Sunday, June 2, 2013

Vepice to Konopiště

Lola is still asleep, camped just out of Vepice.
Tom had told us about Husova kazatelna, a big 'wobble stone' from which Jan Hus, the 14th century Czech priest-reformer, supposedly preached once. It was a bit out of our way and we had to get to Konopiště Castle that night. So we skipped it. But we soon stumbled on a roadside pub. It had a big trampoline out the front which was a drawcard, and some kind of mini golf, apparently popular amongst Czechs. It also had good goulash and massive serves of dumplings and we struggled to get moving afterwards. Lola rolled around on the trampoline as tradesmen in overalls sporting healthy guts and mullets came and went, driving battered little hatchbacks very quickly. I wondered why none of them seemed to be driving more functional work vehicles. Maybe they worked on tractors? Another group turned up on bicycles. They had clearly ridden from the village straight to the pub, and not for the exercise. CZ has a 0.00 alcohol limit for drivers.

As we rolled over the undulating country we passed Vysoký Chlumec castle, perched on a steep hill.
On the other side of Neveklov, we suddenly realised we were on a popular back road for commuting traffic from Benešov. That's not fun on narrow, curving roads with gung ho drivers. Eventually we got to the leafy forest park around the castle. I rang the bell at one of the enormous gates and a security guard gave us a key to the domeček (workers' cottage) down below where we could stay, thanks to Tom's friend Jana. That little steeple is cute but there is no way into it! I kept banging my head on the angled ceiling. Boo hoo.

Konopiště is an odd place. Jana told us it was much more popular with Russian tourists. This was Archduke Franz Ferdinand's last residence before he was assassinated in 1914: he was also 'Royal Prince of Bohemia'. The bear pit at the main gates gives it a very unreconstructed feel. We took Lola on a tour of the castle which showed off the Archduke's hunting trophies, exotic weapon and armour collections. He reportedly shot up to 300,000 wild animals, many of which were displayed here. Tasteful. We realised that Czech style castle tours don't suit Lola: supervised, slow movement from one room to another, each full of things you can't touch.

There was also a motorcycle museum here (presumably full of Jawa's) and some kind of dog show on, again showcasing Czech pet love.

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