Friday, January 24, 2020

One Breathtaking Day in Cesky Krumlov (Day Trip from Prague)

Just a stone's throw away from the capital, we spent one full day in the charming Cesky Krumlov.

One Day in Cesky Krumlov

Towards the end of our stay in Prague we decided to branch out and visit a city in the countryside before moving onto our next destination. Brimming with choice after researching day trips at the local tour office we settled on Cesky Krumlov, a town in Southern Bohemia described to us as a fairytale village hidden in the deep south of the Czech Republic.

. . . . .

Half awake and devouring my breakfast at daybreak I wondered whether we had made the right choice selecting a single day trip hitting the road at the crack of dawn. When our tour bus arrived I was delighted to see curtains and reclining chairs; I was able to sneak in a few extra hours of snooze before we arrived at our destination.

Three hours later I was awakened by our tour guide ushering us off the bus. We hiked up a steep hill and stepped into the lush Cesky Krumlov Castle Gardens that overlooked a panorama of the entire town. Our guide explained to us the river that surrounds the town is the Vltava River that runs through the major cities of the Czech Republic and is sometimes referred to as the 'Czech national river'.

Cesky Krumlov Panorama from the Castle Gardens

Before we crossed the Cloak Bridge (the bridge that crosses the Vltava River connecting us to central Cesky Krumlov) our guide pointed out a sundial on the side of the Renaissance House. Featuring a motif on the bottom left hand corner thought to be Cesky Krumlov itself, we were told that there were a total of 5 sundials scattered throughout the town each featuring elaborate designs and concepts.

Cesky Krumlov Sundial on Castle Number 177 Renaissance House

As we meandered through the majestic courtyards of the Castle our guide instructed us to stop in the 4th courtyard to admire the wall paintings. Dating from the 1500s the courtyard features scenes depicting Greek and Roman mythology.

Cesky Krumlov 4th Courtyard Painted Castle Walls

We were then escorted into the 2nd courtyard of the castle which was completed over a century later. A wide open space with a refreshing water fountain in the middle; the most interesting thing about the 2nd courtyard is just beyond the outskirts of the enclosure. Below the walkway connecting the 1st and 2nd courtyards of the castle is a bear moat that has been in use since the 1700s.

Cesky Krumlov Castle 2nd Courtyard Fountain

In this section of the castle we were in the periphery of the tallest structure in the town, the Cesky Krumlov Castle Tower. Towering above its surroundings, the pink green speckled tower is the most visible feature of the town. With access from the Little Castle it is possible to climb the six storey tower for a fee, but we decided against it due to the time constraints of our single day tour.

Cesky Krumlov Castle Tower from the 2nd Courtyard

Once outside the castle we followed narrow cobblestoned streets through the Latrán district taking time to admire the local crafts and immaculate shopfronts. As we wandered the tightly winding main street and passed numerous narrow alleys I was reminded of a mini version of Prague.

Cesky Krumlov Gingerbread Shop Cesky Pernik

After an hour of wandering we arrived at Svornosti Square, the centre of the Old Town. Flanked by an array of colourful buldings, the open square is surrounded by restaurants and hotels. The most remarkable feature of the square is the Plague Column. Dedicated to the period that the plague struck the town, it features the saints that protect the town topped by the Virgin Mary.

Cesky Krumlov town square Svornosti Square and the Plague Column

As we began walking to the group lunch destination our tour guide directed our attention to a decorative motif on a wall. He explained to us it is the coat of arms of the ruling Schwarzenberg family. Depicting a raven pecking out the eyes of a Turk, the coat of arms makes an allusion to the failed Ottoman invasion of Bohemia. Our guide instructed us to keep our eyes out for the coat of arms of other ruling families of Cesky Krumlov, in particular the Rosenbergs whose emblem features a five petal rose.

Cesky Krumlov Schwarzenberg Coat of Arms with Turk and Raven

After lunch we had a few free hours to explore the town on our own. Our guide suggested a visit to St. Vitus Church, the other emblematic location in Cesky Krumlov (I was denied entry because my shorts were too short!).

We spent our time exploring the backstreets of the Latrán district looking for one of a kind souvenirs and sampling Czech savouries and sweets until we reunited with our guide back at the castle gate as the sun was setting.

Although I might have liked to spent longer in Cesky Krumlov (our guide told us many people travel to Cesky Krumlov and spend a few nights there) if you have time constraints I think 1 day is enough to see the best the town has to offer. I consider Cesky Krumlov a 'must do' on every tourist's itinerary in the Czech Republic, offering something wholly different to any other part of Central Europe I have seen before.

Cesky Krumlov Painted Walls Rozenberg Horse House

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