Loket: Beauty in the Elbow

Loket map with highlightsWhen spoilt for choice it is sometimes difficult to decide.  Such was the case in trying to decide which of the Czech Republic’s most beautiful towns to visit next.  In my research I read a review that said Loket was best viewed during the summer.  So there my decision was made; reinforced by the fact that we were experiencing especially hot weather and the mountains should be cooler.

Loket CastleWhile we were primarily looking for forests and river banks in order to cool down this town also provides plentiful history to soak up.  The castle dates back to the 12th century and like all castles still standing has been re-modelled many times.  I have been in a lot of castles over the years but none as extensive as this one.  For a mere 3 Euro entrance fee you can wander from wing to wing and floor to floor; that includes extensive exhibitions and a very elaborate torture chamber.  Certainly not the most elegant of furnishing and displays since the castle has only been recently re-opened after serving as a regional prison for many years.Loket porcelain inside castle

For those with a literary interest Johann Wolfgang Goethe visited the town many times and it was here on his 74th birthday that he fell in love with a 19 year old girl.  An affair that not only spawned a lot of gossip but several pieces of literature as well.

St. Florian brewery in LoketA couple weeks before our visit the local news was that Richard Gere gave the town a once over and liked what he saw. He was quoted as saying the local beer was possibly the best he had ever tasted.  So of course I had to try it (of course, I would have anyway).  Yes it was quite good, as was the steak dinner I had at the brew pub, St. Florian.  I was quite impressed that the working brewery was right there in the same room.

Loket Bridge and Ohre RiverThe next morning we set out to find the train station for our afternoon departure.  Since it was on the river bank we continued on and did a nearly complete circle around the town.  It was a delightful walk through parks, residential areas and semi-wilderness along rock cliffs and ended with a swinging foot bridge back into town.  Since it was time for our regular coffee and cake we headed for the recommended Galerie Cafe. We now recommend it as well; it should be listed as a major site rather than a mere cafe because the décor and the art create an utterly enjoyable atmosphere.

Galerie Cafe rock climber art

Rock climbers at cafe’

Galerie Cafe apple tree wall

Apple tree with sculpture

Loket is one of the rare towns we have seen that has a good web site that is kept up to date:  http://www.loket.cz/  They host such diverse offerings as an opera festival and the Czech National Motocross — both crowds we purposely avoided.  The drawback is there are no directions on how to get to the town by public transport. The train takes 4 1/4 hours or more depending upon which round about route you chose.  The bus to nearby Karlovy Vary is scheduled for 2 1/4 hours so we took that, intending to make a local bus connection, which it turned out no longer existed.  So after much consternation and walking around we did catch another bus that took us to the edge of Loket but no signs how to get up the hill into town.

All this on a very hot day so we were very glad that we enjoyed this place enough that we kept thinking of friends that we could bring here.  I once heard that the ugliest part of the human body was the elbow (loket in Czech).  It certainly does not apply to towns surrounded by rivers.

Ohre River walk around LoketMost photos by Karin

Hrusice: Josef Lada

Hrusice, CZKarin and I were past due for another jaunt into the countryside outside of Prague.  We chose a small village that most Czechs know well, even if they have never been there, because its idealized scenery was featured by the artist and author Josef Lada.

Lada was a prolific artist who wrote and illustrated a great many children’s books, the most famous featuring Mikeš, the Josef Lada village mapitinerant and talking cat.  However, he is best known internationally for his illustrations of Jaroslav Hašek’s, The Good Soldier Švejk.  Copies of these cartoons are seen constantly in Prague, especially in restaurants catering to tourists.

To reach Hrusice takes some planning.  It is less than 20 miles from Prague but can only be reached easily by the motorway.  By public transport it takes an elaborate combination of modes of transport or, as we did it, by walking about one mile from the nearest train station.

Once here you are up front and personal with Lada and his art, especially the church on the hill that shows in many of his country scenes. Though it does take imagination to Lada church on the hillsee the village as it was in his time and mind.

 

 

Lada Museum and Memorial, HrusiceThe museum is on a small scale and is very well done. It brings the man, his art and his milieu to life. We stocked up on several items at the museum store at low country prices.
We enjoyed browsing the village streets admiring the well maintained residences.  Our lunch at the local hospoda was a poor experience but you may want to chance it because it is the only choice in the village.
An example of art versus reality:
Lada birthplace location

2015 Location

Lada birthplace cottage

as painted

actual Lada birthplace

old photo

My favorite Lada:  Pig Slaughter

Prague: Urban Garden Centre

garden centre in central Prague

Last week Karin returned from a garden centre full of ideas for our apartment planting boxes.  She was impressed with how large and organised the place was while I was amazed at her photos of the huge selection within the urban setting.  It does have a restaurant and quality gift shop so surely rates as a tourist destination.  More at Zahradnictví Chládek

Prague: The Festival Life

Hmm, how shall I focus this post?  Too busy doing to write(used too many times, I think); never-ending story of things to do; local festivals are great for understanding culture; or the big picture of why we became expats and global nomads–to experience the foreign, not just observe it as tourists.  They all apply this past week and into next week.

Vuk Rsumovic & Denis Muric

Q and A with Director and young star of “No One’s Child” from Serbia. Photo from Febiofest

This is our second year for the big film festival Febiofest which also includes music and dancing.  There are so many offerings it is a bit of a chore to sift through the program and pick a few films or events to go to. We chose an Irish, a Serbian, an Australian and one from the U.K. The latter being The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.  This was to be the highlight for us as we enjoyed the first so much.  So imagine our incredulity when we got to the theater to find it had been cancelled–no explanation given. I am quite irritated at the organizers for no notice and absolutely no apology or even acknowledgement in any of the festival announcements afterwards.  Maybe I can get revenge by boycotting their sponsors.

But moving on, the next morning we went to a soup festival on the river front in Smichov called “Polívkování” or “Souping”.  It was a chance to try soups and other delicacies from a slew of international cuisines.  Our favorite was called chicken puffs from the Thailand association, obviously home-made.  We ate light and stayed away from fish or seafood choices because we were also planning on attending a Seafood Festival in our local Jiriho z Podebrad square that evening.

We purposely went early for soup, about 11 A.M., to beat the crowds but the narrow space between the double row of food booths was jam-packed, not only making it difficult to move but worse making it difficult to see the food being sold and to get into the correct queue to buy something.  Our only consolation was that as we left we noted there was now a several minute wait to even get in.  One day I will find a Czech event organizer to ask about why nearly all such festivals are arranged this same way.  Are they taxed by width or is there some kind of psychology that makes people buy more when they have to fight to get to it?  It works the opposite for me.

Seafood Festival Jiriho z Podebrad, Prague

Seafood Festival: Food booths are narrow band to right.

I dwell on this because our dinner plans were ruined for the same reason.  On the way home from coffee and dessert after the soup and chicken puffs we could see the seafood festival occupying two narrow lanes of our big square.  There were very long cues everywhere.  So we thought what time is likely to be less crowded and guessed at 5 P.M..  We were wrong; it was worse then.  So next we wondered who is willing to endure these slow-moving lines for some delicious looking and reasonably priced seafood. Everyone appeared to be in their twenties and holding a beverage; many were chatting with those around them.  We don’t fit that profile so we moved on to hamburgers, fries and Pilsner at our local pub.

So now I am spending a quiet Sunday at home writing this and looking forward to a busy week coming up due to an American Army convoy passing through the country; stopping frequently to party along the way and, of course, visit many WW II memorials for ceremonies.  Oh yes, we can’t forget this is Easter week as well; this year including our wedding anniversary and Karin’s birthday.  No more blog posts for a while   :-)

Other festival posts:  Pig and Mausopust in Prague    —      Burger Fest

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