There is something utterly romantic about traveling by car. Wrong turns reveal the best spots, locals become best friends, highway cafes provide the real taste of the country. And when it comes to the Czech Republic, Skoda home country, road trip seems the right way to explore it!
We jump into a shiny plum Superb in Prague airport and set off towards Mlada Boleslav to explore the Skoda Museum. This is an ultimate destination for car lovers! The quirky Voiturette, the first car produced in 1905; the legendary posh Ferat, a car that appeared in the Ferat Vampire movie; and 340 more historical models are exhibited in the building, where the brand was first launched. Like kids in a candy store, we storm from one car to another, take pictures and even cautiously crawl into Ferat – according to the movie, it runs on human blood. Spooky!
We are on a mission to see as many world-famous Czech castles as possible, so quickly head towards Louchen, which is only 20km from Mlada Boleslav.
The modest baroque façade of Louchen is nowhere near as impressive as those medieval fortresses we had in mind. The reason it is one of the 10 most visited castles in the country is that the tours are with historical characters: a prince, princess or their valet. We book a night tour with castle ghost, The White Lady, creepy noises and wax candles included! There is also a dressing room and I don’t miss a chance to put on some old-fashioned clothes and pose in front of Skoda old-timers.
The next morning, we leave to Hluboká nad Vltavou castle. We pass by cosy little villages with net houses and welcoming family cafes, serving homemade vepřo-knedlo-zelo (roast pork, bread dumplings, and stewed cabbage), palačinky (thin pancakes) and, of course, beer. Everyone has their own backyard brewery here! We are exploring every corner of the beautiful south Bohemia villages, but surprisingly every time end up being the only tourists. Apparently, the country’s rural areas are a well-kept secrets!
Hluboká nad Vltavou is a picture-perfect, neo-gothic beauty that exceeds any expectations both from the outside and inside. Wandering through the endless bedrooms, lavish ceremonial halls, gun rooms, tea rooms and libraries, I feel like the castle’s owners have only left yesterday: furnishings, chandeliers, paintings, porcelain — everything is kept in a perfect condition. The lady in our group even plays the 19th-century piano and it sounds divine!
Our next destination is Český Krumlov, the second largest castle in the country and a Unesco World Heritage Site. Sitting at the top of steep rock, this gothic building for the millionth time this trip makes our eyes roll in astonishment: we spot four bears lazily walking in the moat! The tradition of keeping bears in Český Krumlov dates back to the 16th century. I jump with joy at the top of the watchtower – the views are incredible. The streets of this gingerbread old town are dissected by the mighty River Vltava full of rafters screaming so loud I can hear them from above.
Finally, we return to Prague. The capital city boasts numerous historical places. The iconic 621-metre-long Charles Bridge, decorated with 30 statues; the oldest astronomical clock in the world; the medieval Old Town Square; to say nothing about the largest ancient castle in the world – Prague castle, founded over 1,000 years ago! Traffic options in town are disappointing, so we cash in our car for versatile segways – probably the most popular way to explore the capital.
We spend the last night at Hotel Augustine. Located next to Valdshtein garden and Karlov Bridge, this building has been a prospering male Augustinian monastery since the 13th century! There are still several monks living here. Tourists can have a quick look at monastery’s impressive old library or taste a beer, brewed since 1352 in St. Tomas Brewery Bar. After several days of history, mysteries and castles, Hotel Augustine was the perfect icing on the cake.