Hurray for the recent sunshine!
Sunshine plus spring plus a desire to escape Prague (or at least explore its edges) can only mean one thing: it’s daytrip time.
If you have been here in Czechland for a while, you’ve probably done the obvious choices. Karlštejn? Check (if you’ll excuse the pun). Křivoklát? Yes, it’s another castle and you may remember that I’ve been there too.
Now I’ve nothing against castles but there are only so many tours of long corridors lined with the heads of dead animals I can take.So in an attempt to help out those of you who’d like to explore Bohemia but a) don’t have a car b) are a bit sick of chateaux c) want an adventure but one that doesn’t involve wandering too far beyond Prague.
1. Count Arnošt’s Country Park: Pruhonice
It’s Saturday morning around 11am. Two English ladies are sedately strolling around the grounds of Pruhonice Park.
Czechman was sceptical about our ability to locate Pruhonice without male assistance. Despite the fact that getting there requires nothing more complicated than getting on metro line C to Opatov then a 15 minute bus ride. “Just don’t call me and tell me you’ve both ended up in Kladno,” I’m told by Pan Skeptik as I head off in the morning.
Czechman is also unimpressed with our start time. You see Czechs would have already arrived at their day trip destination ready for action while my English companion and I were still at home buttering our sandwiches.
“We’re having a picnic instead of going somewhere for lunch! We’re economising!” I declare as I fill up yet another pitta bread with a mansized portion of leftover roast chicken and salad.
Again, Czechman is underwhelmed. “So that means you were planning to spend thirty minutes actually in the park then leave to head off to a restaurant?”
Wrong answer. And apparently taking a picnic blanket to sit on is deeply un-Czech also. It suggests you are not truly at one in nature.
Anyway, Pruhonice is so close to Prague that it is practically a suburb of the city but the UNESCO protected park has such impressive, well-kept, spacious grounds it’s easy to lose the crowds and feel like you’ve left the city well behind. This is perfect spoilt and western English lady terrain: beautiful trees, lakes and general greenery with well-maintained paths and not too many hills to climb up. Founded by Count Arnošt Emanuel Silva-Tarouca in 1885, Pruhonice Park is still fit for royalty and boasts eighty hectares of greenery to get lost in. Well worth the 50kc entrance fee.
We didn’t get lost. But we did stop for coffee. I think Count Arnost would approve of such indulgence.
2. The Girly Option: Glass and Jewellery Museum, Jablonec nad Nisou
Perhaps you’d like a daytrip destination which is indisputably beyond Prague’s city limits but which is a) weatherproof b) doesn’t involve castles c) has a girly theme.
Jablonec nad Nisou isn’t famous for much. When I told Czechman of my plan to head there with the Czech Wives’ Club he taught me this phrase: “tam dávají lišky dobrou noc” which roughly translates as “it’s the arse end of nowhere”.
However, it does have a glass and jewellery museum which makes it the perfect destination if you’re female and you want to be sure you’ll actually feel tempted to buy something more than a postcard in the shop. It received EU money at some point which means that unlike many museums in Czech small towns, it is bright and modern and the exhibits are well displayed with explanations in English.
Getting there from Prague involves stopping at Liberec, which has a pretty square and is worth taking in, especially since it has more to offer in the way of lunch options. Assuming you didn’t bring your own sandwiches of course.
3. “So what’s a skanzen?” Přerov nad Labem
One of the things I love about life in Czechland is the way you end up being exposed to new things. For example, it was not one of my ambitions in life to visit an open air museum of folk architecture. Perhaps the whole thing might sound slightlz sexier if I use its Czech name – skanzen.
The Wikipedia definition of a skanzen says something about it giving a spatial, temporal, social and natural context to folk culture. More simply put, it is a sort of reconstruction of the way a village used to be back in ye olden days. You get to wander around the collection of cottages and outhouses, some of which are original and some of which are reconstructions, and go inside to peer at mannequins doing rustic poses around the fireside or baking bread or some other activity countryfolk once did.
The one at Přerov nad Labem is a decent example and all you need to do to get there is hop on a bus from Smichov. I thought it was charming and fun. But then again, I do have a bit of a thing about mannequins.
4. Where the Labe and the Vltava meet: Mělník
Confluence isn’t a word I get to drop into everyday conversation much but as Mělník is located where the River Labe and the Vltava meet I can slip it into this sentence.
Mělník has all the elements required for the perfect Girl in Czechland daytrip. It’s easily accessible from Prague. It has a photogenic main square. There’s a Renaissance chateau – yawn – but wait! They make their own wine! And they have decent cakes on sale in the cukrana!
Also for the morbid among you or for those who haven’t yet made it to the bone church at Kutna Hora, there’s an ossuary. If walking around a cellar filled with human remains wasn’t creepy enough, during my last visit a recording of gothic organ music played in the background. Spooky.
5. The Chapel and the bramboráčky: Mnišek pod Brdy
So we come now to recommendation number five – Mnišek pod Brdy – which I visited in one of the final sunny days of the autumn.
The town itself is easy on the eye but head up the hill behind it and you’ll find the Mary Magdalene chapel, a hermitage and a former monastery turned museum. Just behind where the monks once observed holy orders, there’s a mountain chalet style hut serving bramboráčky: the perfect high calorie reward for having made it up the steep incline.
I’d be very interested to hear your own quirky day trip ideas and also about your own experiences in any of these destinations. Happy tripping!