Picture perfect yet not.
I would say it is rather rare for me to dedicate one whole blog to one little town in the middle of Europe but Cesky Krumlov deserves centre stage on this occasion. Although on saying that I get the impression that this is a town that is used to getting a lot of attention. The thing is, being a poorly researched traveler I had never heard of the place until I booked the trip but it would appear this town is actually no secret and is adored by travellers and tourists the world over. Once I had booked my central European tour I decided to Google Cesky Krumlov and I instantly loved the place, a little medieval town surrounded by a loop of river which almost cuts the town off completely. I took many pictures and looking back at them, none do any justice whatsoever. You will not be able to get any idea of what the town looks like because my camera wasn’t attached to a drone or passing bird and so it’s uniqueness remains hidden. I therefore recommend you Google it or even better, go visit for your self.
We took a guided tour around the town and the one thing that stuck with me was the fact that Cesky Krumlov came to be after a feud over the production of beer if I remember rightly. But no matter as however the story went, a big castle was erected which takes centre stage and overlooks the town centre. I say centre stage but the castle is actually across the river from the main town but this does mean you get awesome views of the castle from the town and awesome views of the town from the castle which, obviously looks down over the town. When I talk of castles that we visited during this tour, do not think King Arthur and the likes. Think Walt Disney, Beauty and the Beast and so on. Ironically back in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries it would appear that central European countries were far more interested in showing off their wealth with grand, beautiful buildings aka castles than they were fighting or defending themselves. Big walls and a high perch offer some effort towards defence but other than that it would appear these castle were simply for show. As with all these places there were many options to spend money within the castle and as much as I wanted to go around every room in every building to admire the furnishings we took the group decision to pay and climb the tower so we could enjoy some views of the town. It turned out to be a worthwhile exercise even if a large number of cocktails the night before had slowed the pace a little. Not only could we enjoy the scenery but we also spotted the resident bear that lived under one of the main bridges into the castle. He appeared to be a well trained bear leaving his sleeping quarters under the bridge and ambling around his yard full of ponds and trees, allowing visitors to get a photo before ambling back to his quarters for a well earned nap. Eat, sleep, pose, repeat.
The real magic of Cesky Krumlov (for me at least) was that it was small, carved up with tiny cobbled streets, lined with old stone buildings with terracotta roofs and there were restaurants everywhere. It didn’t matter if you sat out on the street or next to the river, it really wasn’t hard to find a real nice place to have a nice bit of food and a cheeky beer. However, being a sucker for water the best places to relax were definitely by the river where on one side of town the castle would dominate which only added to the beauty of the scene, especially at night time when everything was lit up. We were also not to forget that we were still in central Europe. After the usual afternoon siesta we regrouped and headed to a quiet bar for ‘buy one get one free’ cocktails. We naturally walked straight through the bar and outside to the deck that sat over the river but as it turned out the ‘buy one get one free’ offer didn’t apply if we chose to sit outside. Happy where we were we settled for beer, wine and one random coffee (apparently its tough being in your mid twenties!) before deciding to head inside to give the cocktails a go. Once inside everything went to plan as we enjoyed a couple of rounds before joining the rest of the group for evening dinner. When it was time to leave we went to pay but they would only let us pay for the drinks we had inside. We would have to pay for the drinks we had outside separately but no-one would be so kind to tell us where. We headed across to another bar area, we headed back outside but no-one wanted our money or appeared to know where to pay, so frustrated once again at the lack of customer service we simply walked out.
One other activity that really made these few days a tour highlight was a brief bike ride out in the surrounding forrest. It was the easiest bike ride I’ve had to do ever since my stabilisers came off in 2015 thanks to the fact we were driven up a hill in a minibus, thrown out with helmets and bikes and pretty much rolled all the way back down to Cesky Krumlov. We were warned that there were a couple of up hill sections to begin with and that if we could manage them we would be capable of the rest of the afternoon. This immediately filled me with dreaded memories of when I was last told by a leader that there were a few short uphill sections which turned out to last for what felt like bloody hours. But this time it wasn’t to be and after a few wee up hills that barely broke a sweat we started our long downhill descent which was very enjoyable. Cruising down a single track tarmac road with no-one about and surrounded by the peace of the forrest we were occasionally treated to a fantastic view of the surrounding countryside as we sped by. Before we knew it we were crossing the river back into town and it was all over with a round of beers. I could have happily spent all day biking up and down and around the surrounding countryside. I was also really looking forward to some rafting but as it turned out that simply implied piling into a raft with some beers if you fancied and circumnavigating the town on the pond like river. Not really the grade five monster rapid rafting session I had in mind, I gave it a miss. But no matter, I was happy all the same.