For a first timer’s guide to Cesky Krumlov, even with all my snide comments, I don’t think this post would be that bad. But of course take what you read here with a grain of salt and pint of pilsner. After all Czech Republic, by far, consumes the highest amount of beer per capita in the world.
Most people go to Cesky Krumlov only for a day, particularly during the winter. Companies that offer package day tours are plentiful and cheap at around $100 with lunch and round-trip transfers by bus to and from Prague included.
However, I really implore you to visit Cesky Krumlov on your own and not by being harangued by a jaded tour guide who takes pleasure in herding you like sheep. If you don’t, you will be doing yourself, the 436 year old castle, and the entire town- all of it designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site, a massive disservice.
If you are going to Cesky Krumlov from Prague, take the opportunity to travel by train- it’s always a great idea! My favourite resource for all things rail related is the always dependable Man in Seat 61. Because of his tips, I avoided the dreadful “foreigner’s tax” or that premium tourists pay because they didn’t do prior research.
Czech Republic in its entirety is not an expensive destination. A night in Cesky Krumlov can cost you maybe $200- allot $20 for transport, $40 for meals, another $40 for a bed, and lastly, $100 as a respectable beer budget. It’s a small price to pay to be so deeply entrenched in Bohemia that at any moment you could expect Idina Menzel, draped in an opulent blata plena, to come out and sing.
Because we went in January, the hilly cobblestones of Cesky Krumlov were enrobed in snow- crisp and slippery, just like the winter air. We passed by the stone bridge bisecting the Vltava River, while a dapper busker sings “imagine all the people living life in peace.” It was a moment so cute, so charming, bordering on cliché, that if someone were to look in a dictionary for the meaning of the word “idyllic,” it would just be a picture of this pastel coloured fever dream.
And not long after, the sun goes to sleep and takes away the last batch of camera totting tourists. Then there’s not much left in town except for the overworked locals who try to drown out life’s many indiscretions with their beer whose reputation actually Czechs out.
After a hearty meal of boiled cabbage dumplings and spicy beef goulash, we spent a wintry night at Pension Tiffany– in their cupboard under the stairs, masquerading as a quaint room, with the smell of wood from a hundred years ago. I loved the charm of having a sink near my feet as I slept, and we were enveloped by the weight of a thousand knitted blankets as the light from the street flickers by the window, through the ozone of white lace fashioned as a canopy.
It’s the kind of ancestral house that is for sure haunted, but the ghost is friendly so you don’t mind. Really, it feels like a cheery place, since the whole house is yellow. Convenient for travellers with heavy backpacks too, maybe because Cesky Krumlov is so small, that everything is near everything.
The single defining feature of Cesky Krumlov that defines it as a Disney dream destination is not the castle, but its ursinarium- I had to google the term too, but then I thought ursa (Latin) orsa (Italian) ours (French)- Bears! They have bears in the castle grounds! But, even if I would totally love to have a couple of bears live with me as well. Keeping them confined and away from the wild is far from ideal for the bears, so maybe it’s about time to let the tradition end.
If you like medieval literature the Cesky Krumlov castle website is a great resource for some light reading before you visit. I guess as light as tales of murders and mystery can get, but that’s really what the Middle Ages was all about.
The imposing Český Krumlov Castle has imbued the aesthetics of the Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque Periods. And the best of the Modern period as well, evidenced by their much appreciated washrooms. Every style harmoniously blended into the well-preserved castle that only costs about 5$ or 70 Kč for students like me.
After the castle, there’s not really much left to do around Cesky Krumlov in the winter. So yes I understand why most people only visit during the day. But it is still very pleasant to walk around after a heavy breakfast.
For the very last time, we walked on the same bridge that connects the Cesky Krumlov castle to the rest of the village. It was already drenched with people- their cameras pointed at the man with his guitar singing “Imagine” by the Beatles, showering him with pounds, euros, dollars- with most currency being worth more than the local Czech Koruna.
But the enterprising inhabitants who have long ago became cynics from the harsh realities of capitalism (I may be projecting) are quite crafty, and they know exactly how to market their kitsch for increased profitability.
Cesky Krumlov is only about three hours away from Prague. And we can’t wait to return to the city where we had the laziest morning ever, after a night of debauchery at a Medieval Tavern
But before we could leave Cesky Krumlov, we had a crisis. No amount of self-righteous advance planning could save us if fate- and the entire city’s transport system- collectively decides to shrug and say “meh.” But luckily, we snagged the last two seats on the last bus to Prague- only available because a slight malfunction kept them off the books. So maybe my cool cynical demeanour isn’t warranted after all.