07 June 2010

Bohemian Travels

The weekend before my cruise on the Rhine I traveled to the southwestern portion of the Czech Republic, part of a larger Czech region known as Bohemia. My fellow travelers on the trip were three young ladies studying abroad in Eichstätt: Brittney from the U.S.A., Cinzia from Italy, and Eliska from the Czech Republic, who proved a very helpful guide in her home country.

We started our tour with a stay in the Austrian city of Linz, located south of the border with the Czech Republic. Unfortunately, rain marked most our visit in the city. Though water-logged, we did our best to enjoy ourselves.

On the morning of our trip's second day we rode the rails into Czech territory. We changed trains in the city of České Budějovice, or, in its English name, Budweis. The name should be familiar for most Americans, as this city is the birthplace of the original Budweiser beer. The Czech Budweiser company had been brewing for centuries before its American counterpart filled its first bottle and searched for a prestigious beer name to call their product. Supposedly the legal disputes between the two breweries continue.

From Budweis we traveled on to the town of Český Krumlov, which is a beautifully preserved community nestled on a sharp bend of the Vlatava River and looked over by an impressive castle complex. Below are some views of the charming town.

On our walk through the castle complex we discovered that impaling oneself on the castle fence was apparently not permitted.

At the end of the afternoon in Krumlov, we headed to the small city of Písek, Eliska's hometown. Our Czech friend let us into her home and showed us around the community where she grew up. Písek's main claim to fame is that the city is home to the oldest bridge in the Czech Republic (built around 1300), pictured in the first photograph below. The second image presents a view from the bridge at night.

On our third day we took a day trip to the nearby city of Tabor. There's not much to write about the city, at least from our brief stay there, but it did provide some scenic views. Contrary to how it looks in the last picture below, the girls are actually not arguing with each other.

Of course a visit to a foreign culture was not without its new foods. Czech cuisine mainly consists of meat, potatoes, dumplings, and beer, but the Czechs have developed an amazing number of various dishes with these few ingredients. The first photograph below shows one example, neck of pork with mustard, roasted potatoes, bread, and spicy peppers. This tasted alright, although not too unusual. To satisfy my craveing for something truly out-of-the-ordinary, another night I ordered a side dish of something guaranteed to make some readers cringe in disgust. According to Eliska this dish does not appear on menus, but local restaurants can often provide it by request. In the second image below you can see the prepared dish: a pair of fried bull testicles accompanied with a lemon wedge. The edible masculinity tasted, almost disappointingly, like pork, and its texture was not unlike any other fillet of beef. I'd say the challenge here is simply with accepting what it is that's sitting on the plate.

On the fourth day of our trip we took a long train ride back home to Germany. The most excitement of the day came shortly after crossing the border. Although I could not believe it myself, I had realized on the first day of our trip that I had forgotten my passport in Eichstätt. The border crossing into Austria and the Czech Republic had gone smoothly, and I had hoped for similar conditions for our return to Germany. I had thought I was in the clear until a pair of German authorities arrived at the door of our train cabin and asked for our passports.

All I could give them was a photocopy of my passport and my driver's license. The first officer's reaction was, unsurprisingly, "What's this?" I explained to the men my story and after some private deliberation in the train corridor they asked if I would be okay with only a verbal warning. I found the question curious, as if my conscience would demand a stronger penalty for my forgetfulness, and for a split second I considered answering "no" only to see what would happen. Of course I said that I accepted their offer of a verbal warning, the officers left, and our train ride progressed uneventfully toward Eichstätt.

Aside from this potential visit in a German detainment room, our long weekend spent mostly in the Czech Republic made for a fun time. Then again, in a country where a bottle of good-quality beer costs less than water at around 50 U.S. cents, one would expect the locals to be familiar with fun times.

1 comment:

The Bandit said...

I wonder if you will notice this comment. I hope that you do, first I'm quite envious of your travels and am planning a trip myself in May for several months. I was hoping you could contact me and maybe give me some pointers? my email is robschanz@gmail.com

nice blog. thanks.