Thursday, November 1, 2012

Going Hog Wild In Karlštejn

It was the type of motorcycle trip I had envisioned doing a lot more of when I first got my Czech motorcycle license -- and subsequently my 2002 Honda Shadow 600 -- back in 2008. Until a few weekends ago, Daisy and I had taken only one overnight motorcycle trip, to Český Ráj in 2010. Busy schedules, I guess. Other travel, by plane and car and train and bicycle.

So it felt great to have carved out a free October weekend for me and my Shadow and my Daisy.

A few weeks before, I had seen advertisements for what looked like a cool hotel outside Karlštejn, a small village about 35 kilometers from Prague, famous for its storybook castle. I booked a "relax package" on the hotel's website, and off we went.

We could have gotten to Karlštejn in about 30 minutes if we'd taken the highway, but that's no fun. We chose a meandering, picturesque route, heading east from Prague through the Czech countryside to Křivoklát Castle, from there to Beroun along more hilly roads, and on to Karlštejn.

The fall foliage was gorgeous, the sun was shining, and the winding roads were largely free of cars.

In the end, we took the same route that my cycling buddy Rob Coalson and I had chosen for our ill-fated attempt in 2007 (hard to believe it was so long ago!) at a so-called "century" -- that is, a 100-mile trip on a bicycle.

Having now ridden that same route on a motorcycle, I can't believe that we -- or rather, I -- managed to survive that trip on a bicycle. The number of hills on that route -- long, steep hills -- is ridiculous. It was a crazy route to choose in an effort to make 100 miles. I hate hills, and I'm a terrible climber. (Read how that quest turned out here.)

The hotel -- the Romanic Hotel Mlyn Karlštejn -- turned out to be (almost) everything we had hoped. A comfortable, if slightly smallish, room overlooking the Berounka River and a lovely spa area that can be booked for private enjoyment, and surrounding land inhabited by a friendly, bristly hog and a gaggle of donkeys, all for what we thought was a very reasonable price -- 3,590 CZK ($186), including 1.5 hours in the spa, a bottle of Czech sekt, breakfast, and 1,000 CZK ($52) credit toward dinner in the restaurant.

The view of the Berounka River from our room.

I would say that the only minus is a restaurant that has a long way to go to uphold the standards set by the rest of the hotel. The food -- Angus rib-eye steak and baked trout -- was ho-hum, the service perfunctory, the atmosphere rather bland and anything but romantic (accompanied as it was by a silly pop-music soundtrack). They can do better.

(Speaking of food, since we were passing through Beroun, we thought it was a good chance to finally sample the food at the Black Dog Cantina, praised -- with a few caveats -- by food bloggers such as Brewsta over at Czech Please. We stopped by on a Saturday for a late lunch, thinking we could beat the crowds, and found instead a line snaking out the door and along the sidewalk. We returned the following day just before it opened at noon and still found ourselves surrounded by like-minded folks who wanted to snag one of the cantina's few tables. When the doors opened, we all poured into the tiny space and quickly filled every table. Even though we were one of the first in line, we were served last, which I must admit left me frustrated. We didn't get our food until 12:45,  which seemed like an awfully long time to wait for a hamburger and a plate of nachos. Especially considering that, in our opinion, neither the hamburger nor the nachos were all that much to write home about. The burger was fine but unremarkable. I've had better -- and cheaper -- burgers in Prague pubs, and the nachos were rather sweet and lackluster. Based on one visit, I'm not sure what all the fuss is about. The place does have an admittedly cool vibe, though. I'll be back to see if we were there on an  off day.)

Sunday morning in Karlštejn was overcast and chilly, the Shadow covered in a thick coating of dew. After breakfast and a few games of backgammon on the back deck overlooking the river, we retraced our route back home, since it had been such a beautiful ride the day before.

It's nice to know such a fun little getaway exits just a few kilometers from Prague. I have a feeling we'll be back.

And funny, we never did get to see the castle at Karlštejn on this trip, tucked as it is up a winding, pedestrian-only lane and hidden behind the hills.

The Romantic Hotel Mlyn Karlštejn.

A chilly morning and a few games of backgammon before heading back on the bike.

Daisy was victorious on this morning.

The castle at Křivoklát.

The roads around Křivoklát were a motorbiker's paradise.

In the spa.

Part of the hotel's fantastic spa area.

Heading home.


  1. It's not as much exercise as cycling, but it's just as much fun (minus the beer!).