My main hiking trip of 2022 led me, for once, into the lowlands. 8 days, of which most were to be spent in an area dominated by sandstone. The forecast, promising hot days, led me to opt-in for leaving hiking boots at home and go with just hiking sandals. As usual with my past holiday travel posts, I’ll split them into couples. So, let’s have a look at the first two days…
Day one: prologue
The first day, however, took us to a different area. The area around the town Sázava, to gamers mostly known as the place of Kingdom Come: Deliverance. The river’s valley is quite calm and attracts cyclists and fans of water sports more than hikers. The start was below the Český Šternberk castle, which we reached around 10:30.
I, being stiff from five hours in the bus, decided to set out without visiting the castle. The river – and the refreshment stands along it – were full of people on rafts and kayaks. The calm river, however, has quite a destructive potential: the owner of one chalet marked the tree with the levels of the three major floods since 2000:
During our journey, three waves of rain showers passed (the last some 30 minutes before reaching the destination), cooling the air down to some 16°C. Thus, I kept a brisk pace. A while later, I reached a hill above the town Sázava, with an overlook that… was a bit overgrown for my taste, not providing a clear image of the town.
With a fair amount of time left before we were to move on, I walked a loop above and then through the town.
…offering me a view of the monastery on the town’s northern slopes.
With enough spare time, I decided to take a paid guided tour of the area. The guide – a woman I’d guess to be in her 60s – had quite an engaging and energetic style that would fit someone half her age. The monastery, founded in the 11th century, was built in a place that had a long history even before.
Ruins of an 11th-century church in the monastery’s gardens.
One of the landmarks is the unfinished church – partially due to lack of funding in times of war, partially because the chief architect and the king who ordered it built both died, and partially because no one knew if the requested design was even possible with the time’s technology (and was downsized already in the early stages). The ownership of the monastery was quite turbulent since those times and is still divided – part belongs to the church and part belongs to the state (each running tours of their respective parts).
Day two: Ruins and rocks
If you’re reading my blog for years, you’ve seen me post photos from sandstone-heavy areas before. This one is different. Being close to Prague, the area was touched by people much more. Even the rock formations were sometimes touched by humans centuries ago for this reason or that (more on various reasons over time).
One of the ways the land was affected were roads cut through the stone – wide enough for a horse-pulled carriage.
Ruins of forts and castles from medieval times are also scattered around the landscape. Our first stop, though, was a mallet-like rock formation on one of the plateaus.
The trail sections on those plateaus had their charm, especially woods with gnarled pines and blueberry and heather undergrowth that reminded me why I chose a pine forest as the homeland of my MC in my fantasy project. The warm weather made the sand quite warm, making me glad right on the second day I’ve chosen sandals for this trip – I can’t imagine bearing this heat in closed boots for a week.
Not to mention that getting sand out of a sandal takes just a little shake while a boot… would need to be taken off. Very frequently. Anyway, the trails wound up and down through the land, around several nice formations, though the woods made taking pictures challenging.
Many of the sandstone blocks were eroded in this, quite strange, way.
Roughly halfway through the day, we reached a small rock named “goose”, though it reminded me more of an anvil…
…and a nearby rock formation that could as well be a throne.
After weaving around the forested plateau, the trail led us downwards, emerging on a field below the Vlhošť peak…
…and then ascending roughly two-thirds up, to a lookout above those rocks. To get there, we walked through another rough-hewn old road, and around an exposed plateau with heather shrubs.
Later, we encountered hollowed-out rocks, though their purpose is unknown. Given the presence of windows, it’s likely they were inhabited in times of war, rather than just cellars. Above them was a medieval fort long ago (I failed to find any information about it, meaning it was in ruins probably at least from the 1400s), though there wasn’t much left. In fact, the only hint were cuts in the stone that hinted where wooden beams could’ve once been.
However, the next ruin was a bit more preserved. The castle Ronov on peak Ronov (imaginative, right?) was built in the late 1300s and abandoned in the 1500s, leaving it to the ravages of time. To this day, several sections of thick walls remain.
From there, it was just a descent to the nearby village, then a journey back to the hotel. Taking full advantage of good (even if hot) weather, the hike stretched to ca. 29km.
And, for those who are into these things… I have a map!
It doesn’t show the first day, as that was a bit aside, so only day two to day eight. The remaining hikes will be described in later posts… soon-ish. In the meantime, I hope summer’s treating you well.