Every couple of years, my brother resolutely shakes his head, and says “Don’t be absurd” and “No, never again” and “Not after last time.” But eventually, after I’ve wheedled and whined and nipped, he groans, throws up his arms and finally agrees to come travelling with me.
On our last trip together we visited Poland (see ‘A Postcard From Poland‘) and liked it so much, we decided to return. Two weeks ago, we flew to Kraków, picked up a hire car and drove here:
the Noma Residence – a charming, if ridiculously Hansel und Gretel, hotel. This region was German before the Second World War and the Noma is obviously, blatantly Deutsch.
Were there any doubt, displayed inside are photos of Kaiser Wilhelm II posing on those steps. In one he hefts a shotgun and looks like he has spent a satisfactory day blasting anything and everything – including some of the staff.
Built in the 1860’s, this hunting lodge is beautiful: totally fairy-tale, festooned with crazy detail and quite mad. Why have plain functional dormers when you might have Christmas tree ones?
And it had never occurred to me to stick a huge wooden stag’s head on my roof.
Inside, the hotel walls are decorated with hundreds of antlers and countless heads of trophy animals. I tried to be impressed but I’ve always found taxidermy a bit creepy. (The large bear lurking under the staircase gave me a particular turn).
We stayed here for two very comfortable nights indeed; efficiently, silently working our way through tremendous, varied breakfasts before waddling out to the terrace to sip our coffee and listen to the cuckoos (regretting we’d packed no lederhosen).
We returned to Kraków … but sadly only for one day. Did you know how impressive Kraków is? I didn’t and with little time available, I’m afraid I took hardly any photos. I have no shots of the massive, jaw-dropping town square for example which, to my mind, blows raspberries at those of Brussels, Bruges, Amsterdam (insert city of your choice).
I did manage a couple of snaps of Kraków Castle
where we batted away crowds to see da Vinci’s ‘Lady with an Ermine‘. It was worth the effort (if marred by a guide and her entourage standing immediately in front of the painting for an epoch. Eventually I grabbed a sharp stick and jabbed them out-of-the-way).
Our time in Poland was far too short and too soon, we leapt on the sleeper train for Prague. Rattling through central Europe in a single berth cabin is the way to travel, I’ve decided. Our steward kept the Pilsner flowing as Pete and I sat chatting in my compartment till the early hours. Later, as I nodded off in my comfortable bed, rocked to sleep by the motion of the train, I half feared to see Ingrid Bergman, Michael York, Vanessa Redgrave and the rest leaning over me with a glint in their eye and a sharp knife poised above my chest. Didn’t happen.
I’ve visited the Czech Republic’s capital before and liked it. But after Kraków, it seemed a lesser destination somehow. But then most cities would struggle in comparison with Kraków (yep, it really did impress me that much) and Prague is still a beautiful city; and I had time, at last, to wander about with my Nikon.
For your benefit, and that of science only, we tried a miniature bottle of absinthe. DON’T try this at home. At 70º degrees proof this is a tipple for the committed, grown-up drinker only. Having sated our curiosity – overcome a coughing fit, dabbed our eyes and regained the power of speech – Peter and I agreed, slurringly, that we need never repeat the experience. Ever again. Absinthe is one for the bucket list only.
I’ve wanted to point my camera at people rather than just plants, wildlife and landscapes. A bustling city seemed the place to start.
A pair of tree surgeons drew a small crowd on the Charles Bridge. Not that interesting, I agree
until you see just how flipping high they are. No way would you get me in that thing. No way … and this shot still makes me giddy. (As does the thought of absinthe).
A Czech folk festival provided plenty of subjects, if not always smiles.
Funny how a single snapshot might be misinterpreted. The girl on the left seems to dislike the two smirking ones
but perhaps not, after all – unless she’s faking.
I’ve made some of these black and white simply …. because.
But I need colour to show off these fantastic costumes. I love the woman’s sleeves and rather fancy the same. I could keep my secateurs in them … and my sandwiches, for that matter.
The girl sitting down is intrigued by a woman leaning over next to her
but not for long. What had the bending woman done? Perhaps inadvertently? It’s probably best we’ll never know.
A chap pacing outside our apartment has a crafty fag.
In Prague’s main square, I watched a Balkan style band called Circus Problem.
They were so accomplished and jolly, I bought their CD. If you’d like to hear a sample of their music, click here.
The crowd loved them and so did I. Why, I even tapped my foot. But only in an embarrassed ‘we-don’t-do-this-sort-of-thing-normally-do-we-and-it’s-all-a-bit-awkward-isn’t-it?’ English kind of way.
I can’t resist a bit of oompah.
Prague? Pretty, very lively but maybe too crowded for a Sussex gardener.
Kraków? Cracking city. Just go! Book your ticket and go. I intend to.
26 thoughts on “From Krakow To Prague”
Funny how I felt the need to turn some of my Prague photos into black and white, too! But then we didn’t see any of that lovely blue sky that you did. We did see a few stern faces though! It was also incredibly busy when we were there…sounds like Kraków is the place to be.
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As you can guess, I loved Krakow and have plans to return soon. I’ve been to Prague in winter but sadly before the Christmas markets had opened – though they were tantalisingly setting them up. Like you we went to a concert, in our case a small string quartet who were just sublime. The cold pickled sausage was less sublime and I was bed-ridden for the last day of our trip. Even now, years later, the thought of that sausage makes me feel queasy. The joys of travel. On which note, Happy Christmas! D
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Very enjoyable post, Dave. You are good with people pics, too. Unlike me. Very encouraging to have a non- garden post as it emboldens me to do a “walk around Palaeolithic Orkney”!
Why thank you, Charles. But have you tried people pics? (Other than those irritating types who always smile)? I hadn’t really, experimented a lot and took lots of stinkers – good fun though. I’m a bit hooked. Are you going to Skara Brae – or have you been? Jealous either way and I look forward to seeing the post. Dave
Only done a few proud garden owner portraits. And loads of Anne, of course, most of which she insists on getting deleted. Yes, we went to Skara Bray and a zillion other amazing places.
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I’m another now putting Krakow on my wish list. I went to Prague once with a boyfriend on a posh German motorbike – I can still feel the cobbles! The pictures of the musicians/folk people were wonderful. Thanks for sharing.
Hi Cathy, glad to hear it – Krakow’s a good choice. We arrived very early in Prague off the train and had a couple of hours of wheeling our bags about on the cobbles. The noise was beginning to drive me crazy. Beautiful to look at but not so good to travel on, I think. Yours sounds like a memorable trip. Was the boyfriend posh too? D
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The architecture and costumes are so different from anything I’ve seen. Modern day architecture looks dull in comparison. Amelia
Smashing part of the world, Amelia. I’m going to return and return. D
Totally delightful and beautiful. I visited Prague with my late husband back in Feb 1968 (yes, cold winter and the “Prague Spring” political climate was in. I am from GA/USA and that was the coldest place I think I’ve ever known. We were in a small Bavarian village near the Czech border on a business trip and our hostess took us one weekend by car from Hirshau, Germany to Prague. That was quite an adventure driving through that countryside with snow everywhere but somewhat disturbing. The presence of the Communist way of life was very much in evidence and to us, especially, an eye opener. Almost no cars on the streets of Prague, lots of streetcars. We stayed at The Alcron Hotel in Prague, had a driver for one day to tour the city, etc. Went to the Opera House for the night. It was a trip not to be forgotten, ever. And tried the famous slivovitz liqueur. I don’t know the alcohol content but it was potent.
Your pictures are magnificent and I’d love to see Krakow in person. Thanks for an interesting visit back to Prague. And, yes, how did you get that shot of the tree being taken down at The Charles Bridge?
That does sound amazing, Carolyn and I’m jealous. I was in Prague about twelve years ago and it has changed since then. It was far busier than I remember – the main square, for me, has become somewhere to avoid to be honest: difficult and time consuming to cross. I should love to have seen it in the late 60’s especially mostly car free. I have tried slivovitz before but not on this occasion; I’m afraid I wasn’t too keen. The ‘tree’ photo was simply taken from standing on the Charles Bridge and looking down. (See my comment to petabunn below). Dave
I don’t think modern absinthe has the same long term effects as the 19th century concoction but that doesn’t mean it’s not potent!
Possibly not, Philip though I have read that it’s notoriety for being hallucinogenic was erroneous and that it is no more dangerous than any other highly alcoholic drink. More detail here, if you’re interested:
You are right but one possible problem with the 19th century absinthe was the use of adulterants in the cheaper versions.
Yes, goodness knows what went into them.
If the tree surgeons were that high I’m intigued to know where you were to take the shot
Hi, I was standing on the bridge, looking down at them – you can see part of the bridge in the bottom right of the photo. I guess the tree’s crown was growing up and over the bridge which is why they decided to remove it. Dave
We’re convinced with Kraków David, although would still love to see Prague. Amazing photos!
Go to both, Boys – that overnight train trip is good fun. D
What a wonderful post. Thanks for sharing some of your adventures with us. Grand photographs and descriptions. You and your brother making memories not soon to be forgotten. Cheers.
Thanks Stepheny, if we’d drunk any more absinthe I fear we would have forgotten a lot of memories. Dave
Absinth is one of those things I’ve read about in 19th-century novels and for some reason found mildly terrifying. (Maybe because nothing good ever happens to absinth-drinkers in novels.) Glad you lived to tell the tale and went on to take such wonderful photos, especially of the musicians. I’m smitten by the sewing machine table cafe — the unexpected warmth of it.
Hullo Stacy, we did read up about absinthe before trying it and, apart from being horrifyingly alcoholic, it seems its reputation has grown in the telling. It’s psychoactive and addictive properties have been hugely exaggerated … apparently. Or so we read. Very happy not to have to try it again though. Dave
Wonderful buildings and people shots. I have been to Prague some time ago – before it became the place to go for stag and hen parties – but maybe that has changed again now? It is a lovely city and it was very cheap in those days, but it sounds as if Krakow is better. I will put it on my wish list.
Do try and go to Krakow, Annette – it is marvellous. I’m afraid Prague is still rather a city of stag and hen parties – though still relatively cheap. But Krakow is going the way of cheap party getaways too – though I didn’t notice an English nor Irish pub, unlike on Prague’s main square. Get in there quick! D
Will put it on my list – thanks.
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