Medieval Charms in Cesky Krumlov

Itinerary: 

Dates: September 18-October 5, 2015

Our Odyssey: 

On the fourth day of our vacation we crossed the border into
our third (and fourth) countries – first the Czech Republic for a day trip to
the medieval town of Cesky Krumlov and then onward to Munich, Germany that
night.

When we visited Prague last summer, we heard from other
travelers about a small medieval town a few hours’ train ride from Prague.
Those with whom we spoke raved about its beautiful setting along a river and
foothills and its less touristy vibe compared with Prague. We weren’t up for a
several hour train ride (each way) for just a day trip, though, so we decided
to spend more time in Prague and the immediate surrounds.

This year, though, since we knew we’d have the freedom of
our own car and flexibility with our itinerary, we decided the 2 hour detour
north into the Czech Republic during our drive from Salzburg to Munich would be
worth it to see this town others had recommended so highly.

The drive itself probably made the trip worthwhile – we drove
through mostly back roads and small highways, and as soon as we crossed the
border the road quality dropped drastically. We continued on the path the GPS in
our rental car had outlined for us, until we ended up at a dead end of a road
that was under construction. Since we didn’t have internet or 4G to look up a
better route to avoid the road closure, we had to rely on our hopes that our
GPS would update for us. So we set back out on the road, away from its dead
end, and took various turns and exits until things seemed to be on the right
track again. I for one was relieved – I had no interest in being stuck in the
mud in the Czech Republic’s backwoods.

Dead end! 

We continued on through the hilly Czech countryside until we
arrived at Cesky Krumlov. We oriented ourselves around the castle area and took
in views over the river of the town sitting below. During a tour of the castle
we learned that it had been the home of a very wealthy family, the Rozmberks.
This family ruled the town for about three centuries, up until the 1600s. This
castle felt very authentic, because it hadn’t been wired for electricity in many
of the rooms and it still had that feel that you could be in the 1300s.
Additionally, most of the floors and wall paint were original, without any
restoration. We were truly in a medieval castle.

From of the town from the castle walls

After the castle tour we grabbed lunch with a friend we made
in the castle, Hannah, and then the three of us went to the central square to
join a free walking tour of the town and more of the castle grounds. We
meandered through the streets with our tour, learning about some of the history
and architecture of these cobbled alleyways.

Our tour came back to the castle grounds, which are also
home to a family of European brown bears in a bear pit. Apparently bears have
lived here since the 13th century when bears became part of the coat
of arms for the Rozmberk family. While I can appreciate historic traditions, it
still makes me sad to see bears in captivity unnecessarily.

The facade of the castle as seen from one of the courtyards, painted to look like stones, statues and columns

The tour ended at the castle gardens. The centerpiece of
this huge green space is a controversial (but in my opinion, very cool) theater
that has rotating seating to show different parts of the stage to the audience
for different scenes. Apparently because this wasn’t a part of the original
castle gardens, the town risks losing its UNESCO World Heritage Status if they don’t
do something about this theater. In my opinion, since UNESCO status was granted
after the existence of this theater, the theater should be included in the
UNESCO designation. It remains to be seen what the future of this theater will
be.

Speaking of theaters, one cool site on the castle grounds we
didn’t get to explore is the Baroque theater. Very few Baroque style theaters
remain standing, so this is a rare relic to see. Most of them burnt down
(Baroque theaters were known for their use of special effects and fireworks).

Tim and I with the town beyond us.

After the tour it was time for Tim and I to hit the road
again, making our way to Munich, Germany. We didn’t know it at the time, but we
were lucky to be traveling into Germany on back roads from the Czech Republic,
instead of from Austria, as it turns out that due to the Middle East refugee
crisis and the influx of people seeking refuge in Europe, the border crossing
between Austria and Germany was in a state of chaos. It was an interesting time
to be in Europe, at the peak of the crisis when Europe was experiencing stress
over how to handle the situation. I reflected on how odd it was, that Tim and I
were traveling in Europe under such different, privileged circumstances, and
how even in our travels we were isolated from the reality of the upheaval of
the lives of these individuals. I don’t have anything insightful or inspiring
to offer here – just and acknowledgement and appreciation for how lucky we
really are.

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