Olomouc, Czech Republic on the way to Krakow, Poland

Day 5, Friday, August 30, 2019

We are driving to Krakow today and stop to visit Olomouc on the way. We find parking easily, which is always nice, and walk to the town square. One of the first buildings we pass has this charming little still life on a window sill. I wonder who put it there and how many people passing by notice and appreciate the effort?

We are amazed at how huge the town square is. There aren’t very many people around but we imagine that in the peak tourist months it is probably much busierBob gets a couple pastries at the first bakery and we sit on a bench to eat them and watch the people walking by. It is hot again today, 29°.  I have heard that European flours are often tolerated by people with gluten sensitivities, so I have a couple bites. 
Doesn’t everyone want to ride on a turtle? I almost went right over backwards when I climbed on!
The Holy Trinity Column dominates the town square. “The column is dominated by gilded copper sculptures of the Holy Trinity accompanied by the archangel Gabriel on the top and the assumption of the Virgin beneath it. The base of the column, in three levels, is surrounded by 18 more stone sculptures of saints and 14 reliefs.” ~wikipedia. It even has a small chapel in the base. 

I said I want a flower column like this in my yard! We wonder what this shop sells? These figures were made out of straw. It was closed so we couldn’t go in to find out. We climb another bell tower in the Church of St. Michael just off the square. There wasn’t any place to see outside and get a view over the city, which was too bad. The same church had steps to a crypt so we went to explore,.. and we found this little shrine and a small pool of water. These ladies caught my eye.  St. Wenceslas Cathedral was originally built in 1131 and was rebuilt in the second half of the 13th century. The facade was renovated in 1999-2008. It is very impressive. Of course the interior is just as impressive. We visit Archdiocese Museum which is much more interesting than I had anticipated. It is only $3 Cad each and we probably spent a couple hours exploring. Each room was closed off by a door which was opened by an ‘older’ woman who then made sure that we saw every exhibit that was discussed on our audio guides. They opened and closed doors behind us, which was actually very helpful as it wasn’t easy to figure out which doors we were supposed to go through. I love the statues and paintings of the Virgin Mary. There is something very appealing about the way the artists depicted their faces. More fountains in the town square as we make our way back to our car. This bar catches my eye. I am sure I know this name and look it up. Sure enough, it is the name of a show on Netflix about a gang in England in the early 1900’s.When we cross the border into Poland we are surprised that there is no indication that we were leaving one country and entering another.  One of the interesting things about travelling is how different things are from home. Sometimes the differences are challenging and sometimes the differences make me smile. This is what I saw in the first bathroom I entered in Poland.

Bridges on the highway into Poland are certainly different.We were frustrated when our SIM card stops working once we cross the border. We were told it would work in all the countries we were visiting. We finally find a MacDonalds so we can contact our bnb host, who is waiting to hear from us. It is late when we finally make it to our new apartment, which wasn’t very easy to find in the dark, but we are here, and tomorrow will be a rest day for us.

Punkva and St. Catherine’s Caves near Bruno, Czech Republic

Day 4, August 29, 2019

Bob is doing an excellent job researching where we should go and what we should see. He discovers the Punkva and St. Catherine’s Caves which are a 45 minute drive north of Bruno. We find out we should have reserved tickets weeks ago but we take a chance and drive up early in the morning hoping there might be some last minute tickets available.  We are successful and we are soon on our 1.2 km tour of the Punkva Caves. Giant formations inside the cave. The Macocha Abyss is a surprise. Like an underground world with trees and a small lake. The first discoverers of this cave lowered themselves by rope 138 meters into this abyss. Next we are loaded into boats and travel along 440 meters of an underground river. The overhanging rocks are very low and we need to duck at times to avoid banging our heads. No photos were allowed on the boats. We stop and disembark to view this beautiful white cavern then back onto the boats to finish our tour. After sampling the local fare we go for a hike to the top of the Macocha Abyss that we saw from inside the cave. Lots and lots of stairs! This is a picture of a picture, but it shows looking up from the bottom of the abyss better than any of my photos.

It is just a short walk to St. Catherine’s Cave, named after a shepherd girl who got lost and died in the cave looking for some lost sheep. This cave was inhabited by Palaeolithic man and many bones of cave bears were discovered here. This is the largest cave dome in the Czech Republic. It was impossible to get it all into one photo it is so huge. Cave bear remains are found in this pile of rocks and bones and there is an assembled cave bear skeleton on display. These were very big bears who lived 50,000 to 30,000 years ago! This is called the Bamboo Forest with its high, stick shaped stalagmites. These are unique and not found in any other caves in this country.
Crazy beautiful formations. We are allowed to touch this stalagmite. It is said that if you touch this formation with two fingers your wish will come true. Here’s hoping…The entrance to St. Catherine’s cave. The temperature inside these caves was about 8 °C and the humidity is 99%. We emerge into the 29° weather and our glasses and camera lens all fog up.

We stop for much needed groceries in a nearby town and it is almost dark when we get home. Time to pack up again. We leave tomorrow so we will not have a chance to see anything in the town of Bruno. We have decided that the next trip we take will have 3 night minimum stays, even when we are just stopping to get from one place to another. There is so much to see everywhere that a 2 night stopover with only one day to sightsee just doesn’t work. I also hate having to pack and unpack so often. Oh, and according ot my FitBit we walked 14,200 steps and climbed the equivalent of 39 floors! No wonder my legs and feet are so tired.

 

Telč, Czech Republic UNESCO Site

Day 3, Wednesday, August 28, 2019

On the way from Prague to Brno we stop at Telč, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The drive took longer than anticipated due to the heavy traffic and road construction. We have never seen so many trucks on the highway anywhere else. Luckily the trucks stay in the right lane, because at one point we passed 85 trucks that were stuck in traffic and not moving at all! One of the many small towns we pass on the road to Telč.

The countryside is beautiful and not so different from home.The town square at Telč is a visual feast. Every house is painted differently, each one vying to outdo its neighbours in beauty. The well-conserved Renaissance and Baroque houses from the 14th century have high gables and arcades on the ground level which provide sheltered walkways and display areas for the ground floor shops. It also hides any modern signs and advertising from view on the square

There are two fountains in the centre of this large rectangular square with benches for relaxing, which we take advantage of. It was a great spot to enjoy some goodies from the local bakery and enjoy the sunshine. At the far end of the square we see the bell tower so of course we go see if is possible to climb to the top for a view of the town.The first 50 stone stairs are very narrow… but soon we are climbing another 100 steps on old wooden timber steps up to the bells. This bell is named Marie and she was cast in 1550 and weighs 950 kg! A bit more climbing and we are looking down on the two bells, Jacub and Marie, before climbing to the viewing platform at the top. The view from the top was wonderful. Telč is a very pretty town.

Next we take a tour of the underground tunnels and cellars of Telč. All the houses have underground cellars that were connected by tunnels. They were used to store food and supplies and as a place to hide if the town was attacked. There are 11 km of tunnels but only about 150 meters that we are allowed to visit. That is just fine as we have to bend at the waist and crouch to walk through the dark tunnels with only a flashlight to find our way. This crucifix was at the end of one dark tunnel . We were the only people on the tour who actually went and explored all the tunnels. Everyone else stayed in the larger rooms that were used for some displays and a short video about Telč. Back above ground we walked through the grounds of the palace. We didn’t have time to take a tour of the inside, but Bob got a chance to try wielding a sword. They are very heavy! We also met some interesting creatures. This ten year old python and… his 4 year old albino friend. This beautiful ironwork was on one of the doors of the palace. We visited our first (and certainly not our last) church, the Church of St. James the Greater which dates from 1273, but has been rebuilt many times since then.This panorama gives an idea of just how many houses line just one side of the square. They are all in a row, not in a curve as they appear in the photo. These houses continue on from the right side of the photo above. It is hot, 28° and we finally feel like it is summer. It was a cool wet summer at home so this is a nice change. 

A quick photo from the car on the way to Brno. There are lots of very brightly painted  houses here, and yellow and bright green houses are very common. I have no idea what this is supposed to be but it is certainly unusual. I wonder if someone lives here? We finally arrive in Brno, find our apartment but can’t figure out how to get into the building! Finally we message our host who comes down to meet us. It is a beautiful bnb apartment, the foyer alone is bigger than our whole place was in Prague!

Prague and the Zizkov Television Tower

Day 2, Tuesday August 27, 2019

We go for a walk to explore our neighbourhood and notice this tower near our apartment. It is the Zizkow Television Tower which was once ranked as the fourth ugliest structure in the world!  The tower stands 216 meters (709 feet) high, and the observatory is 93 m.(305 feet) high. You can click on blue highlighted words for more info.

Three of the pods are used for equipment related to the tower’s primary function and are inaccessible to the public. The other six pods are open to visitors, and give a panoramic view of Prague and the surrounding area. The lower three pods house a restaurant and café bar.If you look down in the lower right corner you can just make out some of the headstones of the old Jewish Cemetery which located beneath all the trees in the bottom of this photo. Prague is a pretty city with lots of parks and green spaces.The old Jewish Cemetery is thought to contain more than 100,000 graves, some with multiple bodies stacked up to twelve deep.  There are ten six foot tall babies crawling on the tower. It is quite the sight, and it does make us smile, They were placed on the tower to help make it more appealing to the people of Prague, who were not in favour of the tower when it was built.

We sit in a park we saw from the tower, for a snack and I sketch this building for 45 minutes. Bob starts a crossword puzzle but then he has a little nap on the park bench.

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Walking home we passed these whimsical apartments. They look like they belong in a storybook.We go home to pack for the beginning of our road trip tomorrow through the Czech Republic, Poland and Germany,                                  .