Some of the best places we visited on our travels have been discovered by coincidence and that was the case with Loket, a small village in the Czech Republic.
Small and mellow is the best way to describe Loket, for only about 3000 people live here. As you enter the town across it's main bridge, it may begin to look oddly familiar. That's because this little town was used as a stand in for Montenegro in the 2006 James Bond film, Casino Royale.
Despite the early hour, there was not a soul to be found on the streets and the only one grocery store in town was already closed. As we tried to navigate through the narrow streets looking for our B&B, we got a glimpse of this fairly tale town, with a castle sitting on the top of the hill. We couldn't believe that we had never heard of this place before.
Our hotel Stein Elbogen, which we booked just a few hours earlier turned out to be better than in the pictures. Perfectly situated by the river, this beautiful mansion, painted in a tasteful pinkish color with original stone walls, used to belong to the owners of the oldest porcelain factory in Bohemia. After dropping our bags off in our spacious room, we headed down to the restaurant. We walked down an old, stone staircase with vaulted ceilings, which felt like walking through an old castle. The hotel restaurant was just like the town, cute and quiet. We sat by the crackling fire place and ordered a beer. Behind the bar the owner was casually chatting with a friend and we kept wondering where were all the people on a Friday night?
A day in Loket
Saturday morning felt unusually quiet and most of the shops around the main square appeared to be closed. We headed to the castle on a self guided tour, which included some typical castle stuff like a porcelain display room, armory, and of course, a torture room in the dungeons. We spent a few hours walking amongst the cold castle walls, and we even climbed the tower to see the view of the city. Again, there were barely any tourists around, which was great for so many reasons, but most importantly we didn't have to photoshop any of our pictures.
The gingerbread tradition in Czech dates back to 1324 and it was probably introduced by bakers from Nuremberg, Germany. Till this day gingerbread is baked here, and Loket is known for a specific type if gingerbread called Elbogener Pumpernickel. You can see a wooden mold for gingerbread in the middle picture below.
After the tour of the castle we walked out on the bridge to get a full view of the town. You really get a sense of the scale from a distance. The original suspension bridge opened in 1835, but was later replaced with the existing stone bridge due to the economic crisis in 1936. From the bridge you can take the stairs down to a path along the Ohře river, where the locals like to go for walks.
The Brewery and Museum
Rodinny Pivovar Svaty Florian is an excellent local brewery with a long tradition of brewing beer. The first floor is a small museum/gift shop and the bottom floor is a restaurant and a brewery. They serve four types of beer: light, dark, and two smoked. They are all excellent! You can also try some traditional Czech food here, but we've been told that food is not as good as the beer.
At the end of the day we returned to our lovely B&B and booked another night. We wanted to spend another day here repeating what we did the first day. We also found out why the town has been so empty. Apparently, after the new years a lot of businesses close for a holiday break and reopen in late February. Some hotels might still be open but most of shops and cafes are closed during this time. We actually enjoyed the quiet and peaceful atmosphere during our stay in Loket but next time we would love to come back and visit in the summer when everything is in full swing.
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