The crooked Czech

Trip Start Aug 17, 2009
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Trip End Jul 20, 2010


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Flag of Czech Republic  , Bohemia,
Saturday, November 28, 2009

So the entire point of the trip to the Czech Republic was to visit the town of Cesky Krumlov (aka the Crooked Czech), which is in the south of the country, in what is traditionally Bohemia. The entire town of Cesky is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is wonderfully preserved in all its Gothic and Baroque glory!  Cesky is not a large town, only about 15000 residents, but it has become incredibly popular in the last 20 years and sees about a million tourists a year.  I thought it was a gorgeous city, and I have a lot of building pictures because they were just so beautiful.

Our arrival in Cesky was pretty interesting.  The four of us had planned to take the train from Prague to Cesky where we would meet up with everyone else who was coming from Vienna, but when we were checking into our hostel in Prague they recommended we take the bus instead, as it would be cheaper and faster.  Well, it was definitely cheaper (only about 8 euro vs. 25 euro) and shaved 2 hours off the trip, but it was a rather interesting trip.  We bought our tickets at the bus station and thankfully had assigned seats, because the other option was to buy them directly from the driver.  Apparently this is cheaper, but you don't get a seat.  When we pulled out of the bus station in one of those big tour buses the seats were full and there were people standing in the aisle!  About the first 90 minutes of the trip was spent with the bus crammed full of people.  Alisia and I were worried that the guy standing between us was going to puke, because we watched him get paler and paler and sort of weave where he was standing.  He was definitely not feeling well.  Thankfully most of the people in the aisles and several sitting got off the bus at the 2nd stop, so the rest of the trip was pretty uneventful and I had a chance to sleep a little, since the "scenery" outside was just highway.

Once we got to Cesky we had to find a taxi driver to drive us to the hotel where everyone had already checked in, which was a little more of an effort than we expected.  After settling into the room the group headed over to the main square where we met up with Stanislaw, our tour guide.  Stan came to Cesky about 25 years ago so he has seen the town transform from a rundown communist back-water manufacturing town to the “jewel” of the Czech Republic.  Stan took us on a tour around the town, up to the 15th century church of St Vitus, which was very beautiful, and then down along the river, through the “puddle square,” so named because whenever they get a really heavy rainstorm the square floods, and then we hiked up to the imposing castle, which was built to incorporate the massive rock it sits on.  Most of the castle dates from around the 13th and early 14th century, while the interior is typical Baroque (and of course, if it’s not Baroque, don’t fix it!).  Unfortunately, being a small town, even a tourist-centric one, the castle exhibits close about 5pm on Saturday and open in the afternoon on Sunday, so couldn’t actually go in the castle.  But we did get to see some of the grounds, walk across the castle bridge which links one side to the other across a deep crevice in the rock, and we saw the moat where they keep bears.  Most of the time you think of moats as being full of water, but here there have traditionally been bears to guard the entrance.  The first ones were put in the moat in the 1600’s and there are still 3 who live in the moat, although they are rarely seen during the day, preferring to stay under the stone bridge.  We did see a “bear-butt” Sunday morning before we left, but just briefly before he retreated back under the bridge, so they do exist!

After our tour on Saturday I explored the square and the little Christmas market, enjoying a cup of hot punch (passing on the significantly stronger Grog), and doing some window shopping.  Saturday night we had a reservation at a restaurant that does a traditionally medieval meal.  We had hot mead, soup, a platter of meat and potatoes, and then apple strudel and cinnamon rolls for dessert.  It was delicious and so much fun, even if the meat was a little salty.  And there was an adorable Lab-mix there in the restaurant with his owner (again with the dogs inside!  I love this) and he was so cute begging from us (the dog, not the owner) it was almost like being home. 

After dinner the organizers took us over to the bar at the Travelers Hostel, which, like everything else in Cesky, has kept its historic vibe.  The bar/common room had the perfect atmosphere: wide planked hardwood floors, scuffed and well-worn wooden tables and benches, carved wood detail, more dogs lounging on the floor, absolutely perfect atmosphere, the only thing missing was a roaring fireplace with some spitted game roasting.  We spent the next several hours here just talking.  Most of us stuck with Czech wine or beer, but Kit went for the real reason to go to the Czech Republic – Absinth.  I can now say I’ve tried the real stuff, took a tiny sip of his, but couldn’t get past the taste or smell of licorice, not that I would really want to anyway.  Thanks anyway, I’ll stick with my glass Bohemian red wine!

Most of us slept in on Sunday, since we didn’t have anywhere to be or really anything to do.  But I did get up and get going in time to go out for lunch at, of all places, a Chinese restaurant that overlooked the square.  After lunch it was shopping time!  Spent more money than I intended but got some great souvenirs before heading back to the hotel to pack up and head home.

As with Prague I could easily have spent more time here.  The town is GORGEOUS and so much fun.  In the summer they have a medieval festival that I think would be great to go to sometime.
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