Sunday, June 20, 2010

Krivoklat Castle

We rented a car for two days, so that we could drive to Terezin on Sunday, but since my colleague changed his plans, we now had that day free.

Around 11 am, we bundled into the car and headed off to visit Krivoklat Castle, near Prague. We took a slightly different route, beginning on the major highway, but then changing to small rural roads. Everything was fine until we reached the town of Beroun, on the Berounka river. As we drove we came across a sign post with several signs. On the top were two signs each bearing the names of towns not on our map, with arrows pointing in different directions. Beneath them were three signs for various destinations, including Krivoklat, but with no arrows. It was if they were saying, at the next fork in the road, one of them will lead to your destination, but we're not going to tell you which.

At first I thought, well, perhaps all these unarrowed destinations go with the arrow immediately above them, so let's go to the right. That turned out to be a small road that went through wooded hills. My guidebook, however, said that the road went along the Berounka River, so we turned around and tried the road to the left. As we passed by people walking, we would stop, I would roll down the window and say "Krivoklat???" pointing in the direction we were going.

Person 1: shrug.
Persons 2 and 3: we just moved here, we don't know
Person 4: don't know.
Person 5 (a man operating a snack stand): that way (the way we were driving).

With that confirmed, we continued down the road, watching many people rafting and kayaking on the Berounka. Eventually, we came across additional road signs directing us up away from the river. After passing a turn off to Nizbor Castle, we came to a fork in the road with no signs. Annie parked the car on the side and we waved down a passing car. "Krivoklat???" He pointed to the right.

The road became quite curvey, winding in out and out of forests and small little towns. Eventually we came around a bend and caught sight of the castle rising on a promentory out of the forest.

The castle is quite pretty. Originally a hunting lodge, it was first built into a castle in the 12th century, and then rebuilt several times since. I didn't know the food situation inside, so I got a hamburger at a stand just outside the castle. All I'll say is that it was marginally better than Polish hamburgers.

The only way to tour the castle is with a guided tour (in Czech), so we got tickets and then sat in the courtyard to watch the falconer who was working with falcons, hawks, owls and other birds of prey. She wore gloves, but here hands were red, calloused, and scarred. We also saw the wood working shop, the fletcher (who demonstrated a cross bow and pistol bow), and a smith whose main products for sale all seemed to involve s & m.

The tour was moderately interesting. They had little booklets for us in English to follow along. I didn't think the interior decorations were all that exciting, but it was fun to walk through the castle. Afterwards we got lunch in the courtyard. We all got corn on the cob, which was simultaneously cooked and frozen. I also got two nutella crepes. By 4:15, we were back on the road to Prague.

We took a quicker way back, via the road to Karlovy Vary. We missed the brewery town we passed the day before (I didn't mention, but they seemed to be having a "beer fest" on Saturday, with people parking 4 or 5 kilometers away. It's a big Czech brewery, but the name escapes me. We did, however, find out what the fields of climbing vines were: hops!

We decided not to try to find parking in the city center, but instead returned the car to the pension parking lot and then we walked to the Museum of Communism, near Wenceslas Square. This is a private, for profit museum that, while having some problems with historical presentation, does a pretty good job of covering the communist period of Czech history. The 15-minute film, however, always brings me to tears. It covers the period between 1969 and 1989, and the final song always reminds me of Hannah Senesh's poem, "Blessed is the Match."

I had to leave Annie and Cherie in the museum to meet my colleague Don for dinner at 7. He's taking a group of students through Germany, Czech Republic, and Poland, on a short-term study tour of the Holocaust. I had dinner with him and two of his students and heard about how their trip is going.

Afterwards, Don and I went to Prague hlavi nadrizi station so I could buy our tickets to Vienna and he could check on his overnight train to Poland. Then we went to the central bus station so he could get info on the bus to Terezin. They've completely remodeled the bus station. The old one resembled the old central bus station in Tel-Aviv. Concrete walls, dirty and cracked linoleum floors. Bus time tables hanging from every conceivable wall space, and a ticket booth behind partially opaque and cracked glass, staffed by someone who almost always had only a limited knowledge of languages other than Czech. The new station is bright, clean, airy, and with an information booth staffed by someone who spoke English. It was a delightful change from the past.

Today we have a 10:39 train to Vienna. At 4.5 hours, this is our longest train journey of the trip. I'm hoping that I will have time to pick up tickets for Halevy's La Juive at the Vienna Opera tonight.

No comments: