Škoda Car Factory, Mladá Boleslav, Czech Republic

Day 30, Tuesday,  September 24, 2019

We leave our bnb early this morning so that we will be in time for a tour of the Škoda Car Factory about an hour outside Prague.  We have our own personal guide for a three hour tour of the factory and museum, and it only costs us $6 CAD each!  Our guide was amazing,  She was a school teacher but has been a guide for the factory for six years as it pays much better than teaching.  She was incredibly knowledgeable and was able to answer our many questions.  This huge mural was on a building just outside the factory.No photos are allowed inside the factory but it is OK if I sketch.  It was tough to draw on the tour as we never stayed in one area very long.  Our guide Gabriela gave us directions, as we drove our car from one enormous factory building to another.

I wasn’t sure how interesting a car factory would be but it was fascinating.  I particularly loved the robots that assembled the car parts.  They were like dinosaurs the way they moved, twisting and turning as they manipulated the car parts, as they soldered and assembled them.  I ended up taking notes more than drawing.

The factory workers only get two five minute and one thirty minute break during a twelve hour shift!  It is also very noisy but no one wears ear protection.  We ask Gabriela about that and she says it is recommended but not enforced.  She said that in Germany ear protection would be mandatory.

The sketch on the second page is of self directed ‘travelling’ robots that move parts from one section of a building to another.  These robots follow magnetized lines painted on the floor.  We had to be careful to keep out of the way of these robots as well as the vehicles with human drivers.  I am actually surprised that there are not more stringent rules about where we can and can not walk.  After our two hour tour of the factory we have another hour tour of the museum where Gabriela talks about all the cars.  I am not a car enthusiast but I found it all quite interesting. Here are a few of the Škoda cars from the museum.  One area has cars four levels deep.  We also went into a special area with Škoda race cars, but we didn’t have the camera with us then. The museum used to be an old factory building.  You can still see some of the cranes and other machinery high above us. This was fun!  We put on virtual reality goggles and earphones and got to ‘drive’ one of the vehicles through early 19th century Prague.  Soon it was time to drive our rental Škoda to Prague and find our next Airbnb.

We were very lucky and found a parking spot right in front of our apartment to unload our stuff, but it was a resident’s only space.  After we unload, we drove around trying to find a spot where we could park our car for the night.  It was impossible!  We drove around for close to an hour and we weren’t able to find a parking space anywhere.

Bob finally decided that we should drive to the train station and park there, as that is where we will return the car tomorrow.  Then we need to walk home.  It is about a half hour walk, in the dark, uphill most of the way!  We are both tired and hungry by the time we get home, but happy that we found somewhere to leave the car. You really do not want to have a car in the central part of European cities unless you have a designated parking space!

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!