The backpackers were here first, as it always seems to be. Somehow, they find the cool places, because they are usually more willing to deal with the inconveniences most of us will not cope with: no running water, holes in the ground posing as toilets, tsetse flies, cholera. I am certain there is magic in these secret hideaways, but I like to wait until some level of infrastructure is there.
We had been told by a friend, who was told by strangers in a hostel, that there was a beautiful city in Southern Bohemia, 3 hours south of Prague, called Český Krumlov. I found a picture on the internet, and I was sold. I had copied two pages from a guidebook at the library, and I was prepared. Of course, here there were neither tsetse flies or cholera, and the toilets were equipped with the latest in flushing technology.
On Wednesday, we went to the bus terminal to catch the 8:00am bus to Český Krumlov. We stepped onto the bus, and were greeted with a scent of yesterday’s sweat and today’s body odor. The odor, while not unsurvivable, would not have been the most pleasant way to spend my first few waking hours. There was an upside. There were no chickens. We faced a decision: do we run across town to try to catch the 8:30 bus from another station, try to buy tickets for the next day, or just chicken out? Perhaps it was just not meant to be. Maybe we were not meant to visit Český Krumlov, but we thought we’d give it a chance and visit the ticket agent just in case.
It was magic. She was able to reserve us round-trip tickets for the next day, with seat assignments, for about $15 per person. I love this country. Karma was on our side. When we arrived the next day, there was no bus odor, and the comfortable ride took us through some beautiful scenery on the way to Southern Bohemia.
From the bus station it is about a ten minute walk down a winding road into the old town.
This whole area is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And it’s beautiful. The streets are now lined with boutiques, restaurants, and rooms for rent. But the flavor of the city has been maintained. Every bend in the old cobblestone streets would uncover a new vista – up to the castle, out over the river, perhaps a quiet alley with a small vegetarian restaurant.
We walked up to the top of the tower, which is by far the highest building in town. We were able to book a castle tour in English. Or it may have been Czech. As soon as the tour started, we were sorry we had not signed up for the Spanish tour. Those who chose Spanish, French, or Italian were given a script to read about as we went to each room. The rest of us tried to assist each other in comprehension. Most of the tour was like understanding a foreign newspaper. I could pick up a word here or there, and, by using the context of the room and her use of gestures, would try to figure out what she was talking about. Bless her heart for trying, but the tour was a little too long and a little too boring. During the tour it started raining, so we spent our last hour in town relaxing in a cafe with a view over the red rooftops, writing postcards. Very pleasant, indeed.
Since our trip, Rick Steves has made a show about Český Krumlov, but I was there first.