Gazing out at the view of the pond Desolate (Rybník Pustá) from my window, one would think I’d feel melancholy. It did make me long for a past when I visited the Czech Republic as a child – back then there were less people, zero commercialism and the quiet peacefulness that comes with feeling safe with ones family. I felt some of that here in the Czech town of Blatna, a small town in Southern Bohemia about an hour and a half drive from Prague.
I found a two week stay in Blatna very pleasant. It took me a few days to adjust to the slower pace, and where I stayed helped. The Penzion u Rybníka Pustý (Penzion at Pond Desolate) is a bed and breakfast run by the family Sheinherr. A spacious and immaculately clean three story house with Bohemian architectural touches and views of the water and charming neighboring Czech homes.
Hana will make you tea, coffee or cappuccino as you sit down to the generous breakfast buffet that is offered daily at a modest additional charge. It includes fresh rolls and Czech pastries that Hana picks up each morning from the local bakery, and a selection of sliced ham, cheeses, honey and jams, a plate of sliced cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers, bowls of assorted fruits including ripe plums when in season, cereals and yogurt. While I sip my tea Hana gently asks if I would like a fried egg that day which she will make for you while you wait. There is also lovely outdoor seating.
Well fed you are ready to plan out your day. While it is easy to get bus connections to Prague, and I did so several times, it is a two hour journey each way so exploring in Blatna in between trips to Prague is the perfect way to relax and recover.
The must see attraction in town is Blatna Castle, along with the adjacent grounds which are a combination forest and deer garden.
Admissions is free – the baroness who lives in the centuries old castle asks only that you not walk on the grass, and to make sure to shut the wooden gate to the park behind you as you enter or leave the grounds, so that the deer that roam freely don’t escape.
There are tours of the castles’s interior in Czech available for about $5. The main draw for me was able to walk through the grounds whenever I needed a break, along with locals and families on trips that visit all week long. The Baroness sleeps in an adjacent small house with a grandiose staircase and a family of peacocks housed on the front lawn. They are free to roam, and as you pass by you can hear them squawking to each other or flying laboriously up to the roof with their heavy feathered tails.
There are winding paths through ancient trees but the grounds are not overwhelmingly large and can be walked through easily within half an hour. If you go to the far end there’s a pristine lake to gaze upon, and at some point you are almost guaranteed to see deer.
Anyone can buy special food in the Castle’s gift shop and feed the deer if they please.
For lunch, the most recommended place in town is Hotel Beránek. They offer typical Czech dishes like Švíčkova (boiled beef in a luscious cream sauce) with bread dumplings for the equivalent of around $10. Like many restaurants in the Czech Republic now, they also have a menu where from which you can order more international dishes, like pork schnitzel with fries, or pasta. Another stop for Czech food is Restaurant Prostor on the other end of the square downtown, which has a larger bar and stays open later into the evening.
If not in the mood for Czech food, try Pizzeria Casa Verde. Part of the Hotel Práchen, it’s near the castle. It has a clean, modern interior, outdoor seating and nice selection of wines to go along with your pizza and salad. Be prepared because the pizza is baked on more of a flat bread rather than the yeast dough typical of other pizzas. For other items on the menu I recommend the pasta with spinach and sun-dried tomatoes or the sautéed chicken breast in au jus with string beans and rosemary roasted baby potatoes.
Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary
A notable place to visit, this is a Czech cultural heritage site, located just down the street from the Castle. It has a small indoor chapel, and wonderful religious statues, as well as a well worn red wooden door iconic to this site.
If it’s summer another of the favorite spots in town is the pool, where for a small fee you can spend the afternoon around a clean crystal blue pool with easily accessible changing rooms and showers. The snack bar includes fried cheese with French fries, a Czech treat.
The cafes dotting the downtown square are local favorites for lounging away a Sunday afternoon, grabbing some ice cream or grabbing a coffee drink in between shopping trips. The town’s supermarket and housewares stores are located around the square and are fun to browse for unique items. The bakeries are a must for freshly baked rolls and pastries, which are often sold out before lunch. It is easy to spend leisurely days here, but don’t leave with out having a couple of Czech beers on tap! Beer is often had with a meal, and Czech beers like Pilsner Urquelle, Staropramen and Kozel are some of the best in the world. Na zdraví!