Cesky Krumlov: a mountain village with a difference

A nice, green escape from the tourists of Prague…

A beautiful village in the south of the country, full of Baroque buildings, the second-largest castle in the Czech Republic, a medieval old town – all set on the banks of the winding Vltava River, Cesky Krumlov is the medieval movie set just waiting to be cast in a blockbuster. The town’s appearance has apparently barely changed since the 18th century, meaning lots of cobblestoned streets, wide town squares and historic, well-maintained buildings and artworks. The town was added to the UNESCO list in 1992. It’s nice in the low and shoulder seasons, but perhaps best to avoid in high season – when tourists outnumber the permanent population by quite the margin. Ew.

DO:

Old town walking tour:

I have written these two words so many times, I’m beginning to lose the meaning of them myself. However, doing one of these in this town is so crucial. Much of the history can’t be garnered from a guidebook – and there’s plenty of hidden artworks or meaning in buildings and landmarks that you just won’t get from walking around town. We did the wiseman walking tour, and it was truly excellent. Tip generously.
Cesky Krumlov Castle:
Behold: the castle that would be pink if it wasn’t for my shoddy camera work
Yes, it’s another castle. No, there’s probably nothing hugely remarkable about it. However, parts of it are pink. And the castle walls are the best place in the city to take in the views of the town below, and if you’d read point one above and signed yourself up for a walking tour, you’ll get a bit of a guided tour through the grounds anyway. If you want to spend the money, you can pay for access to the insides of the castle, the museum, the clock tower and the castle theatre – which is supposedly the most intact baroque theatre in the world. However, we heard mixed reviews about the indoors bits so we just spent our time wandering the grounds. The gardens are truly spectacular – but make sure you’ve got plenty of time because there’s lots of ground to cover.
But, if we didn’t sell you with all of that – there’s also a couple of bears who now live under the drawbridge to the castle, where the moat used to be. And where else in the world can you say you’ve seen a bear moat?!
Church of St Vitus:
You’ll visit it on your walking tour (seriously, all signs lead to my first point) but if you decide not to do a walking tour (why?) this church is worth a stop. It’s one of the imposing structures that define the town, and you can pretty much see it looming over the historic centre from wherever you are. The interiors are a good example of a Baroque church, and the altar dates back to the 1600s.
Hostel Havana: Hardly a place that evokes the colour and convivial atmosphere of Cuba, but a good attempt nonetheless, Hostel Havana is located right on the Vltava River. While there’s an obvious attempt to channel the bright and airy, with the startling yellow colour scheme and garden area, Hostel Havana falls short of a Caribbean atmosphere – but is nonetheless a pleasant stay. The rooms are large and clean, the garden and sun terrace make for a sweet spot to kick back and take in the river, and it’s just a short walk from the historical centre – a positive because it’s quieter, a negative because there’s a rather large hill and many large steps between you and the landmarks. The owners are curt, yet helpful, and will hold your luggage for a euro if you’re catching a late bus the next day. Indoors, there isn’t much of a common area – so don’t show up in winter like we did and have to rug up in 12 layers and a jacket to pretend to enjoy the garden area in the weak, weak sunlight.
However, if you’re a cheapskate with a thick layer of blubber to keep you warm during a beer in the garden, and a willingness to walk off said blubber on your calorie-burning hike to town – this is for you.
Price for a spot in 8-bed dormitory: 11 euro

EAT:

Travellers Restaurant:Cesky Krumlov

For once we didn’t photograph our food – so here’s some directions to the restaurant. It’s down the end of this street and on the left.Another spot where the owner has clearly thought long and hard for a unique and abstract name to really set themselves apart, the Travellers Restaurant is surprisingly, not a tourist trap at all. Hardly as dull and run-of-the-mill as emotions the name may evoke, this is actually some of the best – and cheapest – Czech food we had in the entire country. Attached to the aptly-named Travellers Hostel, you can’t really get much better than this both location and setting-wise. Bordering on prime locale in the centre of town, make sure you ask for a table outside in the charming courtyard on the huge lacquered pine tables. You’ll find all the best Czech dishes here – vepřo-knedlo-zelo (pork with cabbage and sauerkraut and a mystery DELICIOUS gravy), Svíčková na smetaně (Marinated sirloin served with cream and cherry sauce and more DELICIOUS mystery sauce), and plenty of other hearty, mostly meat-based, dishes. Like all good Czech finds, the beer is cheap and the meals are too.

DRINK / EAT:

Eggenberg Brewery / Pivovary and beer hall:

We again forgot to photograph the brewery, so here’s another pano

They’re no Pilsner Urquell, but Eggenberg dominate the southern Bohemian beer-drinking region, and it’s brewed here in little old Cesky Krumlov. Located just outside the historical centre, the brewery is housed in a historical building and offers daily tours. Eggenberg brews traditional Czech lagers, but there’s a few interesting ones on the menu too. The Tmavy Lezak (dark beer) bears some semblance to Guinness, but is also a nice change from the standard Czech lagers. The brewery also houses a decent beer hall, which is rowdy by 2pm in the afternoon and serves up a decent pork knuckle.
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