Tues. Oct. 2, 2018:
Cesky Kremlov, Czech Republic:
It was a little jarring waking up in the room. It had high dark ceilings and it was an unusual sight to see upon waking. The mattress was stiff and I woke up with a sore back and aching legs. And yet despite all that I managed to sleep another hour, 8:30am just seemed too early to be getting up. I had overshot the sleep in by just a little bit and had to rush to get ready so I could still make it in time for breakfast. It was served buffet style and they had self-serve coffee. I avoided the carafe- what if it’s decaf?! And went instead for the machine. It was reassuring to see that the machine freshly grinds coffee beans when you press the button.
We walked over to the castle and stopped in at Cesky Pernik for some “Bohemian” pierniki (gingerbread). The cookies were ok, but they were definitely not baked that morning- which is what I had been expecting. As promised, there was a bear in a moat. It was not how I had imagined it. I was expecting a bear with a giant river that went all around the castle but it was just a large pit on either side of a bridge. It was not a moat at all. I felt sorry for the bear who kept pacing in circles, periodically pausing to sniff the wall.
The castle had many different parts, all with different admission tickets. started out with the castle museum. It was much the same as usual: portraits, furniture, books. After that we headed over to the tower. It was an awkward climb up as in certain parts the stairs were really narrow. In yet other parts there were loose nails sticking out. The stairs were made of really cheap wood at certain parts and it was quite disconcerting. Off to the side of the tower there was a “dungeon”- complete with fake skeleton. From the tower we could see the bear down below, still pacing about. The church artifacts room was horrifying. There was a real human skeleton of an alleged saint, dressed to the nines in church robes and a rosary. He was encased in a glass box below an altar. When we had first entered the room my eyes landed on a skull, making me do a double-take and swear under my breath- WTF? I actually had to check the info panel to verify- nope, yup, it was a real human skeleton. It creeped me out to no end. Continuing in the vein of creepy, we tried to find the castle dungeon (different than the tower dungeon). We had no luck, there weren’t even any signs. We checked so many times, even checking as we backtracked. There wasn’t a trace of it.
Up next we tried to find the ticket office to visit the stables. Did I mention that there were multiple box offices for the different parts of the castle? We saw that there was a guided tour in English at 11:30am, a quick glance at the clock- 11:25am. The next one wasn’t until 1:30pm. The stables could wait. It was also the only way that we could see inside of the castle. We figured that maybe the tickets for the stables were sold at the actual stables? We had seen no sign for it thus far. On the tour of the castle we learned what happens to the bears when they pass on: they get turned into bearskin rugs. There were 7 throughout the castle. It was kind of interesting to see the different examples of taxidermy and how it has improved over time. On the tour we got to see what the rooms of the castle looked like during different times periods.
On the way to the stables and gardens we passed a door into what looked like a crypt. We had missed out on the dungeon but maybe this would be cool? There was a weird contemporary surrealist sculpture exhibit on display. I must give the artist credit, this was one of the coolest art exhibits we’ve ever been to. Even though we had to pay to get in, it was well worth it. We got to see the castle cellars. We found a sign pointing to the gardens and one to the winter riding school. There was no mention of stables. We tried to go towards the riding school, assuming they must have stables but instead we wound up at the entrance to the gardens. Thankfully we also found a bathroom there. It cost 10kr (about 50 cents) to use and it got me thinking: how much do they pay the attendant to sit there an collect the money. How do they possibly make a profit on this? The gardens were really pretty and it was relaxing to walk through. There weren’t really any pretty views because of the high walls. Walking back to the castle we kept our eyes open for the stables but had no luck. On our way out, we had one last look at the bear.
We stopped at Co-op grocery store for drinks and snacks. I found two ciders, one I had tried previously but it was a different flavour this time. I also got another rorka z kremem and a bag of Bohemia chips aptly slonin (really fatty eastern European bacon) flavoured. We stopped at Na Luzie pub for lunch. I liked the name, it was the same as in Polish and meant to relax and chill out. This time the mulled wine was seasoned but I still had to add some sugar. We split an order of the housemade pork jelly with onions and vinegar. It was more of a pasztet (pate) than a galeretka (gelatin-dish). I was not too happy about the vinegar being poured on it, I would have preferred less of it. For my main I ordered the (possibly fresh caught) carp. It sounded so damn good- except I had forgotten about the osci (tiny bones). It was so delicious and it was the perfect dish, served with potatoes of course. It reminded me of Christmas dinner. Brent had the pork with kopytka (potato dumplings). It came with a side of warm sauerkraut- making me more nostalgic for Christmas dinner. This was my kind of eating. The portion sizes were enormous and once again we were too full for dessert.
We walked around the streets. We saw a bulldog who was a mascot for a smoothie shop, he even had a sweatshirt on with the logo. It was too cute. I saw another market and went in but they had the same cider selection. I was about to leave but then I saw white chocolate Snickers and white chocolate Kinder Bueno. It took us almost 5 hours but we saw the whole town. Except now it was 3pm and we didn’t have much to do until dinner time. My plan was to drink tea, read and play Mario Odyssey. I had my iPad charging while I played= genius. Meanwhile Brent was napping.
We went out for a walk just after sunset but there were no nice views of the sunset because it was behind us, not near the castle. The bear was still lumbering about. We walked through the castle courtyards. It was hard to get a photo of the town because of the glaring spotlights on the castle. In one photo all of the bugs flying around all got illuminated. Walking around really built up my appetite. We dropped our stuff back in our room and I finished off the last of my Kingswood rosé cider.
The main dining room in the hotel restaurant was full so we grabbed a table in the adjacent overflow room where we’d had breakfast that morning. There was only one other table of people there and they were all middle-aged mildly racist white people. It was an awkward dinner as they complained about their food and sent stuff back. The service was very slow, our dinner lasted close to two hours. I tried to order a glass of Bohemian dry white wine but apparently, they were all out, as I was saying that’s ok he suggested Prosecco and walked away before I could order something else. I had meant ok, as in I’m not mad, I’ll order something else. I finished it before our dinners arrived. I tried to order mulled wine. He heard it as more wine, but just to be sure he brought over a menu to clarify. He came back again, no dice on the mulled wine. I tried to order grog, still no go. He asked me if I wanted red or white wine. I gave up and just said red. I was kind of worried that for the steak dish they didn’t ask how it should be done. When the dish arrived, I could see why: it was more of a braised beef. The roast potatoes were in fact mashed. At this point it seemed like the norm. Brent’s pork tenderloin was the clear winner. The pumpkin puree was amazing. The sauerkraut had bacon bits in it. Brent tried to order an Eggenberg beer, and nope, they didn’t have any. We ordered the praline dumplings for dessert. Brent was only going to have a bite. Instead they brought us each one dish- and charged us for two desserts. He tried to order a plum liqueur (sliwowice), nope, not in stock. Looking back, I have no idea why we kept trying. The really kicker was that the dessert clearly had plum liqueur in it. I have never had such a bewildering restaurant experience in my life. In total four of the five drinks we tried to order had ended in failure.
Back in the room my iPad was charged and ready for more reading. I cracked open the Frisco brusinka cider. I think it was cranberry?