It was time to start the uphill portion of our day, and it was growing late. I charged forth, thinking that we might be able to catch the last castle tour of the day. We did pause to cautiously admire this little house built next to a seep.
As we got near the top we kept seeing these wooden structures, which J suggested were for stacking wood. I think they were really chairs for people who wanted a great view--they were certainly located in the right places for this. Unfortunately, we were too spider-averse to give them a try.
By this point I had given up on the castle, but I figured we could still catch the train to get back to Prague. This fork in the trail earned Rick Steves, who had proclaimed the trail well-marked, a new round of abuse from Jennifer.
I wasn't about to defend the guy, but I did decide to bury his guide beneath everything else in my suitcase and not speak of him again after this walk, just to quiet the Js--as if that were possible. Anyway, when YOU get to this fork, take the left. Pretty soon you will be rewarded with some awesome views. My photos do not do justice to this place, but here are a couple of shots.
We arrived in Křivoklát and, sure enough, it contained a castle.
It was a little past 16:00 and I figured we were too late for the tour but could probably get that train if we hustled. And found the station. But first, a picture of the castle cat.
The train station was downhill from the castle, I knew (from the unmentionable guidebook). We went downhill, yes, but grew confused and walked into a hotel to ask. The clerk kindly walked us back outside and pointed to a wall several yards away. A picture of a train was painted on the wall, with a large arrow pointing to a bridge across the river. Oh. On our trudge up the path to the station we passed a weary-looking stout guy. After reaching the station, we came to the conclusion that he was the stationmaster, on his way home. That worked out ok, because I was kind of unhappy about not seeing the inside of the castle, so we went back to the hotel to ask about a room. They were full.
That worked out ok, too, because the other hotel in town had a room and they were great. Check out our awesome room keys.
U Jelena translates roughly to "Antlers Я Us" and if you don't mind a few dozen dozen stuffed heads watching you eat, their dining room is charming. We ate outside, though, because the weather was gorgeous and so was one of the bikers in a group that was also eating outside. We had smoked eel as an appetizer, since there aren't too many occasions to order the smoked eel appetizer in our experience. When I saw they had boar medallions on the menu as well, I was a happy diner. Even though I hadn't slain my own boar, I felt a little Michael Pollan-y as I swabbed them through plum sauce and reminded myself that I had definitely seen traces. We went to our room and I took a shower while Jennifer explored the television channels. I emerged to find her glued to SpongeBob Schwammkopf, but we couldn't enjoy his adventures much longer because we were pooped.
The next day I planned to go to the train station and get our tickets first thing in the morning. But I couldn't get out of the hotel--the outside doors were locked. I went back to the room and watched more SpongeBob Schwammkopf until a more seemly hour. Then we got our tickets and returned to U Jelena, which also translates as "Fire Marshal's Dismay", for our complimentary breakfast. Jennifer was the first to discover that the egg stuff included our new culinary friend, the smoked eel. We immediately forgave U Jelena for attempting to trap us in a flaming box of death. We took a few pictures in their courtyard on the way out.
We walked around the town a little and then got tickets for the castle tour. Photographs are not allowed inside the castle proper, but I did find a second cat and pictures were ok in the outer courtyard, so here's the wall sundial.
The castle is old, like eight or nine hundred years old. It started out as a glorified hunting lodge but later became more of a prison. The tour was worth taking, especially when we got to the library. I'm glad we stayed to check it out. We didn't have to--once we got on the train, it became obvious that we could have caught a later train the previous evening and just bought a ticket on board. So now you know.
The train runs next to a pretty river, the Berounka, and you take it to Beroun, which does not rhyme with maroon. I only tell you this because I wish someone had told me earlier. At Beroun, you probably have time to admire the station's window.
Then you take the City Elefant into Prague. It's a nice train, but a little less nice when the conductor kicks you out of the deluxe car into the class you paid for.
This vacation story is going to take a lot longer to tell than it took to live, isn't it?