On Monday 11th July, Sybille and I, along with Sam the dog, set out from Prague in the ‘Carly’, to spend the first week of our summer holidays exploring another part of the Czech Republic we had not previously visited. We’ve been to the Krkonoše Mountains, better known to Sybille by their German name of das Riesengebirge.
The Krkonoše Mountains are located about 160km north-east of Prague, adjacent to the Polish border. In fact they extend into Poland with the border between the two countries running along the main ridge. The highest mountain in the range is Snežka, which with an elevation of 1602 metres, is also the highest point in the Czech Republic.
We spent the week based in Pec pod Snežkou, the main mountain resort town in the eastern Krkonoše, staying in Penzion Nikola. The town’s mouthful of a name explains both the origin and location of the settlement. ‘Pec‘ means ‘furnace’, ‘pod‘ means ‘under’ and ‘Snežkou‘ is the mountain ‘Snežka‘ but with the ending changed because it is the instrumental case! In other words, the town began life as a mining settlement where a furnace was built under the mountain, in order to smelt locally mined silver and iron ore.
Mining has long ceased and today, Pec (pronounced ‘pets’) is a ski centre in winter and an ideal base for walking holidays in summer. It is a very picturesque little town provided you ignore the two remaining Communist era monstrosities – a small, stark, concrete shopping complex where the town’s only supermarket is still located, together with the towering totally out-of-place Hotel Horizont.
After a good night’s sleep and an excellent breakfast, all three of us set out on Tuesday morning for our first walk in the Krkonoše Mountains. As Pec lies at the junction of two steep-sided river valleys, walking in any direction, except down the valley, involves a serious amount of uphill climbing. But the reward for doing so is ever increasing spectacular views as I hope this accompanying photograph illustrates. And once up and out of the valleys, the walking tends to be far easier with only fairy gentle accents and descents to tackle.
Having climbed south-westwards out of Pec to a height of around 1050 metres, we then headed north-west along an undulating ridge and reached Lesní bouda around midday. Bouda is the Czech word used to describe a mountain dwelling that offers accommodation, food and drink. It presumably derived from the similar German term Baude. Boudy/Bauden like this, are scattered right across the Krkonoše Mountains.
Having enjoyed a drink at Lesní bouda we climbed further along the ridge to the summit of Lišcí hora (1363 m) where we ate our picnic lunch whilst enjoying this amazing view across to Snežka. Shortly afterwards, as we slowly began our decent, both Sybille and I received text messages on our respective mobile phones that welcomed us to Poland even though we were still walking a couple of kilometres inside the Czech Republic!
All three of us thoroughly enjoyed our circular walk which I reckoned was about 17 km in total. We returned to Pec in the late afternoon quite tired but also invigorated.