Czech Switzerland – Pravcicka brana

Pravčická Brána is the largest natural stone bridge in Europe. It is considered the most beautiful natural form in Czech Switzerland and is the symbol of the entire area. Its dimensions are remarkable, although when looking at it close up it seems bigger. The span of the arch at the bottom is 26.5 m, the height of the opening is 16 m, width 7-8 m, minimum thickness 3 m, and the surface area of the bridge is 21 m above its base.

In my previous post I posted photos from valley of river Krinice, where we were hiking in the morning and early afternoon. Then, after late lunch in town Hrensko, we climbed up to Pravcicka brana. I wanted to take some photos with setting sun, but the more we waited, the clearer it was that the sun will take too long to set. Therefore the late afternnon light had to suffice. Also, we were about 7km from our accomodation. The path home lead through forest and we wanted to have at least some light on our way home.

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There is the holiday chateau known as the Falcon’s Nest at the base of the arc.
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We were halfway to our hotel when the golden hour came…
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Czech Switzerland – Kamenice River

The Czech Switzerland are is national park on borders with Germany (where the park continues and it is called the Saxon Switzerland). It is known for its beautiful gorges and mostly for The Pravčická brána – the largest natural sandstone arch in Europe.

I spent there three days last autumn. On the first day we hiked down the valley of Kamenice river to town Hrensko and from there we climbed up to the Pravcicka Brana and then we returned to our guest house. As the whole track was about 20km long, I had a lot of opportunities to take photos, so in this post, there are only photos from the firts half of the trip. The photos from Pravcicka brana will be in the next post (hopefully 🙂 ).

The path from Mezni Louka, where we were staying, led through forests, where fallen trees are left as they are.

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Probably, due to the humid climate on the bottom of the valley, there is moss covering almost every tree. There are even three-leaf clovers growing from the trunks.
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This is where the path met the river Krinice.
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Some more moss on the ground…
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and on the trees.
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Then the rocks were making the bottom of the valley more and more narrow.
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And at the end, we had take a boat to get through the gorge. Actually, the boat on the photo is really old one and it is not in use any more, there are newer ones now.
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Holidays on Madeira (part 6 – the last one)

As this was our last day on Madeira and we wanted to visit the markets in Funchal, we had to wake up extra early to have enough time for visit before our guided tour would begin. The “Mercado dos Lavradores” (Farmer´s Market) is Located in the center of the old town of Funchal. This market is divided into three parts. There is flower section, fruit and vegetable section and fish section. All kinds of tropical fruit and even some unusual ones that grow on the island can be found there and the stall holders let us taste some of the unsual kinds of fruit. On the fish section there were the well known black scabbard fish with its huge eyes, razor sharp teeth and long eel like body. Its meat is very tasty and it is usually served grilled with fried banana – this meal is called “espada”. It was really tasty but I am glad I tried it before I saw how the fish looks like.

A view from a balcony – the fruit & vegetable section
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And in detail
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Balcoes, is a viewpoint situated 870 above sea level overlooking the valleys hundreds of meters below and mountains hundreds of meters above. From this point the highest peaks of Madeira are visible during good weather conditions. This viewpoint was the destination of today’s tour, again along a levada. The weather wasn’t really nice but on the other hand, it made the forest look like a jungle.

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But when we reached the viewpoint from which we should have been able to see three highest mountains in Madeira, all we saw was this…

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… and this.
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The fog was so dense we barely saw several meters behind the railings.

And that was the last day of my holiday on Madeira.

Holidays on Madeira (part 5)

Today’s trip was all around the island od Madeira. Firstly, we started at Ponta de São Lourenço Nature Reserve which is located at the very eastern end of Madeira. Thanks to its geology and unique species of local flora and fauna, this 9km long peninsula has been a protected reserve since 1982. This area is completely different from the rest of Madeira, which is known for its lush greens. Of volcanic origin, Ponta de São Lourenço is mostly basalt and its vegetation shows off a desert-like landscape with spectacular volcanic rock formations.

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From the most eastern point of Madeira we moved to the most northern town – Porto Moniz. This town owes its name to Francisco Moniz, an aristocrat who lived here in the late 16th century. This place is known for natural swimming pools at which were formed by volcanic lava and are naturally filled with crystal-clear sea water.

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On our way back to Funchal we also visited Ponta do Pargo lighthouse which is Located in the most western point of the island. The lighthouse was built on a 300 metres high cliff.

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Holidays on Madeira (part 3)

When I first heard what was the plan for this day, it seemed like pleasant walk with only 60 meters of height difference. We started at the Pico do Arieiro which is the third highest peak on the island. The views were spectacular up there and the weather was quite nice.

Pico Ruivo is the highest peak on the Madeira Islands and that was the destination of today’s hike. Although it was only about 11kilometeres far away from the starting point, it was the longest 11 kilometers of mountain hiking I have ever done. Most of the time, the path was steeply rising and descending most of the time, even with some stairs (some of them were more like ladders) in the steepest parts. There were also several tunnels on this hike, but none of them are very long or very dark. It was very relaxing to walk on flat ground for a change.

In the end, it was great day… if only we had an opportunity to be at one of the peaks at sunrise or sunset, the light would be perfect for photography. Definitely better that’s provided by midday sun…

A view from the Pico do Arieiro
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As I said before, the views were simply breathtaking.
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Is this the end?
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Holidays on Madeira (part 2)

Eira do Serrado (that’s were our trip began that day) is one of the most beautiful places in Madeira with breathtaking views of its surrounding mountains and the village in Nun’s Valley. Descending from the pass we saw Curral das Freiras (Nun’s Valley), and a hidden little village where Nuns took refuge from the pirates who were attacking Madeira frequently in 16th century.

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The village of Curral das Freiras
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In the afternoon we visited one more botanical garden in village Monte, which we really enjoyed because there were not only interesting plants and flowers but also an exhibition of gemstones.

But Monte in Madeira is mostly know for something else…

Summer sledge on roads!

Originally (these toboggan sledges appeared around 1850) it was a fast means of transport down to Funchal for people who lived in Monte. They are still in use today as a turist attraction, for those who want to experience sliding at high speed on narrow, winding streets down to Funchal. These two-seater wicker sledges glide on wooden runners, pushed and steered by two men traditionally dressed in white cotton clothes and a straw hat, using their rubber-soled boots as brakes. The downhill journey to Funchal is made in about 10 minutes on a total course of 2 km, reaching at times a speed of 48 km/hour.

At first, we were thought that we might try these, but we changed our mind later.

Getting ready at the starting point.
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Sliding between cars in regular trafic was the main reason we chose to take cable car to return to Funchal.
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Playing cards seems like favourite pasttime for the “sledge drivers”.
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