Sunday, 11 July 2010

Hotels - Europe II, Hrensko

Hrensko, Forest Garden Hotel

After leaving Cesky Krumlov, we spent a couple of days in northwestern Czech Republic, looking for hidden sources of art glass in Novy Bor and Zelensky Brod, two cities known for their schools for glass making. Searching hotels in either of them on the internet proved fruitless (although both do actually have one or more hotels), so we decided to stay nearby in a town called Hrensko, in what is called “Bohemian Switzerland,” right on the German border.
On the way north, we made a quick stop at Kutna Hora and visited the nearby “bone church,” or ossuary, where monks in the 16th century decided to use the bones of the dead to decorate the church. Reconstructed in the 19th century, the chapel certainly manifests both the inevitability of death and the anonymity of it for most people, with its neatly arranged piles of thousands of skulls and bones, its bone chandelier and wall sconces, and its bone coat of arms. The chapel reminded me of the Mexican Day of the Dead events and the concept of the continuity between life and death, but I think it just depressed Tom. Kutna Hora has major churches and an attractive main square; it’s one of many UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the region.

Having misjudged how long it takes to get from place to place on local roads, we arrived late in Zelezny Brod, an industrial town on the Jizera River with no evident charm. Everything was closed, and we couldn’t locate any significant art glass presence. The next day, we found a glass museum and a couple of galleries in Novy Bor but none of the objects for sale compared with what we had seen in the galleries in Prague. However, we did have lunch at the Ajeto gallery (in photo), which has a restaurant adjacent to a glass blowing workshop with four glory holes, where we could watch the men create glass pitchers and vases through a huge window. The exhibition space with showed a range of contemporary glass from Czech Republic and Germany and nearby was a sales gallery. My conclusion is that we needed to do more research and spend more time in those areas, with the chance of visiting artists’ studios as the most likely approach to finding the glass we’re interested in. Fortunately, we’d seen some wonderful things in Prague galleries.

Hrensko (in photo) is a wonderful place to spend a day, more if being in the country is your goal. Getting there involves driving two-lane roads through towns and woods, up and down hills. It may also be reached by train, although our hotel, in what might be thought of as a suburb of Hrensko, could not.

We located the Forest Garden Hotel ($77.04, including breakfast and wifi) at the end of a tiny lane at the end of a small road a few miles outside the town. The hotel owner lives in Dresden, but was there to greet us, help us get oriented, and fix us a lovely dinner of prosciutto and melon, sausages and boiled potatoes, and fruit and cheese, served with a nice French white wine. His hotel is a place of rest and retreat from city activity. We had a clean, modest-sized room with another fine new bathroom and a nice view of the grounds from the window. Breakfast in a pleasant, light-filled room, consisted of eggs, bread, cheese, meats, pepper, pastries, and sausage. The hotel visitors were very friendly German and Dutch weekenders. We spent only one night; the surroundings, in a Czech/German national park, were lovely woods. The actual town of Hrensko sits picturesquely alongside the Elbe River, with many attractive older hotels; it is filled with vacationers and tchotchke shops. The staff at the Forest Garden helpfully printed us a map and directions to get to our hotel in Dresden.

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