Julie and I definitely got the Royal treatment when she was here visiting. Mark's parents were free her first full weekend here and they decided that we should see the Czech Republic in style. So on Saturday we all squeezed into their Skoda and headed off to see some beautiful country.
Our main stop today was Karlstejn. This castle was founded in 1348 and finished just 17 years later. While that might seem like a long time, just imagine the kind of equipment they had back in the day and then be duly impressed as you should be.
After going on a lovely little tour of the place, we stopped for lunch just a short way down the hill. It's quite a hike up to the castle, and we were all amazed that Mark's mom could manage it in her very high heels. I'd have fallen and broken my ankle at the very beginning. anyhow, despite limited abilities to communicate we had a nice time together.
Because of the amount of time it took to get to Karlstejn, we didn't have time to see any other castles that day, but we did have a nice little shopping in Plzen on our way home. We also got to hear the end of the Czech/Sweden hockey game. Czech came out on top that day and went on to win the world championship on Sunday. Very very cool.
On Sunday we started out quite early. In fact, we were so early that the first castle wasn't actually open yet. So we had some time to wander around the town of Horsovsky Tyn.
When they opened up we went on two tours. This castle is super interesting because it is made in two different styles. The old section is Gothic, and a large part of it was burned down and rebuilt in a Renaissance style. We really enjoyed both of the sections. I particularly liked some of the Asian influences. I find it so fascinating how royalty often became obsessed with Asian arts and imported carpets and dishes and even armor. Mark liked the old piano predecessor, but sadly it wasn't operational any more. One of the coolest things they had in this castle was a chandelier that had original Edison light bulbs. When they turned them on I was impressed by their brilliance even after so many years. Definitely a unique artifact. Just goes to show how much we're being cheated on light bulbs!
Next we drove on through Domazlice. We hopped out of the car for a few minutes to get a little extra exercise. Julie and I hiked up the tower and Mark stayed at the bottom to take our picture. We really enjoyed the view from the top.
We got a little pose happy in the end I guess :) What's new I suppose. I really thought this last picture of Julie was amusing. When I first saw it I commented on how she looked like a kid in it. She reminded me that Mark took it. It shows what we look like in his eyes, which is just a little eerie...
I guess we really are pretty short after all!
We continued on to Klatovy where they have an old crypt complete with preserved bodies. It was so interesting to see how they had been mummified without being wrapped at all. They were normally buried in the crypt, but the airflow was just perfect so that they stayed in good condition. In more recent years some reparations were made that cut off the airflow and many of them were destroyed, but they saved more than 30 and they're now on display in special glass cases. Naturally you can't take photos there, but we did get some post cards :) We were especially surprised at how good their teeth were. Ancient people generally didn't have the best teeth, but these were mostly all intact and straight. I'm very curious about their dental care...Even the bottle of French toothpaste from the 1890s was a bit late for them. Curious.
There was also a tower that we climbed in the square. The lady at the top was really interesting and enjoyed our interest. She told us about the old bell keeper and how he lived up there to keep watch over the city and would call out the hours to mark the safety of the town. It actually made me think of Nancy Hood who used to live in a look out tower during fire season. What a fascinating confined sort of life. I definitely couldn't do it, and yet I find the idea intriguing all the same. Here are some views from below and above.
The tower lady told us that back in the day the original tower top actually crashed down and fell on the square below, so I decided I should act it out for the sake of preserving history...
After a lovely time exploring there we continued on to the last stop of the day: Svihov. Sadly, we just missed their opening hours, but we were able to wander around the grounds some and we really enjoyed looking at the moat and what we could see of the castle from the outside.
So, like I said, there are a lot of amazing places to see here in the Czech Republic, and it was great to have Julie here to give me some excuses to see more of them :)