Friday, 23 May 2014

Český Krumlov: Staying in a 500 year old house, and a Castle illiusion || Travel Diary

Travel Day 20

We left Prague early in the morning to start making our way to Český Krumlov.

Day 1:

Upon arriving we discovered that our accommodation was a quaint, 500 year old house, with a dragon on the door and a great bedroom view.

We were staying at "Krumlov House" in the renovated attic of 500 year old home. The house had lots of character and low beams, a cute dog and the owners were super friendly with lots of helpful local advice.

Český Krumlov is a river crossing town, which a lot of the cities and towns in Europe originated as. Madrid is only European capitol not based around a river.

We took a walk around the pretty cobbled streets, admiring the lushious river side parks and ancient buildings.

On the other hand, in our short time there we also saw and smelt more poop than the whole rest of Europe so far.

Being a small community the locals ate early and so the shops and restaurants were all shut before 10pm. Which was fine with us, as we thoroughly enjoyed being able to cook our own meal in the Krumlov communal kitchen.

Another noticable difference in the evenings was the lack of tourists. It was a much nicer place to walk around without having to contend with all the tour bus crowds.

Big, square European pillows are everywhere, as are slat beds. It took us a long time to get completely accustomed to some of these small things.

Day 2:
Our time in Cesky was a welcome source of relaxation after some of the bigger, more touristy cities we had visited in the past week.  

On our second day in Český Krumlov we woke up to beautiful sunny weather, and tried to book a horse riding tour but unfortunately they were completely booked out. 

So instead we started the morning with a quiet and secluded walk up a nearby hill up to lookout point.


The top of the hill offered scenic views of the medieval fortress town. With the castle and cathedral being focal points.

On our way up the hill we had noticed unusual shaped arch structures, with flowers and candles often scattered around them. About a dozen of them were placed at regular intervals on the path winding its way up the hill.

Once we reached the top, we realised they were prayer shrines in the lead up to the chapel waiting atop the hill. It is called Křížový vrch (chapel on the mountain of the cross) built in 1710. Unfortunately it was very dilapidated, with plants growing freely inside, but it still served as a point of interest non-the-less. 

After our morning walk, we ventured into the central town. Along with the tour bus crowds.

Although the crowds weren't too hard to lose, and we had no problem finding time to ourselves even while in the main square. (Check out the cute coloured houses in the background)
We continued our walk around the town, and went up to an old church "Kostel sv. Víta" but we weren't allowed to take photos. Sorry.

Then onto the most interesting building in the town, Cesky Krumlov castle "Zámecká věž". It was built in the 1400's. Over time castle fashions and building styles changed. So in order to keep their castle some what modern looking for the 1600's, and without major structural renovations, they devised a clever plan. Rather than rebuilding their walls and towers of the castle with bricks and balconies, they just painted the plain walls to make them look like other Italian Renaissance castles in the 1600's.

It certainly wasn't obvious from a distance that the beautiful colours and architecture were in fact an optical illusion. Although once this fact was pointed out to us and when viewed from a closer range, you could see the finer details and the artistry that had gone into creating them. For me, this added to my overall impression of  the castle rather than detracting from it, as this was distinctly different from the other structures we had seen around Europe so far.

The view from the top wasn't bad either.

In the moat surrounding the castle there has been a tradition since the 16th century to have bears guarding the fortress. This tradition is still alive today with a couple of big brown bears being visible from the main entrance. Personally this didn't sit to well with me, as their current living quarters are not ideal living conditions as for modern standards, but they seemed well cared for even if their enclosure wasn't very stimulating.

Further up the hill behind the castle spanned beautiful royal gardens. Which included hedge mazes, amphitheatre, fountains, lush foliage and duck filed ponds.

We went out with Steve and Cara later in the evening and had our first experience of Mead. Which was quite different from what we all expected. It was very alcoholic and strong tasting. Much like a honey flavoured fortified dessert wine or port, crossed with cough syrup. It's not something I am qualified to explain well, so hopefully you get the gist. Chris got more than his fair share as most of us couldn't stomach it as well as we had hoped and he got a little drunk.

This was then followed by further drinking, of the rather more familiar substance, Czech beer. At Hostel 99 with other fellow Busabouters.

Day 3:
Beautiful, sunny day. Lazy morning. We packed our bags and set off for our next destination at around lunchtime.

Ps. This is one place where a wheelie bag would be difficult.

Quick Summary (TL;DR)

Duration of stay: 2 nights (1 full day)
Was it enough time?: Yes, if we had planned or pre-booked horse-riding or beer rafting (which I regret not doing) it would have been enough time, alas we made our own itinerary and improvised instead.
Where we stayed: Krumlov House
Time of Year: May
Best memories: Visiting the Castle and its gardening and socialising with new friends.
Worst memories: Not feeling very well/grumpy on the first day (notice my absence in the photos?)
Top tip: Book activities prior to arrival. It was unexpectedly good weather when we arrived and we couldn't make the bookings we wanted to once there.
Next time: Beer rafting down the river will be the first thing I do.
Český Krumlov in a few words: Old, unexpected, peaceful.
Recommended?: Yes, it was nice to see another Czech town that wasn't Prague (which is all a lot of tourist ever see)
Overall experience: 6/10
Next destination: Vienna, Austria.

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