Our last-minute decision to spend extra time in the Czech Republic has certainly paid off — it’s a wonderful country and we’ve had a great week exploring it.
Monday 13/5: Our last morning in Ceske Budejovice was mainly filled with work and errands; we had to visit the supermarket, buy some bus tickets, and get prepared for our next destination.
After lunch, we said goodbye to our Couchsurfing host Jana and headed to the bus station, where we caught a bus to Brno. The journey took almost four hours, but it was comfortable enough, and we were met at the station by our next host, Mike. He was also hosting a couple of French guys, and we all headed straight to a brand-new cafe for an English-speaking meetup; we met all sorts of cool people and spent a pleasant evening chatting with them.
Tuesday 14/5: It was a beautiful morning and Mike cooked us all bacon and eggs for breakfast, which we ate on the sunny terrace. We then said goodbye to the French guys, who were leaving, and headed out to explore Brno. Our first stop was the castle, which offered good views of the city; we also visited various squares and stopped in at the tourism office.
After a kebab lunch, we found a cafe and got an hour or so’s work done before stopping off at home and convincing Mike to come out with us for the evening. We’d been invited to a board game club by another couchsurfer, Petr, and we had a fantastic evening playing games with him and his girlfriend Zuzana. Neither of us won any of the three games we played, but we did get to meet Vlaada Chvátil, the author of several popular games, which was awesome!
Wednesday 15/5: We’d had several plans for the day, but none of them ended up working out. First, we’d hoped to do a tour of the cellars under the cabbage market, but we’d just missed a tour when we arrived. Next, we wanted to go to the Unesco World Heritage village of Mikulov, but we’d thought it was 30 minutes away by bus and it’s really about 90 — and by the time we arrived at the bus station in the early afternoon, there wasn’t time to get there and back and see the village. Instead, we went to the supermarket, stopped at home to drop off the groceries, went for a walk, and had a beer at the bar we’d gone to on Monday.
Back at home, we had summer rolls for dinner with Mike and his flatmate Eva, then played a few games of Monopoly Deal before bed.
Thursday 16/5: Getting up was a bit of a challenge, but we succeeded, and even got to the cabbage market in time for the 10.30 tour of the cellar labyrinth. There were about 20 people on the tour with us, mostly Czech-speaking, and the tour was conducted in Czech. We were given audio guides to listen to while the guide spoke; a great idea for keeping the tour moving — I hate dual-language tours. Unfortunately though, the English recording was quite dull — interesting information presented in a monotone. It was really interesting to see the cellars and learn about their history and current use.
After a lunch of hole-in-the-wall hamburgers eaten in the main square, we wandered through the city a little more then went back to Mike’s place to collect our bags. Somehow it took us longer to pack up and leave than we’d expected, but we got to the train station just in time to catch our train to Olomouc.
We were met on the platform by Terka and her three-year-old son Jaroshek, who were going to be our hosts for the next three days. The walk to their place took us through the picturesque town centre, and Terka explained what some of the monuments and buildings were as we walked.
We spent the evening chatting and getting to know each other (and also playing Carcassonne) and for dinner Terka put together a delicious pastry dish made with the famous local cheese — yum!
Friday 17/5: Terka had to be at work at 9am, so we decided to spend the day working as well. We holed up in the Kia Ora cafe (which is so-named because its owners met in New Zealand) and tried various types of coffee prepared in two different styles; it was great. After lunch of Chinese food in a small restaurant, we found another cafe and got a bit more work done before meeting back at Terka’s place at 4pm.
Jaroshek loves towers, and he wanted to show us his favourite one: the tower of St Maurice’s church. So headed out again straight away, and got a great view of the city from the top of the tower. Back at home, we relaxed, ate dinner, and spent the evening chatting.
Saturday 18/5: Terka had promised us a Czech-style lunch, and she certainly delivered. First up was carrot soup, which was followed by pasta — but instead of a savoury sauce, we sprinkled poppyseed mixed with sugar over it, and stirred in a spoonful of butter. It probably wasn’t the healthiest of dishes, but it was tasty!
In the afternoon Terka and Jaroshek took us for a walk around town. We visited several churches (including a climb to St Michala’s belfry) then headed down to the botanical gardens. The plants were pretty, but Jaroshek was more interested in the turtle and frogs in the first pond we came to, and in the playground installations in the rose garden. Craig and I made the mistake of joining him on the roundabout — I felt dizzy for ages afterwards.
Our walk back home took us through the town wall gardens and through the town itself; it was a lovely way to spend the afternoon.
In the evening we introduced Terka to Monopoly Deal and then played a couple of games of Carcassonne with expansions; in the last game we all finished within one point of each other (obviously we’re all awesome).
Sunday 19/5: Craig and I got an hour’s work done while Terka and Jaroshek were at church, and we met up with them at 10am to visit a couple of museums. The first, the Archdiocese Museum, was surprisingly extensive and interesting, and the modern art museum had a great exhibit of monstrous (fake) creatures. We didn’t have much time at the modern art museum because I really wanted to see the astronomical clock play, which it only does at midday. We got there on time, but it was a bit of a disappointment. Ah well.
After lunch we said goodbye to Terka and Jaroshek and headed to a cafe to work a little more. We had been planning to go to Prague but, as always, things changed and we decided to stay just one more night in Olomouc with a different couchsurfing host, Karin. We met her at 5pm and spent a lovely evening with her and her boyfriend Honza — they took us up the Holy Hill for a walk through the forest and dinner in a restaurant garden, after which we caught the train back into town and had a beer in a brewery right by Terka’s place. We’d been 100m from a microbrewery and never knew it!