Karolinka, Czech Republic
While mainstream Europe is excellent, there is something about finding a gem off the beaten path. Somewhere that truly showcases what the country has to offer. Anywhere that makes you sit back because the buzz of the tourist destinations are non-existent and you get the chance to realize that you are miles and miles away from home and everything is right in the world, just for that moment.
After I spent a whirlwind of a day in Prague, I was looking forward to venturing into an unknown part of the Czech Republic, Karolinka. Karolinka has around 3,000 people, but still close by to a lot of smaller communities. You take a short hopper flight (we used Czech Airlines) from Prague to Ostrava and then a 40-minute car ride through windy roads and cute small towns. There was a restaurant off the side of the road that had a kids play area with a park and trampoline. Once we arrived in Karolinka, we checked into a gorgeous hotel that was a mix of a quaint bed and breakfast with the service of a five-star resort. Recently renovated the Horsky Hotel Solan was our home for two days.
The goal to find somewhere authentic with beautiful countryside, good food, with calmness and serenity was met. When you check-in and give them your passport (so they get keys back) you can head up the stairs or take the small elevator to your room. The room is mostly wood but doesn't smell like a 2x4 when you walk in. There are luscious bathrobes and a large bathroom by European standards. Immediately, I went into relaxation mode. I slipped into the robe, grabbed a hot chocolate and watch clouds roll by off my balcony.
Since all meals are served family style in the large banquet room, I knew what time I needed to be ready for dinner. Most shy away from having routine meals, but here in Karolinka, it is not only normal it was welcomed. I didn't have to think of a time to eat, plan a place to get reservations. All I did was get dressed and show up. One of my favorite parts of the evening is when the owner of the hotel takes guests into the wine cellar and talks to you about the wine he is choosing for the night. Where it came from, how long it needs to rest, etc.
Before dinner though, I was able to walk the grounds. From the minute you start to walk the paths and open your eyes your body and mind become one. That sounds hokey, I know, but it is true. The air is so fresh that unplugging and living in the moment is entirely possible. As they started to BBQ some of the meal you the crisp air filled with smells of delight. Even as a vegetarian I could smell the charring vegetables and welcomed the drinks they put out for guests.
After dinner, I enjoyed the best part of my trip, I spend part of the evening star gazing. I haven't seen stars for quite some time and forgot the feeling they give you of pure calmness and hope. After some star gazing, I decided to join some of the guests for a nightcap downstairs in the bar. The bartender remembered me from earlier and asked me if I wanted another hot chocolate. I opted for a pineapple and vodka drink, but these hot chocolates are still something I dream about. Made with fresh whole milk, steamed to perfection with chocolate from Switzerland and pour together at the same time with fresh whip cream and wafer cookies. I am tempted to book a flight back just to live off these drinks.
I rarely want to visit the same place twice, but if given the option this is one charmer I would visit over and over.