There is no better time to visit Prague than in the springtime when the city is waking up to blooming flowers and sunshine and the hordes of tourists are just beginning to arrive. The city becomes alive with outdoor restaurants, cafes and bars where you can sit and watch the world go by. The rain is tapering off and the unruly level of tourists (that most likely make summertime in Prague unbearable) is still at a manageable level.
We thoroughly enjoyed our four days in Prague, spending hours on foot exploring this spectacular city awash in history, culture and charm. I was mesmerized by the beauty of Prague with her immaculate architecture that has made this city one of the hottest tourist destinations in Europe. Little did I know, the Prague countryside is equally as lovely and magical as the crown jewel herself.
On a Saturday morning, we decided to hire a driver for the day and headed out to explore the glorious Prague countryside and see what the locals do in their spare time. It was a stunning May day with brilliant blue skies, a gentle breeze and not a sign of rain. We were grateful to have it after spending our first few days in Prague in the drizzling rain.
Our driver was an amiable young man who filled us in on the history of Prague. He had an encyclopedia of knowledge and a wonderful car with a front to back sunroof that gave us a bird’s-eye view of the passing countryside.
After leaving the city, it wasn’t long until we reached the lush fertile countryside. We immediately came across brilliant yellow fields of flowering rapeseed which emitted a delicious, heavenly fragrance that filled the car. We learned that rapeseed is the main crop allowed by the EU in the Czech countryside and accounts for about 75% of cultivated fields. It is used to produce canola oil.
I noticed the rapeseed immediately when we were landing into Prague as its brilliant yellow fields interspersed with the green grass looked like a giant quilt.
Many locals were out riding their bikes along the rapeseed fields and enjoying the fantastic Saturday day. It would have been a lovely day for a picnic among the flowering fields.
In about an hour, we reached our destination for the afternoon, the tiny village of Karlstejn located about twenty kilometers southwest of Prague. We had planned to spend the day visiting the Karlštejn castle (Hrad Karlštejn), one of the most famous castles in the Czech Republic.
The Karlstejn Castle was built by the Czech king and Roman emperor Charles IV between 1348 and 1355 as a place to store the royal treasures, collections of holy relics and the crown jewels. It was impressively built on top of the hills overlooking the town below near left bank of river Berounka. To reach the castle, you must go on foot up the steep hillside blanketed in forest.
It is about a ten minute walk through the forest or else you can follow the long way up through the medieval village below the castle.
The views from the bell tower of the countryside below were astounding.
The castle itself did not disappoint. I will be dedicating an entire post to Hrad Karlštejn which Charles IV visited only six times! We were also there on a special day, Charles IV birthday.
As we headed back to Prague, our friendly driver made one more stop for us to see where the locals go on their weekends to enjoy the great outdoors. Malá a Velká America (Small and Big America) are two man-made lakes that were made from mining. Now it is a popular weekend destination for locals to escape the city to picnic, camp, hike and swim.
So this is what the locals do in their spare time! I can’t think of a better place to relax and be outdoors. If only we had more time.
Karlštejn castle (Hrad Karlštejn castle) is about 20 km outside of Prague. There are several tour companies that will take you there via bus. We hired our own driver from the hotel for $65 (4 hours). You can only see the castle via organized group tours which can be purchased at the window or online in advance (highly recommended to avoid the long lines). Visit the official website here for more details.
Malá a Velká America (Small and Big America) is only a short distance away from the castle.