We left the familiar orderly perfectionism of Germany and ventured off into the wild unknown of the Czech Republic. A whole new country with a very different language! I was ready for some wild, some brave, some free spiritedness. I was ready to bond with this new land, run free of restraints and see where our adventures would take us.
We were actually on our way to Poland. One week in the Czech Republic, one month in Poland and then another month back in the Czech Republic, that was the grand plan. Most of our plans centered around where and when we could could find decent accommodation for our large bunch last minute. Well, we'd found a beauty for our first week in the Czech Republic, so with almost no knowledge of where we were headed, we set off!
I'm not kidding about the no knowledge bit. I'm sure it would be ideal to research a country before visiting; learn the history, practice some useful phrases, prepare the kids with organised preparatory learning...
...in my dreams! Ha!
Unfortunately, we are more the 'fly by the seat of our pants, flounder around having no idea what we're doing, make it up as we go along type.' I'm not exactly proposing this an any ideal way to go about travel...or life, but at least it shows that anyone can do it. You really don't have to be an expert or perfectly prepared. You have to get the essentials in order, ya know, the passports - travel insurances - phones etc, but other than that, you really can make up adventures as you go. Heck, Ross and I were traveling way before google was prolific or there were any useful blogs around for guidance. It was just us and a copy of Lonely Planet and a good dollop of humor and flexibility.
My way of preparing seems to be to read some beautiful romantic novel set in the area that helps me get in the zone of where I'm going. Then I have all lovely squishy feelings about a place and I am already connected in my heart. This approach is not practical in any way, but it makes me happy. Anyway, in the case of the Czech Republic, I highly recommend the book 'A Song for Summer' by my favourite Author Eva Ibbotson. It is set in the Czech Austrian Bohemian forests and is so beautiful...and totally to blame for me almost breaking my neck!...(more on that in a minute...)
So we drove into the Czech Republic and immediately dealt with the most important thing for any new place - check out the food!
We are so pathetic, I think we mostly travel for the food...
Ok so maybe that's me, I think Ross is into history, but for me, yep, it's all about the food!
We pulled over at an average looking rest stop and not knowing what to expect, piled into the little restaurant. We had never seen Czech writing before (and yes, we were still at the stupid phase of our travels where we hadn't yet figured out google translate), so we pointed randomly at six different dishes and hoped for the best!
Five of us got the most delicious meals! Levi scored a huge burger with all the trimmings, the girls ended up with delicious schnitzel, it was all yummy..except poor Ross. His most hated food of all time came to him hot and steamy - liver! (He has some traumatic childhood memories of trying to sneak dry disgusting liver to the dog under the table, hahaha). He was freaking out about the gross liver gravy touching all his chips and it was pretty funny. We soothed his soul with some roadside ice-cream on the way out.
When we arrived at our new home it was glorious to behold. The sun was shining, the grass was the glorious green that I'm so totally in love with, and even better, critter free! This wasn't Australia where I'd have to be careful of poisonous bugs, snakes and spiders biting my baby, nope, I could just sit him on that beautiful grass and not even worry. There were kittens for the kids to play with, a trampoline, and the house was a lovely old farmhouse with character and charm. We were in love!
It is one of the most relaxing weeks that we had in our whole trip. Something about that sun and the lovely weather, and the feeling of not having to rush anywhere was just magical. Usually I was stressing about something; like extreme weather, or crying kids, or traffic, or one of my kids hurting themselves from playing some dumb imaginary game like 'lets pretend we're falling off a cliff...on a cliff' (more about that in the future, that piece of stupidity happened in Italy). But this week was the best! They ran around with their Dad, and layed on the grass carving wood or cross-stitching, read books or played with the kittens. I cooked chicken soup in the old kitchen and we never had to stress about anyone leaving the doors open or being too loud. Heaven!
Not long after we arrived we went to church in the local village, Ceske Budejovice. It was all in Czech of course but everyone there was so kind and welcoming. The town was simply adorable and after church we wandered around and made a discovery. A storks nest!! Again, I have all romantic feelings about storks because of A Song for Summer, it was definitely a good omen.
Our Airbnb hosts offered to take me on a horse ride and I jumped at the chance. I love horse riding. I never learnt official proper fancy riding, but growing up in the Aussie bush, I became pretty proficient at the 'fly by the seat of your pants' type of riding... (hmm, might be a pattern here...). Well, as it turned out, it's lucky for my neck that I possess such skills!
The horse was freaking HUGE! It's head was like a monster!! I felt a little alarmed, but since I really really wanted to go horse-riding in the Czech Bohemian forest ( this is ALL Eva Ibbotson's fault), I let my romantic imagination get carried away with images of me racing free through the ancient trees.
The kids loved watching us get everything ready and give the horses a little trot around the corral, then we were off!
My lovely guide was a very cool lady who I probably could have been friends with, but unfortunately we didn't speak a lick if each other's languages. She gestured to me to relax and enjoy as I was riding, but I didn't comply. I was more than a little nervous riding on a monster horse through a foreign country.
Who can I blame for what happened, me or the horse with the giant head?
Maybe we were just not right for each other. He could sense my foreignness and nervousness perhaps?
About 20 minutes into the ride that ginormous horse did his best to buck me off! Like seriously, it was a full-on Czech rodeo show! He bucked and shied and shook that giant head and I held on for my dear terrified life. Like I said, I really am skilled at hanging on and so I didn't fall off, but woah! Nothing like having a freakishly giant horse try to buck you off into a dark foreign forest to get your heart pumping!! My guide was shocked and said that he never behaved like that before and that it was like a circus rodeo. Yep, thanks for that.
After that excitement I no longer had the desire to go galloping free through the trees so we walked the whole way. And whenever my guide was looking away, that crazy horse would turn it's mutant head and try to bite me. I had made an enemy. A very large Czech enemy.
I consoled myself from the traumatic experience by laying in the beautiful green grass and planning with Ross the places we would visit during out time in the area. Close by was an adorable medieval town called Cesky Krumlov that we were looking forward to exploring, plus some more food adventures of course.
No more foreign horse adventures though, that experience was well and truly fulfilled, that is, until I read my next novel...
In case anyone else feels like experiencing a blissful week (or more) in the Czech Republic, I highly recommend this Airbnb listing.
*note - Consider carefully before galloping off into the forest on any mutant animals...