Cesky Krumlov – Rivers and Rooftops

CeskyKrumlov.jpg

Ahoy! (That’s Czech for hello). We have just spent a wonderful 3 days in Cesky Krumlov.

Cesky Krumlov is a beautiful little town with narrow, windy, cobblestoned streets. Left almost completely untouched during the war, it’s old buildings have been preserved – giving it Unesco World Heritage status and a fairytale atmosphere. It is situated between a bend in the Vlatava River and is very picturesque. Our hostel (the only one for the trip) ‘Krumlov House’ was in a 400 year old building and used to be a bakery. We had a lovely attic room. A bit of a hazard for Tim’s poor head.

On our first day in Cesky, we decided to orient ourselves with the town by taking a ‘free’ tour (you tip the guide at the end). It’s got quite an interesting history for such a small place. Devastated by the plague and losing 70% of its population. Then losing 70% again when all German speakers were expelled from the country following the fall of Nazi Germany. It did not start becoming a tourist mecca until the late 90s/early naughties. Business is booming now though, with floods of tourists arriving every day. Apparently, a property in the main square would have cost you about $2000USD in the early 90s. It would now set you back about 2 Million!

Our tour guide was a cheeky local (who liked to remind us shamelessly of his wonderful family restaurant). He showed us around the town including the river, castle, haunted music school, towns square etc and filled us in on the history, architecture and lots more.

On the tour we met a lovely New Zealander, Jess. We got chatting and lo and behold found out we are both service designers. Now for those of you who know what I do, this is a bit like finding a needle in a haystack. Unlike Tim, who meets other teachers pretty much everywhere we go, finding another service designer I would say is about a million to one chance.

Two days later Jess joined us for one of the highlights of not only our Cesky Krumlov stay, but probably the whole trip – rafting down the river. On arriving in Cesky, we soon learned that this is the one ‘must do’ activity there. You start in the town and can then choose a pick up point down the river, depending on how long you want to go for. You can paddle down it for days, but we chose a trip that would take us about four hours, including a stop for lunch.

It was so beautiful and relaxing. The scenery is so serene and paddling very easy – given the current. Other rafts would often go by and you would shout ‘Ahoy!’ to each other as you pass. About half way down we stopped at a camping/picnic point. I think we were the only foreigners there. It was such a quaint little spot, with kids playing, dogs running around and getting into mischief and animated Czechs kicking back and enjoying a beer and a BBQ. We happily joined in.

The menu at the little ramshackle BBQ hut had three options. Sausage, steak and some strange foil wrapped package which appeared to be some kind of vegetarian option. We hoed down some steak and sausage, along with some well earned beers. Later, we discovered the mysterious foil wrapped package was in fact barbecued camerbert cheese. Yes, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Safe to say we had shared this as a second course.

Baked, grilled, fried and barbecued cheese it turns out is a bit of a Czech speciality. You can get it in some form or another on most menus. I’ve been doing a bit of family history research on the trip and it turns out relatives on Mum’s side came from the Czech Republic. So cheese eating is in the blood.

This was just one of the great meals we had in Cesky. Others included a massive shared banquet plate of different meats, casserole, krauts, slaws and other bits and bobs at one of our favourite restaurants U Dwau Maryi, more barbecued cheese, sausage and multi-meat mix grill at Rytirska Krcma Marketa and the traditional Trdelnik (fondly referred to by Tim and I as Trade Links or Turtle Necks). Oh and beer. So much beer. I blame the Czech replublic for the weight I am sure I have gained.

The pace of our Cesky Krumlov stay was a bit more laid back that previous stops, as it’s quite a small place. We still managed to pack a few touristy things in though:

The Ergon Schiele Art Centrum: Shiele, famous for his involvement in the Secession movement, spent time in Cesky Krumlov as it was his Mother’s home town. He wasn’t there for long though due to being ousted by disapproving locals after they accused him of pedophilia basically (he painted young girls, but was later acquitted of anything more sinister). This was a really stunning little gallery. Aside from Schiele there were a number of other artists on display, including a huge display from Joseph Váchal and a great temporary exhibition of an artist called Karin Pliem. I loved her work. She paints beautiful, vibrant, abstracts.

Castle Museum and Tower: These were a little ho hum. The museum dislplays artefacts from the 20th century, which sadly doesn’t impress that much in a town that has hundreds of years of history. We sadly missed out on seeing the castle theatre tour, which is supposed to be great. Oh well, next time.

Regional Museum: This was a very, very thorough museum of the history of Cesky Krumlov and the surrounding area. There was so much detail in this place you could have spent days trying to get through it all. We whizzed through, stopping at a few things that piqued our interest. If you’re interested in history it’s worth seeing, but we were a bit historied out by the time we made it there.

The great thing about these attractions, was that we were able to see them all (plus a couple of others we didn’t make it to) on the Cesky Krumlov Card, for which we paid a whopping 200CZK for ($11).

What I really loved about Cesky though was not the attractions, but just the atmosphere and walking the beautiful streets. It felt cozy, the people were friendly, it just had such a charm to it. Many people come planning to stay a couple of days and end up there for week, months and even years. I can see why. I could have easily parked myself there and stayed happiy for who knows how long. It was like Manarola in that way. Maybe I’m a small town girl living a big city girls body.