Last weekend we finally got around to exploring beyond Pardubice, and decided to pay a visit to Hradec Králove, the regional capitol of the neighbouring Kraj or district. A Kraj is divided into counties so it’s more akin to a province. Anyhoo geographical complexities aside, Hradec Králove came highly recommended by the community on expats.cz, a fantastic resource for those starting out in the Czech Republic. We could have taken a bus from right outside our apartment, but we decided to go with the more romantic option, the train.
The train network in mainland Europe is a fascinating and intricate web of connections between not only towns and cities but entire countries. From my office I look out on the main train line and see dozens of trains every hour, ranging from small commuter trains to goods trains with so many carriages they take minutes to go by. Of course rail transport has been replaced my air travel and its glorious past is now a distant memory. Back home a lot of the train stations are quite new or have been refurbished beyond recognition, but here they retain much of their dignity and offer a window into the past. One can easily picture men, women and children taking the train back in the day, travelling to then far flung corners and putting their entire lives onto a train travelling to new opportunities. You can also imagine during war times, soldiers boarding trains to the front, their families broken, weeping for their departing loved ones, not knowing if they’d ever see them again. Train stations are full of stories and the ghosts of passengers past and that’s why I think they’re such interesting places. They’re the confluence of many journeys, the beginnings of new adventures and the end of others.
We left the train station behind and headed for the old town, the focal point of many towns and cities in the Czech Republic and beyond. The streets were all closed, the roads lined with fences and barriers and the concrete ripped up and scattered around. Construction work is in progress and many of the streets leading out from the station were closed to traffic and as a result devoid of life, save for a few locals kicking about. It was also a Sunday morning when we arrived so all the shops were closed. We anticipated this though so it wasn’t a disappointment or anything. Our stroll continued, along the barriers, crossing streets where we could and meandering our way towards what we hoped would be more scenic views. And then bam!! We rounded a corner and there it was, the museum. Just take a look at the photos below, I’m not even going to try to explain our reaction but there was a lot of ooing and aaahing. Did I mention I love Art Nouveau and Art Deco? Well can you imagine my delight when I laid eyes on this beauty? I want to live there, it is simply stunning.
We of course went into the museum but I shall save that for another post. After leaving the museum suitably impressed we carried on towards the old square and other scenic spots. We purposely didn’t do any research into the town before we left, so every new street was a surprise. Although the museum had some nice dioramas of the town, which we used to identify our next potential area to explore. We made our way to the old square which although scenic, doesn’t have the same wow factor as its counterpart in Pardubice. Perhaps it was the overcast day, the proliferation of cars or the stretched out scale of it but it just didn’t grab me. From here we made our way back towards the river and strolled along the tree lined promenade, till we found another scenic delight. A hydroelectric power station and its surrounding structures. But in the interest of space saving and not writing an entire novel in one post I shall have to save that for another post also.
So there’s an introduction to Hradec Kralove, well a part of it anyway. As with any exploration and adventure there’s always lots to see and document so stay tuned for more posts on this lovely and quaint town.