Well-marked signage brought the straggling line of tourists from the train across the bridge and up, up, up the road through the little town, where every building was a restaurant or gift shop. Further uphill, the castle came into view around a bend, light brick with black tower roofs, a dramatic contrast, the blocked wall once used as a fortress against invaders. A classic sight that still takes your breath away at first view.
The second largest castle in the Czech Republic, after Prague Castle, Karlstejn was once home to King Charles, at least one of the King Wenceslas(es) and others in that royal lineage. Unfortunately it had been gutted of the original furniture, and much of the paintings and artwork on display were reproductions, originals safely tucked away in museums. There were two roped off rooms - an eating hall and a study, that were set up with period furniture and appropriate knick-knacks and items that might be used daily, giving the visitor an impression of what life in the castle might really have been like in those days. In a recessed window seat, a bowl of walnuts basked in the patterned sunlight from a leaded glass window.
Visitors were not allowed to enter the castle without a tour guide, and a paranoiac process of unlocking and locking the doors to every room as we progressed through the castle was a bit distracting, especially since every few minutes another tour came through. It would have been a more pleasant visit if allowed to wander a bit, return to a favorite room, and enjoy the silence between tour groups even if it's just for a minute or two.
Winding my way back down the hill, I stopped several times to ask shop owners directions to my other destination for the day, the tiny village of Srbsko. One of my students had mentioned the town as a lovely little place to just walk around. I turned down the road along the Beroun, separating myself from the tourists, and walked the gentle uphill rise with the occasional cyclers and joggers. In less than an hour, I found the little houses and gardens of the residents of the town.
You won't find this village in the tour guides; there's nothing special there, just houses, a few restaurants, one or maybe two small hotels for day trippers or people driving through. But it quenched my desire for a quiet walk outside the city and peaceful green spaces. After a stroll down a few streets and up a hill over the railroad tracks, I had a coffee and palincinky (crepe) at an outdoor cafe.
For the return walk, I took the dirt trail I had observed on the other side of the river. It made me homesick for the secluded Colorado trails of home. I dawdled on the way back, moving as slowly as the lazy river I was walking with, enjoying the solitude before returning to the bustle of the city.
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