2012.09.18 – Central Europe

Earlier in the year my folks and I had casually discussed meeting somewhere in Europe late in the summer. It took but another few phone calls to put that trip on the calendar – it would be the first time we’d traveled in Europe together since 1986! With the spirit of kids on spring break they eagerly accepted my suggestion that we make no plans beyond the first few nights in Prague and simply “see where the wind blew us.” Turns out that wind blew us back to a few of my favorite places in the Czech Republic, but also to a great number of awesome places completely new to all of us. Two weeks, three Cargos, and a monkey!

Note: Some of these pics are from Mom & Dad’s cameras, thanks for sharing guys!

Descending into Prague's metro system en route to our home base near city center.

Descending into Prague’s metro system en route to our home base near city center.

Dad and I reading the chapter titled "How Not to Look Like Tourists" while riding the metro.

Dad and I reading the chapter titled “How Not to Look Like Tourists” while riding the metro.

The Jiřího z Poděbrad station on Green Line A, just a few blocks from home.

The Jiřího z Poděbrad station on Green Line A, just a few blocks from home.

The Old Town City Hall as viewed from our table while enjoying our first pivo (Czech beer, usually a pilsner, always amazing!) of the trip.

The Old Town City Hall as viewed from our table while enjoying our first pivo (Czech beer, usually a pilsner, always amazing!) of the trip.

Like father like son - Dad documenting the sights around Prague.

Like father like son – Dad documenting the sights around Prague.

Mom trying her luck on the Charles Bridge.

Mom trying her luck on the Charles Bridge.

At the Smetana Hall Municipal House for the opening concert of the 78th season of the Prague Symphony Orchestra.

At the Smetana Hall Municipal House for the opening concert of the 78th season of the Prague Symphony Orchestra.

At the Vyšehrad Fortress looking north upon the many bridges over the Vltava River as it meanders through Prague.

At the Vyšehrad Fortress looking north upon the many bridges over the Vltava River as it meanders through Prague.

Mom and I pose near the Petřínská Rozhledna.

Mom and I pose near the Petřínská Rozhledna.

An interesting find in a cemetery in Vyšehrad.

An interesting find in a cemetery in Vyšehrad.

A beautiful fall afternoon in Prague.

A beautiful fall afternoon in Prague.

With great food, drink, and company.

With great food, drink, and company.

Nightfall on the Vltava.

Nightfall on the Vltava.

Nightfall on the Vltava.

Nightfall on the Vltava.

Rocking the night away at a waterfront jazz club.

Rocking the night away at a waterfront jazz club.

Mom enjoying a pivo at Jazz Dock.

Mom enjoying a pivo at Jazz Dock.

After three days in Prague we drove north to Liberec to start our driving tour east through the Krkonoše Mountains toward Slovakia. Along the way we drove to the top of Ještěd Peak (visible from downtown Liberec), hiked from the town of Pec pod Sněžkou, and visited the cities of Hradec Kralove and Olomouc. All the while completely “wingin’ it” as to where we might stay each night – cheers to my folks for being up for such carefree adventure!

Hrad (Castle) Frýdštejn near Liberec.

Hrad (Castle) Frýdštejn near Liberec.

Mom waving from the tower steps of Hrad Frýdštejn.

Mom waving from the tower steps of Hrad Frýdštejn.

View from the top of the tower at Hrad Frýdštejn.

View from the top of the tower at Hrad Frýdštejn.

Watching para-gliders enjoy a perfect day of flying in the Krkonoše Mountains.

Watching para-gliders enjoy a perfect day of flying in the Krkonoše Mountains.

Sněžka Peak, the highest in the Czech Republic at 1,602 m (5,256 ft). (Photo of a postcard)

Sněžka Peak, the highest in the Czech Republic at 1,602 m (5,256 ft). (Photo of a postcard)

Almost there! Trail running to the summit of Sněžka Peak, at this point the trail leads along the ridge line which serves as the international border between the Czech Republic and Poland.

Almost there! Trail running to the summit of Sněžka Peak, at this point the trail leads along the ridge line which serves as the international border between the Czech Republic and Poland.

On the summit of Sněžka Peak.

On the summit of Sněžka Peak.

Dad and I on the border of Slovakia.

Dad and I on the border of Slovakia.

Once in Slovakia we drove to the Prešov region and made Poprad home for three days. At the foot of the Tatra mountains, it’s a great base for hiking (and skiing!), but is also central to some awesome castles and cave systems just to the south near the Hungarian border.

Mid-mountain on Lomnický Štít after taking a cable car from the bottom. From here we would hike on foot.

Mid-mountain on Lomnický Štít after taking a cable car from the bottom. From here we would hike on foot.

Mom on the trail with Lomnický Štít in the background.

Mom on the trail with Lomnický Štít in the background.

A beautiful day for hiking high in the Tatras.

A beautiful day for hiking high in the Tatras.

Family portrait on the summit of Veľká Svišťovka (2,037 m - 6,683 ft).

Family portrait on the summit of Veľká Svišťovka (2,037 m – 6,683 ft).

Who needs a tripod when you've got rocks?

Who needs a tripod when you’ve got rocks?

Approaching Spišský Hrad.

Approaching Spišský Hrad.

At the gates of Spišský Hrad.

At the gates of Spišský Hrad.

Spišský Hrad.

Spišský Hrad.

Dad and I enjoying an audio tour in Spišský Hrad..

Dad and I enjoying an audio tour in Spišský Hrad..

Looking down the many barriers of entry greeting enemies who may want to enter Spišský Hrad.

Looking down the many barriers of entry greeting enemies who may want to enter Spišský Hrad.

In the castle museum.

In the castle museum.

Who knew castles had such nice kitchens!?

Who knew castles had such nice kitchens!?

Inside Spišský Hrad.

Inside Spišský Hrad.

A ray of sunlight through a tower window brings out the texture of the stone floors.

A ray of sunlight through a tower window brings out the texture of the stone floors.

Chains lead the way up to one of the castle towers.

Chains lead the way up to one of the castle towers.

While we were busy sightseeing and taking in the culture and history of the castle, poor Tristan had found a medieval pub. Perhaps too many pints of pivo later he was caught heckling damsels and throwing bananas at a knight in shining armor. He was quickly put into lock-down in the castle’s dungeon where we had to rescue him that afternoon. Bad monkey!

Tristan doing time in the castle torture chamber.

Tristan doing time in the castle torture chamber.

Tristan really gets me into difficult situations sometimes.

Tristan really gets me into difficult situations sometimes.

Entering the limestone Gombasecká Jaskyňa caves in the Slovak Karst.

Entering the limestone Gombasecká Jaskyňa caves in the Slovak Karst.

Our fantastic spelunking guide Matej. When not giving cave tours, Matej teaches school and is lead guitar / vocalist in the band Sign of Chaos. Rock!

Our fantastic spelunking guide Matej. When not giving cave tours, Matej teaches school and is lead guitar / vocalist in the band Sign of Chaos. Rock!

Winding our way through the spectacularly lit Gombasecká Jaskyňa.

Winding our way through the spectacularly lit Gombasecká Jaskyňa.

"Soda straw" stalactites hang from the ceiling.

“Soda straw” stalactites hang from the ceiling.

A skylight at the visitor's center for the Domica Caves.

A skylight at the visitor’s center for the Domica Caves.

Inside the Domica Caves, largest in the Slovak Karst and actually an underground connection to Hungary via the Baradla cave.

Inside the Domica Caves, largest in the Slovak Karst and actually an underground connection to Hungary via the Baradla cave.

In wetter years you can actually ride boats through a section of this underground river.

In wetter years you can actually ride boats through a section of this underground river.

The trip and the kilometers were flying by! With less than a week left before Mom and Dad had to return to the states we decided to head west and spend a few days in Vienna before returning to the Czech Republic via Český Krumlov.

Posing at the Hungarian border.

Posing at the Hungarian border.

Carriage rides in downtown Vienna.

Carriage rides in downtown Vienna.

The Rathaus building, which serves as the city hall, in Vienna.

The Rathaus building, which serves as the city hall, in Vienna.

The Pallas-Athena-Brunnen (Athena Statue) in front of parliament building. - HDR Composite

The Pallas-Athena-Brunnen (Athena Statue) in front of parliament building. – HDR Composite

Interesting doorknob.

Interesting doorknob.

Mom standing guard at the Äußeres Burgtor guardhouse.

Mom standing guard at the Äußeres Burgtor guardhouse.

Statues in front of the Neue Burg Wing of the Hofburg Palace. - HDR Composite

Statues in front of the Neue Burg Wing of the Hofburg Palace. – HDR Composite

Reserved seating aboard a Vienna tram.

Reserved seating aboard a Vienna tram.

Graffiti along the Danube Canal. - HDR Composite

Graffiti along the Danube Canal. – HDR Composite

A sign with a lot to say.

A sign with a lot to say.

A cute reminder of my time in the Mara.

A cute reminder of my time in the Mara.

Back in Český Krumlov, one of the most picturesque towns I've ever seen.

Back in Český Krumlov, one of the most picturesque towns I’ve ever seen.

I have no idea where this is but what a great picture!

I have no idea where this is but what a great picture!

The main castle tower rising 86 m (282 ft) above the Vltava River.

The main castle tower rising 86 m (282 ft) above the Vltava River.

An artistic addition to a "high voltage" electrical panel.

An artistic addition to a “high voltage” electrical panel.

Two weeks had passed in the blink of an eye! After putting 2,200 km (1,370 miles) on our trusty Škoda Fabia II we returned to Prague for one last delightful evening with Miloš, Jiřina and their family. The next morning my folks boarded a plane to continue their summer adventure in Atlantic Canada, and I hopped back on Punda Milia for another chapter on two wheels.

Last night in Prague with Miloš and Jiřina.

Last night in Prague with Miloš and Jiřina.

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3 Responses to 2012.09.18 – Central Europe

  1. Chuck and Sue says:

    Ryan, thanks for another wonderful adventure!

  2. Paul Cargo says:

    What a great trip! Thanks for sharing.
    Paul C

  3. thanks for useful ideas and merely great info

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