Cesky Krumlov

Trip Start May 12, 2009
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25
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Trip End May 12, 2009


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Caravan Camping

Flag of Czech Republic  , Jihočeský Kraj,
Friday, July 31, 2009

Today we visited Cesky Krumlov, here in the Czech Republic.

Cesky Krumlov is an old town located within a number of bends of the local river.  The town itself is a mishmash of old buildings dating from the 1200's until the 1700's.  It has narrow cobbled streets lined with colourful old buildings.

Above it towers a church, St. Vitus, an grey old medieval building which sports some 'new' decorative elements from the 1700's.

We spent some time wandering around this old town, figuring out how to spend our day.  Eventually we hit upon a plan.

First, we rented an industrial sized rubber raft and arranged to float down the river.  The river had a stiff current, so we moved briskly.  We ran over several sets of rapids, which made for some thrills (but no spills).  We had bought some picnic supplies and had a nice lunch while drifting down the river.  The day was overcast but warm.  It was perfect.

Then we pacificists set out for our Army Training.  We drove up a Forbidden Road (with actual Soviet-era Keep Out signs) to a decommisioned Communist military base for our basic training. 

After being yelled at by a Soviet officer while standing stiffly at attention, the fun began.

We all went off into a field to stop an incursion from Austria.  This involved a man being taken down by an attack dog, while sprinting accross a field.  The kids loved that.

Then we headed back to the barracks for a ride in a real Soviet military jeep.  The machine was old and balky, but tough.  This was no gentle tour in a museum piece.  We tore through potholes and did some drifting in a field.  The Soviet jeep was quite a beast.  No top.  Creaky doors.  4 forward speeds with no synchro.  The kids had a hoot.

After that it was time for a bit of propoganda.  We viewed old communist propoganda posters.  I had my picture taken with an actual hammer and sickle flag.

Now came the part that the kids (or more particularly Nick and Russell) had been looking forward to - the shooting and hand-grenade tossing.

First we had to engage in a bit of military training, which consisted of running an obstacle course while carrying an AK-47.  A real AK-47, but not loaded. 

We all tried throwing hand grenades.  We were assured that they had been disarmed.  You would be surprised how hard it is to throw them far enough or accurately enough to do any damage.

Then it was time for a bit of shooting.  I'm afraid that we were all terribly bad shots.  Russell thought that he might be sniper material, with a bit of practice, but I'm not so sure.  Not many tin cans were hit.

After that we saw some old Communist propoganda footage and learned a bit about the history of this area.  The last few hundred years seemed to consist of repeated rounds of ethnic cleansing.  Germans got rid of Czechs.  Czechs and Americans ganged up to get rid of Germans.  Slovaks moved in.  Czechs got rid of Slovaks.  And so it went.  At one point after WWII we were told, 90 percent of the population of Cesky Krumlov (the entire German speaking population) got evicted.

Then it was time for a bit of Gypsy music.

In the course of renting our raft for the ride down the river, we had a conversation with the driver.  He said that this was his summer job while he studied clarinet in university.  And he said he and his band of Gypsies were playing in a bar tonight.  So after military training we headed to the bar with the kids.

It was quite a performance.  The bar was a tiny hole in the wall on a back street below the castle.  There were maybe 5 tables in very close proximity.  The room was hot and full of smoke.  The band, including our raft-renting friend, were crammed into a corner by the washroom.  The room was jammed.  And the band played gypsy music.  It was a wonderful, wild rollicking performance.  I don't know if you would call the tunes reels or what, but it was great fun.  Once in a while there would be a bit of a solo by the accordianist or the guitarist or our friend the  clarinetist.  The singing was something else - something between macho strutting and wailing.  The congregation (you can't use the term audience for this kind of participatory activity) joined in, clapping, dancing and singing along. 

We liked the town so much that we decided to stay an extra day.  We'll go look at the castle tomorrow.

 
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