I keep my blog as a personal record of what I'm up to, which might be seen as working towards "An elegant sufficiency, content, retirement, rural quiet, friendship, books, ease and alternate labour, useful life"

I'm certainly not there yet.  There is quite some way to go!










Entries in Czech Republic (9)


The Muncipal House


At home, anything with the word “municipal” in it is likely to be dull.  Worthy and possibly a bit down at heel, budgets always being tightened. 




The Municipal House here in Prague is anything but.  Built at the start of the 20th century as a showcase of design and craftsmanship, the budget was doubled, even before it was finished.  It stands as a masterpiece of Art Nouveau design and I wanted to take a closer look.




The only way to do that is to join a guided tour and having timed my arrival well, I was able to buy a ticket and stand by and wait a short while for it to begin.




Not only was I going to join a tour group (aaagh) but I had to buy (and wear) an additional photo pass around my neck as well.




It had better be worth it!




I had already snapped the logo of the building, admiring the design and cursing the spotlights which make taking photographs of shiny things so tricky.




We were a large group of at least twenty people and I lamented the fact that the previous group; the one I’d just missed, left with only a dozen.  Still, their guide seemed crabby and unsmiling, whereas our sweet Andrea was utterly charming.




Our first stop was outside the Mayor’s Hall.  Andrea explained that there was a function booked for this afternoon so we were going to begin there and do the tour in reverse order.  As she spoke, cameras were clicking all over – I mean, this building is just so photogenic!




When she opened the door, I swear there was a collective gasp.  But Ms Crabby and her small group were just coming through and it appeared she was going to pull rank.  Oh no!  did this mean we were not going to have any time in here?




We snipped and snapped, just in case!  My eyes fell immediately on those embroidered felt curtains, then slid over to the light fittings…but it appeared we were moving right along through those doors and we just had to follow and keep our fingers crossed that we’d be back.




We began in the room known as the Conference Hall and Andrea immediately reassured us that we would indeed see everything there was to see, but in reverse order.  Phew.  She spoke in both English and Czech which was great, because it gave me time to scribble as she talked and then look more closely during the Czech bits. 




I was smitten with the attention to detail.  The small motifs that were repeated here and there, on curtains, on walls, on the ceiling and on fixtures and fittings.




It was all in the detail and the craftsmanship.  Oh my goodness.  Where to look first?  Next?  Have I seen everything?  Has anything gone unnoticed?




It was in this room where Andrea gave us an overview of the building, for it was here that the formation of Czechoslovakia was proclaimed in 1918.  It was also here where Vaclav Havel negotiated the settlement in 1989: the building holds huge significance in the country’s history but nevertheless, it’s a building for the people, who are invited to hold meetings, parties, weddings and any other event here.




All the time Andrea spoke, I was looking around, scribbling, noting patterns and it appeared everyone else was doing the same!




Time to move into the next room, then; the one we’d just walked through, in between the Mayor’s Hall and the Conference Hall, the Rieger Hall.




Here, the significant feature was a pair of large murals depicting prominent Czech artists.  Andrea identified them one by one but I caught only the first two from the right hand side: Antonin Dvorak and Bedrich Smetana.




It’s not that I wasn’t listening, but there were some rather beautifully embroidered felt cushions on the seats!




The ceiling was pretty spectacular too.




And all the time, I was wondering who Fr Lad Rieger was as well!  I’m sure you can picture the scene: There I was scribbling, taking pictures, juggling notebook and camera, trying to look at everything, listening to Andrea and my mind going twenty to the dozen remembering to look things up later and just make a note for now.




As we gazed at the ceiling, Andrea noted the lime leaf motif and explained it as the “national tree of Prague”.  It was a motif to be found throughout the building.




She also pointed out the carved hop design in the wooden door and window frames.  It too is a traditional Czech motif, associated with the manufacture of beer, of course.




From here, it was just  step back into the Mayor’s Hall, where we’d started.  My priorities were to take a closer look at those curtains!




Beautiful work, lavish embroidery with crystals and wool appliques.




But of course, there was so much more to see.  We’d learned early on from Andrea that only the best artists and craftsmen had been invited to contribute to the building, but that this room had been the work on one single designer: Alfons Mucha.  I had already seen some of his work in the gallery this morning, but here was his masterpiece.  He had sole responsibility for the design and execution and had given his services free of charge.




Only temporarily distracted by the view from the open window, I thought it was clear that, even though he was working voluntarily, Alfons Mucha certainly did not cut any corners.




Every detail from the small lamps at the end of each settee to the lavish paintings on the ceiling had been done with huge consideration.




Everyone was similarly enchanted by the whole room, but especially by the faces high above us.




Those very special, Mucha-faces!




And although I, too, was similarly captivated by them, I was also acutely aware of the other small details, such as the light fittings on each pillar




and the curtain tie-backs, which were a kind of elaborate tassel.




Oh my goodness, where to look next?




Well, upwards, i suppose.  Having satisfied myself that I’d noticed everything in the room, I allowed myself to gaze at the ceiling.




The composition and placement of these two figures was fairly typical of these triangular segments – how intriguing to allow one figure to go beyond the edges, but how effective, too.




Did I say I’d noted everything?  Well, spotting one member of our group paying attention to the chairbacks, I took note too…and look what was there, what I’d missed!




I realise that my photographs give only a glimpse of the reality and can only say, you need to see it for real!




It would be wrong to say it was downhill from now on, but there’s no doubt that having seen the diamond in the crown, the remaining part of the tour went rather more quickly.




The Palacký Hall was beautiful, for sure and the ceiling painting absolutely delightful.




It was here where Andrea pointed out the door handles




and didn’t need to point out the wall paintings which were also lovely.




From there, we moved on into the Grégr Hall, where another large wall painting dominated the room.




The lamps were especially lovely, and as Andrea had explained, since the Municipal House had been built to accommodate all the latest technological advances, the electric lighting was installed as part of the original design, together with central heating/cooling.




In here were marble panels and the most beautifully carved doors, too.  At this point, though, Andrea remarked that we were leaving the men’s rooms and entering those of the ladies.  I didn’t get chance to ask her to clarify so we’ll just take her word for it.




The next room, around the corner, was filled with light wood and pale blue upholstery.  It’s known as the Oriental Parlour and many of the motifs are taken from eastern art and culture which was particularly fashionable at the time.




More lovely embroidered cushions




a ceiling with a feeling of Klimt’s art, I felt




and lamps based on the design of a minaret.




The patterns and detailing on the furniture were as consistent as previous rooms.  Every last corner was perfect.  No expense spared to achieve the best effect.




The wallpaper (or was it painted?) was inspired by ikat weaving, the jewelled arches from a temple.  The whole effect was lovely.




The pattern continued onto the net curtains which were forming a really interesting shadow on the windowsill too!




Then, just as we were about to move into the next room, I spotted the ventilation grille – oh yes, every detail considered.  Nothing left to chance.




I was so busy looking everywhere, I probably forgot to look down enough, but when I did, there was a small reward for doing so!




There followed a small room, almost too small to be classed as a room at all but dedicated to Božena Němcová, a Czech writer.  The tiled fountain was exquisite, as you can see.




On going into the next parlour though, our eyes fell immediately to this part of the construction – a permanent feature of the room, for sure.  We all peered into it, where a few air plants and stones were carefully arranged.  But it’s purpose?  An aquarium!




This was the Moravian Parlour, decorated with folk motifs and crafts of the area, including this wonderful ceiling.




Each motif surrounding the central pattern is taken from a traditional Moravian design.




There’s a lovely landscape on one of the wall panels, too.




But I had eyes mostly for the embroidered panels above each door




stitched on linen with crystals and pulled work motifs




and believe it or not, macrame curtains!




The last of these parlours was described by Andrea as “the confectionery”.  A kind of refreshment room, it was arranged with a set of tables and chairs.




But there was one main focus: a broad bar/servery with the original fittings still in place.




Of course, there’s the same detailing and chandelier design, the table centres are gilded and shaped to reflect the overall design too.  Once more, we all stood, open mouthed, not quite knowing where to look next.




Andrea must have seen this frequently in the groups she guides around the building, though of course, we were taking the tour in reverse order, so last, but not least, she took us into the hall where she normally begins the tour: The Smetana Hall.

This is a large concert hall, home to the Czech Philharmonic and named after the composer of the seminal patriotic work Ma Vlast.  The stone statues on either side of the stage are inspired by pieces of that work and the whole design reflects the overall theme.




On each side of the hall is a large oval balcony with two large paintings.  On this side, there’s music and dance depicted




and here, on the other side, there’s poetry and drama.




The crowning glory above it all is the glazed dome.  Spectacular.




Further glazed panels to either side as well!




The communists would have dearly loved to have demolished the lot, so much did they despise the decadence of the Art Nouveau.  But thankfully their mere neglect of maintenance was repairable and over the years, the restoration has continued.  What remains is an absolute treasure and clearly, it’s cherished by the people of Prague.




So it was from here, the balcony outside the Mayor’s Hall, where that proclamation was made in 1918 and again, in 1989 where Vaclav Havel stood during the Velvet Revolution.

What an amazing place!




My hero is busy in the recording studio today, so I’m out on my own.  Left to my own devices.




I had the makings of a cunning plan but had every intention of being flexible and going where the mood took me.  This morning, it took me to the tram stop, where I stood looking at the Rudolfinium concert hall, lamenting the fact that right now, there’s nothing more interesting going on than non-stop Vivaldi and other touristy programmes.  Come the weekend, the Spring season kicks off and the Vienna Philharmonic are here for a few days, but for now, nothing for us. 

Oh well, one of us is getting plenty of music anyway.




The number 17 tram took me over the river and along the other side, stopping right outside my first destination.  The National Gallery.  I had no idea what I wanted to see, or indeed, what there was to see…I simply thought it could prove interesting.




My intention was to focus on Czech art, then.  To see works that I might not see elsewhere.  I began on Floor 2.  A modern building, the galleries were set around a central atrium and were cold, grey characterless areas with strong overhead lights.



(two works by Jindfich Styrsky)

I had no map or floor plan but just a list of artists on each floor and needless to say, almost all of the names meant nothing to me.  So, I just went with the flow and meandered, taking a closer look at anything which caught my eye.



(Diver by Toyen, Aquarium by Jindfich Styrsky)

These first pieces I encountered looked interesting, mostly because of the pale, almost chalky palette of colours used.  Whether it was this palette, or the very strong aroma of boiled cabbage that filled the building, I don’t know, but there was a distinctly Eastern European feel to the whole place.




A little further in, still with no other person in sight, I came across more domestic scenes such as this one(At the shop window by Karel Soucek) though the overall atmosphere remained rather bleak.




I suppose I expected to come across political statements at some point.




I just wasn’t prepared for the lack of colour, or of natural forms really.




Though around the corner was a hint of fun in the form of this cute scooter and sidecar!




Here too was a corner of designs from the Brussels Worlds Fair in 1958, an occasion when Czech design came to the fore and “Brussels Style” captured the imagination.




But around the corner was more gloom, more grey walls and dark, dark artworks.




I continued to follow the “way of the visit” and hoped for something lighter in the next part!




I peered over the balcony of the atrium at this rather strange installation, which shuddered and shook and made me feel rather ill!  




I decided to find out more and look properly at it later!  On through the photography, then.




then to the next floor up.  Let’s hope for something to lift the spirits!




More like it, wouldn’t you say?




Though really, the gallery continued in much the same vein.  Apart from the occasional glimpse of a security guard, I saw no-one but another couple of women with whom I shared the lift.  They were starting on floor 5 and working their way down and I was working my way up.  Maybe we’d meet at some point?!




Here was the work of Czech cubists, not really a style I understand or admire.




But here were a few items inspired by cubism, such as this sofa.  What struck me most about this section, however, were the Germolene-pink walls!




My original intention was to visit the museum of applied arts today, but it appears to be closed indefinitely so I was disappointed.  I was especially pleased to see these pieces of glassware, then.




Around the corner, pink turned into peach and at last I spotted a bit of colour (Bouquet by Vaclav Spala)




Rather exuberant colour too!  But on the wall, high above it was written:




Perhaps that explains it all?




I smiled at the arrangement of this pair of ladies in front of a few naked figures, though.




Nearby was a self portrait of the artist (Otto Gutfreund) who had created them alongside the figure of his wife.  Such a relief to come across life!




But tragedy was never far away, with figures from a monument to dead miners by Pokorny amongst other figures set against a dark grey wall.




Just as I was feeling ready to give up on the gloom and return to the sunshine, I found myself in the French art collection.  Never have a few impressionists been so eagerly spotted!




The same empty galleries with the same peachy walls, though, even if the pictures hanging there contained more light and sunshine.




All the “big names” were represented here too: The Lovers by Renoir above




Pissarro’s garden




Orchard in Bloom by Monet and more.  No matter that none of these were the best these artists created, it was simply a relief to look at rather more uplifting subjects.  After a while absorbing the French spirit, I moved on up to the fourth floor and hoped for something inspiring on which to end my visit.




As soon as I got out of the lift, I smiled.  How’s this for a turn of the century masterpiece?




Entitled Prague and the Vltava River by Stanislav Sucharda, it was created in 1902 and purchased by the museum in 1904.  It’s really rather three dimensional and is made of bronze, red marble and onyx.




So very much of its time, I think he’s the strong, silent type, don’t you?  I love it!




Once inside the galleries of this floor, I found a few paintings which suggested a more comfortable family life.  I rather liked the composition of this family portrait with man and wife side by side with their children. (The family of the woodcarver by Karel Purkyne)




I liked this picture too, of Thursday afternoon at the Stromovkapark by Viktor Barvitius.




and at last, a little pre-raphaelite, a touch of art nouveau was beginning to creep in, with these two enormous pictures by Pirner.  The earlier of the two, on the right hand side is labelled “Frenzy, Hatred and Death – unfinished” and the other, lighter one “Love, thought and life – unfinished”.  A metaphor, perhaps?!




Here too were a couple of works by Alfons Mucha; “Charity” above




and a rather more familiar style of portrait alongside it.  Sweet.




But around the corner was this large painting which instantly caught my eye.  The marks had been quickly made, there was energy and sheer fun in every one of them.




I mean, look at the baby’s face!  Maybe it’s his mother alongside looking sultry, but she’s looking rather pleased with herself, for sure.




Even the cow looks to be having a good time. 

As I stood and smiled at this little corner of fresh air and fun, I took a closer look at the label: it was a poster design for the Nestle company, no grand master or great work.  How potent cheap art can be!




As i turned to return to the atrium, I smiled.  I thought that today I had found the key to avoiding the groups.  Not only had I avoided groups, I appeared to have avoided everyone, so far!  But just as I was feeling smug, there they were with their guide.  I continued past them, happy to have ended my visit on a sunny note!




Though actually, there were one or two more treasures to enjoy, including these beautiful glassworks by Gabriel Argy-Rousseau and a couple of small piece by Tiffany too




There was a series of windows by Mucha depicting the four seasons




and some beautiful architectural drawings, including one for the bridge I had travelled over by tram this morning.




I must say, it looked rather more splendid in the drawing than in reality!  Though actually, the detail had caught my eye as we crossed it earlier, but not enough for me to get my camera out Winking smile




Finally, totally overcome by reflections, a drawing of my next destination: The Municipal House.  Far too much to include in this post, I’ll continue later.




For now, the brutal lettering of a wall design




and another, calmer view of the installation Touch of Time, by Magdalena Jetelova, taken from the rather amazing bookstore on the ground floor of the museum.




As I waited for my tram, I took a picture of the view.  What an amazing city this is!  What a wealth of architectural treasures are here to be explored.  

And it’s only lunchtime!  (well, 12:10 to be precise, as you can see Winking smile )


Beating them–or joining them?


Today was the day we’d set aside to explore the city together.  Tomorrow, my Hero will be in the recording studio with Tra and the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra and I will be making my own entertainment.  But following our experience yesterday afternoon, we decided to head for a lesser known area in the hope of avoiding the large groups which annoy us both.




The first challenge was to buy tram/bus/metro tickets.  The machines took only coins and we knew we didn’t have enough for that.  But neither could we find the “3 day pass” on the list of options.




The office at the station was closed and the newspaper stand couldn’t have made their position clearer.  So, we returned to the hotel, found the answer to our question (buy the tickets in a Tabac, which I might have guessed had I not seen the notice above) and returned to the small store adjacent to the station to make our purchases.




Negotiating our way through the tourists yet again (!) we finally made it to the tram stop.




At last, we were on our way, heading for the Little Quarter.




Had we achieved our ambition to find a quieter part of the city?  Well, generally speaking, yes.




Though they were never far away Winking smile




So, what will I find to irritate me today, then?   Well, as we strolled along this quiet street, a young couple were posing for pictures as their friend snapped away on the pavement opposite.  This needed two or three takes…  (oh, for heaven’s sake!)




They repeated the exercise, posing by a signpost for their camera-toting friend.  So I’ll add irritation #4 to my little list as “people who pose for photographs in public places”




Mary Valentine, you know me too well Winking smile     I stepped around the couple, doing my best not to photobomb their shot (however tempting) to stand by another bridge encrusted with rubbish (!) to take my own photograph of the water wheel down there.




A little further on was a pleasant, leafy boulevard, where a series of boards had been placed, telling the story of Prague (in Czech and in English too)




They were based upon interesting themes and offered a wealth of information.




We continued browsing the neighbourhood, broadly following the route in our guidebook and thankfully, finding ourselves untroubled by anyone else. 




Our guidebook was  correct, this was an attractive and historic part of the city and all the better for being overshadowed by the big “must see” attractions.  Though several smart hotels are on this side of the river, including a couple we considered, I’m pleased we didn’t allow ourselves to be tempted and consider our location to be perfect!




Pottering about is a good way to spend the morning and both pairs of feet (and knees) were suggesting a break.




But around each corner was another pleasing view,




an attractive street sign,




or a particularly cute doorway.  Good to know that the Three Kings stopped at this house on their way through.




We passed another Koh i Noor shop, this time one selling the full range of goodies  and well worth ten minutes (or more).  Here I encountered #5: two women who, wherever I stood, whichever pencil I wanted to try, they wanted to be right there too:  In my pocket if they could.  Just when I was beginning to think it was just me, whilst paying for my purchases  they stood in between the sales assistant and me, meaning he had to say “excuse me” to hand me my change.

What is it about these people!?   (or is it just me?)




We continued down the street, keeping an eye out for a likely coffee stop and admiring interesting shop fronts as we went.




Being the main walking route to the castle, several groups passed us by.  I couldn’t resist taking a slightly sneaky snap of this young woman though – I mean, who can’t love someone who carries a panda with her?




Soon, we found ourselves in the main square of the area, where surely we could find somewhere a little more authentic than Starbucks?




Making our way over to a small but busy cafe, I spotted this chap leaving a few books on top of the postbox.




Later, after our break and whilst waiting for our tram, we noticed these two women – were they looking at the books or posting a letter?




It was definitely time to catch the tram, though!




We’ve found them to be frequent, reliable and very convenient and didn’t hesitate to save ourselves the bother of walking uphill to the castle.




Once there, it looked like we’d beaten the crowds at last.




But they weren’t far behind!




So I took a quick snap of the guardsman, just before every man and his dog stood beside him for their photograph!




The castle yards were spacious enough to allow for everyone.  Even the large groups dispersed somewhat and we enjoyed following the suggested route around the site at our own pace.




Of course, some places were exceptionally crowded, like inside St Vitus’ cathedral, where we had no choice but to join the throng and peer over everyone’s head.




Thankfully, the most spectacular sights were above head level: the stained glass windows are so colourful and photogenic, it really didn’t matter how many people were standing beneath them.




Back out in the yard, then, where someone needed confirmation that his sunglasses look ok.




Another incidence of #5 too (at least three takes whilst we stood, waiting to pass by and make our way over to the doorway known as the Golden Gate)




The exterior of the cathedral was equally interesting and a couple of large information boards pointed out features we might otherwise have missed.




Such as the exterior staircase to the side of the Golden Gate.  Fascinating.




One thing on our list to do whilst here was to find “the view”, so having seen what there was to see inside the castle, we made our way out through the gateway, encountering the changing of the guard as we went.




I managed to get the flag shot from this side, too.




And no, this isn’t another version of #5 either, because posing for a photograph in pubic whilst dressed in silly clothes gives us all amusement, wouldn’t you say?




Mind you, dressing up especially to pose for photographs in public places?  Definitely irritating!




Anyway, here’s the spot for the view… or rather, on the terrace just to the right of here, without that tree in the way.  It’s part of Starbucks, where a sign invites everyone to “share our view”.




Yes, that’s the spot – just where Madame is posing for her photograph.  Aaaagh.




I’ll move along a little further.  We can still see our hotel and the Charles Bridge is just visible to the side of the dome of St Nicholas’ church.  I take a photo or two…or twenty…and we move on.




Have i mentioned how annoying it is when people park brightly coloured vans alongside the beautiful lamp I want to photograph?   # 6 then.




Of course, however many irritations there are throughout the day, none of them is enough to spoil our fun!   As we return to the hotel on the tram, two inspectors board and do a random check of tickets.  The young man in the blue hoodie in front of us struggles to find his ticket and the persistent inspector is not allowing any leeway, standing over him as he produces yesterday’s ticket, one from the day before…and phew, one with today’s date validated.  I made a mental note to leave today’s ticket behind before validating one for tomorrow!




Back at the hotel, I headed for a relaxing hour at the spa pool. 




As I did, I had a lovely view of where we’d spent the day.  I wonder who was posing on the Starbucks wall right now?


Here we are




My red shoes and I are in Prague for a few days, tagging along with my hero, who is involved in an interesting project.  We took a (very) early flight this morning and were here well before lunch, ready to rediscover a city we last explored 17 years ago, in 2000.  We weren’t really planning on sightseeing as such, but thought we’d simply get our bearings and orient ourselves until our room was ready this afternoon.




Well, from the minute we turned the corner from the hotel entrance, there was one aspect of the city that we did not anticipate.








Hundreds, no, thousands of them!  Young and old, in large groups and small groups and speaking every language imaginable.




Since we were last here, the river cruise business has soared and many of these groups were following guides bearing the names of companies we recognised.




Had we imagined Prague to be as busy as this?  Not at all!  Though we travel quite a lot, we tend to avoid honeypots in high season and simply had not considered a Monday in early May to fall into that category.  We felt pleased that we had not come here with a list of things we wanted to see and do, because after a while, it would surely become irritating!




I know, you’d be surprised how irritated I can be by the simplest of things Winking smile

I mean, in that one moment above, there are three of my bêtes noires: selfie sticks, ipad photography and those blooming locks on a bridge!  Oh dear, Prague, is this how things will be?




We stood there on the Charles Bridge and watched people for a while.  Busier that Skegness on a summer weekend, we were just going to have to go with the flow.  Take it how it is and deal with it!




So we made our way into the old town square, where we had thoughts of sitting with a cold beer and maybe a bite to eat.  After all, we’d been up since 4.15am this morning.




A rather lovely distraction presented itself in the form of Manufaktura, a sweet-smelling shop with a charming range of toiletries and hand made items such as these Easter eggs.




We browsed a while, noting that although there were crowded streets, the sightseeing groups passed right on by.  We enjoyed this little haven of peace, then!




As we left and continued walking, we tried to recall the name of another, similar shop we remembered from here – or was it Budapest?  Was it called Botanicus?




There was also the distraction of someone’s shoes.  Worn by a Chinese girl, for some reason the style and proportions of this pair made me think of bound feet.   I must say, they didn’t look at all comfortable!




On the way to our planned lunchtime stop, we passed the Astronomical clock and, thinking there was an even larger than expected crowd standing, looking up at it, we noted it was 12 noon.




So we joined the crowd, ever aware that this must be prime pickpocket territory.




We watched as the little men popped out and popped back in again, as hundreds of pictures were taken on a variety of devices – my own included – and shuffled off in the direction of the square itself.




Don’t you love it?   (No, we don’t, either)




Our reward came in a cafe in the square; another place the groups just walk on by.  Not only was the beer good but the people watching was pretty entertaining too!




Until the heavens opened…




Thankfully, it didn’t last long, but two or three really heavy downpours sent everyone running for shelter, including the gold-painted men, the various buskers, postcard sellers and yes, even Death himself.




Because one of the “living statues”  (irritant #4 !) had been dressed as Death, in black and holding a scythe.  When the rain began, he packed up sharpish and carrying his scythe across the square, off he went.




We sat and watched for an hour or so, as the rain cleared and people came back out.  Three gold men returned and stood on their boxes (Grrrrr) , one blue man did the same and




the bubble man came back!  Who doesn’t love a bubble?!




We carried on a little further too, giving ourselves a pat on the back for timing that cafe stop so well (neither of us had a coat nor an umbrella to hand) and thought we’d just go a little further before turning back towards the hotel, by which time our room would be ready.




So, that’s what we did.  Walk and admire.




Coming back, we chose to use the smaller streets which were quieter and less touristy.




We walked through a small square and the name painted on the building seemed familiar: Botanicus.  Well, how strange was that?




Turning the corner, there was the sign of another Czech favourite brand: Koh i Noor pencils.  I’ll explore Botanicus first, I said.




Oooh.  a huge group of Chinese tourists (I think) were inside, creating a real racket and filling the shop, making it difficult to look around.




They were buying huge numbers of goods too.

Those who were not in Botanicus were in  Koh i Noor




Or in the shop next door to that, a glass workshop




with some very interesting pieces




There was some serious shopping going on all around here and if these groups are typical, then these shopkeepers are onto a winner, that’s for sure.




For us though, enough.  The cool, calm serenity of our hotel beckoned and a text alerted us to the fact that our room was ready.




I can vouch for the comfort of this little chair!


Honey pot

We left Karlovy Vary this morning, heading south towards Linz but planning to stop in Cesky Krumlov , world heritage site and according to the Lonely Planet guide, the most beautiful town in Central Europe.



So I guess we shouldn't have been surprised to find it crowded.



Of course, the buildings were as beautiful, the square as attractive - but the crowds, coupled with the showery weather meant that we didn't feel as enthusiastic as we might have done.



Whilst there I kept an eye open for Magic Armchair Traveller Sue, on holiday nearby, yet hoping at the same time that she visited on a quieter, more sunshiney day than today.



As we walked back to the car, we couldn't resist joining the queue for some trdelnik which were delicious!



We drove along the Vltava river for many miles, following the progress of families canoeing down the river and camping alongside.  More of an adventure than usual for the river is so high right now.



We arrived here in Linz late afternoon and checked into our almost-new hotel in the shadow of the Mariendom.  It's a beautiful place, stunning design and so very comfortable.  A glass bathroom is an interesting feature, though, especially considering those large glass windows!