Despite Germany (and most of Europe, really) being well connected by train and bus, it’s a little hard sometimes to get into the tinier, out-of-reach destinations.
So if you stick to all of Germany’s main cities you end up missing out on a lot of more rural highlights. The same goes for the Czech Republic.
On last weekend’s trip with Daytrip, I had the chance to see some cool spots I might have otherwise missed. I even ticked off two bucket list items — Cesky Krumlov, and Saxon Switzerland National Park.
Here are some highlights.
Moritzburg Castle and dressing up like Cinderella
Moritzburg Castle is a baroque castle located about 15 kilometres from Dresden, in (you guessed it) Moritzburg. In the 18th century, Saxony’s Elector Frederick Augustus I owned it.
The whole castle complex is surrounded by a gorgeous lake, sprawling gardens, and a few other stately buildings. When we arrived, men were standing around with their giant draft horses attached to buggies.
The castle is also famous for being the set of the famous German fairytale movie, “Three Hazelnuts for Cinderella.” Apparently we North Americans like to screw around with fairytales until they’re in almost unrecognizable form. Ha. I certainly don’t remember any hazelnuts in Disney’s film.
Unfortunately the castle was closed to the public, but there was a pretty nifty Cinderella display. We dressed up and posed for photos, and then went to look at a room with a lot of dead deers in it.
Saxon-Switzerland National Park
I’ve been trying to get to Saxon-Switzerland National Park for awhile now, but thought I’d put it off until the spring so I could do some hiking. Turns out it’s still beautiful in the dead of winter…maybe even more so.
The park is famous for its giant sandstone pillars, carved valleys, table mountains, and deep gorges. It’s also a wildlife haven in the middle of Germany — you’ll even find eagles and otters here.
For climbers: there are over 700 summits. But if you’re like me and heights terrify the hell out of you, there’s over 400 kilometres of hiking trails and cycling routes. That ain’t bad.
On the way from Prague to Krumlov, we stopped at Hluboká Castle.
Hluboká Castle is a pretty fascinating place. It’s been around since the 13th century, but its current Baroque form happened in the early 18th century when it came under the ownership of the Schwarzenbergs.
Most people immediately notice how strikingly white the castle is against the Czech landscape. But when we showed up, snow was falling in the most picture-perfect way. (I love that about Europe. Back in St. John’s, the snow would be falling sideways, and laced with ice.) The castle looked greyer in colour, but it was still a dramatic sight with all the snow.
Hluboká Castle was mainly used as a hunting residence. You’ll notice this right away if you do a tour, because the Schwarzenbergs were more gun happy than your average American Republican. The walls were literally covered in priceless rifles, hunting trophies, and even elaborate dog collars.
Not exactly how I’d choose to furnish my Baroque castle but hey, those Schwarzenbergs were a bit eccentric. They’d round up animals and hunt them silly and then each kill would be recorded meticulously. There’d be a giant feast of near Pagan proportions with a big ‘ol pile of meat at the centre of it all.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that the cheap North American swill we know as “Budweiser” is anything like the proper stuff brewed in Czech.
In České Budějovice you’ll find the Budweiser Budvar brewery. You can’t help but be impressed by the sheer scale of the operation — the brewery pumps out something like one million hectolitres a year.
Plus Czech people drink more beer per capita than anywhere else in the world, so you know it’s good. The water is pure, and damn, is it ever tasty.
I did a full tour through here, pausing for a fresh brew in the cellar.I was mighty hungover from the previous evening in Prague, as is common when beers are about $2 each. I think the best part was checking out the insane bottling room. It’s a massive warehouse-like building stuffed with machinery that automates everything from bottle washing to capping.
It’s like a perfectly coordinated Ballet of Bottles.
I was completely mesmerized the whole time. And thirsty.
There’s still a lot I’d love to see around Prague and Berlin, including the insane Bone Church which I only just learned about from my friend Josh. Say what?
If you’re interested in trying Daytrip, you can use this code at checkout for 20EUR off your order: FxC1620. Just put it in “additional notes and wishes.”
Once again, Eastern Europe shows how ridiculously awesome it is. Next stop: Poland.