And now we get to the magical Český Krumlov. I must admit that just looking at the photos has made me feel very nostalgic.
I had not planned in advance how to get from one city to the next as I had four nights in each place and I figured it couldn’t be that difficult, right? Well, this was the exception. I found out it takes about nine hours and three trains to get to Český Krumlov from Vienna and there were no charter buses! How could it be? Český Krumlov is a UNESCO world heritage site and Vienna is the capital of Austria after all. I was feeling quite worried by then, as the thought of changing trains in a place where I don’t know the language did not sound very appealing. I kept researching and luckily, stumbled upon a review on TripAdvisor of a minibus company that picks you up at your hotel in Vienna and drops you off at your hotel in Český Krumlov in about three and a half hours! It was a tad more expensive, but so worth it. I was really relieved. I was lucky too because they were closed until the day before my departure, as the driver was going on holidays. Phew! The ride went smoothly enough (apart from the tailgating) and the driver was a nice guy about my age. As we were getting closer to CK, I kept seeing very young women on the side of the road, in the middle of nowhere, dressed as though they were about to go clubbing. Suddenly I remembered seeing this before in Florence. I asked the driver whether they were prostitutes and he exclaimed: yes! It made me sad.
When we finally went through the charming gate at the entrance to CK, a huge smile immediately appeared on my face; I knew right away that I would never forget the days to come. For people like me, who are fascinated with medieval times, CK is truly a dream.
I entered my 15th century pension (which is just beyond the town gate) and was warmly greeted by a young man who even helped me figure out how to set up the Internet connection on my new Asus Eee!
This is the pension, with a close up of one of the paintings on the exterior wall:
I settled in and decided it was time to enjoy a nice supper. I decided not to go too far, as I was tired and I didn’t want to walk alone in the dark in an unfamiliar place. Only a minute away from my pension, I came across a lovely gourmet French restaurant by the name of Le jardin, which had a nice patio. I didn’t think I could afford to eat there but I decided to have a look at the prices and was pleasantly surprised! It was still warm out, but as dusk began to fall, there was a little chill in the air. The waiter came out to greet me and to light some torches. It all felt so poetic…
This is the restaurant and the view from it (you can see my pension on the left):
The menu made my mouth water. I opted for a lemon chicken dish and I wish I had written down what it was exactly as it turned out to be one of the best meals I’ve ever had. The presentation was just stunning. I can’t believe I only paid about $11 for it!
So very delicious!
I had a dessert that was equally as delicious and stayed there for a long time just taking it all in and then read a little.
I wish you could have been there with me so that you could understand how special CK was. In many ways, the colourful buildings bearing medieval paintings reminded me of Lucerne, which comes in at a close second. Words and photographs could never suffice to convey the special atmosphere of this enchanting place. I can only try my best!
The construction of the town began in the 13th century along the winding Vlatava River. Luckily, it was not touched by the great wars and so, the Gothic, baroque and renaissance architecture, which dates from the 14th to the 17th centuries, has remained intact.
As the cobblestone streets follow no rules, I decided to set off with no particular route in mind. The scent of burning wood permeated the streets and little lanterns had been lit in front of the quaint little stores, to welcome visitors.
I truly felt as though I had been transported back to medieval times as I roamed around. At some point, I came upon a lookout and the view was just breathtaking. There was a young couple so intensely in love; seeing them made me recall that I too once felt that way. I wished I was not alone at that moment.
I was very pleased to discover that Egon Schiele, the Viennese artist I had discovered in Vienna, had lived in CK for 10 years (his mother was from there) and as such, there was a museum dedicated to him. I took advantage of the only rainy day of my trip to visit the museum, as well as a marionette museum (Czechs are famous for their marionettes).
The second day I saw people walking around with what looked like some kind of pastry that seemed really delicious. I found out that they are called Trdelnik and they were amazing! They are made from rolled dough that is wrapped around a stick then grilled and topped with sugar and ground walnuts or cinnamon. I had one each day I was there!
The castle was one of my favourite; it was stunning! I noticed that I had to join a tour in order to visit it and for the luxury of going on an English tour (or any other foreign language) one had to pay a lot more, so I decided it would be amusing to take the tour in Czech! It was funny, I understood about five words the whole time!! Sadly I could not take photos inside, but here are some of the outside.
I went to visit the castle grounds too and at the very back of them was a magnificent pond with lily pads and red fish. On my way there, a really sweet looking old Czech man and his family were walking in front of me. I really wanted to take his photo and I sneaked a few but I could never get a good one. Luckily, at the pond, the perfect opportunity arose: the gentleman caught me trying to sneak a picture but I pretended I was taking something else so he started laughing. That is when I asked him if I could take his photo. Hi son was good enough to translate for me and the gentleman didn’t seem to understand why I would want to take his photo but at the same time, you can see that he was quite proud:
I also sneaked some pics of this lady…
After that, I visited the coolest art gallery ever! It was in the castle dungeon. The lighting was subdued, it was humid, there was water dripping…very eerie. The work of a local artist by the name of Miroslav Paral was being featured and it turns out that I really loved it.
I took so many lovely photos in CK that it’s hard to pick! Here are some more:
I came across what I can only hope was a very early start to a stag party. Yes, that’s right, it’s a guy with a chicken on his head drinking beer barefoot on cobblestone streets. Ouch!
As usual, a few candid shots:
The best evening I had on my trip was here, sitting at a traditional Bohemian restaurant called U Dwau Maryi (The Two Marys). The owners went through extensive research in order to serve the food that local people ate in medieval times. I sat on the patio, the Vlatava flowing beside me, and looked at the castle and the ducks swimming around. Dusk was falling, lanterns were lit and the atmosphere was amazing. The waiters were having a blast, everyone had a beer in front of them (including me!) and everyone was in a good mood.
The food was completely different from what I had at the gourmet restaurant but it was just as delicious. Again, one of the best meals I’ve ever had. I opted for the “bohemian feast”, which included chicken and ham cooked on the fire, millet cakes, dumplings, sauerkraut, potatoes and salad. Mmmmmm. I tried to find something similar in Praha but alas…I will have to return some day. There are photos on their Web site: http://www.2marie.cz/5/en/normal/photogallery/.
I also treated myself to a dessert: cheese dumplings covered in a blueberry coulis. I didn’t take this photo but it happens to be exactly what I ate so here it is:
I sat for a long time just enjoying the feeling. I didn’t want to leave. They offered wool blankets to those who were cold and played beautiful traditional Czech music. Perfection.
I am finally coming to the end of this post, which again has taken me ages. Hope you enjoyed. Here are a few night shots for you before I finish:
And to end on a light note…
I left Canada over five months ago. Almost half way through my adventure…
Miss you, Sha x