Czech RepublicPosted: May 1, 2011
“So, what will we do today?” “Perhaps we could go to the Czech Republic” “Yes, why not, and visit another of the most beautiful capital cities in the world, Prague!!” Such are the daily conversations of the Cubby!
We decided to leave Austria and cross the border into Czech Republic enroute to our German friends in Dusseldorf . I had not visited a former Communist country before and felt some trepidation. My brave heart husband had been there 40 years ago, in the thick of the Communist Regime, and had no reserves about visiting there now.
You could hardly tell we had crossed the border. A very small sign announced the beginning of Czech, but almost immediately a new character emerged. Billboards on the side of the road. Everything, apparently, available “non – stop!!” A Casino, a nightclub, show girls, shopping, more showgirls – strange!
One of our first stops was a visit to a “non-stop” supermarket. Even though now a part of the EU, Czech still use Koruny. We were a little concerned when our bill amounted to over 1000 of them, and relieved to learn our considerable pile of groceries was only about $60 worth.
Past the billboards, the landscape is wide, open, green and brown. We could be in any number of places in Australia. But the signs are definitely foreign and the villages; small, plain homes, no shopfronts, a hangover from the Communist era. Still the gardens were boasting plenty of tulips and daffodils, buildings are neat and freshly painted. Antonio is amazed at what he is seeing and cannot believe how much has changed for the positive.
The border crossing could not have been more of a contrast from then to now. Antonio describes driving to a border guarded by 20 armored tanks, 300 uniformed personal, two 10 meter high watch towers manned by machine gun wielding men. He says no house or building had a garden or paint. Everything was drab, grey, dirty, uncared for. People lived where there seemed to be no life.
Feeling tired we let Tom Tom Ezmeralda find us a camp site. We were very lucky!! Situated on the edge of a very small village the campsite, www.camp-country.com is like camping in a botanical garden. The owners are helpful and speak very good English, the first locals we have found to do so. On a short walk to the village and behind the church we discover a religious walk with a capitol “R.” A local artist has donated nearly 100 paintings on tin, of catholic churches in Czech and Poland. I had read in Wikipedia that Czech is one of the most Atheist countries in the world. I am therefore surprised by this small Catholic pilgrimage in a picturesque forest.
The next day, another beautiful drive through open green countryside and interesting villages, (particularly Kutna Hora, a rich city and former major supplier of silver through its silver mines there) led us to Prague. The campground, situated 8 kms from the city center again was the perfect base for a day in Prague. It is truly a beautiful and romantic city. An amazing sky line, the river Vltava, a palace and many grand buildings and boulevards. We enjoyed a 4 hour full city walking tour and spent another 4 hours just weaving our way along the river, through back streets, onto the metro and home.
I was almost surprised to noticeably feel my body relax when we crossed the border out of Czech. Overall something frightened me there, and kept me on guard. I saw a smoldering anger in a number of young men, in the country towns and the outer suburbs of Prague. I was uncomfortable communicating in a language that is much more foreign than the Italian and German that has become familiar to me. I sensed a criminal element there greater than any other place we have been. Antonio on the other hand was positive and relieved to see how far the country has come and how much has changed. Certainly the young guides for our Prague city tour were full of life, optimism and political awareness. A country still rebuilding itself. Who knows how things will continue to change.