Last week, G and I took a little trip to the Czech Republic. We had some time to kill in between apartments and I wanted to go somewhere that wasn’t too far away and wouldn’t cost me an arm and a leg. I figured it wouldn’t be a bad thing for G and me to be in the countryside for a bit and have a wee break from stairs and sidewalks. After some late night Airbnb browsing, I found this cute little place in a tiny village called Trebivlice in the Czech Republic, only an hour south of Dresden. Perfect.
After staying a few days with my dear friends Marlen and Rainer (and their very cute little baby boy), G and I headed off to the city to pick up a rental car. To be truly honest, I was a little nervous about driving in Germany again. It has been many years since I had done this and I felt a little rusty on all the rules of the road (quite a contrast from South Africa where everything goes). I was also a little intimidated at navigating my way through traffic where the road is shared with trams and lots of cyclists. Anyway, I amped up the positive inner dialogue and we hit the road. Of course, it wasn’t as bad as I had thought and pretty soon we were on the autobahn on the way to the Czech Republic. I did get a little thrill putting my boot down on the open road – so nice to drive as fast as you like. For some reason, I thought there would be a border control (I remember always having to get a visa in Dresden), but was pleasantly surprised when I just kept driving and was welcomed to the Czech Republic. I hadn’t realized how high up we actually were until we drove through this very long downhill tunnel going through the mountains. Pretty cool.
The countryside was beautiful. Lots of fields and fruit trees with little kopies (hills) dotted all over. Many of these hills had what seemed like a castle or fortress built right on the top with no other structures around. Felt rather feudal. We drove deeper and deeper into the farmlands, going through one little village after the next until we came to Trebivlice.
As we arrived in the village, it suddenly dawned on me (am a little slow with these things) that it was likely that no-one would be able to understand us and that I knew absolutely no words in Czech – not even “Hello.” My GPS took us down this tiny little road and said we had arrived (when we clearly hadn’t). Flagged down a farmer on a tractor and pointed to the name of our accommodation to which he shrugged his shoulders and just said “Ranch?” and pointed to the gravel road. I had a little moment where I wondered if I had really lost it, thinking I could just hop over to another country and hang out in a tiny village with my 5-year-old. What is wrong with me!
Anyway, had to nothing to lose and followed the dusty road where just a few meters on we found our destination, Ranch Pod Skalou (Ranch Under the Rocks). As depicted in the Airbnb profile, the ranch had horses and a small petting zoo. Our accommodation was in a cute looking caravan, right next to the kraal for the llama, goat, miniature pony and ram. On arrival, we were met by Teresa, the owner of the ranch – the one who I had been corresponding with over email. Teresa is a beautiful, young Czech lady in her mid-twenties who runs this whole operation (not at all what I expected, but pleasantly surprised). She welcomed us and showed us our digs and even exchanged some Euros for Koruna. I don’t know what I expected but was a little surprised. Firstly, I always pictured the Czech Republic as very lush and green and was not prepared for how dusty and dry everything appeared on the ranch. In a later conversation, Teresa explained that that area was experiencing a terrible drought (seems to be a common theme these days) and that it hadn’t rained in a long time. She said that normally there is enough grass in her pastures for the horses to graze on all summer, without her having to buy food. This year, she has had to buy hay bales and they are twice their normal price. If they are this much now, imagine what they will cost in the winter when it is snowing!
The caravan itself was cute. The bed was built up with palettes and board and was big enough for both of us (even with one who sleeps like a starfish). There was a little gas stove, cooler box, and plenty of cubby holes filled with all the things one might need. The caravan was run on solar electricity, so during the day one could use the power, but at night the power would be switched off. Teresa had a big tank of drinking water in the caravan and outside was a drum of water for washing. The loo was a little outhouse up the hill (G and I totally embraced doing what needed to be done with the door open in the evenings – nothing like having a tinkle with a view).
During the day the ranch is busy. Teresa has multiple students who come for riding lessons in the afternoon (G loved her pony riding lesson and looked so cute bopping up and down trotting)and she spends most of the day feeding animals and making sure everything is in shape. She has built up this ranch from scratch, starting with just one horse and now having over a dozen, plus other farm animals. She has an office and employs someone to help her with the upkeep and animals. Not only is she an impressive person, but also very kind and hard working. A woman with a vision. Love it!
Trebvilice has a population of around 800 people and as G and I walked through the village on the first evening, it was clear that there were not too many foreigners living or passing through the village. I must say that everyone who passed us, greeted us – it took G and me quite a while to figure out they were saying “Dobro Dan” and we just responded with a big smile and a “hmmm hmmm dan.” G found it quite funny that neither of us knew what anyone was saying, so figuring it out together was quite amusing for her.
The local corner shop seemed to be the only thing open at 4pm in the afternoon, so we bought a few groceries (and I think got totally ripped off). We then tried to find the public pool that Teresa had told us about. It wasn’t hard to find, as I think the whole village pops into the pool area for a swim, a game of tennis, a pizza or beer at the little pub or to fill up water bottles at some point in the day. The pool was quite incredible. It is a natural bath supplied by a mountain stream that flows into the massive pool (Olympic size for sure). The water is very cold and clear. I later found out it is also drinking water and noticed people coming up to the source of the water and filling up their big water bottles – one guy even had a cool contraption built onto his bike to carry two big water bottles, I am sure he comes to fill up daily. Thankfully, there was also a little toddler pool (which seemed rather gross in comparison) and at one point I think there were about 15 little kids playing in it – G had a blast. After sitting at the pool for a bit, some little girls figured out we spoke English and they came over to say hello (later on they bought me a gift of tadpoles in a cup that they had scooped out of the big pool). We carried these tadpoles around for a day and then once they had left the pool released them back to their natural habitat.
On our second day, I thought we would take a drive to the next village, Libovcholice, to find an ATM. Once again, I was struck by how few people one saw out and about. There are small villages dotted all along the windy highway and I often had the feeling of being transported back in time. In many places, it felt like nothing had changed in a hundred years ago. Each village had a square and a church, most villages also had some kind of water feature – a lake or pool. There are veggie gardens and fruit trees everywhere, laden with fruit. Apple, pear, and plum trees are everywhere and often it seems that no-one is claiming the fruit.
After our little excursion to Libovcholice and a drive past the Castle Hazmburg, we went back to our village to see if we could get lunch at the local restaurant (lunch seems to be the main meal). This time the restaurant was open. We walked in and all heads turned. Not aggressively, but with curiosity. Marlen had told me to try the knodel and gulash, so that’s exactly what I did. Total carb overload with the knodel (bready dumplings), but great when used to sop up all the delicious gulash. It also seems as if the Czech people usually have beer with every meal. Amazing how well the beer goes with the meal.
Our time in Trebivlice was spent mostly at the pool and on the ranch. It was obvious that we were visitors based on the quizzical looks we received everywhere we went, but people were warm and welcoming and forgiving of our lack of the Czech language. Although I had some misgivings at first, I would totally do it all again and we will visit Ranch Pod Skalou again.