Sunday, October 1: This morning, we take our second ride with Comfy Tour, this time from Vienna to Český Krumlov. Martina is our driver, and she picks us up at 8:30 a.m. We have a lovely drive through rolling countryside, at one point passing a dog waiting patiently at a bus stop. Mike and Martina see it and burst out laughing; sadly I missed it. 😦
We arrive at our hotel, Penzion U Matesa, but can find no one manning reception. We leave our bags inside the dining room and head out to explore the town.
On this cold and gray day, we head out along the Vltava River toward Český Krumlov State Castle.
The first version of the striking Renaissance Český Krumlov State Castle was built in 1240 by the Witigonen family, a main branch of the powerful Rosenberg family; this was an influential Bohemian noble family that played an important role in Czech medieval history from the 13th century until 1611. They were considered powerful lords of the Kingdom of Bohemia, a medieval and early modern monarchy in Central Europe (Wikipedia: Český Krumlov Castle).
In 1963, the town was declared a Municipal Preserve; in 1989 the castle became a National Monument, and in 1992 the entire complex was listed as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Monument (State Castle Český Krumlov).
The castle area is one of the largest in central Europe. It is a complex of forty buildings and palaces, situated around five castle courts and a castle park spanning an area of seven hectares (State Castle Český Krumlov).
The former St. Jošt Church, no longer used as a church, is now occupied by such enterprises as brand-name clothing Otavan, Bolero Restaurant, and the Marionette Museum.
Český Krumlov State Castle soars over the town with its pretty painted exterior.
The town of Český Krumlov is endlessly charming, situated as it is within the tightly coiled curves of the Vltava River.
According to legend, the name Krumlov is derived from the German “Krumme Aue,” which may be translated as “crooked meadow.” The name is an apt description of the natural topography of the town.
The word “Český” simply means Czech, or Bohemian (actually the same), as opposed to Moravian or Silesian (History of Český Krumlov).
We stop at a cute little restaurant, Pension Barako, for a lunch of bean and sausage soup and a sandwich.
After lunch, we climb uphill toward the Castle entrance, passing St. Vitus Church. While Český Krumlov State Castle and its tower represent secular power, the church tower of St. Vitus symbolizes Christianity’s might and influence, “which from medieval times functioned both as a counterpart and complement of the worldly powers,” according to St. Vitus Church in Český Krumlov. St. Vitus Church is used today for religious purposes, as well as for classic music concerts.
Castle Tower, a partly Gothic, partly Renaissance, rounded six-story tower, is the symbol of the town of Český Krumlov. It was once described by Karel Čapek, the author of a 1953 five-parts travel sketch called “Along the Vltava River,” as “the towerest of all towers” (Castle No. 59 – Castle Tower).
In 1590, the tower was decorated with mural paintings and figural and architectural motifs. In 1947 an ambitious reconstruction of the tower was undertaken. In 1994-96 the paintings and murals were restored as well (Castle No. 59 – Castle Tower).
Mike and I climb the 162 stairs of Castle Tower for a fabulous view of the city and its vicinity. We can see the beautiful verdigris cupola of the former St. Jošt Church and the Vltava River.
After our climb, we drop into the small Castle Museum. The National Heritage Institute opened the current exhibition on January 11, 2011. Most of the exhibits show an inside look at the Rosenberg, Eggenberg and Schwarzenberg Krumlov estate owners.
Inside Castle Museum we find coats of arms, an exhaustive family tree, manuscripts, model boats, furnishings and rooms, porcelains and glassware, paintings, movie posters and a small movie theater.
I find the dining room at Castle Museum suggestive of old Europe with its nostalgic furnishings, wallpaper, curtains, table settings, palm trees and porcelain displays.
Today, we’re unable to tour the interior of Český Krumlov State Castle, as it’s only possible to do so by guided tour, and all tours are booked for today. Tomorrow is Monday, so all the museums will be closed. As we’re due to leave Tuesday morning for Prague, it’s unlikely we’ll have time to tour the castle or the fabulous Castle Theatre. An old friend of mine highly recommended the Theatre tour, so we’re disappointed to miss it.
After leaving the museum, we continue walking around the huge Castle complex, climbing higher and higher.
Here we are at the top!
We find some interesting views from the ramparts. I love the golden and orange leaves against the red rooftops.
The Baroque Castle Garden, founded in the 17th century, sprawls over the slope adjacent to the castle complex . We walk all around the garden through hedges and colorful flowerbeds and past the pool and fountain at the end of the garden.
The fountain at the garden is regal and impressive.
After walking through the gardens, we make our way back down from the precipice. We have more views of the town hugged by the Vltava River.
Český Krumlov State Castle is situated imposingly on the Vltava River, adorned by terraces of greenery.
Cute canals wind their way through the town, with cafes overhanging the rippling waterways.
We see some rafters floating down a small rapids area near the castle. They squeal with delight and surprise as they get turned around toward the bottom of the chute. Watching from the shore, we laugh along with them at their crazy antics.
We stop back at our room to check in and relax a bit. I have to say that the people who run Penzion U Matesa are not very friendly. Maybe it’s because they don’t speak English. Martina told us earlier this morning that they are Romani, more commonly known as gypsies.
We have brought with us a 2007 edition of Rick Steves’ Prague & The Czech Republic, which mentions a hike up to Chapel of the Mountain of the Cross. Mike is determined to do the walk before we go out to dinner. So, after a brief rest, we’re on our way in early evening on a walk through the town, with our destination being the hills on the outskirts of town.
Český Krumlov is certainly the fairy tale town it is billed to be. Between the pastel colored buildings, the pretty architecture, the narrow winding streets, the cute shops, and that fabulous Renaissance castle, it’s no wonder that it is so popular as a tourist destination. In fact, we see busloads of Chinese tourists everywhere. Apparently there are now direct flights between Beijing and Prague, which have opened the welcome doors for the upwardly mobile Chinese.
According to the directions in the Rick Steves book, we should follow the stations of the cross up the hill to the Chapel, where there are supposedly fabulous views of the town. We find the first station of the cross, but then after that, we can’t seem to find the next one and we wander about through the town, using the hill above us as our only compass.
We walk through pretty meadows and then circle around a large stand of trees. It turns out to be a much longer walk than we anticipated.
We finally reach the Chapel on the Mountain of the Cross. The chapel is now abandoned and left to the elements.
We do have some nice views from up on the hill, though it’s rather hazy.
The derelict chapel looks a bit dark and threatening in the waning light.
Since we don’t see any mention of this walk in our more current guidebook, Lonely Planet Prague & the Czech Republic, we wonder if a more current version of the Rick Steves guidebook might have omitted this hike.
We find a more direct route back down the hill, and taking it, return to town enjoying views of St. Jošt Church and Český Krumlov State Castle and Tower.
It’s hard to find a restaurant that’s open at this hour. Many are closed, and the few that are open are packed and have waiting lists. Luckily, we’re able to get in fairly quickly to Restaurant Terasa, though we’re squeezed into a tiny table in the midst of a packed dining room. It seems Český Krumlov is mainly a lunchtime town, often visited as a long day trip from Prague.
After dinner, we stroll through the town in the dark, enjoying the relative quiet and the spotlit castle.
Tomorrow, we have another whole day to explore Český Krumlov. Mike is worried we won’t find enough to do here, and we’re both annoyed by the sheer number of tourists. We’re hoping since museums are closed on Monday, there won’t be so many tourists.
Ah the foolish folly of hope!
Total steps today: 19,796 (8.39 miles).
This walk is part of Jo’s Monday Walk challenge. Visit her to find other great walks.