Cesky Raj

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No.1: Buy the Time Out book for Prague.
No.2: Get a cheap flight there if you can.
No.3: Try to avoid staying in Prague, it's full of tourists.Ignore most pages of Time Out book and go straight for the trips in to the countryside bit.
No.4: Get on a train to Turnov, then Hruba Skala and stay in the local medieval castle that is now a hotel. You can't miss it, when you get off at the station with no station (it's a track) you'll see a road snaking away uphill to the right of the railway track.

With your book open in your hand, go to the local shop in which a round, slightly grim faced woman will talk at you in German whilst you point to the photo and say "Hotel Zamek?" at her, given that you don't know any Czech or if you do, you'll say "Good afternoon" instead of "Thanks" by accident. She will point you at the road snaking away to the right, but at least you'll know you were right in the first place.

Hotel Zamek is a hike up a pretty steep road - on a hot day you really don't want to be carrying a suitcase whose handle breaks only a few feet in to the walk.

But when you get to it - and you can't miss it, you wil have already begun to see why Cesky Raj is an absolutely incredible place. Real bohemia, hidden castles and the not very hidden and frankly rather terrifying Trosky castles...

When we went to the Hotel Zamek we were the only people there. It was Easter, and the weather was glorious so it's worth thinking about going out of season - insanely cheap too. Yes the older concierge speaks at you in clipped German but the younger receptionist doesn't, and plus - glorious plus, there is *no one there*. You can walk around in these amazing forests, hearing literally nothing but the wind flustering the leaves on the trees and look at woodpeckers above your head - then travel down to ground level (you spend a great deal of time on top of sandstone cliffs) to view the whole thing from a different perspective.

I almost curse myself for telling you about it but something tells me I'm not about to start a tourist revolution, so go along - and maybe you'll be the third English speaking couple they've had out there in the last ten years. I think the Time out writer must have been the first.

Oh, and in amongst the Prague pictures here are some of Cesky Raj - you'll see what I mean. http://www.zoonies.com/cait/pics/czech . We were insensed that we didn't realise quite how amazing Cesky Raj would be, and wished we'd stayed out of Prague completely, to walk instead in this cathedral of trees and cliffs, listening only to birds and the occasional church bell.

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