Colby Bjornsen is a student at the University of Denver and an ISA Featured Photo Blogger. Colby is currently studying abroad with ISA in Prague, Czech Republic.
- BOHEMIAN SWITZERLAND NATIONAL PARK
Ready for some breathtaking views of the Czech Republic and Germany? Look no farther than Bohemia Switzerland National Park. We had a great time escaping the hectic city of Prague for an active day trip. From Prague it was a quick two-hour drive through quaint small towns and scenic farmland until we reached the park. Our hike lasted around six hours, which included a picnic, a snack, two boat rides, and 11.8 miles of hiking. One of the many highlights of the day was Pravčická brána, which is known as Europe’s largest sandstone rock arch (and is featured in the movie “The Chronicles of Narnia”). I highly recommend this excursion if you want to escape the city, get some exercise and see the beautiful scenery of both the Czech Republic and Germany!
- CZECH GRAND CANYON & THE KARLŠTEJN CASTLE
A group of us visited Velká Amerika, the “Czech Grand Canyon” and Karlštejn Castle for an adventurous Tuesday. Round trip train tickets were less than $4 USD and it only took 45 minutes to get there. From the town of Karlštejn it was impossible to miss the picturesque castle that sits on the hilltop. We made the steep climb to the castle grounds but decided to skip the tour and take pictures from the outside to save more time for our 2-hour hike to Velká Amerika. This trip is a great outing for a sunny fall day; don’t forget to pack a picnic!
- KARLOVY VARY
The ISA staff took us on an excursion to the spa town of Karlovy Vary located in western Bohemia. The town was founded in the 14th century by Charles IV but most of the remaining structures are from its golden days in the 18th and 19th century. With its pastel buildings and colorful flower gardens, it looks like something out of a fairy tale. We followed our guide on a tour of the city center, ate delicious goulash, visited the Jan Becher Museum and awed over the natural hot springs. Finally, we drank from the thermal springs to experience their mythical healing powers. The two hour and fifteen minute bus ride was definitely worth it!
An emotional afternoon was spent in Terezín visiting the former concentration camp and prison. Czech Jews were told a town had been built to protect them from the violent war and thousands fell for the trick. The town, which originally held 5,000 people, grew to a population of 55,000. Jews were packed into terrible living conditions where many died of starvation and disease, but the majority were sent on to death camps like Auschwitz or Treblinka. This sobering day trip is a difficult but important part of WWII history.
- KUNTÁ HORA
Kutná Hora, also known as the city of silver, was one of the wealthiest territories of Medieval Europe. It is home to the Italian Court where coin minting began as early as the late 10th century. After learning how silver was processed and watching a coining demonstration we ventured to the cathedral of St. Barbara that gives Prague’s St.Vitus a run for it’s money. We ended the day at Sedlec Ossuary aka “The Bone House”. An ossuary is a final resting place for human remains and this one holds the skeletons of approximately 40,000 people. Skulls and bones decorate every visible surface, there’s even a chandelier that contains at least one of every bone in the human body. Can you say creepy?
- ČESKÝ KRUMLOV
Český Krumlov is a UNESCO World Heritage Site situated in Southern Bohemia. The romantic small town exhibits fine architecture, numerous museums (several are free), art and a historic castle. Check the calendar before you go because they host a number of music festivals, art shows, and concerts. We enjoyed strolling through the charming cobblestone streets and stopping to get a Trdelník and hot chocolate along the way. The tour of the hilltop castle gave striking views of the town and fall leaves.
Want to see more of Prague? Check out “8 Breathtaking Photos of Prague”