Practically Perfect

Trip Start Dec 04, 2006
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Trip End Aug 05, 2007


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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Nathan here: So the Czech Republic was our next stop after Vienna. Initially, we had planned to focus our stay around Prague. However, some friends we met in Nepal encouraged us to look into visiting Ceský Krumlov, which guide books have described as "a practically perfect medeival town." It is. Although the distance is not great, the route to the town is not direct from Vienna so it took a few trains and a bus. Regardless, it was worth it.



Tara here: Surrounded by unspoiled countryside, Ceský Krumlov, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a stunning little town with great atmosphere. Its key feature is the castle that perches over the meandering Vltava River. The town's narrow cobblestone streets wind between incredibly old buildings - most of which are either pubs, restaurants, shops, pensions or hotels.

This charming town experienced its greatest prosperity during the rule of Lords of Rozmberk (1302 - 1602), who chose Ceský Krumlov to become the seat of their kingdom. At this time, Krumlov lay on the crossroads between the Czech, Austrian, Bavarian and Northern Italian lands. The town hasn't experienced major changes since the 19th century, other than the demolition of the its fortification walls and guard towers. All this to say that it has maintained its historic character.



We spent two days touring the castle and its grounds admiring the different furnishings and learning about the town's history. What makes the castle so unique is that almost all of the furnishings are original and the castle maintains its original interior. Different rooms have been arranged to represent different time periods. Even though the castle was inhabited by the German army during the World War II, virtually nothing was taken or destroyed.



Nathan here: There are a number of hightlights at the castle. First, it contains one of the world's oldest Baroque theatres. In fact, we were told that there is only one other theatre in the world like this one and it's located in Sweden. This theatre is virtually intact from the way it was in the 18th century. It is complete with 13 full sets, hundreds of costumes and props and even sound and lighting effect machines. Again, all this dates to the 1700s.

Because of its very delicate nature, there are a limited number of opportunities to see the theatre each day. Even though we were not allowed to take photos, we count ourselves very lucky to have seen it. It really was very fascinating.

Tara here: Another interesting feature of the castle which has been preserved is the bear pit surrounding the second courtyard. Traditionally, instead of a water moat the castle kept bears in a pit to ward off unwanted visitors. Today three bears live in the pit and one of them was nice enough to pose for a few photos for us. She was a real show bear and really knew how to work a crowd.



On day two we rented a boat from our pension and paddled down the river that penetrates the town. I use the word 'paddle' lightly as the current was working for us so we didn't have to do much paddling. We were in a type of inflatable canoe and it sure was fun going over a series of rapids in it! It was a really hot day and a fabulous thing to do.



We actually decided to stay a third day in the town because Friday was the start of Cesky Krumlov's biggest festival: the Five Petal Rose festival (read: a big Renaissance festival). Friday night saw the main square filled with people in elaborate costumes and the stage alight with fire eaters, jugglers, musicians and comedians. Although the jugglers were not as entertaining (or as technically talented) as Nathan's brother Jon, we enjoyed the performances nonetheless. We especially enjoyed the readily available food and beer on our last night in this charming town.

Nathan again: A special word about Czech beer. I had previously been told that - in general - Czech beer was the best in the world. I was more than a little skeptical because I think we have some great brews back home in Canada. Well, I'm officially on the Czech bandwagon and while Alexander Keith's (www.keiths.ca) will always hold a special place in my heart, nothing beats cold Czech beer from a tap.



Nathan again: Note to travellers: there are tons of places to stay. For our part, we were very happy with Pension Svet (www.penzionsvet.cz) which was just a short walk from the old town. The owner, Michael, was incredibly friendly and helpful in terms of providing info about the town, its sites, etc. The rooms were very comfortable and clean and, most importantly, very affordable. Two thumbs up. A great view from the rooms too.

We were sad to leave CK but alas, our time in Prague was going to be short, so early the next morning off we went to Prague. More later, T&N
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