One of my top tips for urban girls wanting to get ahead and expand their networks is – travel. Sometimes getting out of your ‘comfort zone’, your usual routine, can be enough to re-spark some vitality, or simply help you re-focus on your goal. Besides, it’s a great way to make new contacts, not to mention create meaningful connections outside your usual circles.
So I took my own advice and found myself heading to Stanstead airport last Saturday to czech-in for a flight to the Czech Republic… And no, it wasn’t to Prague this time. I was headed to czech-out Hradec Králové! (Ok, no more ‘czech’ puns)
Located 100km from Prague, Hradec (the Castle) Králové (of the queen) stands as major hub for higher education (if you’re a student have your ID card handy for discounts), business and transportation for much of East Bohemia. Hradec Králové still remains largely undiscovered by tourists, often overshadowed by popular destinations such as Prague, Český Krumlov and Karlovy Vary. I had an opportunity to discover what’s on offer, with a bonus that I happen to be dating a Czech guy (not a pun!) who doubled as my personal guide!
I was picked up from Pardubice airport by my Do Good Films boyfriend Ivo and his brother. Due to Hradec Králové’s close proximity to Paradubice just a 20 minute drive away, I learnt the neighbouring cities share a deep-rooted rivalry (and perhaps the fact that one has an International airport doesn’t help!). As if I wouldn’t stand out from the crowd of Czechs, not to mention my afro-blond hair giving me away, I’d specifically asked Ivo to be waiting at arrivals holding a sign with my name written on it… and much to my amusement, he obliged!
I checked into hotel Nové Adalbertinum, integrated into one of the dominant buildings on the historic Grand Square of Hradec Králové Old Town, where I would be staying for the duration of my 3 night city break. Previously a monastery, the hotel still boasts a saintly charm offering a unique combination of historic architecture and up-to-date facilities including free wifi in the rooms. I awoke the next morning to began my day, first with breakfast – a simple continental buffet spread included in the room rate, before heading out to explore my surroundings.
As most areas of interest are within the Old and New Town, it was easy to get around on foot. With the exception of the city’s Old Town (Staré město), Hradec Králové is largely flat so walking through the Old Town areas and beyond offers accessible views the architectural charms and history of the city.
Hradec Králové is relatively free of large crowds, and being a typical Londoner, I found it particularly eery at first just how quiet the Old Town is. But then, I’m an urban girl who lives amongst the hustle and bustle of Soho – walking without bumping into another human being can be near to impossible, so this came as a refreshing change.
Care-free black girl
So I’m been asked a few times,“how were you treated as a black woman in the Czech Republic?” and truth be told I’ve trained myself to be oblivious to the stares which may or not be out of curiosity. I’ve travelled extensively around the world, often solo (more on my travelmakerkai blog), and I’ll admit it used to frustrate the hell out of me being stared at as though some exotic animal escaped from a zoo! But now a days, I stare back and smile (minus the latter sometimes to avoid any sexual innuendo!) We’re still living in a world where ‘difference‘ in people is often seen as a ‘threat‘ (to jobs, to society, to culture, to the blood-line!) rather than it being celebrated (and as a black woman I can tell you there’s a fine line between being celebrated, and being sexualised or even fetishised – let’s not get it twisted). As for the Czech Republic, with this being possibly my fifth visit (though first time in Hradec Králové) I went with an open mind as to how my ‘difference’ (my race, my big hair) might be perceived especially in the arms of my white boyfriend, but still be me (my race, my big hair and all!)
I’m aware of the anti-Semitic actions of the Czech Republic towards Jews during WWII (World War 2), which today could translate into Czechs still having a prejudice towards anyone different, however as a visitor on various occassion, I’ve never personally experiences any hostility towards me. On previous trips to Czech Republic I’ve had mixed experience; in Prague, a destination which sees tourists of all nationalities, I pretty much blended in as a ‘tourist’, regardless of my skin colour. However slightly different experience staying with friends in Povrly (a village, pretty much white homogenious) where my skin colour was a factor of interest especially to an old mechanic who asked to shake my hand because he’d never seen black woman before(!) In exchanged I asked for a picture of him with his broken cars as the backdrop, which ended up on my living room ‘wall of frames’ (ah those days when I was a budding photographer who actually took photographs using a camera and not an iPhone!).
I realise I have some form of privilege due to the fact that I’m treated as a visiting tourist and not someone trying to make a life there. Here’s the thing; people will stare/express curiosity either way; if I’m travelling alone, or walking down the street with my white Czech boyfriend (the latter is so much easier to handle though!). I couldn’t careless, I’m too busy being care-free and unapologetically me
I skipped the touristic visit to a museum, opting for something more local by way of a leisure activity! As the city is largely unknown to foreign tourists, I was assumed to be a student on more than one occasion. One of those being on a visit to the local Aqua Park for the use of their impressive 50m Swimming eight-lane Pool where I spent the entire session lazing in the steam room whilst Ivo did his numerous laps (sorry-not-sorry!) And just for the record – to break a damaging stereotype – I can swim! On our arrival the cashier rhetorically asked if I was a student (which I took as a compliment to mean I look under 25) and immediately proceeded to give me a discount needing no convincing (because why else would I be in Hradec Králové if not to study, right?!)
📍Aqua Park with adjoining 50m Swimming Pool and Steam Room facilities, Eliščino nábřeží 842 | Hradec Králové, Czech Republic
Let’s do Lunch
I thought I’d struggle to find food I’d enjoy due to being a pescatarian / vegetarian, and the Czechs are known for their heavy meaty meals! However The Archway offers a delicious salmon gravalax salad, and Ivo opted for the Cesar salad with an option of grilled Norweign salmon (an unlikely combination but it works!) We enjoyed a warming spinach soup as a starter, served with a basket of bread.
This restaurant was a lucky find for us on a chilly Sunday afternoon when everything seemed to be closed. Pleasant gothic-style interior with an ambient mood, attentive service (our waiter was particularly charming), excellent food, family-friendly yet cosy enough for a table for two – overall a great lunch choice!
📍The Archway, Velke Namesti 144 | Hradec Králové, Czech Republic
Let’s do Dinner
I love an opportunity to get dolled up for a night out, and Hradec Králové would be no exception even if I had no plans to explore the nightlife beyond a dinner date. We opted for an alcohol-free evening at Šatlava which we’d discovered that afternoon during a wander around the Old town.
Discreetly located within a former prison complex on a cobbled-stone backstreet of the Old Town, the Šatlava offers an affordable fine dining experience of Czech cuisine with a contemporary twist. I opted for a light vegetarian main of polenta dumplings with butter and parsley, mushroom, zucchini (courgettes), spinach and white wine topped with parmesan. Simply delicious! If anything I could have done with a tad more sauce, but I honestly enjoyed every bite. Ivo on the other hand was less excited about his main of grilled duck breast with pumpkin puree, plum sauce and roasted seeds. His feedback; the dish was over complicated – basically too sweet!
Speaking of sweet, we followed through with dessert which didn’t fail to impress even if mine didn’t look as a cheese cake usually does, but more like a ball of dough (but hey, I’m first to dip my finger in bowl of cookie dough for a cheeky lick so I it didn’t bother me!) We were so caught up with our desserts I forgot to take a picture prior to us tucking in (which can only be a good sign, compliments to the chef!)
We dined at the rear of the restaurant featuring a warming fire-wood centrepiece, and a view which overlooks the Žižka Gardens, formerly the city walls (visible during day light hours). Another satisfactory culinary experience to remember in Hradec Králové!
📍Šatlava, Dlouhá 101/13, Hradec Králové
The Siberian snow I’d mentally prepared myself for was actually nowhere to be seen during the three days of my trip (though I came face on with it on my arrival back to London CLICK HERE to read about it!). That said, it was certainly felt with freezing temperatures as low as minus 11 celcius some mornings. However the sun was out for much of my stay, and I can only imagine Hradec Králové to be beautiful in the summer months… I might just have to swing by and czech-it-out again (last one, had to!)
- London Stansted by Ryanair (every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday)
- Alicante by Ryanair (every thursday and monday) – from 26th March 2018
- Moscow Domodedovo by Red Wings Airlines (every Thursday, Sunday)
Hradec Králové is connected to the national rail network by Czech Railways (České dráhy) with the city serving as a hub for East Bohemia (along with Pardubice). Most travelers by train arrive at the Art Deco Hradec Králové hlavní nádraží (Hradec Králové hl.n) near the entrance of the city’s New Town.
- Prague: 1.45 hours, depart hourly.
- Pardubice: 20 minutes, depart every half hour.
- Liberec: 2.5 hours, depart bi-hourly.
Where to stay
Airbnb offers a wide range of short stay accommodation options with locals, from a private room to renting an entire apartment. Use my code to get £25 off your first booking anywhere in the world CLICK HERE!
Nové Adalbertinum offers great value hotel accommodation in the heart of the Old Town. Single and double rooms available, with complimentary breakfast included.
📍Velké náměstí 32, Hradec Králové, 50003, Czech Republic
Other blog posts from my visits to the Czech Republic:
Well that was my mini city break in Hradec Králové, Czech Republic… Would you like for me to share more reviews of places I visit, interviews, restaurant recommendations, plus throw in a cheeky vlog every now and then? Subscribe to my blog, and interact with a comment, like, or share and join me on my social media platforms – links below!
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Useful References: wikitravel.org