Southern Bohemia: Český Krumlov

I have often been credited (even by Sarah) with being a patient sort, but on our last morning in Vienna even I was sorely tested.

Rising early enough so as to not have to rush to to meet our shuttle bus on to the Czech Republic and Český Krumlov (a bit of a side detour on the way to Prague).

So, as planned, we arrived at the pick up point nice and early. It wasn’t long before the shuttle arrived and we began to wait for the other passengers who all arrived in good time… except one.

Now I’m not one lacking in sympathy. Delays happen, trains run late, it’s part of travel. But unfortunately, when they run late, you usually miss your connection. But our driver called his boss who told him to wait.

Over half an hour after our scheduled departure, our last passenger languidly strolled around the corner (yep, no urgency whatsoever) to several icy glares.

Still, it did mean we could finally leave and take in the Austrian countryside as we made our journey over grassy hills and woodlands.

The Austrian countryside made me feel like Steve McQueen in "The Great Escape"

The Austrian countryside made me feel like Steve McQueen in “The Great Escape”

Somewhere along the way (I have no true concept of where) we found ourselves at a standstill, sitting at the back of a long queue of motionless traffic. I’m still not sure what caused the delay, possibly roadworks or a farmers tractor, but eventually we were on our way and just after midday we were definitely across the border with the road snaking along beside a winding river.

The river was a hive of activity, as all along its length we saw people (of varying levels of physical prowess) paddling or simply floating downstream.

Before long we hit the cobble streets of Český Krumlov, our shuttle even dropping us right off at our hostels door.

A town with a view from almost everywhere

A town with a view from almost everywhere

Krumlov House proved a delight. From its charming hand carved serpentine door handle, to the friendly welcome we received from its Canadian & American owners (a husband and wife team who’d met here 20 years ago and not left) we found it to be a delight.

The place has two reasonable sized dorms, but we’d actually booked ourselves a private room. I’m unsure how much luck was involved in this, but it (the room we got) was sensational. Lying beneath the owners own house, it was actually partially built into the hillside which meant despite the incredibly hot days, this room (complete with adjoining bathroom and kitchen) remained wonderfully cool.

The impressive entry to Krumlov House

The impressive entry to Krumlov House

Our accommodation placed us uphill and on the outskirts of this Old Town (however, as an old town if differed from so many as it wasn’t enclosed by walls, but rather was bordered by the river), but it was still a pleasant stroll to find some lunch, and there was enough shade to keep me content and out of the sun.

We wandered along, eventually consulting our Lonely Planet yet again to seek a good option for lunch. We settled on an eatery by the river, although ‘settled’ isn’t really the most apt description.

Perched on the riverbank, we ordered a nice cold beer each and a Bohemian feast platter with rabbit to share and under the shade of the establishments umbrellas, watched as raft after raft bobbed past us in the water (with their occupants in various stages of sunburn).

Beautiful streets which catered to both Sarah and I. Shade for me and sun for her!

Beautiful streets which catered to both Sarah and I. Shade for myself and sun for her!

Our feast of Rabbit, Smoked Meats, Millet, Potato Cake and Salad

Our feast of Rabbit, Smoked Meats, Millet, Potato Cake and Salad

As we gorged ourselves, others toasted themselves in the afternoon sun

As we gorged ourselves, others toasted themselves in the afternoon sun

By the early afternoon we were again heading upwards, making our way towards the castle which dominates the skyline above this small town.

A short climb later we found ourselves amidst the castles manicured gardens, with its neatly clipped hedges, gravel paths and working fountain (there was also a pond, however we didn’t actually find this until the following morning).

The grounds did also host a fairly unique “Revolving Theatre.” What this actually was (it was closed for rehearsal when we were around, but did have evening performances) was a large stage built on a turntable.

It would turn to seemingly face the audience in a different direction as the show went on. I’m not sold on the concept, although as already admitted, we never actually saw a performance ourselves.

With the gardens elevated above the town, it did give us a great vantage point as well to take in yet another wonderful set of views.

Southern Bohemia's finest

Southern Bohemia’s finest

Whilst taking in the proper we stumbled upon a Surrealist art exhibition in part of the castles basement. We’re not the biggest art aficionados as I’ve stated in the past, but the entry fee was small, and it provided us some great relief from the heat.

Wash basins in the form of a gap toothed jaw

Wash basins in the form of a gap toothed jaw

It was a welcome opportunity to cool down for a time, before we made the climb up the castles tower. The views were again great, although not too dissimilar to those we saw earlier. However seeing the walls of the tower up close, we could now see that from below, what had at first looked like ornate stonework, were in fact finely painted walls.

Incredible, painted walls...

Incredible, painted walls…

Continuing our descent (as we made our way out of the castle we realised we’d entered through the back door), we made our way through the main gate and came upon the moat.

It wasn’t however full of water, but it was host to a couple of large Brown Bears. It was a spectacle that certainly drew a crowd, however it wasn’t something that sit very well with us, as I can not see how a life enclosed as such can be good for such impressive animals.

At least the did not look emaciated, but they must surely have been suffering in the heat.

We had read that there was a local brewery nearby, however it only ran tours once daily at 10.30am, a couple of hours before we had arrived. There was a small bar there where we could have had a drink, however it was fairly smoky and I was much more interested in finding a place closer to the water for another drink.

Back on the riverbank and now with beers in hand, we were at a bar where intermittently rafts of folk would moor their vessels and stop for a quick snack or cold drink.

Many others simply floated by, but it did indeed look like it could be a fun undertaking. Apparently there are opportunities to hire boats and be delivered at points varying in distance further up the river. From there you can paddle (or simply float back to town).

Unfortunately we didn’t have the time in our schedule to join in this summer fun.

We made the time for dinner in this gorgeous UNESCO heritage listed town at a small local restaurant. The size of Sarah’s meaty dumplings was ridiculous, whilst my Spätzle was absolutely delicious.

It was another beautiful summer evening and another lovely close to another fleeting visit.

The fairytale castle at night

The fairytale castle at night

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