22 May 2024

Czechia Trip

  1. Controlled descent into Country #62 May 18, 2024

    That is River Vtlava down there splitting the city of Prague in Czechia

  2. Airport #169 – Prague May 18, 2024

  3. The astronomical clock of Prague May 18, 2024

    The crowds to watch this clock gong for 5 o’clock was no less astronomical! This clock has been going on since 1410 !!

  4. Some of the more interesting modes of transport in Prague May 18, 2024

  5. River Vltava May 18, 2024

    The origin of the river’s name is Old Germanic meaning Wild Water. Interesting etymology there (think about “Vlt” and “Wilt” and “Wild” on one hand and “ava” and “agua” and “aqua” on the other).

  6. On the famous Charles Bridge May 18, 2024

    Open only to pedestrians, this is a stone arch bridge and the oldest one over Vltava. For over 500 years, this was the only bridge here. (Newer ones have come up in the last 150 years).

    Great views on either side of the river. The bridge itself is full of people brim to brim.

  7. Do you see the car on the water? May 18, 2024

    You might remember from a prior post the “Jet Cars” that I had learnt about just a few months back in St. Croix. From this distance, they look unreal – like they are driving on the water. Check out the duck boat too!

  8. What is up with all these rubber ducks? May 18, 2024

    Is this a new fad that I have missed. So many shops in downtown Prague selling rubber ducks. What’s up with this?

  9. Speaking of ducks and duckboats… May 18, 2024

    Here are two peacocks right in the middle of the city!

  10. Charles Bridge… as seen from Manes Bridge May 18, 2024

  11. Some of the architectures in Prague May 18, 2024

  12. Sunday morning has started off with a feverish pitch May 19, 2024

    Locals are selling whatever they can. Tourists are swarming all over the place.

  13. Ran all the way to Prague Castle May 19, 2024

    Needed to see the Castle. And needed to put in a run. Decided to put both of them together. Dodging those thousands of tourists on the street was no fun. Amongst all the well dressed folks walking up to the castle on a Sunday morning, I stuck out like a sore thumb in my sweaty running gear!

  14. View from the top of the Prague Castle grounds May 19, 2024

  15. Remember that tower? May 19, 2024

    You can see the Charles Bridge and the rest of the Old Town

  16. Talk about anachronism May 19, 2024

    So, I am in a city that was established in the Paleolithic age.

    I am in the compound of what Guinness Book of World Records admits as the largest ancient castle.

    I am in a continent where coffee is taken hot in a few ounces (none of your grande iced lattes, thank you very much!)

    And there is an American Starbucks right here???

    There is no justice in this world!!! 🙂

  17. The Prague Castle! May 19, 2024

    The reason I ran here…

    I decided to not go inside. First, I am not really that interested in old architecture or long dead people. Plus, I ran the risk of being a “recently dead people” with my stinking running gear amongst the finest dressed that Czechia had to offer.

  18. She was truly mellifluous May 19, 2024

    I have no idea what she was playing. Or what that instrument was.
    But I sat down and listened for 10 minutes.
    To my untrained ear, it sounded very mellifluous.

    (I am a percussion person; never mastered the wind or stringed instruments)

  19. Do you know what instrument he was playing? May 19, 2024

    Stopped on the streets to listen to this group. Good group.

    But here is the thing… look at the elderly gentleman sitting down stooping over his instrument.

    What musical instrument is it?

    It was percussion. It seemed to have a lot of rods in it. But they were making lot more bass noise than shriller ones. He had what looked like metal wraps in his fingers.

    He was good. Really good. Got a lot of rhythm in the tunes.

    Do you know what he was playing?

  20. Zoomed in view of the astronomical clocks May 19, 2024

    Today was sunny and less crowded in front of the tower. I got a better shot.

  21. Decided to take a boat ride down Vltava May 19, 2024

  22. Me and my furrowed eyebrows May 19, 2024

    I just realized that they are just hideous (like my wife has always pointed out). (Bright lights make me furrow my eyes… ever since I was a kid, I squint my eyes in bright light – especially the left one that is severely myopic)

    But let that not take your attention away from how much I enjoyed the boat ride!! I saw some beautiful sights. I made friends with the young lady who served us coffee and wanted to know why we call it Black Coffee in America when all coffee is black (there is a history, believe it or not) and got to know an elderly couple who lives in Lewisville – literally a spitting distance away (well Texas size spitting) from where Natasha and Nikita were born and grew up in their very early years!!!

  23. Thinking about tomorrow’s adventure May 19, 2024

    Finishing up the day with a Aperol Spritz (everybody seems to be drinking this here), writing out my blogs and chalking out my adventure tomorrow.

    Enough of this old architecture and long dead people. Yearning to be in nature.

    If I understand correctly what I have signed up for (I am not sure Aperol is a good thing anymore), I will be hiking for over 16K (10 miles), climb up some 330 floors, cross a country boundary (into Germany) and wear a smile for all that.

    Never done a cross country hike before. Never had to carry a passport to walk around either!!

    Heaven bless me!

  24. We are off for our adventure! May 20, 2024

    Driving for about two hours north of Prague city. We are nearing the town of Hřensko. Apparently, this town has a very large Vietnamese population who came over during the Communist regime. The river you see is Labe (Elbe) and the other side is Germany!

  25. The devastating fire of 2022 May 20, 2024

    Destroyed a very large part of the Bohemian (Saxon) Switzerland forests. The tell tale signs of thousands of burnt trees are all over the place. I understand this was done deliberately by a human being.

  26. The long hike to the Pravčická brána begins May 20, 2024

    This whole area is formed of sandstone mountains. If you see the top most point (a bit left of the center of the picture) – there is a sandstone rock natural archway there. That is our target today! A bit left of it you might see a think small line sticking out. That is the “Column”. You will see how it looks in real life once I reach the top. As of now, it is a long haul…

  27. Interesting tree stump left by the fire May 20, 2024

  28. The hike becomes tricky now May 20, 2024

    The paved path ended soon. Now, we are over a lot of stones. The challenge is there is a lot of sand too. As I mentioned, this whole area is sandstone mountains. Sand comes out easily off the mountains. There were rains two days back.

    All that sand you can see in the picture is making the hike tricky. We are trying our best not to slip. Some were using sticks to avoid slipping.

    It has been tiring enough so far that people have started taking breaks.

  29. Locals call this area “Land of Narnia” May 20, 2024

    Apparently, some of the key scenes of The Chronicles of Narnia were filmed here.

  30. Half an hour in and we have climbed a lot May 20, 2024

    You can get an idea about our height from how small the folks on the trail way below look. The trail took a right hair pin bend. So, we are in the shade of the mountain for the next segment. From the cliff there, the trail we came up on is clearly visible below.

  31. A shot on the cliff May 20, 2024

  32. View of a sandstone mountain from the hike May 20, 2024

    Sandstone, being soft, often gets eroded in striations

  33. Towards the end, we had to climb a lot of stairs May 20, 2024

    You can get an idea of it by the size of the gentleman below there

  34. The first spotting of the archway May 20, 2024

    We turned the final corner and there it was – the natural archway!! It is gargantuan in size. You will see a better shot from a different angle a couple of posts later.

  35. We are not quite done here May 20, 2024

    You see the top edge of that rock on the left? If you zoom in, you will see the shapes of human beings. That is our final destination to get a view of the archway from the top and a panoramic view of the whole area. But as of now, we will go under the archway and grab a coffee.

  36. From under the arch May 20, 2024

  37. Panoramic view from the arch gate May 20, 2024

    Do you see the village on the left in the distance? That is the village of Mezna. That is the second part of our adventure. We will hike down from there to a river. But that will come up later. As of now, taking in the breathtaking views.

  38. My new friend Petr May 20, 2024

    In just about every country, I make friends with a local driver and guide and then keep up the friendship from then on. I learn a lot from them and a I learn a lot about them. Whenever possible, I refer them to my friends too.

    Petr is my new friend in Prague. He has been my driver and guide today. As with most of my friends, he has an interesting history. He has tried his hand in a lot of jobs – from airlines to hotels to construction to driving.

    His favorite subject in school was history. Which was very convenient for me since I got to know a lot about the history of Czechia that I was unaware of. Also, learnt a few Czech words from him that I have been trying on unsuspecting locals!

    I hope to see Petr down the road again!

  39. We have reached the top of the mountain May 20, 2024

    We can now see the arch below us. Amazing views. The mountain behind the arch in the distance is Kaiser Coruna (meaning the Crown of the King). If you notice the arch itself, it is attached to the left side but is resting on the right side. This has allowed it to expand and contract with temperatures without breaking up. This has helped it survive for millions of years.

  40. You have no idea how difficult this is for me May 20, 2024

    The long hike did not bother me. But moment I had to get on to this platform from the top most point, all my acrophobia hit me at once. I could not stand up for a moment without holding the railing. And I could not walk back a few simple steps to the safety of the mountain. That walk was much harder than the hike itself. Fear is such an inhibitor for me.

  41. Remember the “Column” we saw when we started the hike? May 20, 2024

    Well this is how it looked from the top of the mountain next to it!!

  42. Petr picking blueberries May 20, 2024

    Petr taught me a lot about the local flora and fauna. He showed me very small strawberries, raspberries and blackberries. They need another couple of weeks to become bigger and ripen. And then he jumped over the fence and picked up a few blueberries. We tried them out. He said they need another week or so. Meanwhile, what I am stunned by is all these berries growing in sandstone at such a high altitude.

  43. Another shot of a rockface on our way down May 20, 2024

    If you carefully notice, the picture is taken thru the gap of two mountains on my either side. It is a sheer drop going thousands of feet down.

  44. Next adventure – a boat ride in River Kamenice May 20, 2024

    We drove to the village of Mezna. And now there is a 20 minute of steep walk down followed by another 15 minute hike along the river. The walk down is very steep with steps all the way…

  45. We reached River Kamenice May 20, 2024

    Pronounced Kamey-nitza – almost like Chichen Itza in Mexico – it means stony river. That is because of the steep sandstone rocks on either side of the river. This river flows lazily into Elbe finally.

  46. Now for the walk along the river under the overhang of the rocks May 20, 2024

    Really not looking forward to that steep climb that we have to go UP on our return.

  47. A natural tunnel formed by a fallen rock May 20, 2024

  48. Rich moss all over May 20, 2024

    We are deep in the canyon. The whole area is very damp and cool. The moss all around us is thick and lush green.

  49. There is our boat! May 20, 2024

    Ready to laze around in the river checking out the rock formations on either side.

  50. There were a lot of us in the boat May 20, 2024

    The good news is if it were to topple, we had nothing to worry. The river is barely a foot and a half deep. The water is crystal clear and we could easily see the bottom. There were some eels swimming around. The boat driver did not even bother rowing. He just kept pushing the riverbed with a long stick!

  51. Take a guess who did that random yellow graffiti up there May 20, 2024

    The rock looks like a huge mushroom. And the yellow painting – it is actually lichen !! Apparently, unlike moss, lichen likes the sun.

  52. Lovers’ islands May 20, 2024

    Right in the middle of the river are these two islands. One of them has a rock figure of a guy embracing a girl. There is no doubt that it was placed there. The boat driver helpingly pointed out that the other island is not occupied yet. None of the young couples in our boat took him up on that offer!

  53. We have reached our end point May 20, 2024

    Incredible – how lush the green vegetation is. All growing out of sandstone rocks!!

  54. Loved this picture of the river May 20, 2024

    Now for the steep climb back up

  55. Now for the third part of the adventure… Bastei Bridge May 20, 2024

    For that we have to cross over to the Germany side of the mountains. Here we are crossing the border – not a single person in sight to check my passport.

  56. Cute town of Schmilka in Germany May 20, 2024

    Stopped for a cappuccino

  57. We have now climbed up to the bridge May 20, 2024

    You can see the steep rocks and way down there… Elbe river flowing towards Dresden and you can see the rains coming in the horizon too!

  58. View from the other side of the bridge May 20, 2024

    This is upstream Elbe… leading to Czechia.

  59. View thru the porthole May 20, 2024

    Thru the small crack in the rocks, you can see the river, the greenlands and a fast train (red color) speeding by. If you notice the hole in the rock – it was used to anchor in the wood beams that was used to make the original bridge. The wooden bridge got destroyed and was replaced with a rockstone one.

  60. To see the full bridge we climbed up a different rock May 20, 2024

    What a sight!!

  61. A crazy trivia May 20, 2024

    You see all those steep rocks? They look like menhirs from Asterix and Obelix. All of them have a small box on the top. Inside it is a notebook and pen.

    Believe it or not, there are folks who actually scale those vertical edges. And when you get to the top, you open the box and sign your name there!!

    I think I am going to pass on that one!

  62. A fitting end to a fabulous trip May 20, 2024

    As we sped back to Czechia trying to avoid the rains, we saw a double rainbow form very close to us. The pictures are taken from inside the car.