Thursday, August 27th, 2020 – Český Krumlov to Prague
Distance travelled – 302 kilometres
As always, I woke up very early – but it was already quite light and the sun was giving serious thought to rising. I left Lucie sleeping, grabbed the camera and headed out. At that time in the morning, it really was just me. It was like being in a ghost town and I had walked for ages before I saw anyone at all – and that was just a bin lorry collecting rubbish.
I returned to the gardens where we had sat the night before and was able to photograph the castle tower, yet again, but this time in the rays of the early morning sun which was rising away to my right.
The beams caught the golden weather vane on top of the tower rather nicely.
In my old age (!) I have an early morning regime of stretching exercises which, truth be told, have, over a period of time, added considerably to my overall fitness. In the quiet, deserted garden, I thought it might be nice to do them al-fresco. It was only as I came to the end of my routine, which involves a period of balancing on alternate legs, that I noticed that a Japanese man had come up silently behind me and was avidly filming my every move. When I looked at him directly, he nodded politely, bowed and slipped away. I guess there is a possibility that I may well be an internet sensation in Tokyo by now !
Lucie was up and about when I got back, so we ate our leisurely breakfast in the dining room. I had even managed to find a small teapot in the cupboard but, regrettably, the only English tea provided was Earl Grey. For reasons that I have never been able to fathom, there seems to be a general opinion, all around the world, that this is an Englishman’s chief beverage of choice. News Flash guys ! It is not mine ! I went for fruit tea instead and I am assured the coffee was good. The continental style breakfast was plentiful and there were even some hard-boiled eggs !
We checked out and made the short walk to where the Harley was parked. It may have been a Thursday, but the still almost totally deserted streets were a bit unnerving.
It is not my practice to deceive my wife, but I was about to do it. She generally plans our trips and, thanks to her scientific training, the moon landings would appear poorly planned by direct comparison. I had volunteered to plan our route back and I suppose that, as we were only, theoretically, about two hundred kilometres from home, she figured that, even if I blew it totally, we would still get back there eventually. So I told her that we would be going to the town of Telč, because I knew it had a very nice central square and we could have lunch there. That part was not deceit. Telč does indeed have a beautiful centre and, as it was only about 130 kilometres away, the timings would work – but there was somewhere else I wanted to see on the way and this I did not divulge.
We left Český Krumlov on Route 157 and wound our way, through thick aromatic pine forests and the occasional stretch of more open countryside.
We passed through the small towns of Mirkovice, Velešín and Trhové Sviny and eventually arrived in Borovany where we swapped Route 157 for Route 155 in the direction of Třebon. This was a wider and straighter road and the traffic was a lot heavier but, aided by our big, torquey V-Twin engine, which made overtaking a breeze, we still made good time. I have noticed that, when I write, I seldom mention the motorcycle we are on. I probably feel I do not really need to, but this type of travelling was exactly why we had bought our new Heritage. We still love our Fat Boy, but age and a far smaller engine directed by twenty-year old technology does make it seem slow and a bit cumbersome by comparison. We were soon circumnavigating Třebon. It is a spa town, with many hydros and the final approach to the town was flanked by large, picturesque, lakes.
To continue our journey eastwards, we now took Route 34 which was of sufficient width and quality as to have the additional designation as the E551. We sped smoothly through a fragrant mix of pine forest and many, sparkling lakes to the outskirts of Jindřichův Hradec where we deviated again onto Route 164. In the small town of Kunžak, the 164 became the Route 151 which we followed for the next fifteen or so kilometres to the town of Dačice.
Unknown to Lucie, Dačice was actually my intended destination. I did intend to have lunch in Telč, that was true, but it was Dačice that we had actually been heading towards for the past two hours. Dačice has a rather unusual “claim to fame” and it was one of which even my Czech wife was unaware until we pulled up beside the memorial to that very assertion. It is not, in truth, an impressive monument, merely a simple cube of stone that even I might have been able to fashion, balanced somewhat precariously on a plinth. But, as it is intended to represent a cube of sugar, it is accurate indeed. It was in Dačice, in 1843, that the sugar cubes with which we are now all familiar were first fashioned and this mini-monolith pays homage to that event.
It is just the kind of weirdness I like. Move over, Great Pyramid, this is the Dačice sugar lump.
I think that Lucie was slightly amused, but, of course, she claimed she was totally underwhelmed. I attributed that lack of enthusiasm to hunger and, luckily, from where we stood in front of the cube, I could actually see a signpost claiming that Telč was a mere twelve kilometres away. We jumped back on the Harley, made the turn onto Route 406 and headed off for our lunch. This was a far smaller road than we had so far been on that day and the surface was, in places, more than slightly suspect. To mention the Harley twice in fairly quick succession, the patches of rough road I saw coming through the screen were ironed out into insignificance by our newer suspension and scarcely felt at all through the seat.
The town of Telč is yet another of the Czech Republic’s UNESCO world heritage sites. Originally built of wood, what is now the historic centre was totally destroyed by a fire in 1387 that had started in a bakery. (Now, where have I heard THAT one before ?) It was rebuilt in stone with added the defences of a wall and some strategically placed fish ponds. What is now the central square was never built back over. The centre of the town is a now pedestrian zone. Although the walls are long gone, we had to park outside of where they once were and enter through the, still existing, town gatehouses.
Like Český Krumlov, Telč has a beauty all its own, but it is a very different one. The charm of the former lays in its tangled web of tiny streets lined with ancient houses. The beauty of the historic centre of Telč lays in the immediate surroundings of its large, triangular, market square. The sides of the triangle are lined by the houses of the town’s former burghers. Although undoubtedly of medieval origins, these are now linked in a continuous arcade and were rebuilt, over time, into both Renaissance and Baroque styles. The richness of the decor very much reflects the wealth of the town that was derived from the nearby lakes and forests. There is no attempt at architectural uniformity, the facades are individually characterised by a huge diversity of decorative styles, but the overall effect is beautiful. The best way to visualise it, might be to imagine a couple of hundred of those tiny houses you find in souvenir shops, placed side by side in a long triangle.
We were not spectacularly inventive with regards to where we ate our lunch. All of the restaurant terraces in the square were packed with diners and we seized our chance when we saw a couple get up and leave. The place we ate was in the Restaurace U Zachariáše (Náměstí Zachariáše z Hradce 33, Telč). The menu was Czech “standards“, done well and, by Prague standards, very cheaply.
We ambled back to the Harley where I sprang my final surprise of the day. We were setting out for home, but on the way I wanted to make a diversion to yet another of our country’s all but unknown jewels, Červená Lhota Castle. I had previously entered the address into the SatNav, so I merely punched the correct button, thumbed the starter and away we went.
If you are ever thinking about making a visit yourself, it is important that you know that there is also a town called Červená Lhota, some way to the east of Telč which is NOT where the castle is ! The castle itself is a similar distance to the west of Telč. Make sure that you type the correct address, which is shown below.
We left Telč on Route 23, which was a wide and beautifully surfaced road that undulated across miles of open, rolling countryside as far as Jarošov nad Nežarkou. Here we joined Route 34 (also the E551 with extensive roadworks to prove it) but stayed on Route 34 when it headed west independently again in the town of Nová Včelnice. At Světce, we took Route 128 in a south-westerly direction which very soon, in the town of Deštna, became the 12836. All those numbers did not really matter however as signs for the castle were present in Světce and that made finding it easy. As for the road numbers, I could keep on telling you them, but it would be pretty pointless without a printed paper map which shows them. The numbers are certainly not shown on any signpost, particularly for any road with more than three numbers. Suffice it to say that, although I did not really know where I was, the SatNav did and it guided us faultlessly through many kilometres of narrow, winding, poorly surfaced, country roads until we finally came to the marked parking area for the castle.
Červená Lhota Castle, (Červená Lhota 1, 378 21) is believed to have started life as a fortress, probably in the 14th century. It sits on a small island in a lake but, after fires and remodelling in the 16th century, became more of a country mansion than a castle proper. It is in Renaissance style and the exterior walls are covered in red plaster. It is this that gives it its name, Červená is the Czech word for red. I had visited it in 1994 and been entranced by the sight of the castle reflected in the placid green lake.
Lucie had never seen it and, sad to say, when we were there the lake (which also doubles as a fish pond) had been drained for remedial works. The castle was surrounded by a sea of yellowing grass, not water. That did not render it a wasted trip, but it was not quite as beautiful as it might have been.
As we walked back to the Harley, we stopped and helped ourselves to a rather unusual, black ice-cream which was seemingly some local speciality. I do not know what flavour it was, but it was delicious. If you are ever there, get one. As we ate the ice-cream, quite suddenly the sunshine seemed to fade and it became noticeably cooler. Time to head home.
We left the castle in a westerly direction, guided solely by the SatNav. We rode along narrow roads that very slowly became slightly wider and better surfaced. At the first half-major road we turned north-west and the Gods of Coincidence took us to the town of Tučapy. With due respect to the residents of that town, it is an insignificant speck on the map. But, nonetheless, it is a speck in which Lucie spent several days in rudimentary accommodation when, as a student, she was sent there, by the State, to pick up potatoes. The surrounding fields were bare earth so we guessed the crop had already been harvested by more mechanical means.
From Tučapy, the road north took us to Košice (the one in Bohemia, not the one in eastern Slovakia) and then to Route 3, which I had purposefully avoided the day before. That simplified things and we rode steadily and fairly easily north on what is a wide a usually well surfaced road. Parts of this, thanks to EU funding, are also of sufficient quality to qualify for the E55 label and we easily bypassed the town of Tabor which was, in the past, something of a bottleneck. The weather had become quite dull, but it was not cold and our only real problem was the car-driving psychos. You know them, they simply have to overtake and squeeze in front of you even though they cannot then go anywhere further – and who then become enraged beyond all reason when the lines of traffic slow and a motorcycle can safely overtake. We made good time and it was not long before we came to Jirovice. This pin prick on the map has a place in both our hearts. When we took a balloon flight, some years ago, that was where we returned to earth. That made us honorary citizens of that municipality – we could probably vote there !
We were all but home by then. We bypassed the town of Benešov and came to the main D1/E55 motorway and were outside our house about twenty minutes later.
As I like to say, another trip tripped !