My husband and I planned to travel the 190 miles from Nuremberg, Germany, the final stop on our river cruise, to Prague in The Czech Republic. We could have gone by bus or train, but elected to take a hassle free option and go by private car. Since we wanted to see and learn about the countryside on our route, we contracted a driver-guide from Prague Tours.
Our decision resulted in a smooth and informational journey. Our guide, Mr George, was raised in the Czech Republic, but has traveled extensively and was quite knowledgeable when it came to the history and attractions in the region. Prague Tours delivered on its promise to provide a licensed guide who spoke English well.
Traveling in a Hyundai station wagon was infinitely more comfortable than traveling on a bus or train would have been. Since the first part of the trip was on the German Autobahn, there were no speed limits to slow us down.
Our first stop was Pilsen in The Czech Republic. The town of 250,000 people was founded in 1295. It is the home of the Pilsner Urquell Brewery and is most famous as the town where the original light lager Pilsner beer was developed.
Mr. George told us that Pilsner Beers now make up 70 % of the beers brewed throughout the world. He showed us that there was a lot more to this town than just beer.
Pilsen is the home of the Pilsen Velken Synagogue which is the second largest synagogue in Europe. It was built in 1892 and can seat over 2,000 people. Unfortunately, there are less that 70 Jews left in Pilsen. Most of the Jewish population perished during the Holocaust. Many of the few that survived immigrated to Israel. Today, the Synagogue is used primarily as a concert and meeting hall.
There is a plaque in Pilsen thanking General George Patton and his Third Army for liberating Pilsen from the Nazis at the end of WWII. Unfortunately, Patton was ordered to remain in Pilsen while the Russians liberated Prague. Mr George commented that the three days that Patton was forced to stay in Pilsen resulted in 43 years of Russian rule in what was then Czechoslovakia.
St. Bartholomew's Cathedral, which dominates the town square has the highest spire of any church in the Czech Republic and is the third tallest building in the Czech Republic as well. The construction of the Gothic style building began in 1295 and was finished by the beginning of the 16th century.
After a 45 minute drive, we arrived at the the Karlstein Castle area. The castle has what I would call the classic castle look.
Karlstein Castle was built between 1358—1367 under the direction of King Charles IV. The king chose this easily defensible spot for storing the country’s treasures. Mr. George told us that the castle was never overrun by invaders.
The one kilometer long hill leading to the castle is steep and was a difficult walk that particular day since we encountered an unusually hot spell for the Czech Republic with temperatures in the 80's. But the road is lined with numerous restaurants and pubs as well as the expected gift shops for a relaxing break.
After a 45 minute drive from the Castle area, we arrived at our hotel in Prague and bid a fond farewell to Mr. George.
We found the hassle free trip a great way to see the sights of the countryside and travel at our own flexible pace. Private Prague Guide under the leadership of founder Jay Pesta has a staff of licensed knowledgeable driver-guides. The company offers numerous tourist services. We were pleased that we had selected Private Prague Guide for this journey.