When Jeff, Sean and I traveled to Prague in 2009 I, of course, tried to plan everything out beforehand. That included a guided day trip to Bohemian Switzerland via train. Why take a trip here? I mean, its pretty much in the name -- its a picturesque region in northwestern Czech Republic with natural arches, mountains, rivers, and tons of protected wildlife.
Before we left NYC, I unintentionally reached out to the Czech Department of Tourism. I was trying to book a guided tour of the area through a recommended site, but when I got a response, it came from the Czech Department of Tourism. We corresponded for a bit about what I was looking for in a tour and how big my group was. I guess the Department of Tourism didn't have much else going on that month? Either that or they REALLY wanted to please a few American tourists. Mission accomplished!
It started out a little rough. First we had to navigate the main train station in Prague. Remember how I said almost everything there was in English? Well, I meant everything except this train station. Don't forget, this was before everyone had smart phones and fancy translator apps. It took us almost an hour to figure out which train to take, how much to pay, and WTF to do. That was AFTER the poor woman at the ticket booth tried to wrangle us a translator.
Eventually we found our way onto the regional train, which was roomy, clean, and fast. (Are you listening, Amtrak?) About an hour outside of Prague we arrived at a station seemingly in the middle of nowhere (actually near the border of Dresden, Germany). Our khaki-clad (and super sweet) guide found us immediately on the platform. I guess it's not super hard to spot three American tourists. He asked for "Yan," which, I figured meant "Jen" since that's how it's pronounced in a lot of European languages. It's also usually a guy's name so I don't think he was expecting me to be the one responding. Fun fact: Yan became my nickname on the trip whenever I was being lame (I just can't power through 10 hours of sightseeing and THEN go out for four hours). In fact, the name stuck, and Jeff still calls me this when I'm being the worst.
After exchanging some pleasantries, our guide showed us around the small town, took us on a hike, and drove us through the general area (a word he pronounced, AHHH-riah). Throughout the day he would stop about every 15 minutes, point, and say "We could go to this AHHH-riah or this AHHH-riah." This also became a saying for the remainder of the trip.
Besides showing us all the AHHH-riahs, he also brought us to a small local restaurant for some goulash. At one point he dropped us off so that we could explore on our own. With pretty limited info, we hiked through the forest and came across the sound of chainsaws. Not the thing you want to hear when hiking alone in a foreign country. I channeled my inner Yan and started freaking the fuck out. We walked closer (because there was literally no other direction to walk) and eventually came across a man surrounded by axes and chopping down trees with his saw. He basically ignored us, so we thought it best that we do the same.
The weather wasn't the best, but it provided a lot of great atmosphere and fog in the mountains. If you find yourself in Prague with an extra day or two, I'd absolutely recommend taking a day trip out to this magical place. Be sure to check out all the AHHH-riahs.