May 30, 2010 Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic

1 06 2010

We had talked about getting up to see the sunrise on the tower.  Since sunrise is at 0406, I figured we could get away with getting out the door by 0430 to shoot.  Francis and Maggie joined me in my early morning venture.  As we walked out the front door we were disappointed to find the sky heavy with clouds.  There would be no sunrise shoot :(  We decided to wander the streets and alleys a bit to see what we could shoot. I was amazed at the large number of partiers coming HOME at that time.

We called it a shoot at 0530 and I fell quickly back into a deep and blissful slumber…  to be disturbed by Mrs D poking me at 0730… “Get up for breakfast”

We enjoyed ground poppy seed paste on little danishes and an assortment of fruit, cheese, meat and eggs.  I tried the eggs and I swear to God that they were powdered.  Yeach!  I had a nice yogurt and some OJ to round out my breakfast.  I then headed up to my room to ensure that my photos were transferring while waiting for the others to finish their breakfasts.

Today we headed up to the castle.  It wasn’t too bad a walk.  In the “moat” around the castle, there are 3 bears.  It looks like 1 black and 2 grizzly bears.  Apparently a tradition for the last 300-400 years We paid our entrance and climbed the winding staircase to the top of the castle tower.  The view was wonderful.  Cesky Krumlov sat below us like some small medieval train set laid out below with its red clay roof tiles.  Picture postcard perfect.  Of course, I took LOTS of pictures 😉

After enjoying the tower we descended to the castle proper to see what we could see.  When we got to the ticket booth we were informed that castle admission is only available as part of a tour.  No unattended visitors.  This was different than what Maggie had remembered last time but it’s not like we had any choice.  We forked over our money and waited for the tour.   While waiting, I met a group of professors from Atlanta that were on a tour of the Czech Republic and area. It was interesting to see them actually taking NOTES during the tour.   Our tour guide was quite nice although her accent and mannerism in her English reminded me of a stereotypical “Russian communist guard” from the old days.  “You Vill see to the riiight……”  It was quite the intimidating voice despite her charming smile.  The accent made it a bit hard to hear in the cavernous walls of the castle as she led us from room to room.  There were no photos allowed.  That sucked as there were some beautiful works hanging on the walls as well as in the rooms.  I’m not sure how they manage to preserve the items in the castle as there appeared to be no climate control at all.  There were no lights in most rooms and natural light was your source for seeing as you went through the tour.  It really gave you a feeling of how the rulers lived.

After our castle tour was complete we headed up in the now heavier rain to the castle gardens.  I’m sure in July they will be beautiful, but today the plants were quite small and the colder weather certainly didn’t coax them to grow any faster.  As we made our way from the gardens to the castle pond we encountered a “theatre under the stars”.  The seating was on a revolving amphitheatre and it appears that the different acts of the play would be played out in the fields using natural props.  As each scene changed, the amphitheatre simply rotated to the next point.  Interesting.  would have been neat to watch a play there.

The castle pond was great for me… I found a new duck species – a tufted duck!  I’ll post it later in my pictures. 

We wandered back down through town and ate lunch at 1400 after which Francis and I decided that a nap would be wise thing.  I  was practically falling asleep on my feet.  We agreed to meet the women at the bridge near our hotel at 1730.

I woke in a panic at 1725 and was just getting my wits about me as Francis knocked on the door.  “Coming!!” I said, as I quickly got ready and headed out.  We ended up being a bit late but Mrs D and Cathy had settled in to some hot chocolate so weren’t that picky about the fact that we weren’t quite on time.

We all wandered down to the riverside to walk along the river while watching the sun set on the town.  Some very interesting photos were available with the sun setting against some dark cloud backgrounds.  We had a good time playing with off camera flash and a bit of posing.

The walk brought us around in time to make it to our destination for dinner.  An old medieval tavern.  It really was the same as it had been in the 16th century.  Dark, low rocky ceilings with various weaponry adorning the walls.  The atmosphere was perfect and I could easily imagine coming in from working for the prince to have some good pork and cup of mead to satisfy your belly.

Coincidently, that’s what I had :)  We had pork knee, bratwurst, pike, onion soup and garlic soup – both served in bread bowls.  I drank a cup of hot mead. Most excellent!  I don’t think I can explain it other than it warmed me with it’s aroma flavour and alcohol content.  Wonderful drink for a cold wet day.

We finished around 2115 and were back to our hotel by 2130.  That gave me some time to upload photos and update the blog.  (which is getting further and further behind 😦 )

We went out at 2200 to try some night shots of the tower from a different angle than last night with varying degress of success.

When I got back.. it was photo update time until 0100.

Finally Sleep.





May 29, 2010 Cesky Budejovice to Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic

30 05 2010

I don’t think I mentioned it in yesterday’s blog, but we stayed in a really nice two bedroom loft apartment in Cesky Budejovice.  The decor was lovely and the design was quite nice.   It would certainly have been a great place to stay if I were to be staying for a week.  Unfortunately we were there for just one night. 

We got up early and headed down with Maggie and Francis for breakfast.  Breakfast was totally a la carte and included in the night’s stay.  We ordered omelettes and toast as well as OJ.  They made us fresh squeezed Veggie/Orange Juice that was delicious as well as coffees and hot chocolates… Great service!  We walked around the hotel for a bit and did a bit more shopping (surprisingly, there was more shopping to do!)  The girls headed back to the Bata store (shoes) and managed to find even more stuff to buy.

We had arranged that we could “check out” at 10:30 and move our luggage all to one room so that we could walk along the riverside and shop some more.  When I talked to the clerk/cook/waiter/all in one guy, he talked to the cleaning girl who told me, “No problem, you can put your bags all up in the 3rd floor room that you used”.  That was the one that Mrs D, Francis, Maggie and I had stayed in.  The vote of the women in our group was “No way in Hell am I going to carry my luggage UP those stairs again just to haul it back down”.

We politely declined to offer to let us store our bags in one of the rooms.  We left Maggie and Cathy watching the luggage and enjoying coffee and ice cream while the rest of us wandered down to the riverside for some relaxing views. We started walking down the side of the river and I had the 100-400 out in the hope of catching a bird or two.  I was walking about 50m ahead so that they wouldn’t scare away my birds.

About 10 minutes into our walk down the river, Mrs D calls me back.  “We’re going back to the hotel”

“What???”

“We’re going back – we don’t want to leave Maggie and Cathy there abandoned.”

Personally, THEY made the choice to not carry up their luggage.  They made the choice to stay and now we cut our riverside walk short.  Grumble.

“OK dear”, really – what else was I going to say.

We made it down to the bus station in plenty of time to catch the 1320 bus. It is a short ride, shorter than the regular 50 minute ride, this one is only 35 minutes!  We got on the large coach to find that Cesky Budejovice isn’t the first stop and that the bus is fairly full.  We get our seats and I watch cartoons (Tom and Jerry) on the bus TV while drifting in and out of sleep.  As we start slowing down the “guide” on the bus announces in English and Czech something about the next stop.  Maggie says “We get off here!”

We got off the bus, and then quickly showed someone our map and asked “Is this the stop that we just got off at?”

“No, Next stop.” came the answer.

I turned to the woman that had announced things earlier and asked “Can we get back on – we’re at the wrong stop?”

“You should have listened” she says bitterly.

“Sorry… we didn’t hear the announcement well”, I say, holding back the comment about her accent being so thick you could cut it with a knife, and where does she get off being so rude to me.

“Can we get back on?” I repeat.

“Why?”

You’ve got to be kidding me?!?!?!  Why?  Because we’re at the wrong stop, you horse’s ass! 

My real reaction was just to stand there dumbfounded.

She then motioned to put our bags back on the bus, I wasn’t going to wait for anything nicer.  I didn’t want to walk and extra 2km uphill in the rain.  We loaded our bags feverishly back on the bus and timidly found seats for the short ride.  People seemed to be understanding that the dumb tourists were at the wrong stop.  I’m guessing this wasn’t the first time this happened.

We got off at the RIGHT stop about 5 minutes later and unloaded from the bus – AGAIN.  We settled in with our rain gear and starting pulling our luggage along the cobblestones again.  Someone would make a killing if they make luggage with wheels that handle cobblestones better.  We trundled down the narrow roads and had a glimpse of the castle tower while descending.  We walked, and walked and walked some more.  Eventually we pulled up to our lovely little home for the next two days, the Alchymy Hotel.  Being a beautiful building from sometime in the 19th century it meant that elevators were out of the question.  Good stairs, while optional back then, didn’t make it into this place either.  Uneven wooden stairs wound their way up to our places on the European 2nd and 3rd floors (The ground floor is Floor Zero).  The rooms were lovely.  nicely decorated in period style furniture and floors must have been 100 years old if they were a day.

After settling into our hotel at around 1500 we decided to split up and wander on our own to see and explore Cesky Krumlov (UNESCO World Heritage Site) I thought this would be a great time to take time and shoot things with Mrs D.  Not so.  She stopped at almost EVERY shop along the way.  So, I managed to escape from the group shopping and ended up in my own personal shopping hell.  There are way too many crappy souvenir and crafty art stores in town…  We ended up with more for the house.  I did get SOME shots, but so many tourists cramming in and around made it tough.

After freshening up at our hotel rooms at 1800 we headed out and found a good place for dinner that served a good South Bohemian cuisine.  We had roast duck, fried cheese, salad, Pork knee and a platter simply called “Mixed Grill”   It made me wonder how many cariovascular surgeons live near the town… I imagine that one or more tourists has maxed out on meat and cholesterol at some time 😉

When we got back to the hotel there was no reception dude.. .no dude meant not being able to get Internet.  No internet means that today’s photos and today’s blog will end up being posted tomorrow.  Bummer.

We were home by 2200.  At that point I went out on my own and shot some night shots of the castle tower and the square as well as an alley or two.  Overall – quite successful.  I am really pleased with some of the results.

I got to sleep by 0030… making me happy – I was planning to heading out to shoot the tower castle at sunrise at 0430 with Francis.  hope.  For that there would have to be a sunrise. I went to sleep quickly in anticipation of the morning photo shoot.

The photos are a day or so behind… they can be found at:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/dragonspeed/sets/72157624150660692/

or http://www.fotothing.com/albums.php?action=viewphotos&albumid=3592








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