My whirlwind vacation came to a whirlwind end. In fact, I was almost stranded in Europe. But more on that later..
First, the good. It was wonderful to be with my sweetheart, my Czech-mate, as he refers to himself, in one of his ancestral countries. (I say one because he's 1/2 Czech, 1/4 Irish, and 1/4 German). I know how it feels to be somewhere you've always dreamed of being, a place that is a part of you in ways you don't know, but want to find out. When you carry a name like his around, a surname that ends with "cek"--you identify with your Czech heritage every day.
Our stops were his family's hometown of Plzen (Pilsen) and Prague (Praha)--and a side tour to Český Krumlov--a "hidden gem" that is not at all hidden, but is truly a tourist gem. All of this was done in a rented car, so we were able to take side trips into small, country towns, too.
The exchange rate on the dollar in the Czech Republic---or Czechia--made it very cheap to eat and stay there. A meal like this, at the steps of the Prague Castle, with appetizers, drinks, dessert, espresso, and entrees, ran about $35-$40 (tip included). They use the koruna in Czechia, and have yet to switch to the euro.
A luxury suite, at a hotel in downtown Prague, cost us about $150 a night. The main luxury suite in downtown Cesky Krumlov--$160/night, HUGE Czech breakfast included at both places.
I'll back-track a second and show you pictures of our favorite, non-touristy spot--Plzen or Pilsen--my hubby's ancestral town.
A little caveat: whenever my husband told the locals he was Czech, their response was always the same "If you're Czech, why can't you speak Czech?" It seemed to me there was a deep pride in their language and national heritage. And, see that purple stuff on his plate? That is NOT sauerkraut! Oh, no, no, no--it was "cabbage salad" or, simply, cabbage.
Here we are, at the the Cathedral of St. Bartholomew on a 78 degree, sunny day.
The cathedral is the highest church in Czechia, and it has a bell tower attached to it, the Pilsen tower, that you can pay a small fee to climb up through to the observation deck. We climbed the "Pilsen Tower" --a small heart attack waiting to happen, after a Czech feast of pork and dumplings (cabbage salad), appetizers, and a few pints of Pilsner beer (yes, Pilsner comes from this very town.)
The view was worth the increased heart rate and careful clinging to the rails on the way down, but I would recommend doing it before lunch.
Of course, we celebrated our survival with this chocolate and banana cake and cafe lattes.
I won't lie. I miss the food and drinks. That little dessert and latte feast was about $7.00 (including tip). With all the walking we did, I didn't gain a single pound on this vacation. Yet, we were eating huge breakfasts and lunch/dinners. You can really see the value of an active lifestyle. Czechia is not for the faint of the heart--or those in wheel chairs. Everything worth seeing seems to have a small hike attached to it.
More pictures of Plzen.
The delicious lunch that made it so difficult to ascend the tower without a major cardiac event.
And more pics of Plzen.
If you're curious about the name, Czech Republic versus Czechia--that is an ongoing debate. I will say, it's difficult to say "Czech Republic," and easier to say Czechia. (Easier still to say Czechoslovakia--though that is definitely BAD, BAD, BAD!) Here's an article on its transformation and adaptation: Czechia Has Won The Czech Republic Name Debate