The Czech Republic
Karlstejn and Prague, June 1 / June 16, 2015

Michael J. Ferguson

Journal Index


1  Montreal to Prague, Mon. June 3
2  Prague Airport to Karlstejn, Tues. June 4
3  Karlstejn, Wed. June 3
4  Karlstejn, Thurs. June 4
5  Karlstejn to Prague, Fri. June 5
6  Prague, Sat. June 6
7  Prague, Stromokova Game Preserve and The Old Town Square Sun. June 7
8  Drizzly Prague, Mon. June 8 to Tues. June 9
9  The Prague Castle, Wed. June 10
10  Prague, Letna Park and some Synagogues, Thurs. June 11
11  Prague, Old Jewish Cemetery and a River Ride, Fri. June 12
12  Prague, Astronomical Clock and Republic Square, Sat. June 13
13  Prague, Wenceslas Square, Sun. June 14
14  Prague, Camp Hajek, Mon. June 15
15  Prague to Montreal, Tues. June 16

1  Montreal to Prague, Mon. June 3

I was in Prague in 1968 during the Prague Spring, and since Air Transat has just added Prague to its destinations, it seemed like a good time to go back. Jerry, my neighbour, drove me to the Trudeau airport and the flight worked out well, arriving an hour nad a half early. There was a slight scare at the Prague airport when my baggage did not appear. Their belts were big enough for my stuff, but they also had a hidden away oversize belt. I was directed there and retrieved my bicycle and trailer.

2  Prague Airport to Karlstejn, Tues. June 4

I am using a new trailer that I built and had tested at home with heavy loads, which, after reinforcing the trailer connector bracket once. seemed to be OK. However it really wasn't. This time it didn't break, but did bend to such an extent that the trailer was almost scraping the ground. I tried, and failed. Finally it did start scraping. Then I tried resting the big trailer on the back of my small, carry-on trailer. It looked like it would work. As I was about to leave, Igor came out of his house, prompted by his mother that I needed help, and asked me what he could do. I told him I was going to the Sunny Camp, and he looked it up and found directions for me. My directions had a high hill and his way was flat. I decided to go his way.
So I started out, and about halfway there, Igor came skating up behind me and said he discovered that the camp had permanently closed. When I told him I wanted to go to Karlstejn, he offered to drive me there. We went back to his house, but on the last small curb, the connector on the small trailer shattered. Now I had two useless trailers. Igor said he would take me to a the home repair store, to get some new tubing. I didn't think it was going to work because of metric/imperial incompatibility. I was right but we did find some aluminum tubes, one fitting inside, and the other outside. We rebuilt both connectors, and put them back on. He then offered to drive me to the Karlstejn Autocamp. The countryside was intimidating, and I don't think I would have made it one day from the Sunny Camp. We arrived at about 8:30 pm and I set up camp.
I had intended to go to Konopiste Castle. but I will take the train back to Prague instead. I don't really trust the integrity of my repairs. I also am not handling the hills very well.

3  Karlstejn, Wed. June 3

My major task today was to find the railway station. Although the GPS knew about it, it could not route to it. After many tries, I finally found someone who knew where it was. I found it, and a schedule, along with a depressing set of stairs that I will have to cross to get to the other platform. The rest of the time was spent exploring Karlstejn and its castle. It appears that the only industry here is tourism. The main street up to the castle is very steep and is full of stuff shops, a small hotel, restaurants, and ice cream shops. I started at the bottom and rode, walked, and rested on the way up.
Finally there was a path that led to the castle with a very obvious No Bicycles sign. I locked my bike and started up. It was too steep to ride anyway.
The castle has a lordly perspective from above.
Coming down was much easier than going up. I arrived back at the campground at about 4:00 pm, and sat around being lazy until I started writing the journal.

4  Karlstejn, Thurs. June 4

Today I rode aimlessly around town, I had intended to ride to a small town about 5km away, but decided that I didn't really want to climb the hill just out of Karlstejn. Instead I opted to ride up and down the river.

5  Karlstejn to Prague, Fri. June 5

This was an easy day with some more trailer problems. I rode to the railway station, got my ticket for myself and the bike,, and avoided the stairs by crossing the tracks at the far end of the station. I rolled my bicycle on and sat down for the very pleasant 35 minute trip to Prague. The only interesting thing about the trip was that my bike rolled off the train at an intermediate station. Disaster was averted because a conductor put it back on and chastised me for my stupidity.
The real problem of the trip was that the trailer bracket broke again at the bottom of the Prague platform escalator. It was clear I could not repair it so I put it in the back of the small trailer. It lasted until I found my campgrround but the extra weight messed up the small trailer bracket. Repairs will be necessary.

6  Prague, Sat. June 6

I spent all day working on the trailers. Tomorrow I will begin field testing.

7  Prague, Stromokova Game Preserve and The Old Town Square Sun. June 7

Today was my first day into Prague. The Stromokova game preserve park is between the camp ground and the city. It is a delightfully pleasant place, but has high steep ridges on the Prague side.
After that struggle, I dropped down to the city.
I crossed the bridge
and then wandered down to the Staomestske Namesti or Old Town Square. It was, I thought over run by people, and especially tour groups, but a Prague local told me that there were very few people.
Just off the square is the Town Hall Tower with crowds in front of the famous Astronomical Clock.
Then I struggled through the crowds to the Charles Bridge.
The bridge was jammed with tourists and I almost decided to wait for another day rather than push my bike through.
I did go, and it was not too bad.
Then it was back, over the ridges to the camp.

8  Drizzly Prague, Mon. June 8 to Tues. June 9

These were two days of dreary drizzle. I started out on Monday and as the drizzle increased realized that I had not taken my rain jacket or the waterproof bag for my camera so I came back to camp. Tuesday was not much better, but I did ride to a Bauhaus and bought some more aluminium tubing to use when I get home.

9  The Prague Castle, Wed. June 10

Today the weather cleared. My first quest was to check-out the route to the airport. It seemed feasible and I quit after I reached the main road.
Then I rode to the Prague Castle. My first stop inside was the Royal Garden with its fountain.
Then I continued and entered the second courtyard.
The third courtyard has St. Vitus Cathedral whose spires are visible from all over Prague.
Just across from it is the Old Royal Palace where they have a changing of the guard ceremony at noon each day. People gather quite early.
The castle is really a small village with two churches, a chapel, shops, and houses. St George Basilica is the second church.
I then walked a considerable way down to the lower East gate. I was able to enter and leave by different gates because, rather surprisingly, I was allowed to wheel my bicycle inside.
The lower East gate is still high above the city.
The small road down was paved cobblestones. They make riding quite unpleasant.
Then I went along the river towards the Charles Bridge, sharing my view with some swans.
I continued to the bridge, and started walking up to the Malostranské Namesti and St. Nicholas Church and its small square.
From there I went up the very steep Malá Strana to the Hradcanské Namesti which also happens to be the First Courtyard of the Prague Castle.
Then it was mostly downhill to my camp.

10  Prague, Letna Park and some Synagogues, Thurs. June 11

The Letna Beer Garden gets rave reviews by Lonely Planet so I set out to find it. After some difficulty, I did, and was roundly disappointed. The garden consisted of over a hundred picnic tables arranged in rows, with no flowers or plants in sight. However the park is high above the river, so the views of Prague more than made up for the disappointment.
The park itself had some charms.
The end of Letna Park abuts on the Prague Castle showing St. Vitus Cathedral looming above.
From there I went down, crossed the Charles Bridge and wandered around the Staré Mesto district, past the Astronomical Clock to a small plaza on the other side.
Although the treatment of Jews in Prague was less than exemplary, several synagogues remain. The Spanish Synagogue is large, and has only one visible wall. The other three have been covered by newer buildings. It is not even visible from the main street.
The other two I saw are less crowded.
The architecture here is varied and inspiring.
Just at the edge of the Game Preserve was another one, probably of Italian design

11  Prague, Old Jewish Cemetery and a River Ride, Fri. June 12

Again I rode rather chaotically around the Stare Mesto, also looking for the Old Jewish Cemetery that had impressed me, as symbol of prejudice in 1968.
Now the entire area is surrounded by a wall, with an entrance at the Pinkus Synagogue where you buy tickets. I decided, instead to go all the way around it and finally found a small opening in a door. As one would expect, not much has changed in the two centuries since it has been inactive.
Not far from the cemetary, by the Manes Bridge is a small park where Dvorak stands in fron of the Rudolfarium.
I sat down at the Manes Bridge and admired the Vitava River, some houses, and the castle.
There is a bicycle path by the Vitava where I crossed over the Vitava to the game preserve. I guessed the sidewalk here, running above a riverside road, would lead to it. After a short wrong turn, I was back.

12  Prague, Astronomical Clock and Republic Square, Sat. June 13

I cross over the Vitava twice on my way into town, the first time being rather rural, and the second time quite commercial.
I was heading towards the Astronomical Clock and, purely by accident, passed by St. Peters church and its strange bird sculpture on it's clock tower.
I wanted to see the Astronomical Clock in action without the several hundred tourists that I had seen last Sunday. I had hoped to get there by 8:00 am but had to settle for 9:00 am. There were, of course, lots of people but not an overwhelming crowd.
The event that the crowds are waiting are the apostles passing by the doors at the top of the clock.
I then went in search of Wenceslas Square, passed the Powder Tower, the Obecni Dum ended up in Republic Square instead.
The square is dominated by the King's Hotel and the Konektor Place, both of which appear to be re-purposed palaces.
I spent about an hour eating lunch when the clouds rolled in. The weather forecast was for rain so I started back to camp. It was early afternoon when I, and the rain arrived at Hajek camp.

13  Prague, Wenceslas Square, Sun. June 14

Rain is again forecast for this afternoon so I will be back early. This time I found Wenceslas Square rather easily, but I had mapped out an easier route last night.
The square is really a long divided road with high class shops such as Burberry, KFC, and Burger King. along the sides. It is dominated by the statue of Wenceslas and the Old National Museum at the south end.
From there I rode to someplace different and found the New Town Hall. It dates from the fourteenth century when the town was really new.
After that I discovered I was back in the Republic Square where I waited for the rains that did not come.

14  Prague, Camp Hajek, Mon. June 15

This morning was supposed to be raining, so I spent the morning writing and processing the photos. It cleared in the afternoon, but I had no place I wanted to go so I just kept working.

15  Prague to Montreal, Tues. June 16

It was a dry night so I was able to pack a dry tent. I packed the bicycle last night, and put it on top of the trailer to haul it up the driveway for my shuttle to the airport. When I lifted the trailer bracket it shattered. There is no question the design needs improving.
The shuttle arrived a half-hour early but I was ready. It was a beautiful drive through parts of Prague that I had not seen before on our way to pick up some other passengers. Air Transat had just begun check-in when I arrived, with many others in front of me. However I got a good window seat on the least sunny side of the plane, and even had two empty seats beside me. I have not seen as many empty seats in years.
I spent almost the entire flight continuing captioning photos from where I left off yesterday.

File translated from TEX by TTH, version 4.03.
On 17 Jun 2015, 13:34.