Cesky Krumlov : A Sleeping Beauty
Our wonderful floating hotel, the Avalon Passion
We have reached the end of the beautiful Wachau Valley and while the Avalon Passion lies quietly alongside the riverbank, we board a coach for the short trip across the border to the Czech Republic. This is one of the optional tours on offer on our river cruise.
We drive to the World Heritage site of Cesky Krumlov through the immaculate Austrian countryside. Traditional pitch roofed farm houses all with perfectly placed wood stacks dot the lush grassy fields. Wild flowers nod their heads in the breeze. If Heidi herself appeared from the woods you wouldn’t be surprised! All is manicured, crisp and clean.
We cross the border, almost without realising it. A couple of signs tell us that we are passing through the former iron curtain. The Czech republic was created in 1989 after the so called Velvet Revolution, in what was formerly Czechoslovakia. Cesky Krumlov was largely neglected in the communist era but after a recent renovation programme the town is enjoying a renaissance. A sleeping beauty awakes.
Fortunately, we’ve started out early. We left the ship at 8.30 and we arrive in Cesky about an hour later just ahead of the crowds. One and a half million people visit this charming fortified town every year so its good to be ahead of the play!
Cesky Krumlov has been known for centuries as ‘The Pearl of the Bohemian Forest’. It doesn’t disappoint. Straddling a bend in the Vltava River it is a beautifully preserved medieval town of stone bridges, cobblestoned lanes, galleries and inns all overlooked by its imposing castle. You can climb the tower. Its not overly taxing and well worth the view.
Take the castle tour. It lasts about an hour and boasts a magnificent golden coach and again, beautifully preserved royal apartments. There are some dark stories about the castle, one of which involves a mentally ill prince who tossed his young wife out of one of the upper windows. She apparently landed on a rubbish pile and survived (just as well they routinely tossed their rubbish out the windows in the middle ages …. their rubbish…NOT their wives) but from the sound of things it didn’t end well for her. Watch out for the two bears who live in the castle moat. There’ve been bears there since the end of the sixteenth century but they were having a well deserved rest when we visited. About five hundred people live in the old town, keeping it humming. Many of them run the myriad little cafes and inns.
We stop for a traditional Czech ‘Trdelnik’ The Trdelnik, or chimney cake, is a kind of roasted donut roll dusted with cinnamon, warm and delicious we munch on them while we explore the town.
Cesky Krumlov was largely ignored under the communist regime and much of it fell into disrepair but a restoration programme began thirty years ago. Now the town’s become a hub for artists and craftspeople. I loved the juxtaposition of medieval architecture and contemporary sculpture.
Later, we stop at a little cafe overlooking the river for bratwurst with mountains of sweet mustard washed down with the locally brewed Budweiser Budvar beer and watch the kayakers ducking and diving down the river. Kayaking is huge here. You can hire them if you want to join the locals.
Our river trip slips seamlessly between four European giants. Hungary, Austria, Germany and The Netherlands.
The German leg of the journey begins on the Main River which we reach by way of the Main Danube canal. (See more on this watery staircase in my upcoming piece on the Main Danube Canal.
Tips for Cesky Krumlov
- We can thoroughly recommend Bolero for lunch. It overlooks the river and has an entry off the main street.
- Take time to walk up the hill past the castle to the castle gardens. Not only will you get a great view of the town but the garden is an oasis of loveliness amidst the bustle.