Round Salzburg with the Salzburg Card

At €30 for one day, €39 for two and €45 for three, the Salzburg card gives access to public transport (not including the S-bahn) and (one entrance only for each) attractions across Salzburg. Even in one day, it can save a small fortune, but over three you can avoid a lot of expense, and head into attractions purely on a whim. I was in the city for a week, so a three day card made sense, though I waited till after two very hot days had passed. I bought the card online, and saved a screenshot of the QR code to my phone for use, though there are plenty of places to buy a real one, and everyone else I saw had an actual card in hand.

I am not much of a one for heights, so the cable car at Untersbergbahn (South of the city – get the bus) was a challenge as well as a quick way up the mountain. Full price – €28 both ways, €18 one. Some people walk up and get the cable car down, though there are also long walks signposted on the mountain if you want to spend time up there. I had a short walk and took a ride down through clouds. It is quite a dramatic ride up, heading towards a cliff face before rising steeply to crest it, then jolting over the edge to hang over a valley, moving on and up towards the next peak where it stops. Most of the car I was in audibly “oohed” at that first jolt – the sense of space opening out under your feet is quite something.

View of the Untersberg mountain from below, With cables disappearing toward the mountain, appearing to not rise toward the peak.
Cables from ground level

Having bottled even the shortish walk up the next peak – it apparently takes an hour or so, and much older people and small children took it on quite happily – I was soon on my way North to the Hellbrunn Palace. I hopped off the bus at the zoo, a stop before the Schloss, just because some other people did, and ended up popping into the zoo (normal price: €12.50). Several people commented later that it seemed an odd place to have a zoo, several km South of the city, but it grew out of the wildlife collection/facilities built for same by Markus Sittikus, one of the city’s archbishops. It’s dramatically situated, built right up against the rocky hill in the middle of the park, and with the Untersberg mountain visible as you look away from the rocks. Plenty of animals, and it made me smile. On a day with temperatures 30+, it didn’t seem quite so cruel to have some of them there.

A large outside space with lots of birds in the water or nearby. There were also antelopes and ibexes in this enclosure, not shown.
Pelicans and others

After the zoo, I exited at the South side which took me into the park. I walked through, heading up the hill for the added difficulty, which brought me to the “Little-month Palace”. Set on a hill, this now holds the Folklore Museum (Full price €3.50. Entry included with entry to the Hellbrunn Palace, but you can go straight in with the Salzburg card). It’s worth a look, and they do a good job of providing a variety of exhibits, with folklore on the ground floor, art on the second and an example of a Great Giant Samson on the top. It’s a lovely building with great views over the estate from the top floor. It gets its name from the story that it was built in a month, though that is referred to as a legend.

Finally, I went down the hill to the main palace and the highly recommended Trick Fountains. At one time, all the posh houses had or wanted trick fountains, but when they fell out of fashion they were mostly removed, making these a stand-out feature. With a Salzburg card, you still need to head to the ticket office to get a timed slot for the fountains and you then use that ticket to enter the palace whenever you want to. I wasn’t initially keen – you’re given an audio guide, but then held in the first area. There is a reason for that, though; for one, they want to take your group’s picture and sell it to you later, but they also want to keep everyone together at a table surrounded by seats. And a lot of very wet concrete. The bravest, or most game, sat obediently at the table while the rest of us watched from the side, as a member of staff showed us what the hand-operated controls do.

Once through the first 3 items on the audioguide, you are free to walk at your own pace, with the audioguide talking you through each item and guiding you to the next. The whole thing won me over – the mechanisms are ingenious and very clever given their age, but also very naff (reminiscent of those jerking Santas in Christmas dioramas). It certainly invited opinion, I can’t imagine anyone thought “oh, let’s just leave it, it’s harmless”; nope, once this was out of fashion, it would have looked like the crappest thing in the world.

But for all that, when someone is squirted by a nozzle they didn’t spot, a deer’s head catches you on the way out with water coming from its mouth and antlers, covering a large area, or people run toward a grotto as the whole pathway is given a ceremonial squirting, it is tremendous fun and funny. Some of the nozzles are under control of the staff, who will give you time to avoid the water if you want – or indulge the kids who very definitely want to get wet.

I moved on to the palace, which has a very interesting exhibition about the life of Markus Sittikus, who built or inaugurated the Palace, Salzburg Cathedral and so on, despite not living to a grand old age.

The next day I used my card in the city, using the lift (MönchsbergAufzug) to get up the mountain to the Modern Art Museum, walking back down and going to the Natural History and Toy museums

I took the funicular up to the fortress. Having seen a queue outside the day before, I was going to wait till later, given the fortress is open till the evening, but there was no queue at 4. Once inside I realised that even a long-looking queue is only in place while the gates are closed and should clear fairly quickly – the Salzburg card lets you jump the queue in any case, but I preferred not to. The fortress is large, with several museums inside; the state rooms are not included with the card unless you go up before 11, but there’s plenty to see. I picked an entrance via some steps, which took me straight into the fortress but I felt a little as though I was being shuffled through a tourist experience for a while. I’d recommend walking round the outside first and enjoying the views, before going into the museums – they start with the regimental history, while I was still wondering what each room was.

A view of Salzburg from the fortress showing the river and several green-copper domes, including the cathedral.
Panoramic view of Salzburg from above

On my final day I used the bus to get to parkrun and back, all included with the card (though no one asked to see it), took a river cruise – I booked ahead as I was passing the ticket office, asked for 5, he checked whether I’d said 3 or 5, and then I got a ticket for 4. I realised in time to make it back from the Salzburg museum, which is about 1km away. All these things were good, and I was happy with them all, but they also seemed a smidge overpriced without the card – a fantastic bargain with one. I highly recommend you get the card if you plan on doing more than one thing.

The Salzburg Card – info on benefits and how to buy.

Walking from Dunseverick to the Giant’s Causeway

Dunseverick (East) to Giant’s Causeway (West)

Visiting the Giant’s Causeway, and parking near it, is free for National Trust members, or £5 per car if you’re not a member and don’t want to go to the visitors’ centre. That parking charge gets progressively cheaper the more people you take in your car, but if it’s just you, you fancy the walk and want to do it for free, then Dunseverick, around 8km away, is a good option. The coastal walk isn’t too strenuous – it’s only when you get to the Causeway that you have a large drop, around 100m to the coast – and the views are spectacular.

The car park in Dunseverick, marked as “Dunseverick Castle car park“, is free but popular and not huge. There are a couple of lay-bys, too. One is right next to the castle car park, the other a little further down Causeway Road to the East (away from the Causeway). The castle is an atmospheric small ruin that you can see on your walk to the coastal path.

Coastal view, green cliff slopes below
A view with the causeway on the right (but the good bits are hidden from here).

The coastal path is easy to find, and not far from the car park, and you just follow it. After just over 7km, having expected an 8km walk, you’ll be pleased to find you are already at a sign offering a way down to the Causeway. Here’s your decision – do you take the steepish (but well maintained) steps down, or continue along the path to follow a much gentler, significantly longer route round the back. In the photo above, the steps are close on the right, while the coastal path continues around the headland you can see. The causeway is visible, sticking out into the sea, and the easier path comes at it from behind.

I chose the stairs, which then took me onto the path you can see above, and then walked to the causeway. It’s a lovely way to arrive, though the other way lets you see the columns from a distance as you approach. I was lucky, in that this was during the first summer of the pandemic so it was quiet however you came at it, but at busier times going down the steps should allow a more peaceful approach. You can’t avoid finding people on the causeway, though.

Basalt columns of varying heights make up the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland. Colours vary from grey, to black and beige.
The Giant’s Causeway

The views of the Causeway itself are well worth the walk, even if the actual site itself is not enormous. It is atmospheric, though, and as it stretches away into the sea it is easy to imagine it once stretched for miles. The stones are fairly easy to scramble up if you want to walk out to the edge, or near it. There is a tougher scramble when you first get to the Causeway, if you approach from the steps side, but you can just walk round the other side.

My face, with the Causeway behind.
It’s me.
The Causeway out to sea, with black-topped columns in the middle, beige on the sea-side.
The same Causeway, but different colours on the East side.
A panoramic picture looking West, Causeway columns in the foreground, green cliffs behind.
Panoramic view from the Causeway.

I chose to take the steps down and then the longer route on the way back, to give the chance to take in different views as much to save my legs from the climb. There is a bench at the top of the steps that allows recuperation but I just didn’t take it on.

It’s a good walk back, with similar views, only reversed, and just as gorgeous in even half-decent weather. The whole thing was 16.15km, and took me about 3 and a quarter hours. I was glad of a sit-down at the end. I did, though, have time to stop at The Dark Hedges, which is a very quick sight to see and makes for great photos. They were used in Game of Thrones which I haven’t seen, but I still enjoyed my quick visit. As you may guess from the photos, you can’t drive along this bit of the road, but parking is not far away from either end.

There are lots of beautiful natural sights/sites in Ireland, but these are two of the finest in Northern Ireland, and you can visit them at minimal cost.

Exploring Cornwall – with free parking

To start without controversy, Cornwall is stunning. It is also very popular, but often large parts of the really pretty bits are inaccessible, making useful land valuable. Parking is, then, a scarce resource, rationed by price – it’s possible to feel as though Cornwall is full, or that you have to pay wherever you go. In fact, it isn’t the case everywhere. Below are three spots with free parking and gorgeous scenery. You can walk much, or much less, further than I did, but I’ve included my routes for context. All these sites are best checked on an online map first for a route; and beware the little lanes that lead to them, especially Luxulyan and Penare.

Henderson National Trust car park

Henderson car park is in the middle, top.

This is a small car park, with sharply downhill access to the coastal path. Walk toward Talland, and there’s a lovely cafe (down another sharply downhill stretch), The Smuggler’s Rest, for hot food, cake, pop and beer. It was a gorgeous day when we visited, so we sat with cake first, then moved on to beer. Frankly, I just didn’t really want to climb the hill back up to the car, though we ended walking some distance towards Looe (just off the map to the East) afterwards, so I got into my stride.

Luxulyan

Luxulyan

Luxulyan is a village near The Eden Project (itself near St Austell). A drive down winding lanes seems unpromising until, all of a sudden, there is the small car park. Trails lead off into the woods, and there’s a relatively straightforward loop by the river. Very quickly, you come to the Treffry Viaduct. It used to serve two purposes, with water flowing under the top to power the water wheel, which let the tramway move up the valley. All this to link mines in mid Cornwall with the coast – now, surrounded by trees, tracks long gone, it is incongruous.

Penare/Hemmick Beach

Hemmick Beach, accessed via a few-hundred metre walk from Penare car park.

A little SouthEast of Boswinger, this is another car park accessed by little lanes, which I found a little nerve-wracking, though we passed the few cars with no trouble. Given that we came through the school run earlier on the journey, and they were well-practised at leaving space and politely letting people through, it might be more trouble with slow-moving tourist traffic than quicker locals. There’s a lovely, fairly strenuous, walk round the point to The Dodman. Near there is a large cross, erected by the religious. I couldn’t really see why it was there until I looked at the shadow and realised that it’s a big plus.

The beach is gorgeous and reached down a fairly sharp downhill walk. It’s only a few hundred metres from the car park, but not a straightforward wander.

Touring Donegal

In the UK, a weary staffer reset the “since party outrage” counter back to 0. It was originally expressing days, but switching from 1 to 0 repeatedly wasn’t very interesting, so they had moved it to hours some time ago. The staffer wasn’t weary of the job – by now, if you work for a party that is no longer Conservative, nor Unionist, and haven’t embraced lies and outrage as your currency, you are strange indeed. But boy, it was a lot of work. I was in Ireland, a still-sane country.

In the UK, legitimate and verified news stories of NHS struggles were crushed beneath a slew of unreliable claims that they were false – all expressed in exactly the same words, and calling the LGI “Leeds Hospital”, which no one does (but there is no problem with foreign intervention). A false, quick-spreading story that a staffer for the lying party was punched at that same hospital was only overturned because the reality was filmed – something we will from now have to do routinely. As all of that happened, in just a few hours on one day of an exhausting and depressing election campaign, I was touring Donegal. It is a beautiful, sometimes windswept and wild county, including the Northernmost point of Ireland.

Glenveagh National Park covers a large area, so you can walk for hours and hours. I parked at the visitors centre, which is free, and walked to the castle. If you want to visit the castle (a house, built in the 19th century, rather than an old stronghold), you’d be better advised to pay for the shuttle bus to save your legs, but it’s a nice walk.

I headed South to Narin Beach, which has a parkrun every Saturday at 9.30. It is a wide expanse of sand. I was lucky enough to be there on a sunny day – “like summer,” said a local, and round here that isn’t too far from the truth.

I also headed to Sliabh Liag (Slieve League) mountain, which has an easy approach walk (and at this time of year, you can open the gate in the car park and drive up to the top, to save a couple of kms). The views over the cliffs are spectacular.

There is a path heading up over the cliffs. With cloud hanging over the top, I wouldn’t have done it anyway, but seeing that its title is “One Man’s Pass”, made sure I just didn’t fancy it.

Rocks in the sea in the shape of table and chair, overlooked by cliffs
Giant’s table and chair.

On the walk back the views are just as spectacular. This isn’t the only place where they have arranged stones to spell out “EIRE” for air traffic.

Although it is a small place, and reviews suggest there’s not much to see without a tour (summer months only), I headed to Doe Castle, and sat in the grounds to eat lunch, overseen by a curious sheep.

Sheep poking its head through fence slats
Curious sheep. It can get to the field behind.

Doe Castle
Doe Castle. Worth a short wander round.

View of the castle from the other side of the water. Orange scrub this side, greenery behind
Doe Castle View – from the other side of the water.

Donegal is a stunning landscape, more or less wherever you go. The Atlantic crashes against its shores, there are beautiful, quiet beaches everywhere and the landscape is dramatic. Not much by way of flowers, either in the wild or in gardens, but the views are fabulous.

 

Algonquin Provincial park

Algonquin vehicle permit
Vehicle permit. Good till 10pm.

The West Gate of the park is 43km from Huntsville, 170 from Barrie, 265 from Toronto. Near enough for a visit from most of those, though set aside as much of the day as you can – there’s a lot to see (and taking a break would be a good idea, too). From West to East gate is 56km, so you can traverse the park in a day, though with 15 marked trails before you get into the overnight hiking routes, you’ll not be stopping everywhere.

Stop at one of the gates and buy a permit (CAD 21, per car), then make sure you stick that on your dash at each stop (you might remove it in between if you have open windows – although there’s great tree cover, there was quite a breeze when I was there and I nearly lost it once).

The trails and campsites are well marked from the road, but a map is handy to know how far each one is. There are some long ones that need an overnight backpack trip, but some of the day ones really need a whole day for you to make the most of them. I headed East immediately, only just ignoring temptation, so as to start out there and work back to my start. I started with walk 11, Big Pines, which has some big trees. Really big trees.

Algonquin trail map
Map of the different trails.

Lookout Trail booklet
Lookout Trail booklet.

The walks I covered, heading East to West. I started just after midday, finishing after 7pm:

  • 11 Big Pines, 2.9km.
  • 10 Lookout, 2.1km.
  • 8 Two Rivers, 2.3km.
  • 7 Bat Lake, 5.8km.
  • 5 Track & Tower, 7.5km (there are two clearly marked shortcuts, cutting out the main lookout. The shortest (going from post 4 to 11) makes it 5km).
  • 1 Whiskey Rapids, 2.1km.

Big Pines Trail is a 2.9km walk; relatively easy. The interpretive booklets for each trail are really good. Well-written, each one takes a different tack – talking you through the flora, or fauna, or human history. I learnt a lot without even really trying.

The Lookout Trail is just down the road, so very little time to rest in the drive, and is another straightforward walk. 2.1km with some ascent to get to the lookout. Great views guaranteed.

Two Rivers Trail is 2.3km, with a straightforward ascent up to another cliff, for more great views out over the wilderness.

After those shorter walks, it was time for a longer one. The walk to Bat Lake, with that lake near the end, is 5.8km. There’s a bit of a climb from 1km to 2.5 or so, then a drop before a pretty flat last 2.5 (after which I forgot I had ever climbed). The views are great, and there are likely to be fewer people on the longer routes – on this one, I barely saw another person on this cool, cloudy September Saturday.

Bat Lake, ringed by trees
Bat Lake.

Buoyed by this longer stroll, I drove back along the road a little, paused in the car for 5 minutes to give my legs a rest, and then headed out to cover the 7.5km of the Track and Tower trail. I found this fascinating, with the accompanying booklet (pick them up at the beginning of each trail) covering the human history of this part of Canada. Large parts of this trail lookout over, or walk along, the site of old railways, carrying people and logs in and out of the area. In places that is obvious, but in others, you’d have no idea, as the forest has well and truly taken back over.

Narrow trail through woods marks where there used to be a railway track
Photo of the railway that used to run at this site, in front of what is there now.

You can take a shortcut on this trail, and cut it down to 5km. You’ll still get the track story, but miss out on the lookout point (a highlight of Algonquin) and the site of the old fire-lookout tower.

Fairly early in the walk, you come to views over Cache Lake, which is also overlooked by other trails; it’s a big lake of several parts.

Looking out over Cache Lake
Cache Lake.

Beyond the lake comes the shortcut turnoff, and, if you don’t take that, the climb up towards the lookout point and tower site.

The lookout point gives a fabulous view, described in the trail booklet as their favourite view out over the park. Although the fire lookout tower here was pretty much redundant – the areas it covered were viewable from elsewhere – it is well worth the climb to have a look.

The map makes it look like an out and back, but actually there’s a loop at the lookout point; just make sure you head right at info post 7 and it all becomes clear. The stairs up are also the stairs down.

After the excitement of the lookout, you head back down, along some narrow trails and then emerge onto a wide trail that is more obviously an old railway line. There are also trestles marking where a bridge once took the line across the water. If you have lots of time, or a bike, you can explore this old path much further along. If walking, just don’t miss the left turn which comes after a few hundred metres, marked by a couple of small signs.

The walk back to the car park is a long 2.5km, though you do get to look out over Grant Lake, which used to be known as Gem-of-the-Woods. It is a gem.

Grant Lake, a pleasing oval shape
Grant Lake.

The back of the booklet lists other walks which have information available.

List of other Algonquin Park Publications
Other Algonquin Park Publications.

I was pretty tired after this 2 hour-plus walk, but still had over an hour of daylight and convinced myself one more walk was worthwhile. There is a 1km loop, but it is shut during peak weekends, and this one counted, so I was left with the Whisky Rapids Trail, 2.1km. There were lots of people milling about the car park when I arrived, but 30 minutes later as I finished, after 7pm, the car park was empty but for my tiny car.

Nearly empty car park
Car park after 7pm.

I was enervated by this walk, helped by the start being a descent that I galloped down. Information points come thick and fast, with the booklet telling you all about the ecology of this area; it may look barren, but algae, slime and the like feed plenty of life, albeit life that is mostly too small to see. A squirrel ran across my path, surprised by one last human as the day quietened down, but that was it for life. Kingfishers are talked of as being an essential sight, but they were shy while I was there.

I headed off, making the most of the last of the daylight to get as much of my journey done. I wouldn’t recommend it, but I hadn’t eaten since 11am, and was pretty hungry, but not eating had allowed me to fit in a lot of walks. Having longer in or near the park would be far preferable, and allow slower progress and more contemplation on the walks. Without time for that, though, I had a fabulous day, filled with stories and sights.

Lake with trees on the far side reflected in the water
One final water view.

Travelling to Cape Breton by car

Thanks to the excellent 80 year-old I met in Halifax, the idea of driving the Cabot Trail had replaced that of heading to Prince Edward Island. Admittedly, his recommendation had only been “what can you do round here? Well, there’s the Cabot Trail, I suppose”, which isn’t glowing. But moving, looking and walking seemed a better use of a car than heading to PE and chilling out, which was the activity most recommended for the island.

I booked the cheapest car I could find for a five-day rental, and chose to pick it up from the airport, so I could drop it off straight away before flying out of there on the 6th. It didn’t seem more expensive to go from the airport, and I got cash back from rentalcars.com by going via Topcashback (my referral link). Imagine my surprise, and glee, when the keys I’d been handed unlocked this lovely thing.

I nearly went back into the office to check, but why waste their time? It took me some time to pull out. A family was unloading opposite, and I wanted the space – this is not a tiny car. And I was paging through the options, connecting devices, seeing tyre pressure shown on the screen and finding that although I had turned down a sat-nav, this car was happily connected to maps and all sorts. I would be reminded of this often, as at 7kmph over the speed limit, the Dodge intervened to remind me what that limit was. There was even wifi, had I wanted to pay the extra.

Still, the point was to tour the scenery in this thing. I wasn’t going too far on the first day, just up to Bear on the Lake HI hostel, south of Bucklaw and a little South of the Cabot Trail itself; a little under 300km, through Canadian versions of Enfield, Truro and Port Hastings.

I saw some scenery. I arrived at the hostel, closely followed by a Brit who had been persuaded to upgrade her rental because the Cabot Trail is a bit hilly for a small car. I felt lucky.

We enjoyed the last of the sunshine as the Autumn evening cool descended. And I wanted very badly to get back into the car.

Catching the train from Montreal to Halifax

I booked ahead, so as to get the best price I could, and just had a seat, rather than a sleeping spot, because this journey only has one overnight part, and it is right near the beginning. The train leaves three times a week, starting at 7pm, and is due in to Halifax at 17:51 the next day.

The seats are comfy, more so than those on the train I had ridden West, from Toronto to Edmonton, last year. The latter did have two seats on either side, so more space if not full (everyone got a two-seat to themselves), but I was happy with the newer single seat on this train.

The ride is smooth, and passes plenty of landscape, if you’re looking.

We were a little delayed, arriving in Halifax just after 7 the next day. In keeping with the generally festive mood on Canadian trains, we were told exactly why that was. In Britain, there would have been a mysterious “incident” up ahead, and even if we had been told, the language would have been torturous. Here, we were immediately told that a freight train ahead had unfortunately hit a truck, no one was hurt but engineers were checking the train over to make sure it could continue.

Trains in North America. A brilliant way to travel.

A walk around Pedasi, Panama

Several hours on two buses from Panama City is Pedasi. Hop on a bus from Albrook Mall to Las Tablas, which will take about 5 hours, and cost just under $10, then change (with a walk, usually) to a minibus for the 30-40 minutes to Pedasi itself. You can also get a bus from the airport to Albrook Mall, for 75 cents – you’ll need a bus card, which you can buy in the terminal.

Pedasi is a small town of about 3,000 inhabitants, many of whom are from Western countries. The main draw is the beach, a 2.5km walk down the road from town. Nearer if you live in one of the new developments down that road.

I stayed in Pedasi Loft, a new development of 8 flats just on the edge of town. August is the lowest of low season, with it being humid and rainy, but there was still noise from a local bar when it was open (Thursday to Sunday), especially on Saturday.

I was dog and cat-sitting. The cutest, elderly and struggling in the heat, terrier, Spencer, and the more independent, lounging and occasionally swatting at Spencer or me, Puff.

Wildlife. I didn’t see scorpions or snakes (other than a squashed one), but the others are interesting and varied enough to keep you interested. Whales are often visible from the beach, the crickets are very noisy, especially if they get into the house. I ran out towards the old airport once, and came upon a strong fishy smell, then realised this is where the turkey vultures were currently eating their fishy catch. They were a little intimidating in number, but scooted off quickly enough as I came through. No pictures, but they’re ugly on the ground, majestic soaring hunters in the air.

Sunset on a stormy night.

Blue skies and dark fields either side of an orange sunset

Pedasi Town is not large, and you’re unlikely to get lost. A half-hour walk will take you to most things. An hour will take you down back streets and down the main road, where there are a few more restaurants that aren’t pictured here, a couple of gas stations and the like. But these places pictured are the ones I either used, or walked past most times, by virtue of their being central.

I took pictures on a sunny day, which was also very hot. The temperature varied in this, the rainy season, with a heavy downpour sometimes taking it down as low as 25 (which felt cool). On a hot day, even if it was only low 30s, the humidity made it punishingly hot in the sun. Beautiful skies, though, and the greenery does very nicely thank you.

A signpost with other cities pointed to, along with their distance
This signpost is outside a house. Go find it!

A last few pictures, that haven’t fitted in above. There are a few houses for sale in the centre of town, a few more on the roads heading out of town, and plenty of spare lots in many immigrants’ preferred location, nearer the beach. Some look only part-finished, or even abandoned if no one is pruning back the vegetation, which I found fascinating to poke around in. Just watch out for snakes, centipedes and scorpions.

A walk round Hamburg

Sculpture of rowers in a park
Rowers.

Hamburg comes highly recommended. It is set on the banks of the River Elbe, which is wide and deep enough to allow Hamburg to be Germany’s third-biggest port, and also scenic. It has a hippy vibe in the St Pauli district, with the football club internationally famous for their politics and fans, rather than their football. The museum for that district is small, and cheap, but was free for me, because they were re-doing the exhibits and hadn’t yet put up English descriptions. It was still a nice, but short, stroll, and I had a cheap beer in the bar there.

Tugboat on the river

Large church with spire to one side
Large church.

Large, long, buildings dominate both sides of a canal
Buildings dominate the canal.

Sitting and looking over the river at the Federal Government buildings was a cool highlight on a warm day.

View over the river
View over the river.

Sculpture of a bicycle in front of a crate decorated with graffiti
Cycle sculpture.

Sculpture of a bicycle in front of a crate decorated with graffiti
St Pauli FC.

Reeperbahn, and its S-Bahn station
Reeperbahn.

I was only in the city for a couple of nights, travelling West to get to Dusseldorf for parkrun (though there is one in Hamburg) and then Holland for the ferry home. I didn’t, therefore, go wild down the Reeperbahn, but it is clearly a hub for culture of all types, albeit, as drinking centres are, very different at day compared to the night.

I used Flixbus to travel in and out of the city, which was easy. And, as with many other German cities, you have the choice of over (S-Bahn) and underground (U-Bahn – though actually, much of that is overground, too) transport along with buses to get around. Something for everyone.

A walk in the Woods, Český Krumlov

Before my trip to Czechia, I did a quick search for ‘beautiful towns’ in the country, thinking I might find a few. In the end, rather than a list of 10 or so, I found one of 30, and promptly decided not to even try to surf across a sample, sticking to just Český Krumlov. It is a beautiful city, with a large castle looming over medieval buildings, sited on various almost-islands on a river with tight S-bends. If you just follow a river here, you might go round in circles.

Red-tiled grooves and trees are gathered around the bend of the river, viewed from a highpoint
First sight, as you walk out of the bus station.

Red-rooved buildings gathered on an island surrounded by the river
This panoramic view shows how the river bends.

I spent a couple of days walking the streets and taking in the view. Frankly, in a couple of days walking you’ll either be heading up the hill to the new town (which has supermarkets and the like) or covering the same ground more than once. It is very pretty, mind, and worth a good look but I am sure the tour groups that come through by bus feel they get a good feel for the place in a couple of hours.

 

By day three, I fancied some different sights, so took myself off into the trails that head out of town. They are clearly marked and easy to find, mostly. I recommend maps.me, a freely downloadable app, if you have a smart phone. Not only does it allow you to download offline maps for navigation, but it is very good at pointing out trails.

Tall, thin trees line a flat-packed mud trail
Typical trail.

I followed some markings, but at one point found myself in a quieter area. I walked down a faint trail, avoided what was definitely someone’s private pond, but wasn’t sure what the jaunty sign with a person in a red circle meant, so continued till I found a bigger trail out. “Prohibited”, is what it meant, so I shouldn’t have taken that turn.

 

Back on the trails you are meant to walk on, there are information boards to show you what wildlife you might find. Spin the board round for info in Czech.

Colourful information board, illustrating local insects
Insects.

I recommend heading out and following a trail. There are websites with suggestions, though most appear to be GPS traces of people’s walks, including around town, which isn’t very helpful, while the best cover some distance and stay in the countryside but are point to point (not circular), so you’ll end up away from town. I didn’t find a site I could recommend. Lots of results, but not much that is useful.

Better, perhaps, to download maps.me and pick trails from that, though be prepared to change your plan if it turns out one of the trails marked there heads into a backyard. Be prepared for hills, with views over countryside once you’ve put in the work. My best advice – go out and back on the same route. Sure not to end up anywhere you shouldn’t be, and you see the route in both directions.

Pine trees on a sloping hill, looking down from a height.
View over trees.

Some pictures from my day walking.

Don’t forget the views. So many views.

View. Hills in the distance, entirely green in the foreground, trees and fields everywhere.
View of distant hills.

Assuming you lose sight of town on your walk, coming back in view of those buildings and that winding river is a huge pleasure, and a reward for getting back to where you started.

Cesky Krumlov; river wending between red-roofed buildings
Cesky Krumlov.

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