May 28, 2010 – Day 4 Praha to Cesky Budejovice

28 05 2010

Today was a tough day.  Not only was it the first day during our trip that we had to pack up and move, it also came after a night in which I got a total of 4 hours sleep. I had figured that this wouldn’t be too bad since I’d have a couple of hours or more to sleep on the train.  Wrong.  More about that later.

Mrs D and I got up and headed down for breakfast by 0800.  I didn’t eat much.  These heavy meaty/bready meals have kept me feeling full to the point where for breakfast I only had a small helping of eggs and a bit of bacon with a bunch of orange juice… planning to beat dehydration by drinking more.  We headed back to our room and continued packing and shutting down the laptop that had run so well with the great internet connection.  It was sad to shut it down. I really had no idea what connectivity would be like in C. Budejovice.

By 0930 it was becoming a great debate whether or not we should hire a taxi for $600cK and stuff 2 people and luggage for 8 in or if we should all walk to the train and suffer the rough road.  We asked the hotel front desk if they could call the taxis and how much they would be.  They told us that two could be here in 10 minutes and that the charge would $250cK/taxi.  We could get everyone and their luggage transported to the train station for the same price that they had paid for a fraction of the capacity when they arrived here.  We took it.  This brings up an interesting sidebar.  I had been warned of the less than scrupulous ways of some taxi companies.  It seems that getting your hotel to arrange taxi transportation may be a good way of avoiding getting ripped off.

We arrived at 10:50 for our 11:16 train and headed up to platform 2 to wait.  After a few minutes of trying to figure out in which car we had reserved seats a woman, who must have been killing herself laughing inside, came over and helped us.  The reason we couldn’t find the train car and seats listed is because this wasn’t going to be our train.  EVER.  She helped us decipher the Czech signs and we promptly dashed down to platform 7 where our train was waiting and due to take off in about 10 minutes. Sigh.

We boarded our train and kicked out some local because we had “reserved” seats.  We very quickly realized that with the amount of luggage we had that we would be lucky to ever have our feet touch the ground once we were all in the little “booth” for 8.  It became apparent that the reservations were probably a waste and that we really needed to spread out into different booths to ensure some space while travelling.

The ride was uneventful and I nodded in and out of sleep for a while until Francis came down and told us that he had been told we would all be getting out and taking the BUS at the next stop. 

“That’s silly”, I said, “This is a direct train.. they won’t make us change”

The conductor came by to check our tickets and said “You transfer to bus next stop”

“Why”, I asked.

He simply repeated his last statement and carried on punching tickets, leaving us wondering what exactly was going on.

Twenty minutes after our chatty friend told us we’d be getting off, we stopped.  And, we got off.  EVERYONE.  We were hustled off the train and the announcer voice in the station said that they were doing work on the lines hence we would be shuttled to the next stop.  OK.  Or so I thought.  We began detraining – no small feat with some of the luggage that we, as a group, were carrying.  I dropped on piece on Mrs D while taking it down from the rack.  Yikes.  It glanced off her shoulder.  It hurt her, but it DEFINITELY could have been worse.  Once we were all on the platform and migrating toward the exit we realized the dreaded thing about small stations… NO ESCALATORS.  Once again, we fumbled down steps rather haplessly and then back up again to get to the street.  There were buses lined up, we picked one and just as I was about to bring my luggage to the hold, the driver closed the luggage compartment.

“Sorry. Full”, and off he went to go drive his bus.

Mrs D complained that our party was being split up.  I’m not sure if he heard or not but he certainly didn’t give much of a hoot.  Another driver said, “They all go same place… get on!”

So we got on and settled in.  The bus ride was about 30-45 minutes and we arrived at our next station after passing the point on the rails that they are repairing.  It was interesting to see that they are installing concrete railroad ties instead of wood.

Once off the bus we all hauled over to the train with our luggage in tow, being bounced about as it crossed over steps, rocks, etc.  Our group got on a car which appeared quite full.  Maggie and I negotiated a spot in a booth that seemed much more modern – it was sealed windows and air conditioned in contrast to the open window cooling that previous car had. Francis was convinced that we had somehow found our way into 1st class and that we would have to move.  The rest of our group relocated back a couple of cars and they had told me it was more spacious.  I wasn’t about to move…I was going have A/C!

About 15 minutes after starting up, it quickly became apparent that A/C was some engineer’s idea when designing the car, but someone seems to have left something vital out of the equation.  Despite the best efforts of myself and two other Czech gentlemen twiddling the A/C dial, nothing cooled us.  Thanks to the sealed windows we actually were set up for a slow cook.  As I sat there in the train trying to sleep I could feel drop after drop of sweat slowly form on my forehead and brow and then run down my cheeks.  It was like Africa all over but without the cool views 😦

Mrs D came by again and convinced me to move. (Not too hard really – I would have happily relocated to Hades for the cooling pleasure at this point).  They had open windows and cool breezes.  Wow!  The last hour of the train ride was WAY more comfortable. 🙂

We arrived in Cesky Budejovice at 1400.  We would have to walk about 1km to our place.  No problem.  We talked to the info center lady and she pointed us on our way with a free copy of the town map.  The walk was pleasant, if not a bit hot.  We found our apartments that we would be staying in for the night.  Mrs D, Maggie, Francis and I were staying in a two bedroom loft apartment while the others were staying in a mid floor apt.  They were both quite nice.  The fellow that checked us in was very helpful and ever carried a bag up the 3 flights of winding stairs (MORE STAIRS!) for one of the women in our group.

Having finally made it to our destination, it was now time for us to eat lunch and then pop over to the bus station to organize tomorrow’s bus trip to our two day stay location of Cesky Krumlov.

The little restaurant in the “complex” with the apartments had a nice lunch and once again we really confused the heck out of the poor waiter by asking for spare bowls and plates to share our meals asian style.  LOL.

With some food in our bellies, we headed out to see some features of the local square.  The “black tower” closed at 1800 and it was already 1600 so we decided that we had best get up there and see what we could see.  It was a 72m climb up concrete and wooden steps and ladders until we came to the viewpoint.  30cK/person seemed pretty reasonable after climbing that far.  We had a great view of the old village square and the area around the town. I shot a couple of panos that I’d certainly like to see later – they should come out quite nicely.

The descent was more perilous but easier than the ascent.  We got down fairly quickly and then headed into the old town square, the centrepiece of which is a fountain.  We shot all kinds of shots around that fountain including some mock “beauty shots” and other fun times. We spent about an hour just shooting there!

Since time was ticking on we decided we had best get down to the bus station as soon as possible.  Where was it?  Oh – right next to the train station!!!  Another 1km walk to get down to the station. We paused and shot some lovely flowers along the way and arrived at the bus station window at 1835.  We fiddled and fussed and asked the lady at which time the buses ran to C. Krumlov.  She showed us a timetable and we fiddled and fussed some more wondering which time we should go.  We were just about to decide when she started closing up. AGGH! She pointed to the sign indicating that she was only open until 1830.  Nooo!!! We asked if we could get 8 people on the 1600 bus… she nodded and then proceeded to continue closing.  Nooo!!! We then asked if we could buy our tickets for that bus now.  No.  Apparently it’s first come, first serve seating on the bus and you just pay the driver when you get on.  Yes, this means that our trip to the bus station was in vain. Haha… Urgh.

Not to let an opportunity to shop pass us buy, the women pointed out that since the bus station was attached to a shopping mall, it would be waste not to shop.  Francis, Maggie and I settled down at a cafe and had iced coffees while the others shopped (and shopped some more)  2000 and all the shopping was done.  Now we were going head out and have dinner at a classic Bohemian beer parlour.  Boy did that ever describe it.  We were going to sit inside but the smoke and the noise made hard to enjoy so we sat outside where only the wafting smoke was a problem as it oozed out the front door and dragged its tar soaked odour across us on its way out into the great expanse. 

We ordered a round of Budweiser Budvar and even those that didn’t really drink had some.  We also ate pigs knuckles, roast duck, sausages and salad… quite the perfect foods for having with beer (well – maybe not the salad).

As we walked home, at 2200 fireworks lit off from the direction of the train station.  We don’t know why but it made a nice diversion to stop walking and watch them for about 10 minutes.  It was really cool when the first one exploded and bats all flew out of their resting places… like something you’d see in a Stephen King movie.

Well – again I find myself writing the blog at 2300 and looking to find some more photos to upload. I’ll try and shoot up a dozen more today!

I hope you’re enjoying the trip virtually along with us!


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