Prague was a very very frustrating, unpleasant place and we both got really
down while we were there. It was the first time I started to feel like maybe
we should just go home. We had planned to have some downtime there, and we
DID relax, take it easy and have short days -- but it turned out to be a place
we really didn't want to be. We kept discussing just how long we should stay
and if we should cut our stay short. In the end cutting it short would've meant
travelling on a Sunday, which is something we try to avoid when going to a new
place (lots of things closed).
Nevertheless, we did stay a week even while not really liking the city. It was
comfortable in an odd way and certainly very cheap. We got some rest time and
we even slept in almost every day.
We had hoped to see another part of the country, but most of all we really
wanted to get out to a small town, to see more of Bohemia and something more
real than the Disneyland sidewalks of Prague. We had read a bit about a town
that we thought we might go to -- a tiny, well preserved medieval town called
Czesky Krumlov, down in the south of the country -- but as soon as we arrived
we heard the Aussies talking about CHESKY DUDE! It was, they said, the
hottest party spot in Europe, even more 'tourist friendly' than Prague!
Everyone was talking about Chesky this and Chesky that! These fools didn't
even realize that the first part of the name of the town only ment that it was
on the Czech side of the border -- there must be 200 villages in the Czech
Republic called Czesky something. We decided to take a pass on it. We like
to, at a very minimum, visit a large city and a small village in each country,
but we didn't have any idea of where to go and we were pretty frustrated and
ready to just GET OUT.
Then one evening while I was typing a Travelogue on the computer, Cheryln was
next to me reading one of these silly English language, 'What's happening in
town' magazines that are always lying around and she stumbled across an article
about a guy studying Celtic religious sites in Bohemia. He had cataloged
numerous standing stones (and several stone circles!) in the country and had
discovered something interesting. Bohemia is a giant bowl, a circular plateau
surrounded by mountains on all sides (this guy even speculated that it was a
meteorite crater!) and he found that these stones placed around the region all
were directed towards a central point, and that this point, in the town of
Lsteni, was a major Celtic religious site which now had a small Church on it.
We decided it would be really cool to visit some of the standing stones, but
since none were really accessible and few were even listed in the magazine, we
thought we might try Lsteni.
So one afternoon we went to a tourist information center and asked the woman
there about this village. At first she looked at the name and said no, she
had never heard of it. But then she started exploring, first on paper maps and
later on the magnificent mapping program she had on the computer. It took
quite a bit of exploring, but slowly over 10 or 15 minutes her pessimisim turned
to excitement and with her dilligent work (and me climbing behind the desk to
point at things on the computer screen) we finally found several extremely
tiny towns with that name. She tried to examine the best option, far in the
south -- but eventually we started looking at the one that was just south of
Praha. Just 2km outside of the town of Cerceny (Chercheni) We decided that
was certainly it, so we asked her how we could take the train there.
Her excitement turned to frustration and she looked at us and said, oh no, that
wasn't possible. But we encouraged her to check in the fantastic railroad
database. She found only a couple of trains and they all took about 6 or 7
hours. After a while we realized that was the southern town. When we looked at
the schedule for the closer town, there were dozens of trains to Cerceny and
even a few from Cerceny to Lsteni!! We were excited, but she was even more
excited, amost jumping up and down. I think it was the highlight of her week!
It was a great experience!
So Saturday morning we got up early and caught the train to Cerceny -- took
about an hour.
There was, as usual, a decent town map posted at the station. It was a very
small town, but it was clear that we needed to walk essentially along the river
to get to Lsteni. Once we walked out of the station it became clear that it
would not be a problem -- as with most of Europe, there were explicit walking
trail signs with color coded trails, town names and distances. The yellow
trail would take us 1.8km to Lsteni. Once that was clear we walked on into
the center of the town, (that is to say we crossed the street!) where we found
a small outdoor market and a grocery store. The grocery store was in an old
communist building and was probably barely changed from the communist days
except for all the US, German and British products on the shelves. However
the big stand-up Pepsi advertisment with Jar Jar Binks taking up much of the
entry way was seemed VERY out of place!!! We bought bananas, yogurt, apples,
chips, milk, chocolate, bread, cheese and water -- kind of our standard fare.
The yogurt & bananas were especially good!
We phoned my cousin Elaine to make some plans for Italy and then set out on our
walk. It was very nice to be out in the country and away from Praha! We
walked down the country road and soon found Lsteni. It took us about 4 minutes
to walk completely across it and out of it. We didn't see any church or
graveyard or anything that fit the description of the location of the pagan
site we were looking for. The village was along the river on the left and
went up a small hill about 2 blocks on the right. We walked across a rickety
noisy bridge and explored the town that went up the hill on the other side.
We thought we might find the train station there were we could catch our train
back to Praha so we wouldn't have to double back -- retracing steps is one of
those things we try to avoid. We didn't find it. (We later discovered that
we were only 1 block downhill from it when we turned around!)
We stopped underneath the Lsteni sign and ate some lunch and tried to decide
weather to explore the town or walk further. There was a steep forested hill
just beyond town, and we had seen a church on top of it when we were farther
away, so we decided it would be fun to walk up there.
As we walked up the hill in the forest (on the blue trail/road now!) we started
to wonder if this might actually be the place we were looking for. We found
the church in a large clearing and sat and ate chocolate out front while
admiring the view of the Bohemian basin. We decided this was probably the
site, one of the Pagan power centers. We snuck through the gate and explored
the graveyard -- tightly packed graves, but all from within the last 50 years.
After that we decided to explore the hilltop a bit. After wandering for
some time, passing a few houses, a bit of agriculture, but mostly forest and
meadows we stopped for lunch. The only dry place to sit was in the middle of
the road on the pavement, but since we saw no traffic at all this wasn't a
After lunch we came across a sign that seemed to indicate that the yellow
trail/road returned to Cerceny by a different route. We were intriuged and
decided to follow this -- especially since we had just seen a SUV full of
hunters in camo fatiuges carrying big rifles. They all unloaded out of the car
and went back the way we came from. We decided we didn't want to go that way!
This trail was more like a trail and not a road and it went deep into the
forest, but remained quite well marked. The walk was very very nice, but
dark clouds were gathering and we were starting to be eager to get back to
Cerceny -- and luckily, quite suddenly, the trail came out of the woods
(seemingly in someones back yard!) and headed down a small alleyway towards the
main road we had walked along before. The trail was STILL well marked! Now
instead of on trees and rocks and signposts, the yellow markings were on
people's garages and lampopsts! We went back to Lsteni and looked around
town, found the train station, and sat there and ate a bit more.
Then we walked back to Cerceny and got back to town just in time to catch a
train back to Praha. It was a wonderful day -- a couple of wonderful towns and
a nice way to see the area! It made us feel very good!