Tuesday, 15 May 2012

ITTP Prague TEFL: Pruhonice

(Click on photo to enlarge)
It feels a little bit like you left the Czech Republic and crossed the border into Germany or Austria when you visit Pruhonice, located just a short bus ride away from Prague. Pruhonice is very much a manicured and international village, boasting numerous excellent restaurants and a picture perfect chateau and gardens. The majority of people living here it seems are either well-off locals or international expats, and the high standard of living here makes the village locals generally friendly and welcoming. If you find the streets of Prague slowly gnawing away at your small town/country soul then heading out to Pruhonice for a long afternoon might just be the right tonic for you, and this village offers something for everyone at any time of the year.

Where is Pruhonice and how to get there?

Pruhonice is situated to the south-east of Prague and is divided in two by the Brno destined D5 highway. Coming from Prague the village and chateau are located on the right side of the highway. On the left side is a water park and a few large shopping outlets and malls.

To get there I recommend catching the bus from the red line Opatov metro station. When you arrive at Opatov, climb the stairs to get out of the metro and then take the escalator up to the road level where (if traveling either during the week or on a Saturday) you will be confronted with a somewhat hectic scene of people either waiting for buses to take them home, or busy arrivals looking to get into the city pronto. The bus stop you need is at the end of the line. There are 2 options: the 328 and the 385 bus.
The 328 is an express bus and uses the highway. This is the quickest way to get there but you do miss out on the scenery. Still, if you choose this option then make sure to get off at either the Cestlice Aquapalace (7 minutes) or Cestlice Albert Hypermarket stop (9 minutes). These are the 1st and 2nd bus stops on that route. From here the village and chateau are about a 10 minute walk to your right. If you got off at the 1st stop then you will need to cross under the bridge. Over a bridge if you got off at the 2nd stop.
The 385 bus (13 minutes) is the scenic route and takes you through a few nondescript villages until you break into open countryside and see the tower of the chateau looming above the pristine tree top cover of the village boundary.
Warning. You will probably find that the bus drivers come over as rude and lack any patience for anyone - local or foreign - who needs any assistance at all. Don't take it personal. Just thank your lucky stars that it's not you behind that wheel, driving up and down the same route day in and day out. Both buses are regional buses so you will need a ticket specifically for this ride. At the time this article was published, the 328 and 385 ride will set you back 18 CZK (approx US$1). You can buy this ticket from the ticket vending machines at the metro entrance, or at your own peril directly from the bus driver (in which case you must have exactly the right change).

What to do there?

For such a small village, Pruhonice socks a big punch:

1. You could spend the day at the Aquapark (http://www.aquapalace.cz/).
2. You could take advantage of the large outlet shopping options and buy sporting equipment at Giga Sport, go DIY hunting at the Bauhaus store, shop for electrical goods at Electro World, do your week's grocery shopping at the Albert Hypermarket. If you have a valid drivers license you could prearrange a (free) test drive at one of the many car showroom garages - dressing up super smart is de rigueur. You could also shop for lighting or furniture here at the rather expensive but exquisite luxury furniture shop opposite the aqua park and at the lighting shop located near the highway underpass bridge.
3. For most visitors to Pruhonice though the main fascination is with the chateau.
Pruhonice chateau and its gardens, now a National Heritage Site and UNESCO Protected Area, is a stunning area of natural beauty. In addition to the chateau there is also a Romanesque Church (of the Birth of the Virgin Mary). The gardens are extensive and have been described as being 'a supreme work of European landscaping'. What immediately hits you with the gardens is just how vast in size they are and also the number of different varieties of plants and trees which are there. Well drawn paths wind round the many different sections of the park and I would definitely reserve a couple of hours to slowly meandering around to get the best effect of being in such a beautiful setting. At this time of year (late Spring/early Summer) the main attraction are the blooming Rhododendrons - well worth a visit to see and take in their majestic scent. The chateau itself is very well preserved and is a common setting for films and weddings. Currently there is an art exhibition of oil paintings by the Czech artist Emma Srncova being held there and you can catch this exhibition open until 2nd September 2012 - open from 10.00 till 18.00 every day including Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets for the exhibition (120 CZK) can be bought in the main chateau ticket booth.
The bad news is that you will need to pay an admission to the chateau gardens but the price per adults is only 50 CZK (approx US$2.5). The interior of the chateau itself is off grounds to visitors (unless you have booked an appointment in advance) but you can often sneak a look at some of the rooms if you are discreet about it. When you arrive at the chateau gate the ticket booth is located up the stairs in the small building on the right. The gardens are open: January, February 8.00- 17.00, March 7.00 - 18.00, April 7.00 - 19.00, May, June, July, August, September 7.00 - 20.00
The official chateau website: http://www.zamekpruhonice.cz/
The official gardens website: http://www.parkpruhonice.cz/

A section of the chateau and Romanesque church (Click on image to enlarge)

Chateau wall painting (Click on image to enlarge)

View of park from chateau (Click on image to enlarge)

Example of garden Rhododendrons (Click on image to enlarge)

Where to eat and drink?

Pruhonice has a very good choice of eats.
In the main square alone there are 2 pizzerias, a very good Czech restaurant, and a local brewery (Czech cuisine) restaurant. All of them offer a high level of food and service but my pick would be the brewery because they do brew a wonderful selection of beers on site and the prices are very reasonable for the mainly Czech fare which is offered on their menu. Located next door to the Pizza Coloseum you will know when you have arrived at this restaurant (U Bezouska) due to the aroma of malt and hops in the air. When we were there I tried the wheat beer and it was excellent. The food is pretty much your basic homemade style Czech fare and is guaranteed to feel good in the stomach and also good on your wallet.

There are other options for eating and drinking in Pruhonice but the main square is probably the most convenient and from here you can waddle over to the bus stop on the square and catch the 385 bus back to Opatov metro station for the refreshing ride back into town with your batteries charged up again.

Hezky den!/Lovely day!

Neville :-)