and Utah yet to come. But enjoy the last post (for now) that includes hiking in lush forested areas! Because we’re all about the arid and dry from then on out…

České Švýcarsko is a little but fabulous hiking region right on the border between Germany and the Czech Republic. It was name by two Swiss guys because of (you guessed it!) how much it reminded them of their home country.

It’s very easy to reach by public transit from Prague (like many Bohemian hikes), is clearly marked out so you don’t get lost (like many Bohemian hikes), is full of beautiful natural wonders (like many Bohemian hikes), and also has many little pit-stops for beer and food (…like many Bohemian hikes).

So basically it’s great (like many Bohemian hikes).

You start out by taking a train to Děčín, a small town near the border (takes maybe an hour and a half? I don’t remember exactly), then hoping a local bus to an even smaller little town called Hřensko.

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Hřensko is a bit touristy and full of everything German, so if you’re going to be staying the night somewhere, make it Děčín or some town halfway through a long hiking route.

BUT, Hřensko is also just so adorably cute and really fun to try to pronounce.

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Either get off on the bus stop in Hřensko and head across the small stream and go right to get out of the town, or watch the others get off then go the next stop, which is up a fairly long stretch of rather boring uphill road and conveniently puts you at the actual trailhead. (We took the first option, and while it was good to grab coffee and go to the bathroom, it was kind of an unnecessary walk to the trailhead)

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Then, continue on into the forest for roughly 3 km. You’ll pass beautiful rock formations and tree-lined paths, all the while led along by the ever-present red and white markers .*

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Seriously, it’s pretty.

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Then, near the end of those 3 kilometers, you’ll notice the slope rising. Suddenly, in front of you are some man-made switchbacks and a huge natural arch. It’s the Pravčická brana, or the “Pravčická gate,” the largest natural arch** in the Czech Republic and the symbol of the whole region.

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But wait! There’s more!

Turn the corner, and you’re greeted to a beautiful, ornate restaurant, perched on the cliff above you, right into the cliff.*** It’s called the Sokolí hnízdo, or the “Falcon’s Nest,” and, lucky you, it’s your first stop for food and beer.

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After rewarding yourself for the climb with a cold, great Czech beer and some hearty snacks at the food stand (or a full meal in the restaurant), take a look around.

You can no longer climb on top of the arch, but there are view points at the base of it, as well as on the other side of the rock formations, as seen in the photo below (look at the tiny people at the top of the rocks).

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And the views from all angles are gorgeous.

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Then, head down from the gate and make your next decision. Do you want to go to the left and back the way you came? or do you want to head right and continue on? You’re next point to turn around is at Mezní Louka, a tiny town another 4.4 km away. And then from there you can again choose – head right and follow the path in a loop back around to Hřensko, continue on to another stop.

The loop to and from Hřensko will take 5-6 hours, and be about 15 km. The path from Hřensko to Mezní Louka and on will be…8.3 km plus however much else.

But of course, if you’re doing a day hike like we were, you can still stop and catch a bus in various places along your route. Just make sure to know what they are!

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We just barely scratched the surface of the Czech Switzerland on our route, although we did hike something like 20 km (we kept going after Mezní Louka) and managed to see the most famous beautiful and famous spot of the area.

But were I to go back, I would definitely spend a weekend there, exploring the other rock formations and leisurely hiking from small town to small town.

The Czech countryside is perfect for that in general, but maybe no place more-so than České Švýcarsko.

So pack your day-packs, folks, and get out of the city!

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Logistics:

The bus from Děčín to Hřensko can be found right outside the train station, to the right, I believe. Just look for a crowd that looks like it’s going to go hiking (we were accompanied by quite a few couples, families, families with dogs, and a boyscout-like troop) then check the schedules for the bus going to Hřensko.

– to read the schedule (and any schedule in the CZ), notice the city names go from top to bottom. The one in bold is the stop where you are now. All those names not in bold above it are the previous stops it makes BEFORE it gets to you. The ones not in bold below it are the stops it will take you to AFTER your stop. You’ll notice all the times it comes to your stop posted on it as well.

Here are some suggestions of hiking routes in the Czech Switzerland. More info about the Pravčická Brána is here, and more information about the České Švýcarsko in general is here and here.

Before, in this post, I showcased some of the photos from this same trip (many photos are actually repeats, I’m afraid, in this current one).

If you’re looking for general information of hiking in the CZ, look here, and if you want other posts of different routes you can take, check out this post, or this one or this one.

And as always, here’s the link for the buses and trains. Print off/have a good map beforehand, know your return bus/train times, and bring water and snacks and layers!

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*And the ever-present stream of other people. I’m not used to hiking on such populated trails. But it was still very pleasant and nature-rejuvenating experience.

**The arch is impressive at 26.5 m wide, or 86 ft. For some context, though, Utah has quite a few larger ones. For example, the Morning Glory Arch outside Moab is 74 m and 243 ft long, and the Landscape Arch (the 2nd longest arch in the world) is 88 m, or 290 ft, wide.

***The whole thing feels very Wes Anderson/Budapest Hotel.

The Chaos and Beauty of Sprawling Athens

The real Athens is not the serenely old Akropolis, sitting on a green and dry hill.

Athens is a massive, busy, humming, graffitied, hodge-podge of a city. From the moment you step out of the airport to the moment you get on that ferry bound for the calmer islands, all your senses are assaulted with wild smells, rambling architecture, and sounds galore. Sounds of people, traffic, tourists, loudspeakers, and cats. It’s a city that’s very much alive.

But it’s the visuals you get of this city that really just reinforce this (great? overwhelming?) feeling of movement all around you.

For example, even in the quieter local neighborhoods you still see buildings and wires and cars crowding your vision.

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In our time there, we did find one magically calm morning of walking through tourist streets, but just a few hours later, when we returned, this whole section of the city looked like Charles Bridge at 1pm on a sunny day.

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And once in a while, if you really make an effort you’ll stumble upon a small, sleepy, picturesque side street,

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but more often than not it will be full of wires and cracks and spray paint.

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But what’s really cool is when you start to reach a vantage point of one of the city’s hills (the Akropolis being the main one).

You see ancient stonework mobbed by the moving city around it.

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As you pull your gaze towards the horizon, the city starts to sprawl before you.

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Stretching out and out until you reach more hills, or the sea.

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It’s so much fun to be in the crush and then to visually experience it from above – seeing how history and modernity exist side by side.

It’s a beautiful sight.

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4 Awesome Links to Make Your Friday Better

Piazza Navona, Rome, great place with great bars just off it.

Eeep! There has been just non-stop moving in/cleaning/job hunt going on over here. But I think we’re starting to get into the swing of things….

Your links!

Well, this first one is just because it’s, well, a young Harrison Ford. No other reason ;)

A Cup of Jo wrote an interesting article a while back – a piece on people who only wear one color

This apple and honey cake looks so so good!!!

And, who doesn’t want to see iconic portraits recreated with John Malkovich? I know I do.

Why Greeks Wear Black

Did you know that traditionally, when a woman’s husband dies in Greece, that she is supposed to wear black in mourning for the rest of her life? That’s a long time. A looong time. It also explains why so many little old ladies walking around Greece are all in black, in the heat.*

But it doesn’t explain why many other Greeks also chose to sport that color. Pretty sure it was just a fashion choice, which kind of baffled me. Seems like the wrong color to choose to wear in 40 (100 F) degree weather….

*Apparently men also have to traditionally do it for 40 days or so (and when I say traditionally, I mean both men and women wearing black in mourning is becoming more and more rare these days)

The Hardest Part About Travel (And It’s Not What You Think)

I’ve been struggling a fair amount recently about travel. Not about anything that happened to me during a trip, but in fact quite the contrary.

Sometimes, the hardest part about travel is being home,

and I was “at home”, in a small town in America, for 9 months.

This might not seem like such a big deal to some, but let me be clear. I was only supposed to be here 1 month. Because of bureaucracy and the ineptitude of certain programs, I’ve been stuck for a long, long time, with no current end in sight, in a town with very little to do and surrounded by people who have very little in common with me.

And sure, I might not be making friends because our political views are, on average, about as polar opposite as you can get (or something equally isolating), but mainly? Mainly it’s because they never have and don’t ever care to live abroad.

They don’t know the enjoyment of drastically stretching yourself every day. Of learning new quirks and getting to know the maze of streets. Or of feeling great because you’ve finally mastered the way to properly enter and exit a grocery store.

They don’t have the same complaints of how punishingly hard it is to stick out like a sore thumb day in and day out (but how ultimately rewarding, too). Of how fleeting relationships can be when people move in and out of your life so quickly, so constantly, or of how amazing it can be to realize you have friends in 3 of the 5 countries you’re planning to visit this summer.

And they don’t get how frustrating it is to suddenly find yourself grinding to a halt and becoming stagnant in your home country – where you don’t meet new people from different countries every day, where you don’t come home with four new words every day, and where you aren’t learning so many new things just by existing in a place not your own.

Really, at this point, home becomes alien, “a place not your own”. A place you would give a whole lot to escape from.

And this feeling, while not life threatening or damaging or even all that sad on a grand scale of things, is wearing. It wears you down until you just want to give up.

But then again, to give up would just keep you there, at home. Forever.

The Fairytale Forest and Hiking up to Bezděz Castle

Are these trees supposed to look like that? I ask my friend as we hike through a beautiful but eerily colored forest in Bohemia. Uhh, yeah, I think so. Or else, I don’t think any thing is wrong with them, he replies.

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Man I hope so! I think as I take another photo. I’m in central Europe, the home of ancient stories and medieval castles, and I want to believe fairytale forests like this just exist.

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Because not only are those trees just breathtakingly green, red, and brown, but that lush ground covering that just completes the image? Those are blueberries.

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Blueberries for acres in any direction.

This is a magically beautiful forest that feeds you delicious snacks along your hike. And it can’t get better than that.

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Well, actually, it can, because this magically beautiful forest that feeds you delicious snacks along your hike leads you straight to an awesome medieval castle.

 

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Because it’s Bohemia. Because it’s the land of ancient stories and medieval castles….and blueberry-filled magical forests.

And you will need those blueberries, because a long long upward hike is in front of you, through little valleys,

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And cute foothill towns,

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Until you reach the ancient gates and start the real hike up to the castle,

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Which will be so steep that you’ll get so tired and can’t even hold your camera steady to take photos.

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But eventually you’ll reach the top,

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And be rewarded with views for miles.

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Those Bohemians. They knew how to build on a good vantage point.

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And then, if you’re us, you realize you made it to the castle too late and it’s closed. So you then happily catch your breath, enjoy the view, and head back down the flower-filled route (that you can now appreciate because you’re not straining your lungs to get up the hill),

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Which leads you down, out of the foothill town, along a couple fields of sunflowers,

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And on to the itty-bitty train station where you enjoy the inventive graffiti marketing of a local pub and sit to wait for your ride back into Prague.

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Logistics:

Bezděz is the name of the castle seen here, and it’s one of the prettiest in the Czech Bohemian countryside. Here’s information about it. There’s a small entrance fee of 70 Kc – roughly $3.50 – (40 Kc – $2 – if you’re a student!), look-out towers and a tour with our without a guide. For an aerial photo, look here, and for a photo with the sunflowers in full bloom, look here.

We hiked from Doksy to Bezděz and took public transportation both ways. Here’s the link for trains and buses.

And to do the hiking, we of course followed the little red and white signs. Here’s a link about hiking in the CZ.

As always, bring water, snacks, and layers, and don’t forget to double check the return bus/train times!!

 

A Temporary Retiree in Florida

Happy Monday! Chances are I’ve made it to Raleigh successfully at this point. Through 5 days of driving, endless hours of music, a blown out tire on the Atlanta expressway AND a flat spare (ALWAYS CHECK YOUR SPARE), and also a relaxing couple days at the FL beach on Okaloosa Island.

So enjoy the pretty part of my trip (the beach), and wish me luck as I search for jobs.

2014-09-14 08.28.49 2014-09-14 12.01.33-1 2014-09-15 12.52.11-1 2014-09-15 12.52.22-1 2014-09-16 11.13.33-1Oh, and if you ever want a condo on the beach to stay in? Look up Pelican Isles on Okaloosa, FL. And go off season. September was absolutely perfect. :)

 

Genius Flight – the New Cool Way to Plan Your Travel

Have you guys heard of Genius Flight?

It’s a new ticket-searching service that does one simple, revolutionary thing.

It allows you to choose your flight based not on the destination, but instead, solely on the price.

That’s right.

What if you just want to get away? You have $400 for a ticket and a free weekend coming up, and you just want to check out somewhere new.

It’s normally rather difficult to search for a destination that way, but with Genius Flight you can instead choose your price limit, choose your starting city, choose your dates, and click search.

In a few seconds you’ll know all your options.

Pretty cool, right?

Oh, and they also have a site called Genius Hotels.

I know I’ll be using it in the near future.*

*The only issue with Genius Flight is that it’s not really meant for US customers yet. Or at least there are definitely some bugs to work out. Some of the US cities you put in (no matter the price) come back with…no results and a blank map of Spain.

“I see your point, but…”

A few months ago my mother, over dinner, told me about something she had learned that day. A simple thing, that makes discussions or arguments with coworkers, friends, and loved-ones much less combative.

People normally say “I see your point, but…” or “I understand where you’re coming from, but…”

Instead, you should say “I see your point, and…” “I understand where you’re coming from, and…”

That one little word makes the whole tone of your opinion more inviting, don’t you think?

Crazy how that works.

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