I love winter! It has something magical, with the scent of wood crackling in the fireplaces; the taste of hot chocolate that you drink to warm up; the crisp air that pinches your face when you go for a walk. I always thought that the snow adds an extra touch to the romantic atmosphere of winter. I, accustomed to the mild winters of the Mediterranean, in front of the snow I return a little girl. I love feeling the crunch under my shoes when I walk. I like the muffled sound it makes when it falls abundant. I admit. I’m the first to complain about the cold: I bang my feet, rub my hands, tighten my scarf and lower my hat a little more. But I like it below. Too bad that in Cagliari, where I was born, grew up and still call home, the (little) snow that descends, falls once every ten years, or so. And in recent years he has chosen to go down whenever I am on the other side of the world. I lost it, in short.
So what if you want to see a bit of snow and enjoy the magic of winter when the real winter never arrives at home? Simple! Just get on an airplane and fly to a place where the snow, on the other hand, falls abundantly.
That’s how I find myself spending a literally fabulous weekend in December in the Czech Republic, in places that are off the beaten track but that I’m very happy to discover. And the imminent arrival of Christmas adds an extra touch to the beauty of the places I visit.
The magic of winter in the Czech Republic
First stop Valašké Kloubouky
My trip to the Czech Republic begins with a visit to the beautiful capital Prague and the lively Brno. It is from there that I leave, before the sun rises (so to speak!) To head towards the Valašské Meziříčí train station. It’s just after 8:00 am when I arrive. Outside there are -8 degrees and I beat my teeth because of the bitter cold. I regret the ski pants left at home, pulled out at the last moment from the backpack. It’s so cold that even the sight of the snow comforts me.
To remind me of the reason why I’m here thinks, however, a puff of smoke that I see approaching. It is that of the steam train, which passes only once a year, on the occasion of the Jarmek festival held in Valašké Klouboukyin conjunction with the approach of Christmas. The view is truly impressive, especially for the black of the train (a nineteenth-century find) and the gray of dense smoke that contrast with the white of the snow. It’s a party: there are many families with children; a musical band; and various people disguised as angels and devils (they remind me a bit of the Mamuthones of Mamoiada, in Sardinia), ready to pose for the photos. The train conductor has perfect mustache upwards.
I get on the train and I sit in my compartment, the only foreigner surrounded by cheerful families with children who look at me intrigued. The journey takes just over an hour. To my great surprise I find out that this steam train reaches a speed of 120 km per hour.
Upon arrival, I head towards the central square of Valašké Kloubouky. The party atmosphere is palpable here too. Despite the cold, there is a lot of joy. Stalls sell local craft products, Christmas decorations, gingerbread cookies. I would buy everything. There are also many stalls serving typical dishes – mostly desserts like the Valasske Frgale , a sort of pie filled with blueberry and cream jam; but also the mulled wine, which seems to have been made to warm my hands (frozen despite the gloves); and the grog. I particularly appreciate the Medovina, a warm “honey wine” that immediately warms me up. I would drink more, it was not that I hold very little alcohol and it is not even 14:00.
And then it’s time to leave. I have to go back on the steam train and continue my exploration. When you get to Valašské Meziříčí, continue to Roznov.
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You go to Roznov
Arrival in Roznov which is already dark. There is hardly anybody around, but after the crowds of Valašké Kloubouky, I find Roznov pleasantly quiet. In the central square, called Masarykovo namesti, there is a beautiful tree, a crib, and lots of lights. Beyond the center is the Valachian Open Air Museum, a beautiful open-air museum founded in 1925 and where buildings typical of the region have been transported. The museum is divided into three parts: the Small Town of Wood, the Village of Wallachia and the Valley of the Water Mill. I can only visit the first, perfect reproduction of a small city of the nineteenth century. It’s all snow-covered, and in the dark the atmosphere is almost surreal. I expect that at any moment someone will come out in ancient clothes, or a carriage with horses.
I come to know that in Roznov there is an excellent craft brewery, the Roznovsky Pivovar, and since the Czech Republic is the home of beer, I do not have to say twice and go to visit it. Arrived there, I find that in the same building of the brewery there is a handmade chocolate shop . I’ve never been a big chocolate lover, but I decide to jump in the same way. The shop is very small, but the chocolates seem inviting. I get convinced to taste one, and it’s so good that I then taste another and another. Better to go out before you eat the whole store.
Besides, it’s almost dinner time, and there are two clubs at the brewery. One is a pub, very welcoming. The other is a beautiful, refined restaurant. The gourmet that is in me opts for the second. It’s a great choice: service, food and even beer are fantastic. Speaking of beer: Roznovsky Pivovar is declined in a thousand ways. I would never have imagined it, but it seems that you can also take a bath in beer. So, mug in hand, I find myself immersed in a hot tub with a mask of brewer’s yeast on the face. The relaxation effect is immediate (not that I was particularly stressed, after such a pleasant day). So relaxed, I go back to my hotel: the next day a trip to Pustevny awaits me.
Snow, snow and more snow in Pustevny
They say that from Pustevny there is a beautiful view of the mountains. I cannot confirm or deny, because when I go it snows so much that visibility is reduced to a maximum of 100 meters. On the other hand, under the snow Pustevny is just suggestive. To get there, I drive to Trojanovice, about 15 minutes from Roznov, and then I take the chairlift. Once at the top, after about 10 minutes, I find myself in a splendid refuge that smells of wood and hot chocolate. Outside, a mountain station with very interesting buildings – some are hotels with an original design, other shelters.
From here a series of trekking and mountain biking trails start. Despite the cold weather, I decide to set off in search of the statue of Radegast, the pagan god of abundance, sun and harvest. Time to arrive and meet a happy family with dogs in tow, and I decide that it is better to return to the shelter to thaw. Going down, it snows so much that on the chairlift the snow accumulates on the scarf, which freezes. Again, I regret not having worn the ski pants (and the jacket, since there are). But now it is gone, the day after home flight, a bit cold but completely in love with the magical atmosphere of winter in the Czech Republic.