Having spent many summers visiting family in Louisiana, I hate to complain about a bit of heat. In Louisiana, it's paired with unbreathable humidity, the kind where you step out of the car and fall back because the moisture just whacked you in the chest like a vengeful mafioso and now you have to adapt to breathing in water. Nothing compares to Louisiana heat, except maybe Florida heat I suspect, but I've never been there. I'm in Prague now anyway and it's pretty damned hot here.
There are few things to do to escape the absurdity of the temperature. One can hit a movie, since they're almost always climatized. One can go to one of the few public swimming pools in town, like Podoli, but we tend to avoid those knowing how ridiculously over-crowded they ought to be with such a climatological extreme. The last option is to just get out of town. Around Prague, there are many lakes, creeks and rivers where people have adapted into beachfronts and places for pleasure-boating. I've yet to find a boat rental place outside of Prague though - you can rent boats on the Vltava on the embankment in the city - but they must exist.
For our outing, we decided to go to two beautiful Disneyesque castles we had scene last winter - Orlik and Zvikov. Both of the castles sit on the Vltava River, connected by about an hour long boat ride. We noticed the boat availability when we were there in November, but they only operate from June to August, so we decided to take advantage of the weekend and check it out. Orlik is only about an hour and a half drive, so going on the spur of the moment wasn't a problem for us. When we got to Orlik, we found the castle gates open this time, but instead of going in, we circled around and followed the coast a little back where the docks were. There was a small beergarden on the bank with an excellent view of the river. The Vltava had been dammed a bit further up making it almost like a really long lake with steep cliffs on every side.
We didn't take the tour at Orlik, but for someone who hasn't seen many castles it's probably worth it. It's 120 czk for Czech commentary and 200 for foreign commentary. Outside of the tour, there's a small nature trail skirting the river and the beergarden, there's not much to do.
Orlik in Czech means "small eagle" or "baby eagle", and before the dam, it would have been high up on a rocky promontory overlooking the then much smaller river. Now it sits almost on the river, but still amazingly scenic, as more water never seems to take away from a sight. It was originally built as a royal property in the 15th century and like most major castles in Bohemia, passed hands to the Eggenbergs and then to the Schwarzenbergs. For a time it was the main residence of the Schwarzenberg family, and the most famous resident was Karl Phillipp, Prince of Schwarzenberg, who led the victory over Napoleon at the Battle of Leipzig.
We waited at the beergarden for about an hour for the boat. In such a heat, we didn't really have energy to do much else, but sit and drink and dodge the swarm of bees that took up residence there. Since we had arrived only in time for the last boat, it meant that we would only spend 15 minutes at Zvikov, which was fine since we had seen it before. However, Zvikov would have been a much better place to wait around, as there's a lot more shade as well as beach where one could relax and swim. Not so much was possible at Orlik. The boat though was a nice ride and had a bar serving up sort of cold refreshments. The ride was 240 czk round trip, which seemed to be pretty reasonable for such a beautiful and hassle free ride. Tickets are purchased first come first serve on the boat. There was also a boat that went to the damn and one that simply circumnavigated the immediate area too. All of them can be found here (unfortunately only in Czech, but there are no reservations anyway, so just come as you are).
|Zvikov from the entry|
If we had to do it again, we would have gotten an earlier boat from Orlik or would have driven and started in Zvikov. It's certainly best on this trip to spend more time at Zvikov.