Timeline: September 3rd – 6th
The drive to Cesky Krumlov took some time, all of it being on small roads with lots of speeding up and slowing down. We stopped in a little town for a bite to eat in the early afternoon, a truck stop of sorts, ordering a hamburger, fries and a coffee, all for 4.5 Euros. To this day we’re not sure what type of meat was between the buns, but it was good as were the fries, hot, crisp and salty.
The Steves guide recommends Cesky as being a quaint, Rothenberg, Germany type destination with much outdoor activity available. As the weather looked promising in the coming week, we decided to give the place a go, as it was also somewhat on the route to Vienna. As we searched for campgrounds, the one that looked promising was Camping Paradijs as they featured a “retro trailer” for rent for around 15 Euros a night.
Being tired of the rain, this sounded nice to us so I’d reserved the place for three nights. We located the place by name in Garmin and followed its instructions as we drove towards town; passing by a small sign at the side of the road that pointed to wards Camping Paradijs. We noted it but kept on into town and arrived at the address in the GPS, a tall apartment building in a residential area. A sign high up on the balcony proclaimed it as Camping Paradijs, but this was obviously not the place.
We retraced our steps and drove back out of town to where we had seen the sign, turned off the road and followed more signs from there. The paved road quickly turned to dirt as we drove along side a small river, which rafters would float down in later days. The dirt road shortly turned into a muddy road and after about a kilometer we arrived at the campground, pulling through the signed parking area, as it was a large muddy bog.
The facilities looked nice enough and a number of folks were currently camping, a good sign. One of the owners was on site (this is actually a family farm that has opened a campground at one end) and although her English wasn’t that good, we communicated enough to get registered. She said I could pay when here daughter (who spoke very good English) came later and we could put our things in the trailer.
It is hard to know what role the trailer performed in its former life. Resembling a railroad boxcar, it sat on a truck frame. But it had electricity, a small refrigerator, and a space heater. We were set. We’d noticed a large supermarket, Kaufland, on our drives in and out of town so we drove back there to pick up groceries for dinner. Next to the trailer was a large indoor room for seating, eating and cooking. There were two large refrigerators, a hot plate, some cooking utensils and dishes, a nice arrangement.
We made a green salad and some Czech canned stew with bread, a hearty enough meal. An older Czech couple was sitting at the next table (they too had greeted us warmly when we arrived) and I asked if they would like our leftover salad, which they accepted and enjoyed thoroughly. We were off to a good start.
The next day, Thursday the 4th, was devoted to sightseeing. We drove into town and parked just outside the walls of the city. Prior to starting our walking tour we went to the TI located in the main square (Namesti Svornosti) and while there got into a conversation with an older gentleman, John, a native of the area who stated that he’d been to America when younger while touring with a swing band and liked to practice his English. He asked if we could spend a few moments together and we suggested having a coffee while doing so; we walked across the square to one of the outdoor cafes, ordered two coffees and a beer for John and spent an engaging 30 minutes listening to him tell of the history of the place and his involvement in some of the events.
He talked about working for an insurance company in a building across the square, and how on the morning of August 21, 1968, Russian tanks drove down the narrow streets of the town to enter the square to quell a demonstration that was demanding freedom. We bade him farewell, glad for an opportunity to spend the time, one of our few real encounters with anyone from the countries and cities we’ve visited.
We started our walking tour at the Horni Bridge, once the fortified entry gate to the city. Just down Horni Street is the Museum of Regional History. Just before we entered it we noticed a Backroads Bicycle Tour van being loaded with nice looking titanium touring bikes. We stopped for a moment or two to chat with the young American woman loading the van, discussed the bikes themselves and some of the places we could ride around town. The tour she was supporting was Backroad’s Prague to Vienna tour, a nice but expensive one to take on a bike.
Our visit to the museum lasted nearly an hour as we viewed an extensive number of exhibits covering the history, costumes, tools, and traditions of the region. As we studied the panels that presented the history of the town, we were amazed at how precise John’s portrayal of it had been, accurate on every point.
We next stopped in at the Church of St. Vitus, a bastion of Catholicism built in the 15th century when the Roman Catholic Church was fighting the Hussites. We continued our walk down hill to the main square, crossed the Barber’s Bridge, which connects the Old Town with the Castle Town and walked back up a steep hill to enter the Krumlov Castle.
At the site of the castle’s drawbridge, we stopped to view the bear pits. The ruling family here, the Rozmberks added bears to their coat of arms in the 16th century to demonstrate their relations to the distinguished Italian family of Orsini. Since then the castle has held a family of brown bears. As we entered the castle proper we walked past crews setting up for the filming of a movie. The medieval period props lent a fascinating air to the space, taking us back to what it might have seemed like in the middle ages.
Touring the castle itself and its Baroque Theater seemed expensive for the experience we’d receive in return so we continued walking up into the castle gardens, a 2,300 foot long plot laid out in the 17th century when the noble family would have it lit with 22,000 oil lamps, torches, and candles for special occasions. The lower part of the garden is geometrical and symmetrical, French garden-style. The upper is rougher, in the English style.
We walked back down to the car and drove back to camp, stopping once again at the Kaufland for groceries. A quick dinner ensued and we spent another nice evening in the trailer, staying dry, catching up on blog posts (the Wi-Fi was incredibly slow) and watching some Fawlty Towers episodes on the laptop.
It had been another fine day for sightseeing, with an interesting encounter and some beautiful views. We looked forward to our next few days in town.
Camping Paradijs: http://www.camping-paradijs.eu/
Cesky Krumlov: http://www.ckrumlov.info/docs/en/kaktualita.xml
Backroads Bike Tours: http://www.backroads.com/trips/BZAQ/czech-republic-austria-biking-tour
House of Rosenberg: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_of_Rosenberg
Namesti Svornosti: http://www.ceskykrumlov.com/prohlidka/vnitrni-mesto/namesti-svornosti/
St. Vitus Church: http://www.encyklopedie.ckrumlov.cz/docs/en/mesto_histor_kosvit.xml
Krumlov Castle: http://www.castle.ckrumlov.cz/docs/en/zamek_oinf_sthrza.xml
Baroque Theater: http://www.castle.ckrumlov.cz/docs/en/zamek_5nadvori_bd.xml