The Žďár nad Sázavou Adventure (Part I)
Alex is so often right about these things. I admitted that it was very likely that Jesse and I would find something to say about our attempt to ski in the Czech-Moravian highlands. After all, we knew that something or other was likely to go wrong, because something so often does on our adventures, even if it is something minor like the battery on my cell phone dying and nearly causing me to be stranded in the Brno bus station late at night.
Initially, it looked as though the thing that might go wrong could be my train. My ticket indicated a good many stops, but there were in fact none between Praha-Libeň and Kutná Hora (which would normally be a good thing since these are not far apart). This made me nervous and unable to enjoy myself until the conductor arrived about halfway along and told me to move down a car. It appeared that the train was going to split in half or something of that sort even though all of it was allegedly bound for Brno via Havličkův Brod. Sometimes I just don’t understand the train system. I had also been pleased with myself for buying a return ticket, only to discover that it was only good until the next day. Still, the student sitting next to me assured me that I had understood correctly and need only move one car down. I could see from her homework that she knew English (she was reading all about law), but although she did inquire where I was from, we did not test her knowledge of the spoken language, only mine of Czech.
Ah well. My train arrived in Žďár nad Sázavou a few minutes behind schedule, which gave Jesse (whose train arrived well before mine) even more time to observe the drunks who had been booted out of the station café and to investigate the station plant life carefully. He says the plants were extremely dusty. The station overall made an extremely poor impression on him, although it looked fairly ordinary to me. Of course, I did not have to sit there for an hour awaiting the Prague train, although I did on the way back on Sunday and it did not strike me as worse than other smallish train stations.
Fortunately, the lag between our arrival times had enabled him to check the bus schedules. This was something I could not really have done as they were not posted in such a way as to be visible to me. Every time we go somewhere, it turns out that there is a vital bus schedule above my head on an unlit post that he can miraculously read by virtue of being somewhat taller and having considerably better vision. In this case, we needed to take the 2A bus to the other end of town, as the lodgings I had located were in the zámek.
We were a little skeptical about lodging in a zámek because we had already tried this in Valtice and had felt that the décor there was more Communist than chateau-like, and Věra had subsequently told me that you cannot expect much from a hotel located in a zámek. However, technically our reservation was to stay in the chapel, and we felt that if the chapel was even remotely like the photos shown online, it would be an experience luxurious beyond words. This did not strike us as a likely proposition. Buildings usually look better in photos than in reality.
Since we are graduate students, our idea of a suitable place to sleep while traveling tends to involve sleeping bags, tents, other people’s couches, and accommodations with limited plumbing.
Thus, even after having chosen our accommodations after seeing photos online, we were not prepared for the reality of the Penzion v Kapli. You too can read about it in detail in several languages and look at the official photos, just as we did. It is even better than it looks, unless of course you are looking for an anonymous modern structure with numerous rooms. The Penzion was built in the 1300s and must have just emerged from remodeling a week or two before we showed up, as it appears to be in a state of perfection. It even has a café. We were so impressed we could barely stand it, so we set down our bags and went off into the snow to look for food. We had instructions where to find excellent food, but forgot what they were after turning left at the gas station, so we settled for edibles of a more modest sort.