Northwest Bohemia, another side of Czech Republic
Most of the time when talking about the Czech Republic, Prague is the first thing that comes in mind. Well yes, its romantic atmosphere and beautiful buildings filled with history do not lack charm, that’s why we just had a crush on this city. But don’t fool yourself dear reader, the Czech Republic has more to offer than Prague, you just have to think a little bit outside of the box! We had the chance to explore some of the Northwest Bohemia region as part of a press trip and while we didn’t like everything, we were able to discover some nice spots, shall we?
Majestic Pravčická brána in the Bohemian Switzerland National Park
Bohemian Switzerland is a national park located in the northwest of the Czech Republic, on the border with Germany. It is an absolutely marvelous mysterious area with pine forests and deep valleys from which rise walls, ravines and other beautiful rock formations. The main attraction of the area is the Pravčická brána (Pravcicka gate) which is the largest natural rock gate on the European continent. To get there, you must park your car at the paid Hřensko parking lot then you will have to walk along the 25857 road before going into a thick pine forest, following the red-marked path. There is a little bit of difference in level but it’s really not a difficult walk and it is especially nice to get surrounded by nature. When we were there it was mildly raining and so the humidity in the air gave to the forest a sacred magical aspect, a pure delight! It takes about one hour from Hřensko to reach the Pravčická brána on foot, which entrance is charged (CZK75 or $3), and enjoy an absolutely amazing show. The gate itself is huge, and while being under it is pretty impressive, we strongly suggest that you take a little height and distance to admire it at its fair value. Several stairways around the place will allow you to access beautiful views of the valley and the gate but beware if you are scared of heights, those low barriers can be easily forgettable! The place is very well laid out and you will also find a restaurant and a snack there where we ended up having yet another Czech beer with our fellow traveler friends before beginning the descent.
Odd coal safari in Most
This is certainly the activity that has left us the most perplexed from the entire stay. We really weren’t excited to visit coal mines, it is not the kind of activity we would have selected if we had visited Northwest Bohemia on our own and unfortunately, the excursion matched our expectations. Being both sensitive to the condition of the environment, we’ll let you imagine what it felt like for us to witness those huge expanses of greenery being literally gutted to allow coal extraction. A truly desolate landscape punctuated by the presence of these huge steel Transformers-like machines manipulated by tiny human beings. For about four hours, we have been tossed around in an old military truck to witness the increasingly horrific damage that can be done by Man on his environment. The visit ended with the charming little town of Most, which was literally moved stone by stone from its original location in the 1960s to favor coal mining in the area. We made a stop in front of the beautiful Kostelní lake, hard to believe that just a few years ago, this place was ravaged by coal mining. The story doesn’t say how much time, money and energy were required for this rehabilitation…
Delicious czech cuisine
What was nice about taking such a press trip is that we got to eat every day at the restaurant allowing us to try out various traditionnal czech dishes. Needless to say that, as a great foodies (as suggested by this article or this one!), we loved testing, experimenting different things and it was really delicious! Czech cuisine is simple, flourishless and very generous, we usually got up from the table with our belly and belt ready to crack! The czech dishes are often based on sauces and accompanied with dumplings, these types of delicious traditional bread and the meat served is usually duck or pork. Eating out is very affordable for our French standards, even in the poshest restaurants, we never saw a dish being charged over CZK 300 ($12)! To give you some inspiration, you will find a list of all the restaurants we have tested in our Handy information section, up there in our right sidebar!
Malé Čičovice 26, 252 68
Very nice traditional czech restaurant located in the countryside
The Větruše |
Fibichova 392/25, 400 01 Ústí nad Labem
Wonderful view from the terrace on Ústí nad Labem
Chic restaurant from a 4-star hotel
The Hněvín Castle |
Hradní 577, 434 01 Most
Beautiful view of the Most Castle
[/one_half][one_half_last]Radniční sklípek |
Mírové náměstí 21/13, 412 01 Litoměřice
U Marešů |
Mezná 1, 407 17 Děčín-Hřensko
Nearby the Pravcicke gate
Klášterní pivovar Strahov |
Strahovské nádvoří 301, 118 00 Prague 1
The restaurant is in fact a brewery which produces its own beer
Nearby the Prague Castle and Strahov Monastery
Very loud main room
Yes, czech wine exists!
And it is clearly one of the things that surprised us the most while preparing for our trip. We were very far from imagining that it was possible to produce wine in the Czech Republic, given the much less lenient climate than sweet Mediterranean temperatures, and so we were naturally curious enough to try it out. Accompanied by our small group of travelers journalists, we stopped by numerous wineries in Northwest Bohemia and tasted several varieties of red and white wine, but unfortunately none has floundered our taste buds. We aren’t wine experts (although our Haut Lirou Wine Tour taught us a few things!) but what we can say is that those wines were very (too much?) different from what we know and love. Most of the wines we sampled were produced in the region of Litomerice, which is the largest producer of wine in the Czech Republic. Every year, a huge festival, the Litomericke vinobrani, is held in September to celebrate the harvest of the grape, coupled with the Ostrovní music festival. During our evening in Litomerice, we were able to spend a few minutes walking among locals and passing by numerous stalls. We just didn’t know where to turn between the live concert, the shows of knights in armor, food stands or souvenir shops, it was pretty crazy! The atmosphere was really friendly and relaxed and we really would have loved to enjoy a bit more of the festival and tale the time to discuss with Czech people, so frustrating! It’s an event to go to if you have the opportunity to be in the area at that time of the year!
And a lot of castles…
To be honest, visiting castles usually does not reach the top of the list of points of interest that we would like to visit when traveling. But curiosity won out over skepticism and we wanted to discover and appreciate the remains of Czech monarchy… unfortunately it was not the case! We visited the Ploskovice, Decin and Litomerice castles and, even though they were beautiful and imposing from the outside, the inside was quite disappointing for us. We were very surprised to see that the moldings, tapestries and even marble walls were actually painted trompe l’oeil on the surfaces. This made us realize how rich the French or British monarchies actually were, we thought that this kind of decorations were common in all castles from that time. Moreover, because of World War II and the widespread looting and destruction that ensued, there were no period piece of furniture in the rooms we visited, there were often borrowed from other castles. So, even if the stagings were nice and tasteful, the magic just didn’t happen for us. Our biggest disappointment was with the Litomerice Castle which had been described to us as a Gothic castle overlooking vineyards. Actually, the castle was completely destroyed and there are now just a few Gothic pieces left in a very modern building and the vines are now replaced by the houses of Litomerice.
This article has been written as part of a press trip organized by the Czech Republic Tourist Office. However, all opinions expressed here are our own. A big thank you to our great guide Martin and Marek who bent over backwards to please us! More infos about NorthWest Bohemia here!