One the Czech Republics Hidden Gems

We got a rental while we were in Prague so we could leave the motorhomes at the campsite and have a look around. One of the planned outings if you like, was to Cesky Kumlov which is 150k’s southwest of Prague.

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One of the Squares. Gary, Fiona and Dianne on the right

It is now a UNESCO protected World Heritage site.

A weary traveller having a rest.. Gary in the blue on the right

We set off about 9am and after a stop or two along the way, we arrived at Cesky Kumlov. The town was established in the 1400’s and was then German. Most of the buildings in the town were built in the 1500’s due to a discovery of Gold by the castle.

The town is built on what is almost an island by the course of the fast flowing river that almost completely surrounds it. The castle was closed on the day we were there as it was Monday. I’m not quite sure how that works but never mind.

The Castle above the town

There were a few bus load of tourists there but nothing like other places we’ve been to. We had a great meal in a restaurant by the river and walked around the village.

A stunning wee town and if it wasn’t for the local knowledge of Gary and Dianne, we would never have known about it.Β  A great day out. Thanks guys.

Old Town Square

We had another of those GPS moments finding our campsite in the centre of Prague. There are a series of tunnels that act as the main route through Prague and under the river. There are even turn offs in the tunnel like a motorway network so when you get the lovely GPS lady saying half through a 80kph tunnel, saying turn right and you are at your destination, things get a bit confusing.

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Harry and rafe at the Prague Riverside Campground

So in a motorhome convoy, we followed each other around and around the motorway system to find out that the said campsite was right on top of the Tunnel by the Vlatava river. Thanks to a bit of sleuthing from our resident Detective Gary, we found our way in. The next hurdle was the lovely campsite girl’s English was probably slighly better than our Czech but we managed to sort everything out 😎.

The campsite was quite interesting but was pretty reasonaby priced for the 5 days that we were staying. $3500 Czech Crowns per van with two including power, toilets, showers and dumping facilities. This equals NZ$225.

The Prague Castle Courtyard

On our first day, we headed up to Prague Castle on two trams which took about an hour. When we got there, we realised we’d made a mistake going there on a Saturday on the first day of the school holidays. It was absolutely chocker.

The Queue for the tickets to the Cathedral .. Fiona is in the red jacket

There were people everywhere. After spending half an hour in the queue for tickets to see the inside of the Cathedral, we then discovered the queue was about an hour or more at least so we decided to head back into town and try again later.

The view of Prague from the castle
The old historic Trams

We walked down the stairs back towards Prague Old Town Square. Crossing the Charles Bridge, we saw where parts of the film Mission Impossible were made where Tom Cruise flipped a car and ran up to a bridge. The square is a now a little market square.

The square where Mission Impossible was filmed.

There is a post on the centre of the bridge which was where you can make a wish.

As we walked through the old streets checking out all the shops, we eventually got through to Old Town Square and the famous Tyn Church.

Part of the Old Town with Prague Castle
The old Town by Charles Bridge

We stopped at a pub in the Square and had a glass of wine and Cheese Board on a roof top terrace looking over most of central Prague which was magic.

Old Town Square and Tyn Cathedral from the rooftop.

A walk around the Square came next after which we made our way back up to Prague Castle to have another go at the Cathedral only to find it had closed. So we headed back to the camp to enjoy a glass of wine in the sun.

Campsite Automation

This campsite in Dresden takes the cake for value for money and its a great easy to use tidy campsite and is well used. It is completely automated with entry barrier arms where you take a ticket like a carpark and you pay when you exit. There is a graphic based machine which allows you pay with different languages and also dispenses tokens for both the showers and the power.

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Harry and Ralph on the Stellplatz

When we arrived at Schaeffer Mobile Stellplatz, we simply rocked up to a barrier arm and pushed a button for a card, just as you would in a parking building.

The entranceway

As we drove in there were 6 rows of parks on either side and it was simply just a case of selecting a park. After parking, there was just the job of plugging in to the power which is charged by the kwh.
All very simple.

The front of the dealers yard. Stellplatz behind.

There was no one anywhere near the site apart from the camping shop, and the Hymer / Dethleff / Concorde dealership in front.

Vans for sale. You can see the barrier arms and the camped vans out the back.

We ordered hot bread for 8 am in the morning for a couple of Euro’s .. magic!

The drive over grey dump and the pay as you go fresh water.

All you had to do was keep an eye on your power consumption as an electric jug would eat through your tokens for power depending on your consumption.

Fiona, Dianne and Gary walking baack to harry and Ralph.

For two days staying with free wifi, toilets, black and grey water the total was 30 Euros for two days stay and 4 euros for power (We had an electric jug!)

Busy and Popular Campsite

There was free Wifi and the water was 50c (Euro) per 50 litres and you could buy different amounts. Black and grey dumping was free.

NZ equivalent = about $60!! .. good value..

Harry and Ralph

I can see this working well for the NZMCA sites, even partially where they have power available and charged by the kWh for those who want to use it.

A City Rebuilt

We caught a tram from our campsite north of the city and headed into Dresden. It was only one tram so there was very little chance of getting lost today πŸ™‚

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Dresden is an amazing city. It was completely flattened by bombs where there was only rubble left and has been completely rebuilt with help from fundraising in Britain.

The inside of the Cathedral

Many of the old charred stones have been left in the rebuild as a reminder of a terrible time in Dresdens history.

The outside of the cathedral. Note the dark stones on the left. The rest are new!

One of the most significant rebuilds has been of the 18th century Protestant Church in the main square. It is simply stunning. We were lucky that we could get inside and have a look there and it is just beautiful.

There is a also a Ceramic panel of all the previous Saxon Kings and Queens along a road by the Rathaus which is the Town Hall.

The Ceramic mural of Kings and Queens
Close up of the mural

Its an amazing city and its nice to see it rise to be the centre of Culture in Germany again.

Checkpoint Charlie

We arrived in Berlin pretty knackered as although it is only 3 hours driving from Hanover, it is all on the Autobahn and is very boring driving. The only break in the steady lines on the road flashing by and lots of trees was when we spotted a car upside down on the other side of the Autobahn. Its amazing how quickly the traffic builds up. When we passed it going the other way, it must have only just happened and within a few minutes, the queue was about 8 k’s long! With us averaging about 85 K’s an hour, cars were zooming by as if we were standing still!

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Dianne, Gary and Fiona opposite with Harry

We were about to have our first experience in a Stellplatz. This one was in Tegel which is one of Berlins north western suburbs on the end of the underground line. It was about 20 minutes walk to the underground from the Stellplatz so was very handy.

Ralph behaving himself in the corner

Stellplatz are quite different to what we are used to in NZ in that you are charged for every single thing you do, usually resulting in a cheap stay but this one was expensive by the time you added everything up, and for its money was pretty scruffy and unkempt.

One of the nice things about it was their setup of both the Black water disposal and the Grey water. The Black water was done on a stainless steel bench where you stuck your cassette neck into a flexible 4 inch pipe and out it went. You could then rinse it out but being at a bench height, you didn’t have to bend down and murder your back!Β  It was almost like the good old days at school doing a science experiment πŸ™‚

The Grey water was done with a stainless bucket on the end of a hose which you unclipped from a post and stuck under your grey water outlet and then let rip. All very easy.

The Grey and fresh water tower at the Stellplatz

After a good nights sleep, we were up early and onto the undergound to do the round and round bus trip. We figured this would be the best way to see heaps and then we could go to what we really wanted to see after that.

One thing that really stuck out was seeing the Wall and Checkpoint Charlie. To see all this was quite sobering and seeing Berlin as it is now, you can only imagine how awful it must have been for so many having the wall up and everything that went with it.

The wall
Checkpoint Charlie

The next day, Fiona and I caught the train back into town to see the Jewish Memorial which is a huge area down by Brandenburg Gate with several hundred big concrete boxes.

You can see a persons head popping up through the concrete blocks at the Jewish Memorial

Its an amazing thing to see and you can walk among the boxes and get lost in them. An awful reminder of a truly awful time in our history and with the current generation of Berliners being so helpful and nice everywhere, it is quite amazing to think that this could have happened here.

Fiona at the Jewish Memorial

As we left the Stellplatz the next day and headed towards Dresden and as we were just around the corner from one of Europe’s bigger motorhome accessory shops, it would have been rude not to stop by and peruse the shelves of this great store called Berger. You can find it here at www.fritz-berger.de

A happy Wurlitzer player at the Brandenburg Gate

A lovely city, the weather wasn’t up to much while we were there but we saw the essentials and we’ll be back.

Arnumber See in Hanover

Thats the name of the Motor camp we stayed in in Hanover and is about 4 k’s south of the City.

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It is a huge area surrounding a lake of Chalets and parking areas for Motorhomes Caravans and tents and is fully equiped and even has its own restaurant.

The View

In Germany, everything is priced separately including β€œStrom” which is power and is charged by the KWH but actually works out to be pretty reasonable.

A happy wee Ralph
Fiona and Gary at tea time

Some caravanners just along from us seemed to spend quite a bit of time in the water and it looks nice.

Our view at Drinks time.

Stepping back a wee bit … As we approached the border into Germany from Holland, the motorway suddenly became a parking lot and everyone was redirected off into a parking area and separated into lanes by the German Police.

We were selected for an extra look and presented our passports and our smiley faces. After answering a few basic questions of where we’d been and where we were going, the nice older Copper waved us through. I think he was more excited about seeing some NZ passports for a change πŸ™‚

It seems they were quite stressed about the G20 summit that was on in Hamburg as he advised us not to go there as it was β€œdifficult”!

Drinks time

Needless to say, we were relieved to be sitting down under Gary and Diannes awning having our first glass of wine that afternoon in a very nice Camping Ground πŸ™‚

Ralph and Harry Hymers

Ralph the Renter is from Milton Keynes in the UK. He’s a 1992 Hymer with a 2.9 litre, non turbo, 5 cylinder Mercedes Diesel with Auto Transmission with not too many gears πŸ™‚ He’s not a speedster but can quite easily do 90 k’s without too much stress and with the fills of diesel, seems comparitely competitive with Harry in terms of fuel economy.

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A happy wee Ralph

He’s got a drop down bed and you can drop the table and make up a double there too. We prefer to use the drop down bed as you simply flick it up out of the way fully made up and its quite comfy.

There is a loo and a shower at the back and the Galley is across the back with the habitation door on the opposite side. Ralph also has air conditioning too which has been great and we’ve pressed that into service a few times.

The View

Hot Water, Truma heating a 3 way fridge (under bench model) and it all seems to work.

Our little spot in Germany

 

Harry is a 2004 B654 Hymer. It was owned by friends of Gary and Diannes in the UK who had it from new. Gary and Dianne bought about 5 years ago and now store it just out of London. It has a 2.9 litre Turbo diesel and gets along quite nicely.

Harry all set up

It comes fully equipped including Air conditioning and Gary being Gary, has everything you could imagine hiding in its huge garage πŸ˜‰

They’ve had lots of fun in him and with this tour with us, has been hugely helpful for us being European Bunnies and them leading the charge πŸ™‚

The City of Bikes

And it is Amsterdam. Dianne found a great camping ground just on the edge of town surrounded by Canals. The campground sold 3 day tickets where you could swipe on or off the tram as much as you liked. This worked really well.

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Ralph and Harry in Amsterdam

The first night we went in to have a bit of look around and ended up having tea in the town and checking out the red light area.

Fiona, Gary and Dianne trying to find somewhere to eat

Day two we got up early and headed in so Fiona could check out the Art in Rijksmuseum.

On the way there was a car accident on one of the bridges so that was as far as the Tram could go. One of the downsides of Trams of course is they can’t goΒ  around the obstruction so we walked the rest of the way.

We stopped at a pub on the first night by the Cathedral for a beer
One of the larger canals where the accident was.

While Fiona was at the Art Museum, Gary, Dianne and I got on a Hop on Hop off round and Round open roof ferry. For 19 Euros, we could go right around the city by Canal with an audio commentary which was fantastic. Not great for taking piccies as you could only shoot out of the sides.

During the Hop on Hop off trip

One of comments which came across was that the canals are 3 metres deep. One metre of Water, One Metre of Mud and another Metre of bicycles πŸ™‚

Madame Tussauds in the Dam square

On our third day there, Fiona and Dianne were keen to check out a Diamond Factory. I didn’t think I’d like it but I found it quite interesting. It was quite tourist tatty and the free coffee was awful but great to see.

Fiona with a big sample Diamond

One of the curious things I found with Amsterdam is Bikes have right of way over EVERYTHING!

One of the oldest foot bridges over a canal

The Bike lanes are everywhere and they go like the clappers and they simply ring the bell if you get in their Β way. It is quite intimidating. Also in the bike lanes are scooters and small cars and they go even faster. Often there is only a few inches between the edge of the footpath and a scooter doing 30-40kph! .. Its not uncommon to see people speeding along on bikes on their cell phone with a child strapped on somewhere.

Bikes rule !

So much history.. most of the buildings are centuries old and some have a lean either forward or sideways πŸ™‚

Next to the campground.

Amsterdam is a really interesting city. Next were moving on to Germany.

Clogs and Windmills

In Arnhem, we met a friendly Dutch Motorhomer who told us about this wonderful little village called Zaanse Schans and that we must pop in for a nosey. So thats exactly what we did and it was stunning.

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Old Buildings on the other side of the river
From the Bridge

Original old buildings and Windmills all restored and many open to the public. It is very touristy but done very well.

Charming houses

We looked for the Motorhome parking but couldn’t find it so parked a few blocks away at a railway station parking area but it was an easy walk to and fro.

Many of the houses were set up as museums and all offered something different. We had a nice Latte and one house, and then a Waffle at another and checked out the inner workings of a windmill.

Fiona and Dianne share a pair of Clogs !

There was a great Clog making display with all the machinery and you could buy almost anything with a windmill or clogs on it πŸ™‚

Zaanse Schans

We spent about 3 hours here and then headed about 20 minutes south for Amsterdam.

Culture and Canals

Just north of Amsterdam is a charming little coastal City of Alkmaar. The central part of the town is basically on an island ringed by canals.

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Ralph and Harry. Gary getting his bike ready

We stopped at Alkmaar Camping which is just on the edge of town but an easy 20 minutes into town by bike. It is supposed to take 10 but as usual, we got lost but we got there in the end πŸ™‚

The Campground is well set up but for what it is, I thought it was a tad on the expensive side at 32 Euros a night for two but its very easy to get into town and a nice relaxing spot to stop.

Fiona on a mission

After we arrived from Arnhem, we got the bikes ready and headed off into town. As I said earlier, yep, we managed to get lost on the way but quickly found our way into town. We locked our bikes together at the big church in the middle of town and then headed off down the narrow streets. Its a charming place and being a Sunday afternoon market day, the place was chocker. It was alive and kicking!

The main “shoe shop” street with the Church at the other end.

About about an hour or so, after the girls had checked out nearly every shoes and clothes shop down the main street, we made it to the canal down the other end. It was just a great sight. Everything you see in the tourist brochures and some.

The Canal by the coffee shop

People enjoying a cuppa in outdoor cafes by the canal, people in boats and it seemed to be all about people watching and shopping, drinking and eating! Way to go:-)

People getting together

We eventually ran out of shoes shops and started heading back to the bikes and made our way back to the camp, nearly getting lost a second time !

Apparently there is a beach on the North Sea only 15 minutes bike ride from here but we’re heading towards Amsterdam next.