Day 554 – 5 Sept, 2016
Let me start by saying Prague is an amazing city, everything I had hoped. Prague Castle and the Charles Bridge stand out as those iconic landmarks that are recognizable on every postcard and in turn, they draw the crowds like you would imagine. But because this is not a professional blog and no one is paying me to say how great everything is, I gotta say I am bored with writing about castles and bridges and cathedrals. Let’s be honest, they are all kind of the same. I was desperate for something unique. You can only sit in so many pivovars until you start to realize you don’t even remember what city you’re in anymore.
After already spending the previous few days following the standard itinerary above, I still had not set foot in a traditional microbrewery. With Czech culture being centered around beer, this might have well been illegal. U Medvidku, the smallest brewery in Prague and also boasting the “strongest beer in the world,” was just a few blocks from my hostel. Their X33 brew is 12.6% alcohol and I can attest it definitely did the job. Their restaurant on the first floor doesn’t serve beer on tap; for that, you have to go to the dark narrow beer hall upstairs that smells of hops and you know you’re in the right place. Their website states that their “goal is not to manufacture the most beer, but to show the manufacturing process at its best.” The beer was superior to anything else I had tried so far in Prague and I was finally on to something unique.
A side trip to Kutna Hora sounded intriguing. A chapel decorated with human bones, the Sedlec Ossuary, contains bones from nearly 40,000 individuals. When the small burial ground outside was full to capacity, previous occupants were exhumed and the bones were brought into the chapel. The legend suggests that a blind monk began stacking the bones in geometric shapes as early as the 17th century. The chapel was interesting most definitely, but I think the proportions of the building itself were underwhelming. It was tiny with only three small rooms and while the bone decorations are beautiful, the quantity of bones was greatly exaggerated as well. I enjoyed it, but I couldn’t honestly recommend the trip to someone without a lot of time on their hands.
Cesky krumlov, the traditional well-preserved medieval town 3 hours south of Prague, definitely proved why it’s ranked as one of the best small towns in Europe. It’s heavy with tourists, especially large tour groups who consistently clog up small alleyways to prevent others from passing. As soon as they plug in those headphones to the tour guide with the whisper mic, they might as well be zombies, oblivious to traffic, curbs, and lampposts, and wildly swinging selfie sticks like lariats. But setting aside the rather unfortunate presence of these groups, I absolutely loved wandering the steep and winding cobbled streets.
Cesky Krumlov also has a castle and a cathedral and a few bridges, but I had my best moments while running next to the river and camping out at a picnic table at a great vegan restaurant, Laibon, which is riverside as well. The owner of Laibon, David, was charismatic and warm and an even better host. The vegan food was better than anything I found in Prague and the view of the kayaks floating past, dwarfed by the castle overhead, was the best in the town. Both times I ate there, I stayed for hours while David would bring a second (or third) beer and dessert on the house.
I still want to go to some tourist attractions and some I just force myself to go to “because I should,” but the fact remains that when I search out something unique, it’s far more memorable and special than simply seeing another castle.