Cesky Krumlov--A Gem in the Czech Republic
Some of our favorite places have taken us by surprise. Cesky Krumlov, in the Czech Republic, was one of these places.
We didn’t take the easy quick route to Cesky Krumlov from Prague because we had been on a Viking tour. Instead, we traveled from Munich, Germany using Sebastian Tours (https://sebastianck-tours.com/en/). The driver picked us up at our Munich hotel, the wonderful Hotel Marc, and dropped us off at a main square in Krumlov. (Cesky means Czech or Bavaria to signify that the town is located in that part of the country.) We walked, with our luggage, a short distance to the Castle View Apartments for our two-night stay in this UNESCO World Heritage site.
We enjoyed the restaurant across the street from Castle View Apartments, Krcma Satlava, for lunch one day. The barbecue sausage was very good with servings large enough for us to share. We enjoyed the communal tables in front of the restaurant that let us talk to other tourists and watch the passersby. (From the sound wafting up through our open windows, the place has an active nightlife as well.)
Cesky Krumlov is located in South Bohemia on the banks of the Vitava (Moldau) River. The town sprung up below the magnificent castle that was begun in the 13th century. Various tribes, including Celtic, then German, then Slavic, settled there. The town is very picturesque. During the day the Old Town is busy with tourists frantic to see everything, but the evenings become quiet as the tour buses leave. (A Korean soap opera filmed in the area has done for Cesky Krumlov what the show Dallas did for the city of the same name. Korean tourists flock to see the sights where their favorite stars stood.)
We took a tour the day after we arrived; however, I would not necessarily recommend taking a tour. You can get the information from guidebooks and find your way around the Latran area (Old Town) very easily. We wound our way through the main square, across the bridge, and up to the castle, the second largest in the Czech Republic with the Prague Castle being the largest. The Vitkovci family started the construction of the castle in 1240 but it changed ownership to the Rosenberg family in the 14th century. The Rosenbergs added bears to the surrounding moat and to their coast of arms. Under the reign of the Rosenberg family, the city flourished and grew. Their strength lasted until 1601 when the last member of the Rosenbergs was forced to sell Krumlov to Emperor Rudolf II of Habsburg. After that, ownership of the castle and town changed hands several times. Each ruling family changed the town and added to its charm.
The Castle is built on a rocky outcropping above the river which provides a strong vantage point over enemies. The complex consists of 40 buildings and palaces and beautiful gardens. You will need to purchase a ticket to enter, but the tour of the building is very interesting. We also visited the Baroque Theatre which is world-renowned. The theatre is connected to the castle via the Cloak Bridge that leads from the Masquerade Hall. The bridge itself is a masterpiece of construction, but the Baroque theatre is a shining star. (The theatre can only be viewed on a tour. We bought our tickets online before our visit so we could ensure an English tour.) The building was reconstructed in 1765-1766 by Schwarzenberg, the owner at that time, and features machinery to change scenes quickly and efficiently. It is the best-preserved theatre of its kind and still boasts its art and orchestra pit but visiting below the stage and seeing how the mechanisms work is amazing. Live performances are still given at the theatre a few times a year. (If you are planning to visit multiple museums and the castle, look into buying the Cesky Krumlov card.)
After our tour of the castle, we “forced” ourselves to have a beer since the town is the home of the original Budweiser beer, called Budvar. We also had to stop by a small shop to try trdelnik, a pastry that originated in Hungary but that has been adopted in Krumlov. The tubular pastry was filled with ice cream, a delicious mid-afternoon treat.
The food in general was great in Krumlov. Because it was so good, we ate at Papa’s Living Restaurant twice which is something we seldom do in a town. One night we ate outside by the river while the other night we ate in one of the side dining rooms. Papa’s had the most elaborate wine pouring ceremony I have ever seen. The waiter brought three glasses and a decanter. After opening the wine, he poured a small amount into his glass. He then poured this wine into each of the other glasses and the decanter. After swirling the wine in each of these, he then poured the wine back into his glass and drank it. Tasting that the wine was good, he then poured the rest of the bottle into the decanter. (My husband said that the ceremony was to make certain the bottle and glasses were clear of any soap or particles. I thought that he just wanted to drink some wine! Either way, the experience was very impressive.) Make certain to make a reservation since the restaurant is very busy. (https://www.papas.cz/)
We enjoyed exploring the town on our own. As we walked the narrow streets, we explored smaller alleyways just to discover quaint scenes at every turn. We stopped to visit the church of St. Vitus which stands in height only second to the castle. Magnificent frescoes adorned the walls, a beautiful monument to the history of the town. We visited the gardens of the Minorite Monastery which is one of the town’s oldest surviving buildings. There were so many beautiful photo ops throughout the town that we stopped much more often than we sometimes do to take pictures and simply enjoy the scenery.
If we had not already made reservations with Sebastian Tours and the Hotel Altstadhotel Weisse Taub in Salzburg, we would have stayed another night in this romantic town to see some of the museums and more of the crooked, cobblestone streets that give Cesky Krumlov its welcoming feel. But reality happens, so we were off the next day for more new adventures!