Day 4 was our last full day in the Czech Republic. Radek, Jana, Nicol, Elise and I hopped in the car and drove out some 30km to visit the KarlÅ¡tejn Castle in the village of KarlÅ¡tejn. Getting out of the city and out into the country was a welcome change of pace. The Czech countryside as absolutely gorgeous, especially in the mornings while driving through small villages along country roads as the sun is peaking up above the hills and burning off the fog in a way that you can almost feel on your skin, even while the outside air remains crisp.
We parked at the bottom of the hill of the castle and made the long trek up to the castle while passing by the little shops and restaurants in KarlÅ¡tejn on the hillside. When we reached the base of the castle, we purchased 4 English-speaking guided tour tickets and Jana bought us all warm KolonÃ¡da wafers (think two sweet, crepe thin wafers with hazelnut & chocolate filling) as we waited 20 minutes for our tour to begin.
The tour of the castle took 45 minutes and although it was unfortunate that they don’t allow photographs, the tour was great. The history alone is enough to make oneself get caught up in an inner dialogue while contemplating the goings on in the 1300’s and miss out on some of what was told to the group by the tour guide.
After the tour we made a slow mosey back down the hillside and stopped in at a little coal-heated local restaurant for homemade garlic soup and fried camberbert, french fries and tartar sauce. It sounded a little weird to me at first, but was actually quite tasty and I’m sure my heart thanked me for that meal.
After leaving KarlÅ¡tejn, we headed back to Prague to go shopping at the “mall.” The mall we went to was very much like a mall that we’re used to, except this is a total one-stop mall, complete with a gigantic grocery store on the first floor. We perused the stores on the 2nd floor of the mall in search of souvenirs and gifts, but found most of the goods to bring back to the states in the grocery store, which consisted mostly of candies and cookies.
We headed back to the house after the mall, rested for an hour or so, left Nicol with BabiÄka (grandma) and DÄ›deÄek (grandpa) and we all stole a bus ride (the “Czech way”, as Radek says) over to Kolkovna at BudÄ›jovickÃ¡ for a dinner out where we were finally able to treat Radek and Nicol for their hospitality all week. The food was great and, although there was still a slight language barrier, it was no longer noticeable because the 4 of us had had enough time to acclimate and figure out how best to carry on conversations. We really lucked out in finding true friends in Prague and were so blessed by their generosity and hospitality.
We strolled back to the house after dinner and Elise and I worked on getting the JanÃÄkovis to Austin sooner than later. I think we sold them and we would welcome the opportunity to have them stay with us and allow us to provide them with the same level of hospitality.
When we got back to the house, BabiÄka and DÄ›deÄek came upstairs and we took photos, exchanged gifts and George (dÄ›deÄek) took us down to his “communism museum” in the house’s basement where he showed me his American record collection, hand-carved skis from the turn of the century, stereoscopic View-Master with 1950’s and 60’s American pin-up girl slide discs, Czech military relics and decorations, an old reel-to-reel, and all while playing American 80’s pop music really loudly through the basement’s stereo speakers. George was a blast and I regret not having spent some more time with him and babiÄka during our short stay, but I think they didn’t want to be “intrusive.”
We had to call it a night early, but we had a really great last day with our host family. I think we all collectively knew it was our last day, so we allowed ourselves to enjoy our time together as friends instead of feeling hard-pressed to squeeze in a bunch of sightseeing and touristy stuff.
Photos from Day 4 can be seen here.