When the hoards of tourists start to cramp your style in the cobblestone plazas of Prague, solace awaits just a few hours south in the medieval town of Cesky Krumlov.
Cesky Krumlov is like a fairytale village, something right out of Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty. The jewel of the town greets you on arrival, a looming, ornate Castle tower, the shining light of the vast grounds at the foot of a magical expanse of lush garden, lake and baroque architecture.
At night, the aroma of roasting, charred meats, and cold, cooked stone wafts through the 13th century alleys. The hazy, luminance of the Cesky Castle pierces mist and fog, evoking striking images of a chivalrous past.
Tours of the castle grounds are available daily. Be sure to check out the bears standing guard near the drawbridge. They might not be dragons, but they run a tight ship. You’ll find your fair share of tourists here, but it’s certainly less crowded and the pace is much more relaxed than most Czech cities of similar size.
A range of hotel, B and B and hostel options are on offer in Cesky. We took a quick look around and found a cosy, affordable nook a little walk out of the town centre called Krumlov House, a laid back boutique guesthouse with an artistic vibe to it. Hostel 99 is another reputable and affordable option.
In perfect sunshine, the Vltava river winds and bends like a deep brown serpent through the cobblestones and terracotta roofs of this fairytale town. One sunny afternoon we took some rubber tubes and let the river current steer us through town, with pit stops on the multiple riverside bars along the way. Sheer magic.
When night falls the Czechs like to let their hair down, and in the land of cheap, wonderful Pilsener, this usually involves alcohol, and a lot of it. We found more than a night’s worth of conviviality at the ‘La Boheme’, the ‘Music Bar’, and spooky gothic ‘Horror Bar’. Be cautious of making a single glance up at the bartenders – even the subtlest nod means ‘one more’. Thankfully the Czechs see virtue in cheap brew, damaging my liver considerably more than my back pocket.
The finest in Bohemian fare can be found everywhere in Cesky. Check out ‘Laibon’ for great vegetarian, ‘Two Mary’s’ for a rich cup of hot mead, and ‘The Jailhouse’ for some of the finest meat, flame-cooked over an open fire, served up on a wooden mix grill platter. Try the ‘Roast knee’ if you have the strength.
Cesky Krumlov has gained higher profile in recent years, but it still remains a sweet getaway off the beaten Czech path. This little slice of Bohemian fantasy is fit for more than just a day trip. Plan to stay a few days like me, and you’ll end up there for two weeks, wining, dining and kicking back at the whim of Cesky’s gorgeous scenery, friendly locals and exquisite, Bohemian lifestyle.
Written by Cam Hassard for EuropeUpClose.com