How nice is to have you on board of our house with wheels again! If this is your first stop I invite you to read about the first part of our motorhome adventure in Europe in these three articles so that you can get an idea of where we came from:
Now that you’ve got an idea of our itinerary from Spain to where we are now in Munich, let´s get on board so that we can begin this fourth part of our motorhome trip around the best of Europe. Now it will be the turn of three wonderful countries whose cultures are closely linked to the eastern part of Europe: Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Poland. Shall we?
- 1 Czech Republic in a motorhome – First Part
- 2 Slovakia in a motorhome
- 3 Poland in a motorhome
Czech Republic in a motorhome – First Part
We calculated our departure from Alcalá de Henares on August 23rd in order to arrive in the Czech Republic as soon as autumn began. The cold in those latitudes and longitudes starts a little earlier so we did not have to wait to enjoy the incredible autumn colors that surround the Czech roads. Going with our motorhome around roads surrounded by orange, red, yellow, and green forests was already a beautiful journey in itself.
So if you ask me which is the best time to visit the Czech Republic I would say without hesitation that autumn, towards the end of September and the beginning of October.
Stage 1: Munich to Cesky Krumlov – 296 kilometers
Since we saw on a TV show the city of Cesky Krumlov with its red roofs, its meandering streets, the meander of the river that surrounded it, and that castle on top, we thought that one day we would visit it, that we only had to wait for the right moment to come. And what better way to do it than as a family, with our house on wheels? The moment was now.
As we said in our article about the most romantic places in Europe (read HERE), this wonderful city of Southern Bohemia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1992, did not fall into the hands of the appalling Soviet architecture, so its historical center is one of the best preserved in Europe and without a doubt one of the most beautiful.
With its Gothic and Renaissance houses, and Kaplická street as the standard of a labyrinthine city; with its cobbled streets that descend towards the Vltava river and ascend to the top of the castle that houses one of the best preserved baroque theaters; with those views that from there above this city gives to us, Cesky Krumlov is a must in this motorhome road trip around the best of Europe.
The whole historical center is pedestrian so we left the motorhome a few kilometers away from the center in an ideal place from where to go out with the bicycle and enjoy a very pleasant ride surrounded by autumn forests. Being a city of somewhat intense ups and downs, we left our bikes in Latrán street, just at the entrance of the castle, and we began our visit there on foot.
Stage 2: Cesky Krumlov to Telc – 111 kilometers
We did not want to do the 111 kilometers in a rush. When you travel with a small child you always have to think about what is best for him. So we look for an intermediate point in the road to stop for lunchIt was not hard at all to choose the place after seeing the photos of other travelers in the Park4Night app. On the shore of a lake, surrounded by a forest and a small town. That’s how we had our first meal of the day.
Parking on the map:
There was little we knew about the Czech Republic. We knew about Prague of course, for being its capital and the most visited city, Cesky Krumlov, for the TV show we told you about, Karlovy Vary, for its famous film festival, and Pilsen … well, for the beer. We had never heard of the city of Telč, for example. And as we like to discover lesser-known corners, we headed to this city in the southeast of the Moravian region.
Founded in the 14th century, standing at its main square is enough to discover why it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1992. There, a group of Renaissance-style residential buildings surrounds the place, with its pastel colors and triangle-shaped ceilings.
We left the motorhome in a parking lot just a 5 minutes walk from the center, next to a beautiful park. For 6 euros you can leave it for 24 hours and even spend the night there with a lot of silence and tranquility.
Here on the map:
Stage 3: Telč to the Podyjí National Park – 56 kilometers
The Czech Republic is not characterized by having a large number of National Parks. In fact only 1.5% of its surface is covered by sites declared as such. But they are simply beautiful. We decided on the smallest one of the 4 Czech National Parks: the Podyjí National Park, on the border with Austria, with the Dyje River as the protagonist.
With an area of 63 square kilometers it invites you to enjoy it in several days, but we took it as a nice intermediate point in our trip back to Austria and its capital. We left the motorhome at the entrance to one of the trails that go into the Park:
The walk takes place in a leafy and humid forest, with the dry canal drawn by the melting of the mountain ice that transforms into a strong river. It is a park that is very rich in flora and fauna with more than 77 varieties of plants and 152 types of birds. It was a very pleasant walk to do with our son and continue to enjoy the contact with nature, away from the noise of the cities.
Stage 4: Podyjí National Park to Vienna – 87 kilometers
Before entering our second country in this part of the motorhome trip through Europe, we returned for a couple of days to Austria so that we didn´t miss its wonderful capital. Vienna, on the banks of the Danube, is one of those European cities that invites you to travel to other times, to times of emperors and kings, of architectural opulence. Everything in Vienna seems perfect. After all, there must be a good reason why Vienna was elected the number one city in quality of life according to the global study carried out by Mercer for the eighth consecutive year.
During the nineteenth century, it was one of the great musical capitals of the world and at the beginning of the twentieth century, the heart of the philosophy and political debate of the western world, as well as one of the main world cultural centers. Its palaces and gardens, its theaters, operas, and large squares, its elegant streets, and its world-famous cafes make Vienna an unmissable city to enjoy on foot, or by bicycle, as we did. Vienna is a mecca for architecture lovers because there they will find three key periods of Europe’s political and cultural development: the Middle Ages, the Baroque period and the Gründerzeit.
We tried to leave our motorhone as close to the city as we could but at the same time in a place where we could spend the night in tranquility. We found it here, next to an equestrian park at a distance more than perfect to cover by bicycle:
Slovakia in a motorhome
Stage 5: Vienna to Bratislava – 80 kilometers
A trip to Vienna without a visit to the Slovak capital would be a great pity. Not only because of the short distance separating them that allows the trip to be transformed into a day trip, but because Bratislava is, in our opinion, one of the great little European jewels yet to be discovered.
The Old City houses the largest number of historic buildings in Bratislava, including the Old Town Hall, the current site of the City Museum, a beautiful 14th-century building, and the 18th-century Grassalkovich Palace, a beautiful example of the Baroque architecture of the city. Gothic churches such as the Cathedral of Saint Martin, or the Blue Church built at the time when Art Nouveau was beginning to emerge in Europe, transform Bratislava into a beautiful parade of styles crowned by the Castle from where you can appreciate the best sunset in the city.
Bratislava was undoubtedly one of the cities that surprised us the most during our trip. Small, but at the same time majestic, with beautiful squares and buildings. One of the most overlooked European capitals, and yet one of the most recommended discovering.
We left the motorhome in a huge free parking lot on the banks of the Danube, just 10 minutes walk from the center of the city crossing a bridge. You can even sleep there. At night the view towards the illuminated castle is unbeatable. We decided to follow our course but we leave the location of the parking on the map:
Stage 6: Bratislava to Štrbské Pleso – 330 kilometers
Our next stop in Slovakia was in one of the most beautiful regions of the country: the Tatra National Park, next to the mountain range of the High Tatras that separates Slovakia from our final destination on the outward journey: Poland. It is one of the 9 National Parks of Slovakia and the oldest since it dates from 1949.
We decided on one of the most visited spots by Slovaks themselves, both in winter because it is an important ski center, and in summer because it presents countless mountain paths to hike. Štrbské Pleso is a lake of glacial origin that is 1346 meters high and is surrounded by stunning natural beauty. With a clear day like the one we had, you can appreciate the highest peaks of the Park that reaches its ceiling with the Gerlachovský štít and its 2655 meters of height.
In the town that surrounds the lake there is a cable car that takes you up to the first mountains and from there several trails start. But we decided on the beautiful tour around the lake, enjoying a very nice walk in the middle of nature and with few people for what the European lakes had us used to.
We left the motorhome about ten minutes away from the lake, in a large parking lot that is quite populated during the day. The night is quiet but you have to make sure to leave the motorhome at the top of the parking lot to avoid being woken up by the people who control the place and charge the prices they want.
Here on the map:
Poland in a motorhome
If it were not for the great mountain range that separates Slovakia from Poland, getting from the lake to the wonderful Polish city of Krakow would mean almost a straight line. But that journey between mountain roads, valleys, forests full of autumn pallets, was worth it. It also meant a lot to us. It was reaching our goal, achieving our objective, feeling that it was worth leaving our comfort zone to pursue our dreams. After all, Poland had unwittingly transformed itself into the materialization of an idea and the great protagonist of our adventure.
Maybe for me, the trip was a huge journey through my history: a branch of my family came to Argentina from Spain, our starting point, and the other branch of my family came from Poland, our point of arrival. I never thought about it that way. In fact, I’m thinking about it right now while I’m writing to you. It´s funny how the unconscious works, isn´t it?
Stage 7: Štrbské Pleso to Krakow – 161 kilometers
Some will tell us that in our visit to Krakow we missed two fundamental places: the Wieliczka salt mines, and the Auschwitz concentration camps. The mines were within our plans until the end when we decided that we would prioritize enjoying the company of Tita, our dog, to leave her for a few hours locked up in the motorhome. As for the concentration camps, I had the opportunity to visit them in 2005 and the feeling of pain is still very strong in my chest.
It is a place that I decided in that year never to return again. Living it once was enough. I remember that on that sunny summer afternoon I had to sit on a step and cry. And I promised myself never to return. It is not necessary to explain the reason. The only thing I am going to tell you is that on this trip I wanted to celebrate life, I wanted to see my son grow up. It is for that reason and because of my promise of the year 2005 that I decided not to return there.
Krakow suffered the war a lot on a social level. It was there where the largest ghettos were created for the Jewish community. But on an architectural level, Krakow had the “luck” -and I say it ironically in between quotes because I could never consider “luck” what I’m going to say, but rather misfortune- in becoming an important Nazi capital. Due to this, its infrastructure remained almost intact. Hence the luck. The rest was nothing but a gigantic misfortune and an immense pain. Today it is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. And I’m not talking about Eastern Europe. I’m talking about all of Europe.
The Renaissance, Baroque and Gothic architecture of the historic center of Krakow has taken it to the World Heritage protected sites by UNESCO in 1978. The Wawel Castle of the 14th century and its Cathedral, at the top of the hill, constitute Poland’s most important historical and cultural place. It served as the residence of Polish kings for years and was thus a symbol of the Polish state. Today it houses one of the best art museums in the country. The only problem for us was that we could not enter with our dog, so we had to take turns to visit it.
And without a doubt, the Cloth Hall and the Town Hall Tower in the Market Square in Krakow are the most photographed places in the city, and the most beautiful. There the market of the city is developed, in a place that reached its golden age in the XV century as an important center of international trade.
We left the motorhome in a paid parking at a very short walk distance from the historic center. The great advantage, besides that it was a private and guarded parking, was that you could sleep there, and the 24 hours with the included overnight cost 50 zlotyz (12 euros). Here on the map:
Stage 8: Krakow to Wroclaw – 273 kilometers
What can we say about the wonderful city of Wrocław that our son did not say in his story “Of colors and dwarves”. I’m going to stick with one sentence: “There was a very sad time when people instead of walking looking at the floor searching for dwarves, looked up at the sky and ran. ” Seeing the extremely colorful central square with those typical triangular buildings and imagining it totally destroyed full of fire and smoke eating history, seems like a hard nightmare. It was the beginning of the year 1945 when the Polish city, in the hands of the Nazi army, suffered the worst siege to date at the hands of the Soviets. And that siege was too much for the city.
Nowadays there are only photographs left as a reminder of what should never happen again. The rest, after years and years of reconstruction work, is an ode to joy, colors, flowers, and good taste. If we add to that the more than 350 dwarves that appear throughout the city as a game of treasure hunt for tourists – although their origin has to do with something more political than touristy since it was originated as a revolutionary movement against the socialist system- and its river walk along a beautiful green park, we can consider Wroclaw as a must on a trip around Poland.
Oh, and if we add the island of the Cathedral (the ‘Ostrów Tumki’), also known as “The Little Vatican” because today is the place of residence of many clerics and nuns, we can say that Wroclaw is the most beautiful in Poland (and the least visited of the three large cities next to Warsaw and Krakow).
We left the motorhome in a free parking lot -on weekends- (we got there on a Friday night so we enjoyed two nights of walking distance to the center but far enough to sleep peacefully) next to a large park.
That was how we arrived at the end of our outward journey. But our adventure did not end here, we were only in the middle. Now it was time for the return and for that we had to pass through the Czech Republic one more time, through Germany, Holland, Belgium, France, and Spain. Sowe invite you to subscribe to our blog leaving us your email here below so that we let you know when this adventure continues.
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