czech republic: the charming český krumlov

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.

Penzion U Matesa

On this cold and gray day, we head out along the Vltava River toward Český Krumlov State Castle.

first view of 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).

Český Krumlov State 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).

Český Krumlov State Castle
Český Krumlov State Castle

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).

Český Krumlov State Castle

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.

St. Jošt Church

Český Krumlov State Castle soars over the town with its pretty painted exterior.

Český Krumlov State Castle
Český Krumlov State Castle
Český Krumlov State Castle

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).

sign in Český Krumlov
Český Krumlov
town of Český Krumlov
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.

St. Vitus Church

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).

Český Krumlov State Castle

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).

Castle Tower
Castle courtyard

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.

view of Český Krumlov & St. Jošt Church from Castle Tower
view of Český Krumlov State Castle from Castle Tower
view of Český Krumlov from Castle Tower
view of Český Krumlov & St. Vitus Church from Castle Tower
view of Český Krumlov State Castle from Castle Tower
view of the Vltava River from Castle Tower
view of St. Jošt Church and Český Krumlov from Castle Tower

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.

painting in Castle Museum
detail of painting

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.

Dining table in Castle Museum
Dining room in Castle Museum

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.

Český Krumlov State Castle
view from on high
Český Krumlov State Castle

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.

framed view
Český Krumlov
Český Krumlov

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.

Gardens at Český Krumlov State Castle

The fountain at the garden is regal and impressive.

fountain in the garden
Gardens at Český Krumlov State Castle

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
Český Krumlov State Castle
Český Krumlov State Castle

Český Krumlov State Castle is situated imposingly on the Vltava River, adorned by terraces of greenery.

Český Krumlov State Castle

Cute canals wind their way through the town, with cafes overhanging the rippling waterways.

canal through the town
Český Krumlov State Castle
Český Krumlov State Castle
Český Krumlov State Castle
Vltava River
Vltava River

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.

a raft goes down the Vltava River

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.

evening walk through 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.

first Station of the Cross

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.

meadow on the way to the chapel

We finally reach the Chapel on the Mountain of the Cross.  The chapel is now abandoned and left to the elements.

Chapel on the Mountain of the Cross

We do have some nice views from up on the hill, though it’s rather hazy.

view from Chapel on the Mountain of the Cross

The derelict chapel looks a bit dark and threatening in the waning light.

Chapel on the Mountain of the Cross
Chapel on the Mountain of the Cross
view from the hill

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.

view of Český Krumlov

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.

St. Jošt Church

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.

Český Krumlov State Castle at night

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.


19 thoughts on “czech republic: the charming český krumlov

  1. I love the colors and architecture of the old Slavik towns – will always wish I’d had time to visit some of the Czech Republic when I was in Poland.

      1. Kat has decided to come back to the US after this year and is actively applying for jobs over here. Because of the moving cost, we’ve put Paris on the back burner, but I’m going to Bangkok in April to join her and her friend at the AWA Resort in Koh Chang. It’s beachfront, so it’ll also satisfy my trip to the coast desire.

      2. Good luck to Kat in her job search! The trip to Bangkok sounds good though. That’s more exotic. Have you been there before? I’m sure you’re already busily planning that trip!

      3. This will be my first trip to Thailand. I’m looking forward to it. I made my flight reservations, Kat is doing the rest.

  2. It is a very picturesque town isn’t it? Like something out of a fairy tale. I visited on a day trip from Prague, very doable and we had a tour around the castle, then lunch in town and left with a few hours to explore. I didn’t see the gardens, but I did see the bear which ‘guards’ the castle and lives in the moat. I was wondering if he is still there, but you didn’t mention him. Brave to wander up the hill, I’m always cautious now about going somewhere a little remote after our Namibian experience. Lovely autumn colours, I was there in October and it was very picturesque though cold. Even started to snow just as we were to leave!

    1. It really is picturesque, Jude. I did see the bear, but I don’t enjoy seeing animals in captivity so didn’t bother taking any pictures. And I forgot all about him, sadly. I don’t know about your Namibian experience. Do you have a link? I loved the autumn colors in the town. Luckily no snow for us, though. 🙂

  3. What amazing photos. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to include Cesky Krumlov in our itinerary when we visited Prague, but your post certainly inspires us to make sure we visit next time

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed coming along with us on our walk through Cesky Krumlov, Lesley. I hope you’ll make it there one day. We could have stayed there for just one day and it would have been fine.

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