This post is a continuation of the series documenting our travels in a small part of Central Europe. We were in Prague for past 2 nights and had enjoyed the Czech capital a lot. For our penultimate night in Central Europe we had booked a hotel in the Castle town of Karlstejn.
The reason for doing that was, we wanted a relaxing evening in a small town after 2 days of hectic sightseeing across most of the centre of Prague. More importantly the hotel in Karlstejn cost half as much as our hotel in Prague. ( Budget tourists after all!)
We had spent the morning in Prague visiting the town hall and climbing the town hall tower( More on that in the next post). Then we had left most of our luggage in the luggage storage room of the hotel Hastal and travelled with a small day bag to the Smichov station, from where we took the train to Karlstejn. We had checked the train timings on the extremely helpful “Pubtran” app to schedule our visit.
This was a regional train and we bought return tickets at the station and boarded the train to Beroun. The Czech regional trains though not of the ultra high standard of the trains in Germany and Austria are good nonetheless. It was relatively empty and there was no problem in finding seats.
The train first passed through the suburbs of Prague which were nothing to write about. As soon as the train entered the countryside it became a riot of colours. The European spring in full bloom, entire meadows carpeted with yellow flowers. It was a pleasing sight and I had to take a photo, even if it was with my mobile phone since the SLR was stowed away in the bag.
Soon Karlstejn arrived and we alighted and followed the crowd that disembarked towards the town and the Castle. The castle is located at such a position that it is not visible till you enter the town and after that you can’t ignore the huge structure looming above.
We located our Hotel Karlstejn. We quickly checked in, dumped our luggage and set out. There are two ways up the castle, via a tarred road or via a trail through the woods. You can guess which one we preferred!
Then the better half reminded me that it was lunch time. Sometimes in my excitement I can forget about things like food till the better half brings me to my senses.
We were by now just about to enter the trail up to the castle. Luckily a small restaurant was there just before the trail entrance, the Hospüdka v Hlubokém. So we stepped in and seated ourselves at an empty table. We ordered a Goulash with potato pancakes for me and a huge potato omelette & fries for the better half. I couldn’t ignore the big signs for the Gambrinus beer and ordered a stein for myself.
The food was simple & filling and the cold beer exactly the thing needed before a hike up to the castle. So engines recharged we started our hike up to the castle.
After the Hospüdka there was a tarred road for a short distance with a canopy of trees arching in from both sides.
Thereafter the trail veered of up the hill as a dirt track with markings on the trees at regular distances. It was a gradual climb & the tree cover meant that it never got hot even though it was sunny.
After a short hike of around 15-20 minutes we were at the castle gates. In the Czech Republic ( Except for the Prague Castle) you can only visit the interiors of any Castle on a guided tour. I had researched about the interiors, nothing struck me as interesting enough to warrant trailing behind a guide for an hour or two with a group.
So we restricted ourselves to the outer courtyards and the ramparts which were free for everyone.
We walked the ramparts and took photos of the town and the valley below. There was a souvenir shop that sold the local mead ( Fermented honey wine) and I tried a small cup ( Too sweet for my taste!).
There was nothing more to do so we decided the trail we came up from. After descending to road level, we decided to see where the trail headed off in the other direction. After a few minutes of climbing on the other side of the road we came to a dead end where we couldn’t see the next marker. With no other people in sight we decided not to risk it and turned back to the road to town.
Just as we were descending a raptor started circling overhead and I changed lenses to take a few shots before it glided off out of view.
I kept the 300mm on since I already had enough shots of the castle. Just as we crossed the restaurant where we had had lunch, a yellow bird flew across and sat on a nearby roof. It was a grey wagtail and it posed nicely for the camera before flying away.
It was getting cloudy now and light was fading even though it wouldn’t be completely dark for hours. But such light is not too good for bird photography. As in such situations Murphys law always applies and a small bird started flitting about on a nearby tree. It even sat still for a moment and I got a photo, what I would have given for some better light!
We reached back to our hotel and it started drizzling a bit. We hadn’t had any dessert with lunch, so we sat down at the cafe in our hotel and had a delicious apple strudel and a tall glass of Cold Coffee.
As we finished our dessert and coffee lo and behold the clouds all disappeared and we got a brief sunny window. We decided to make the most of it and headed up to the pool of the hotel which had some great views of the castle.
After sitting there for a while we returned to the comfort of our room to rest our legs a bit before heading out for dinner.
After resting for 2 hours we headed out around 7pm to find the town totally deserted. Most restaurants were shut or in the process of shutting down. The ones which were open were serving only the last round of drinks, no food! We were having thoughts of finishing the overpriced snacks in the mini bar in our room.
Thankfully it did not come to that. A cafe on the way to the station took pity on us and said that they would be able to serve us panini, salads & coffee. Well beggars can’t be choosers! We readily agreed. That must have been the tastiest ham and cheese panini I must have eaten , such was the relief at getting dinner. The better half gobbled up her salad and a glass of Caffe Latte and we returned through the ghost town to our hotel but with a full stomach!
That night we must have slept the most of any night in the entire trip. We had run ourselves ragged till now and this provided us a chance to relax.
We woke up the next morning to clear skies. I could hear a lot of birds chirping on the hill behind the hotel. So before breakfast we headed up to the pool to see if we could see what was creating the racket.
Luckily the usually shy small birds were in sight and I got few photos, again in less than ideal light.
As the sun rose higher they got tired of shrieking their lungs out and disappeared into the bushes. So I turned my attention to the better half and the magnificent castle above and took a few photos on this sunny day.
I was about to leave when the Great tit returned to a nearby bush and I could get a clear shot amidst the branches. That made my day!
We then descended the stairs down from the pool and went to the cafe for our breakfast. After last nights fiasco, the breakfast seemed like a royal feast and I downed more than my share of meat and bread that morning.
After overeating so early in the morning we checked out and started our walk back to the station. Even though I had better photos from the previous evening with the dramatic skies. I couldn’t resist taking a few more before saying goodbye to the Karlstejn Castle.
On the road back to the station the better half thought she saw a blue bird drop down into the bushes. I excitedly got my 300mm on. It wasn’t a bird but a brilliantly blue dragonfly.
As we crossed the river there was a continuous growl heard. It was pretty loud and so I scanned the river bed to locate the source. To my amazement it was a group of small frogs/ toads (I’m not an expert) that was creating that loud noise.
I kept the 300mm on just because it was too tedious to change it now and I thought I would do that at the station. A pair of white capped redstarts must have seen the lens and posed for it, making it a great morning for me!
We reached the station and I was about to change my lens and stow my camera away. The better half was pointing to something on the wires above and asking me to hurry. It was a group of wire tailed swallows. Extremely restless birds who never seem to sit still. This group hadn’t received that memo and gladly posed for the 300mm.
I hadn’t expected to see any birds and all of these were a happy bonus. Happy at the mornings birding and beaming from ear to ear we boarded the train back to Prague.
We would roam around new town Prague that day. But that is story for another post. Some other time, some other day.
I have rambled on far too long on this one.
Till next time.