Prague is beautiful but, just like living in any large city, it’s often pleasant to escape the crowds and kafuffle. As the weather will soon turn wintry, we took the opportunity to escape to the countryside to see the green leaves turning to the fiery colours of autumn.
The main reason we visited the area which translates as Czech Paradise, however, doesn’t change colour. In fact, they haven’t changed colour for many thousands of years.
Česky Raj is just short of 100km northeast of Prague: easily accessible by car. As we don’t possess a car, however, we had to cross the city to the Černy Most bus terminal to hop on a bus which would take us to a village called Jičín. Missing the aforementioned bus by seconds wasn’t great planning, but another arrived soon after to give us plenty of time in the fresher air of the east.
Jičín itself is a nice place, with colourful Baroque buildings fortifying a pretty town square. We wandered around their Saturday market before leaving on a seven kilometre uphill trek to the entrance of a natural reserve of sandstone rocks called Prachovské Skály.
Once inside the boundaries of the park (the kind lady allowed us to enter for student prices as I fumbled around trying to find my expired student card), the real walking begins. There are a variety of trails snaking through, around and under the sandstone stalagmites which rise surreally from the colourful hillside.
The exact reason for these freaks of nature is unclear, but I assume it is due to the ice age and the erosion attached to it. The rocks, which are the biggest collection of their type in Česky Raj, are a popular climbing challenge for those who enjoy such a thing. In the picture below, a professional has scaled one of the rocky obelisks and is helping an amateur towards the peak. This is normally a challenge I would hurl myself at; unfortunately, time constraints were against us. Though watching those climbing the vertical peaks would have certainly resulted in thinking twice about scaling the rocks. Terrifying.
The stones, cool to the touch, are a pleasure to walk around. Squeezing through narrow crevices can lead to dark, mossy areas which can seem otherworldly. It struck me as being the perfect location for The Lost World.
Our trip to paradise was for one day only, so we had to eventually trek back to Jičín in order to catch one of the last buses to Prague. My guess is that we covered in excess of 20 kilometres of hilly and awkward terrain on foot during the day. In spite of the effort required, it was exactly what I wanted. The air seemed fresher, the leaves brighter, the terrain more spectacular.
Whether I’d describe Česky Raj as ‘Czech Paradise’ is up for debate. I would, however, highly recommend it as a location in which you can get away from city life. Just don’t look down if you climb those rocks…
Love you all