I’m going to be honest, I signed up for this trip last minute. Like 48 hours before it started, but I am so glad I decided to go! South Moravia is a south-eastern region of the Czech Republic and is famous for its agriculture and vineyards. It is a popular vacation destination for Czechs and contains the city of Brno (which is the second largest city in the Czech Republic).
The trip left early Friday morning, and we were back in Prague the next day around 6 pm. It is amazing how much we were able to see and experience in such a short amount of time as both days were packed full of museums, hikes and scenic vistas. As the bus drove away from the Vltavska metro station, the scenery quickly changed from urban sprawl to birch and spruce forests and farmland.
Pre-Historical Museum (ArcheoPark, Pavlov)
After stopping for lunch, we headed to our first destination the Pre-Historical Museum. This museum had a variety of anthropological and archaeological exhibits. There was also an interesting documentary about the importance of the region to both historical and current scientific research into early human history as well as mammoths. The artifacts were really interesting - and the architecture of the museum was really unique. The building was built into the hill and even won an award for its unique and modern design!
Hike to Castle Ruins (Divci hrad or Maidenburg)
From the museum we walked a short ways through the town of Pavlov towards the hiking path. The hike up took around 40 minutes, we spent about 20 minutes exploring the castle ruins, and the hike down took around 30 minutes. The hike was moderately difficult - I definitely recommend bringing more water than you think you will need, wearing comfortable shoes, and dressing in layers! Although the way up was a bit steep, the view of the castle ruins, and the surrounding vineyards was well worth the hike. We took another route down and emerged along a roadway where the bus picked us up to bring us to our next location.
Our next stop was the small town of Mikulov. We had the opportunity to explore the town by ourselves for around 2 hours - most people took this opportunity to grab something for dinner and walk around the city center. My friend and I made sure to go into a nearby information center (marked with a sign with a giant “I” in order to grab a map of the town and surrounding attractions. (They also sell a variety of postcards, stamps and magnets). The town had a very different vibe then Prague - and most of the tourists seemed to be from Austria or other parts of the Czech Republic. I explored the nearby castle and its gardens.
Saint Hill Hike (Svatý Kopeček)
Our second hike of the day was the Saint hill hike. The trail starts right off of the town square and makes its way up a hill which overlooks the town. As you make your way up the hill you are treated to various amazing views of the city, which serves as inspiration to keep going to the very top. The hike gets its name from the fact that you pass the stations of the cross as you ascend, and at the top there is a chapel and bell tower. (This hike is one of the oldest stations of the cross in the country!) We were so lucky to reach the top of around golden hour - when the sun kisses the fields and buildings below with a golden hue. After about 10 minutes at the top, we quickly made our way down - stopping for pictures with a flock of sheep. We finished our hike at an old limestone quarry which is now a small man-made lake.
As the sun was setting, we made our way to our hotel in Hustopeče. The sunsets were amazing! We had the opportunity to go to the sauna that evening. However, be warned its towels only, and bathing suits are not allowed. The following morning we woke up early and grabbed a quick breakfast at the hotel (which was free).
We arrived at Lednice Castle before the tours started so we had plenty of time to individually explore the surrounding gardens. I am so glad that we arrived early! There were very few other people there in the early morning which allowed for great picture taking opportunities - by the time we had finished our tour of the castle the gardens had become incredibly packed. This summer castle was beautiful and incredibly intact - in that many of the original pieces of furniture and works of art are still on display. The attention to detail and incredible hand carved wooden ceilings and banisters were breathtaking. The castle tour ended in the ball room and we were treated to someone playing traditional dancing music.
Ferry Ride and Historical Lookout Tower (Minaret)
After our tour of the castle, we walked to the nearby ferry - which brought us to a lookout tower. The boat ride was beautiful and informative, and we saw a variety of wildlife including deer and swans. After we disembarked we walked a short distance to the lookout tower and began to climb. If you have ever climbed a lighthouse tower this was a similar experience. The Minaret had three viewing areas at various heights. From the very top we were able to see mountains and Austria as well as several castles! The tower finished construction in 1802 - and stands 60 meters high. After the tower we walked alongside the lake (which featured a variety of “fake” romanesque ruins) and headed toward a nearby town where we had lunch.
After exploring South Moravia, it was nice to return to Prague’s familiarity. As the bus drove us back to our dorms, I realized how much Prague has come to feel like a second home. I recognized the potraviny which I go to almost every day, the cafe where I grab a coffee on my way to class, the antique shop I spent hours exploring. The South Moravia trip was an amazing experience which I definitely recommend, and it really highlighted how unique different parts of the country are. I think to get a true feel for the Czech Republic you have to take a trip outside of Prague, be that on a NYU trip or on your own with a group of friends.