Travel Brno: Time For a Trip to the Mountains
Title photo: KK / Brno Daily.
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown many parts of life into disarray. The travel industry, in particular, has been hard hit. Airlines have lost huge swaths of passengers. Global hotel chains have furloughed tens of thousands of employees. And Brnoans have been discouraged from travelling across the town, let alone across international borders, which some have pushed to keep closed for the rest of the year.
There is, however, some light at the end of the tunnel.
The Czech Republic and Brno are slowly lessening restrictions. Within the month we may be back to some kind of a new normal. That should include some opportunities for travel.
Presumably, if the borders open, adventurous travelers may be able to find cheap airfare to exotic destinations. Those who want to stay close to home may even get a stipend from the government in order to support domestic industry.
One option may be to go to the Czech mountains. Fresh air and few people sounds like a good destination.
But know that personal anecdotal experience suggests that places are being reserved quickly.
* * *
The border of the Czech Republic is basically made up of mountains. If you go east of Brno, you get the Českomoravská vrchovina (the Vysočina); then, going clockwise around the country, you get in Bohemia the Novohradské hory, the Šumava, Český les, Slavkovský Les, the Krušné hory, the Jizerské hory, the Krkonoše and the Orlické hory; and back in Morivia you get Hrubý Jeseník, Nízký Jeseník, the Moravskoslezské Beskydy and the Bílé Karpaty.
Within every mountainous area — and in the countless little pockets of trees throughout the country — there are small villages with a pub and a restaurant and pensions or private cabins to rent.
I’ve stayed in many of the forested parts of this country for more than 150 nights over the past 13 years, usually in pensions and usually quite comfortably. Rarely have I had a bad experience. My plan for this year’s family vacation is a week in the Jeseníky.
* * *
There are two strategies for finding a place to stay: the Indirect method and the Direct method.
• The Indirect method is to go to booking.com or another accommodations search site. Enter the geographic area, the dates and the number of people. It will provide a lot of options, including lists of amenities, many pictures and several reviews. There is generally a map and information about the local area. Know that it costs a bit more than making a direct connection with a location. Airbnb.com and megaubytko.cz are other options.
• The Direct method is to go to mapy.cz, find a mountainous area and click around on the map. Most places link directly to their websites and all of the basic information and photos. Dealing directly with the proprietor eliminates the middle-man website and is generally a bit cheaper. Many owners are used to tourists and know at least a bit of English.
Travel by car is easiest, but the train and/or the bus can get you pretty far into the mountains and the fresh air. And you don’t have to go far. There are place with an hour of Brno that can easily change your perspective for a few days.
Here are some other things to consider when traveling to the mountains:
• Living space. It’s best to have some privacy. Separate rooms are important. If you have a group, then figure it out equitably. Get the kids in one room and the parents in the other. Bedding can be tricky when the kids are young. We used to have a portable crib; then we started moving the furniture so that the bed was against a wall and pillows were underneath the other side to create a soft landing, just in case.
• Kitchen. When you go into any of the Czech mountains, you are never far from civilization, but make sure that you have your food covered. Definitely go to the local restaurants. Maybe make lunch on your day trip into your big meal of the day and go easy on dinner. In any case, make sure that you stock your kitchen (especially with fun food; i.e., microwave popcorn). In the past, I’ve taken a frozen lasagna to provide a no-hassle meal (make sure there is an oven!) Hot dogs and rolls are an easy first-night meal.
• Attractions within a few hundred meters. Oftentimes you need a place to go for a quick evening walk. If there is a nearby park or lake or river — or a nice local pub — you have a target.
• Attractions within daytrip walking distance. Make a list of places that are a few kilometers away. Pack a lunch and go for a nice leisurely walk. It is a great change from the city (and, oftentimes, you can be impressed by the beautiful country homes).
• Attractions within daytrip driving distance.
Usually, within an easy day trip, there are quaint towns to explore, mountains to climb, observation towers, aqua-parks, churches, and many other interesting places.
• Wi-Fi. The Czech Republic is generally good about providing internet access. Make sure you have it, especially if you plan to check in to work or you need to get the latest news. Don’t count on enough juice for streaming movies.
• Bring games. You never know about the weather. If you’re going to be stuck inside, make sure that you have something to do. Board games can take the edge off of a rainy day. Cards are always good.
• Exercise. You have more time when you are on vacation. Get regular exercise into your schedule. Go through the online map to figure out where to go for your morning runs.
• Bring tic and bug spray. It probably goes without saying, but the mountains have a different climate and a different way of life. Be prepared. Extra layers of clothes and rain gear never hurt.
• Cancellation policy. Make sure to check the conditions for a cancellation. This is especially important now, because many experts believe that the coronavirus pandemic may linger through the summer and reignite in the fall.
Everything is still up in the air as far as how the coronavirus pandemic will play out and how the Czech Republic will deal with the reopening of society. But, a trip to the mountains could be the right choice this summer. Now is a great time to take a look.