Saturday, October 19, 2013

Prague, Karlovy Vary, Plzen, Cesky Krumlov

(Note: Transcribing in Salzburg tonight, but will transcribe Salzburg entry another day, getting late now.)

10/18/13 Cesky Krumlov

Woke up early this morning to use the internet in the Marriott lobby. I must say that this is the only hotel so far that doesn't have free internet in it's rooms. Internet exists, but must be paid for. Of course, I din't pay, and went down to the lobby about 0500-0530 to use free lobby wifi. Iddly enough, right when my watch beeped 0600(atomic watch), the hotel fire alarms went off. I paid it just about zero attention, reasoning that no fire takes place at 0600 on the dot, and that it was a technical issue. (It was.) The lobby filled with annoyed people and I continued to use the internet. Eventually, I went upstairs to get away from the noise and pack my bag, then came downstairs to a much emptier lobby.

Visited a Czech Tesco after breakfast. Reminded me of a smaller, cleaner Walmart will less people. Found some Haribo gummi bears and purchased a regret filled sachet of the new flavored ones(the flavors could have been around for some time, but they were new to me: pear, peach, raspberry, lime). Eventually, we made our way to Cesky Krumlov.

Cesky Krumlov is an old town with an Oldtown. The entire place is crowned by the Krumlov Chateau and its very distinctive tower. We were going to climb it, but unfortunately, said tower was closed today with no given reason. I spent most the the afternoon and evening wandering about the Oldtown and its shops, as well as the chateau and its gardens. Had lunch at the only Chinese restaurant in town(getting tired of Chinese food), and also had coffee at a small shop along the banks of the river running through town. Dinner was a pork knuckle cooked Bavarian style(not all that delicious, but a welcome change from Chinese). I was going to find a bar, but they didn't much exist, or at least, not in a form interesting enough for me, so I retired after dinner to my hotel room to work on photos.

10/17/13 Plzen

I just got kissed by a beautiful Czech girl. I mean, sure, it was just on the cheek and I had to crawl through a goddamn hole but s- actually, I'll explain later and run through the day in chronological order.

The day started in Prague, with breakfast at the hotel. Did I mention that the breakfast was actually quite good? American hotels take note, NH(pronounced n-ha?) Hotels got it down right. My tour group loaded up the bus after breakfast, then took a hour's drive west to Karlovy Vary. The fall foliage was out in force, though mostly yellow; rarely did I see reds or browns. Karlovy Vary is a vacation town, and has been since it was founded when hot springs were discovered there. For some odd reason, someone decided that drinking the spring water was healthy, and even came up with a cup for the purpose, basically a mug with a hollow handle, to be used as a straw to drink from.(fill mug as usual, tilt back from handle and sip from straw protrusion from said handle).

An interesting thing I encountered here was a musical contrivance built into the ground. It consisted of nine square bronzed plates arranged in a square. Each plate is depressed by weight(ideally from someone stepping on it) which then causes the bell attached to said plate to chime. This device was brought to my attention by the sight(and sound) of two cute little blond girls in hot pink jackets dancing about on the thing, and being quite happy about it. Cute as hell.

Lunch was Chinese food in Marienske Lazne, at a restaurant with quite the talkative owner. Apparently he grew all the vegetables used in the restaurant himself. Visited a musical fountain after, was not at all impressed.

Evening activity was the highlight of the day: a tour of the Pilsner Urquell brewery. Our guide, Nicole, was a beautiful dirty blonde, mid 20s. We had a pretty normal tour around the brewery, seeing lots of copper equipment, explanations as to how beer is made, short video presentation about barley, hops, and the history of the brewery(actually rather interesting, that history). We finally arrived in the old fermentation and lagering cellars underneath the brewery, basically 9km worth of tunnels carved into the chalky limestone. We saw beer fermenting in wooden casks(made there especially for the tours, since fermentation and lagering takes place in a new facility now). We then tasted completed beer from other wooden casks, while some of the other tour group members offered Nicole some interesting Taiwanese drinking snacks(vegetarian beef jerky made from beans, her face said she didn't like it).

Finally, on the way out of the tunnels, Nicole led us to a cask lid held upright with a small hole, about a foot and a half tall and about 10 inches across, cut into it. She asked if anyone could crawl through the hole. I immediately dropped my pack and did so. Then, on my way back around to retrieve my pack, I tapped my cheek and asked for a prize. There was a smile. It was quick, little more than a brush of her lips, but altogether pleasant and made my trip to the Czech Republic that much better. I can honestly say that I will be much more fond of Pilsner Urquell now when I drink it, enough so that the company should really consider making the entire thing SOP.

Just don't tell me it already is SOP, and let me keep this fond memory as it is.

10/16/13 Prague

Visited Prague Castle this morning. A walled fortresses turned seat-of-government overlooking the city, I thought it impressive as hell. It was interesting to see how the government buildings enveloped and replaced fortress walls as time went by and the place became more focused on governance and less on military power.

Spent most of the afternoon running about the city center. As a city that has a great focus on culture, and thus tourism, there were the expected plethora of shops and such to explore. I had wanted to try and see if my Starbucks card worked in a Prague Starbucks, but the line was long enough for me to not bother with it. The day ended with a sunset climb up the Astrological Clock Tower in the city center, which offered an astounding view of the city. I managed to figure out the panoramic function on my X100 pretty quickly just for that(the trick is to keep the shutter speed high).

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