Český ráj (Bohemian Paradise)

I admit it, I’m a competitive walker. I lie to everyone about the distance between the current location and destination (I think the origin of all of this was when I was a kid, and my mother would say “let’s go walk around the block” and instead we would go walk two miles). Also, friends and family have told me that I regularly walk two paces in front of them (I swear I don’t notice!). Strangely, I never went hiking before two years ago when my friend Ashley and I swapped hobbies — she would come sailing with me and I would go hiking. Hiking is great! It’s like walking, but you get some cool trees and the promise of seeing a bear.

This weekend, I took my first trip away from Prague to visit and hike around Český ráj. One of the nearby cities, Turnov, is an easy two hour train ride from Prague. From there, I think there are supposed to be cool underground caves and rivers, as well — but I just planned to walk a ton in the woods!

Hrubá Skála, awesome rocks!
Hrubá Skála, awesome rocks!

I booked a hotel about a two hour walk away from Turnov, in Hrubá Skála. It was next to a castle! (Sort of. The castle was kind of sub-par, to be honest. Also it tried to have a “beach party” at night, but that meant a small rectangular sand pit, some upbeat music, and a bunch of people looking cold outside in 50 degree weather.)

Still no bears. Why have I never seen a bear?
Still no bears. Why have I never seen a bear?

I had an awesome time getting there — there were cyclists on the path as well, including a couple that was mountain biking WITH A SMALL DOG IN THE BIKE BASKET. Amazing. Also, despite being a little concerned about hiking alone, in addition to GPS on my phone the trails were incredibly well marked, and also not very perilous (I was wearing Teva sandals and had no difficulty with them).

Well marked trail!
Well marked trail!

After getting to the hotel, I walked around a few more paths near that spot — highlights including passing through a narrow stairway between two rocks, and also getting caught in the rain & sitting under a rock formation and listening to sad music (the latter, not a highlight, but oh well #emo).

The next morning, I got up early and headed toward Trosky Castle. It was about 9am, the weather was perfect, and everything looked like it was out of a fairytale.

walking in the woods

I think I saw maybe five other people while walking the two hours to the castle, which is crazy because the weather was perfect (at least perfect for me because I still haven’t learned to dress appropriately for being in nature so was wearing all black.

Wearing black pants, a black shirt, and a black scarf. Hello hiking.
Wearing black pants, a black shirt, and a black scarf. Hello hiking.

When I got to the castle, I kind of felt like my legs were going to fall off, but obviously I had to go up a steep hill to actually make it to the castle. Luckily, at the half-way point there was a woman selling off-brand Dippin’ Dots. I got some and ate them while watching a pile of goats sleep on each other.

After I got to the castle itself, its steps really tested my faith in engineering. Think wooden stairs, slightly affixed to a steep mountain. Yikes.

Terrifying.
Terrifying.

But the view was worth it!

I tried to take a selfie here but it just looked dumb, so you'll have to believe that I didn't steal this from the internet.
I tried to take a selfie here but it just looked dumb, so you’ll have to believe that I didn’t steal this from the internet.

After the castle, I decided to — instead of figuring out a bus or hitchhiking or however people get around — to walk the five miles back to Turnov to catch my train. There was a path most of the way along the main road, and sometimes I just walked on the side of the road but still felt more or less safe. For energy, first I drank a raspberry beer with a hotdog (my first hotdog here!) and then I pilfered odd berries (I think miniature plums actually) off of trees by the side of the road. I had some reservations about the latter, but so far am alive so would highly recommend it.

Hot dog and raspberry beer <3 Odd berries, nom nom.

After all of that — and getting back to Prague — I had walked THIRTY MILES over the course of the weekend. Competitive walking (and weekend Fitbit competition) win!

It was also nice to walk around nature. The New York Times told me it would make me less stressed out, and I think that it definitely helped. I’m not sure that I’m completely out of the woods on weird feelings about being here and listening to sad music while sitting on the floor of my apartment, but at least I get to link to Taylor Swift-related things while writing this sentence. :p

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