Czechia’s Pandora

Probably the most famous rock formations in Adrspach appropriately called “Mayor and Mayoress”.

This summer I was supposed to go to Spain but restrictions from Czechia where I’m residing right now makes it a bit complicated due to the sudden surge of the number of COVID cases. It’s quite sad since I was really looking forward to it but it’s better to be on the safer side of things in this circumstance. However, I feel that I really need a break from work so I searched for places inside Czechia for my last minute travel plans. I found this place called Adrspach close to the border with Poland which I haven’t heard of before but is actually famous among Czechs. It’s known for a high density of naturally occurring limestone karsts and rock formations. I saw pictures online and I was enticed so I booked train tickets and a hotel and went there for a couple of nights. I actually stayed in Teplice nad Metuji which is the adjacent village, also with its own hiking park that’s conveniently connected to Adrspach’s.

The place is quite accessible from Prague. You can get there in 3-4 hours depending on which train connections you take. I took the fastest route with the train that goes from Prague to Starkoc where I changed to take a smaller train to Teplice nad Metuji, as suggested by the Czech travel go-to website There’s only a 3-minute allowance though in between the train trips at Starkoc, in fact, I had to wait in this really tiny station for about half an hour because I missed the connection due to the delay of my train from Prague. It kind of prolonged the journey but it could have been worse.

When I arrived in the train station at Teplice nad Metuji, I walked to the town center for half an hour to warm me up for the hiking ahead. There’s nothing much along the road but the town center is a bit charming. I then proceeded a little bit further to Hotel Orlik where I stayed, conveniently situated close to the entrance of the Teplice natural park. The place was newly renovated so it felt a bit luxurious (sans AC, although it really wasn’t necessary since it gets chilly in the mountains in the summer evenings). It was a pleasant stay with quite delightful breakfast options although the restaurant was still not fully functional when I was there. The langos at a nearby small eatery was nonetheless a comforting option.

As I have arrived in the afternoon, my game plan was first to go to Adrspach and then hike through the forests back to Teplice. The app was super helpful in my navigation even in areas without strong network signal because of its offline options. I followed the red route from Hotel Orlik which was pretty much straightforward and went for about 4 km through flat terrain. Then I was met with a crossroads at the railway where the green trail is very close so instead of following the red trail, I took the green one and ended up at the eastern side of the Adrspach lake. Apparently, you should go buy the entrance ticket but since I came from the woods, I only realized this when I saw the gate from the inside. I felt guilty and just bought it although I realized that you can easily, completely get away for not paying. Anyway, it’s just 120 czk. The lake was stunning. Too bad swimming is prohibited although it’s really for the best with it being a conserved area. It’s kind of sad that I won’t be able to be near a decent beach this summer but it was not a terrible consolation to be in Adrspach lake. There were sandy areas around to try to re-imagine that summer vibe. From there, the paths are well labeled with sign posts on every corner and the colored lines on the tree trunks along the way so you won’t get lost. I just circled around the entire Adrspach park trying to soak in the grandeur of the rock formations. It was out of this world – like giant aliens sleeping tight never to be awakened again. It was definitely magical. There are wood-paved paths also that wind through the moist cracks in between the rock formations so it felt like being transported into another dimension. Not to mention, a Gothic gate welcomes you to the dark corners which added to the supernatural feel. The hike is mostly flat although there are occasional steep climbs to the elevated viewing platforms.

You know what they say, ‘Every journey starts with a single step.’

From the southeastern tip of the Adrspach hiking loop, the path branches out to the Teplice reserve. I took the path to get to my hotel which was probably a good 5 km of half-uneven and half-paved terrain. I did not explore much this part yet as I was just hurrying up to get home before it gets dark thinking that I still have the next day to go around the Teplice reserve.

The next day, I pursued the Teplice hike and simply followed the blue trail suggested by the tourist map that you can get from the entrance. There were less people in this trail than in Adrspach but the rock formations here are even more jaw-dropping. It was like a thousand ecosystems brought together in between the rock formations. There were forest-y areas, humid-cave like spaces in between rocks, sandy desert-like paths, pine trees and of course towering karsts aptly named by their silhouettes which takes a while to get to figure out at an angle. It’s a bit rougher than Adrspach in some sections but mostly, it looks amateur enough for leisure hiking. There’s also this 300-step super steep climb to one of the elevated viewpoints which was vertigo-inducing. I’m not sure if the view from above was worth it but you know what they say, it’s the journey that matters.

From the blue trail, I took the yellow trail connection back to Adrspach since I plan to go another trail just a little bit north. I just went quickly to the same path I took the day before and at this point the park was packed. I did manage to find my way out and went straight to the path that goes to the Křížový vrch peak with its own Stations of the Cross images carved on the rock walls along a staircase to the topmost platform where a huge cross is perched overlooking the expanse of the valley underneath. This path was even more deserted than Adrspach with certain prohibited sections but it was definitely worth it. I then walked straight back to my hotel following the red trail again. I wanted to take the mini-train this time but the time schedule was a bit off so I just endured the walk. I ended my day with two pints of beer and a plateful of delicious pierogi at Penzion Severka restaurant which is terribly reviewed online but I don’t know, I had a nice meal and the service was amazing. Although I’m still salivating more about the greasy langos from the Sklep Bistro which was the next best thing to the out-of-this-world rocky landscape that I experienced. And yes, I think I keep repeating this phrase and I don’t have the motivation to edit it out but it definitely was not a bad summer after all.

Probably the closest I can get to a beach this summer.

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