Saturday, August 11, 2007

A Day and Some Knights Outside of Prague

We all woke up this morning for a journey to an ancient ruin at Okol, a famous site a short distance outside of Prague. Karen, Elwyn and Vera went on the metro and bus, while Radim, Alden, Emil and Raja drove in Radim's car. After a few diversions for us getting coffee, boys having to pee, getting slightly lost, we arrived at the castle just a few minutes before the bus riders.

The castle ruin was impressive even from the country road we approached it from. There is a high tower, with several smaller castle wall features below. I it is a 13th century site with very rustic construction, small rooms, but quite defensable, I would think.

This day, and many weekend days, hobby knight enthusiasts dress up in armour or period costumes, practice sword fighting, archery, mead making, falconry, or other medieval arts. there is a minimal fee to access the castle, and a little tourist stand of wooden swords and shields for the kids, but otherwise, it is purley for fun, not for profit. You can really feel that energy in the place too. Everyone was having a good time.

There were guards at the door, checking people's tickets, grilling them, asking for 'bribes', but all in joke. However, they were dressed well and were quite heavily armed for the 13th century, and they completely terrified Alden. He was sure they were 'going to sword' him and as we walked up to the gate, he cried so hard in terror, that they just winked at us and let us get through unaccosted. Then Alden popped his head up from my shoulder and asked 'did we sneak past them?' and was very proud that we had.

Elwyn tried out archery (difficult) and we climbed around the castle a bit before the first fight demonstration began. We watched it enthusiastically, and then by 1:30 we got hungry so headed out of the castle to a tiny little restaurant nearby. We couldn't read the menu (Radim, Vera and their kids were not hungry yet), so we walked a little further to a pizza joint. While we were there, it began thundering and raining really heavily again. We had hoped to go back to the castle, but by the time more than an hour had passed, we all decided to give it up and head back. Radim chanced to see an old friend there, who gave Vera, Karen and Raja a ride to the metro, and the boys all headed back in the car.

On the way back, we went out to see the plot of land that Radim and Vera bought. It is in a very picturesque little town of Libčice, about 30 minutes north of Prague. After poking around the site where their house construction will begin this fall, we went to the city centre to have a look at the old neighbourhood Radim grew up in (very nice villas in Praha 6), and then on to the tower at the highest point of land in the city. Walked through some rose gardens, past an observatory and into a funky hall of mirrors, before the boys were got so tired that they became surley. Meanwhile Karen, Vera and Raja went back to the Chodov shopping centre near their flat, and had coffees before pursuing a bit more shopping. We headed back to the flat for a late supper of salad and perogies, got the kids washed up and to bed by 10:30, so they would get enough sleep before our morning flight back to London.

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