Tag Archives: Weekend getaway

Telč: A fairy tale town

I fell in love with Telč at first sight. I was looking at day trips from Prague and one of the images opened up to reveal pastel-shaded wooden houses with painted fronts and an empty cobbled square.

Further research revealed this town square, called Náměstí Zachariáše z Hradce, was an UNESCO heritage site. (We all know how much I love heritage spaces. Read Hoi An: The Town that time forgot.)

I knew I had to get there. 

I got off the bus at the town square in this Southern Moravian town, and dragged myself (and my suitcase) over cobbled grey paths before reaching the square. It was bitterly cold and I had two heavy bags with me. And then I round a corner and stop short.

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The town square

The town square

In person, Telč is even prettier than its pictures. The square, often called one of the prettiest in the country, lies at the centre of the town and on all sides, are beautiful wooden buildings – in yellows, pinks, greens and blues. Each of the houses has its own history and distinct style. I spent my first few hours there, just craning my neck upwards trying to understand the artwork. 

Aside: History lesson –  The history of Telč dates back to the 1300s. In the 1500’s, Zachariaš of Hradec rebuilt the town square after a massive fire damaged it. The houses thus had vaulted arcades added to their fronts, creating a covered walkway. Italian architects arrived and the Gothic castle, chateau and town underwent a magnificent Renaissance makeover. The houses are residential spaces or homestays, shops or restaurants and administrative centres; No 2 is a former Jesuit hostel, No 10 is the town hall and No 3 is a study centre. 

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No 61 – In 1532, this house was bought by Michael, a baker and the chairman of the town council. In 1555, he rebuilt it and it now boasts of the sgraffito decorations of the leaders of Old Testament.

The centre of the square had two fountains and a Marian column. The Marian (or Plague) column, dates back to 1717 and has the saints: Jan Nepomucký, Jakub, František Xaverius, Roch, Sebastián and the Guardian Angel; St. Rosalia (in a small alcove), and finally, Maria Magdalena. Atop a column of clouds on the globe stands the Virgin Mary. There’s a small water pump too, at the side. 

It is around the square that tourists and townsfolk congregate, drinking cheap alcohol (hello white wine that costs 20 Kč – Rs 12 approx). Since we landed there late afternoon, K and I had a leisurely lunch and then walked about, stopping to admire street musicians filling the silence with the sweet melodies of the saxophone and trumpet.   

Beyond the square

Away from the square, the town is quite small. It was originally created as a moated fortress so is surrounded by a ring of interconnected lakes. A walk to the north, takes us past a small gate and into a spacious park surrounded by duck ponds. There, we spot horses in a nearby field, duck chasing each other, owners taking their dogs out for walks and spectacular views of the town.  

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A view from the other side…that twin towers belong to the Holy Name of Jesus Church

The northern end of the square is the chateau; Zachariáš of Hradec who transformed a Gothic castle into a Renaissance residence. It is beautifully preserved and there are daily tours  -two, in Czech but with English booklets – of about an hour each. One tour takes us through the different halls: the Golden Hall, which has carvings and paintings on the ceiling; the Knights’ Hall has armory and weapons, and the African Hall has wall-mounted trophy busts. The tour also gives a glimpse into the rooms of the chateau, filled with waffle ceilings, a naked statue of Adam and Eve and oil paintings of the castle’s inhabitants. The Chapel of St George, which has a detailed depiction of St George fighting a dragon, holds the remains of Zachariáš. 

The town’s shops/ restaurants shut by 6 pm, so we amble about, stopping to eat pastries at tiny bakeries, exploring a supermarket before finally settle in at a local bar, Herna (Non Stop Bar). There, we drink Czech beer (14 Kč)  and try to make sense of local music videos. A closer look inside the bar reveals a room full of slot machines!

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Bars with unique entertainment!

Telč is undoubtedly a pretty and romantic town and a well preserved historic square. Itis possible to explore it in a day, since the town shuts down early and there’s no nighttime entertainment.  

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Where to stay/ The homestay

Unknown to me, the homestay I booked was actually part of the heritage site, which meant I was actually living in a piece of history – Pension Stedler was  newly reconstructed Renaissance 16th century building. The house, number 8, was a beautiful shade of pastel green and opened into a dark cool space. It was in the middle of the main square in front of baroque pestilence column an fountains. The bus/ train station is a ten-minute walk away.

I booked a twin room with private bathroom, common living room with a little kitchenette for 800 CZK without breakfast (870 CZK with breakfast). 

Getting there

There are direct buses from Prague (Florenc bus terminal) to Telč and back; takes about two hours. A cheaper option, which I took was taking a Student Agency bus from Prague to Jihlava (150Kč) and a local bus from there on; took about 2.5 hours and cost much lesser (about 50 Kč).


TL:DR

  • Telc is a heritage town about two hours away from Prague. 
  • It is a perfectly preserved example of a historic town square, and a UNESCO heritage site.
  • It boasts a beautiful town square, surrounding duck ponds and parks, churches, a watch tower and a well-restored chateau.
  • The place is relaxed and quiet and everything shuts by 6 pm; very few places stay open for dinner. 
  • It is good for a day visit, or a night stay if you want to live in a house that dates back to the 16th century.

 

 

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Travelling solo, in Alibaug

In April last year, I brought in my 30th birthday in Europe on a three-week trip. I had my cousin and a friend for company for half of the trip, the rest was spent alone. It took me a day to realise that I didn’t like solo travel, it was too quiet (even for me). It took me back to my first time as a solo traveller, at everyone’s favourite weekend hangout, Alibaug. 

There is a lesson to be learned from travelling alone. It is very quiet. Justifiably so. You cannot talk to anyone and you obviously do not want to talk to yourself for fear of appearing deranged.

At first you do not realise it. You are immensely excited to be travelling to an unknown destination, alone, for the first time in your life. Your nervousness has been masked at home as you get busy packing and jotting down a list of to-do’s.

Once on the road, the thrill sets in. It is a new place, there will be new experiences and hopefully you will meet some interesting people. Meeting interesting people finds itself at the top of many a journalists’ to-do list. You meet interesting people, you get them talking and voila, you have a story or at least an idea for one. The silence is relegated to the background as modernity comes to your rescue. The car has radio, your phone has the latest songs and if really bored, the internet is a few clicks away.

Your destination is just two hours away, Alibaug. Once there, you check in at the resort you’re staying at, sip on your welcome drink and wait to be guided to your room. As you walk through the corridors, the silence creeps up from behind and whacks you on the head. You turn to the resort staff walking with you and state the obvious, “It’s really quiet here, isn’t it?” She smiles back, “It always is”.

Lunchtime and you are at a restaurant seated at a table for four. The waiter comes and clears the plates and napkins from the other seats, gives you a sympathetic smile. You ignore him and get out your book. ‘No one can stop you from reading a book, can they?’ People stare, so the book goes back into the bag. You have a backup plan. You think for a minute as to who would be awake (it’s 3.30 pm and relatives back home tend to take a siestas at the time) and free (it’s a weekday and most friends would be working), call them and conduct a desultory conversation. Your food comes and you’re relieved. A lot of it gets wasted and you apologise sheepishly to the waiters. You hate wasting food. 

It’s evening. You hire a rickshaw and set out to explore Alibaug. Your driver turns out to be the talkative kind so you keep him engaged in conversation. You visit a few temples; explore the village and the market place.

Then you come to Varsole beach. It reminds you of home and picnics spent on the beach. The camera comes out as you attempt to capture all the little eddies in the sand, the tiny crabs scurrying away and the beauty of a blue sky reflected in the sand. Silence creeps in again, this time adding to the pounding of the waves and the whoosh of wind through your hair. There is so much of beauty out there that you want to share it with someone. You look at the pale sky and think of all those email forwards you’ve read about being nothing but a speck in this mighty universe, how the vastness of the sea is supposed to mean something and so on. You laugh out loud and then stop: what if someone heard you? There is no one around. You laugh again, a little louder. 

To fill the silence, you start singing all those inane songs that you have on your playlist and which have hitherto been reduced to being sung in the bathroom. The wind provides background music. You walk along the sand singing loudly and then softly to yourself. Every song has a memory attached to it and those memories come to mind.  You look up at the sky and quietly tell yourself that things will be all right.

The silence no longer threatens or frightens you. It helps you think, clearly. And it helps you be silent within. This is better than meditation because you’re doing it with your eyes open. You think back to the problems in your life, how insurmountable they seem and how simple it would be if you didn’t allow them to weigh you down. You work out solutions to them in your head. You ponder on the presence of god, of a being whose existence you question. Thoughts tumble in your mind- what would your family/friends be doing, would people in office miss you, which places you want to visit next.

You stand there for an hour, just by yourself, without moving.

As you walk back, you realise, it’s okay to travel alone as long as you have memories for company.