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Photo Tour: Around the Czech Republic

My last trip out of Prague (not counting my trip home to Tucson in May, that is...) was in April. I've finally got time to do a bit more sightseeing out of the city. Here are a few photos from a few daytrips. I'll add pronunciations as best I can. ;-)


Cesky Krumlov (CHESS-key KROOM-lawf) is a beautiful village in South Bohemia, near the border with Germany. It draws huge crowds of tourists (but it's still not as mobbed as Prague). Like a lot of old cities here, it has a chateau on a hill that looks over the town below. Towns were often built in the crooks of rivers so they'd have water on most sides for defense. Cesky Krumlov doesn't draw tourists only for its beauty; the river is full of boats -- and the streets are full of sweaty, grubby boaters, which makes it a fun contrast to other pretty towns. Here's a view from the chateau down:

Cesky Krumlov from the chateau


Maybe I should have started with the chateau entrance? (This is the tourist's entrance, anyway.) You walk through an arch and up this steep walkway:

Entrance to chateau at Cesky Krumlov


One of the standouts at the chateau is the Round Tower, painted in 1590. This doesn't just stand out; with these colors, I don't know how anyone could miss it:

Round Tower at Cesky Krumlov chateau


On to Pardubice (PAR-doo-beet-say), which is an hour east of Prague by train. Not as many tourists come to this part of the Czech Republic, even though it's got a lot of beautiful spots. After being only in Prague, and other places full of people, for the last three months, it was a relief to be in a place where I was almost alone with the city's residents. Here's the modest ;-) town hall:

Pardubice town hall


Half an hour away is Hradec Kralove (hmmm, that's HRRAD-ets KRAH-luh-vey, I think). I have to put in a plug for the Lonely Planet guidebook series here; they do a good job of pointing you to out-of-the-way places. Their Comet travel newsletter ("for people who like their travel news down loaded, not loaded down", as they say :) is typical of LP's irreverent style. They're just running a series on why hard-core travel nuts love to travel. If you've been trying to figure me out ;-), then have a look at issue 45, their latest.

Anyway, about Hradec Kralove: like many cities in the Czech Republic, it has an old central city (centrum, TSENT-room, is the Czech word) with modern buildings around it. You can see some modern hi-rises on the outskirts, past the steeples in the foreground, in this view from the top of the White Tower:

View south from White Tower, Hradec Kralove


As I said a month or two ago, I have a hard time imagining this place under Communist rule, gray and stodgy. (If I spoke Czech, I could talk to more people about their lives, before and after. I never got much chance to do that at the office.) A lot of formerly-grey and shabby buildings are being spruced up and painted up... though I think they sometimes take it a bit too far, as in this Technicolor street scene:

Street in Hradec Kralove


Speaking of drab and boring, the theater festival I ran across at the Klicperovo Divadlo (no, I'm not going to try to pronounce it for you :) was far from that. One of the most-fun parts was the acrobatic sculptures, on wires high above the pavement; a lot of the sculptures stood over the wire with almost nothing seeming to hold them there. You can see five of them in this photo from the front of the theater -- and, yes, those are two lone feet (on bicycle pedals) at the top left:

Acrobatic sculpture at Hradec Kralove theater

If I were more into architecture (forgive me, Tom :), maybe I'd be more interested in what makes all of the beautiful buildings in Gothic, Renaissance, and other styles so individually wonderful. But, sort of like the famous "cathedral burnout" that people get after seeing tons of European cathedrals, I started to get a bit tired of all the pretty squares with gorgeous buildings in pastel colors. Maybe that's why I liked the 20th-century Functionalist architecture in Hradec Kralove's Nove Mesto (KNOW-vay MEE-YES-toe, new town) that my guidebook called "brutal." But then, of course, I also like a lot of modern art (and there's a great museum of 20th-century Czech art in Hradec Kralove...), so go figure for yourself...


Well, I had to do one more horribly cute town. This is Telc (pronounced telch), another tourist magnet. Instead of being built in the crook of a river, as I mentioned about Cesky Krumlov, Telc built two huge ponds around itself. Unfortunately, until recently, they also dumped their own sewage into the ponds. So the water isn't exactly beautiful, but the views across it sure are:

Telc


Like a lot of places, I guess, Telc keeps gearing up for tourism -- beautifying ugly streets and buildings (and not dumping sewage in their ponds anymore...). I've seen several places -- in Prague and other cities, as well as Telc -- laying new paving stones. (A lot of the streets in the Czech Republic are also cobblestone.) Maybe as a break from looking at the gorgeous buildings, I wandered into a construction area and spent quite a while watching the craftsmen (yes, in all of the cases, just men) lay stones:

Laying a new street, stone by stone, in Telc


Part of what I enjoy about being a tourist is seeing day-to-day life in the places I visit -- staying long enough to see more than just the tourist sights. I'll be doing more of that, I'm sure, as time goes on... especially if I can keep getting more work like my Linux Magazine column that gives me more freedom to hit the road (or the plane) pretty often.

For now, though, goodbye -- and thanks for coming along on my trip. If you want to see earlier Czech pictures, you can start with A walk across Prague.

Or return to the tour beginning, or the other tours.

(These photographs are Copyright © 2002 by Jerry Peek. Much higher-resolution versions of most images, and many other images too, are available at Jerry Peek Photography. Photos are available at reduced prices, or free, for non-commercial use.)

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