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Two Years & Twice Around the World...  

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September 27 - 30. CESKY KRUMLOV "A Fairytale Village" By daylight the little town of Cesky Krumlov, originally just Krumlov but given the title Cesky which means Bohemian, was almost as magical as when we arrived the night before.  However, the trickle of tourists brought more of a sense of our time and place.  Over the weekend the trickle increased to droves in celebration of St. Wenceslas Day and our pristine fairytale became a tourist madhouse.  Our first morning brought our first experience of the tourist jaded fate of this beautiful little town. When we asked a waitress for a menu in English she nearly exploded at us.  We left and searched out a place to have coffee on a terrace along the river instead.  Most of the tourists were Germans or Austrians so German was spoken freely and plenty of information on the festival was available in German but not in any other foreign language.  In fact, many of the local people were bilingual in Czech and German and it had been that was for centuries. One historical account of the town reported that the American liberation of Cesky Krumlov at the end of WWII destroyed the cultural continuity of the area by forcing the Germans living in Cesky Krumlov to return to Germany.  Only miles from either Germany or Austria and having had centuries of influence from the German and Austrian empires the little town of Cesky Krumlov is a blend of these influences.  In its history it belonged to the Rosenbergs of Bohemia (1302-1601), the Austrian Habsburgs (1601-1622) and the German von Eggenbergs (1622-1700s).

We were both feeling pretty ill at this point in our journey. Rob was sick with the stomach trouble and I had a chest cold.  Rob was worse off than I and wearily headed back to bed after our morning coffee and stayed there for the rest of the day.  I unwisely went out to explore the city a bit. The weather was beautiful and I feared that it was only temporary and wanted some photos.  I walked along the outside of the river and up the far slope to re-enter the river encapsulated part of the town via the high and narrow Horni Street at the mouth of Krumlov's "U".  Horni Street provided some clear views over the town and up at the pastel colored castle of the Rosenbergs.  The Rosenbergs  ranked amongst the most powerful families in Bohemia and made Krumlov a center of economy and culture in the south of Bohemia.

Coming down Hori Street I encountered Krumlov's St. Vitus Church, hovering over the middle of old town and waking us early in the morning with its hourly bell toll.  From the main square I went north and crossed the river to climb the roadway up to the castle.  The castle tower, colorfully decorated in pinks and grays with intricate sgraffito designs.  Scraffito designs adorned many of the buildings in Krumlov.  A special technique from the Renaissance, Sgraffito involves engraving motifs into plaster.  It spread in the 16th century, especially by the Italians working in Krumlov.  By the second half of the 16th century most of the houses in Krumlov were covered. Today many retain their sgraffito exteriors while others have had parts removed to reveal the original medieval designs. 

Climbing to the top of the tower I had fantastic views over the little town and its snaking river moat.  A man-made moat was constructed along the back side of the castle as well so from its high precipice it was also protected by water on two sides and could look over its tiny ward.  I passed through the courtyards of the castle to the bridge that connected the main structure to the expansive outer gardens.  The lace-like support of the bridge extended all of the way down the pathway below.  From the far side I found a path that wound down the back of the hill and around under the bridge.  From below the castle really towered over Krumlov but the whimsical architecture prevented it from looking anything but cheerful and unimposing.  From the riverbank I crossed over the wooden foot bridge to the center of Krumlov and wound around to Hostel Merlin.  In just a couple of hours I had taken in much of the little area and was ready for a nap.  We only ventured out for dinner at a nearby tavern that was enormous, if not very memorable.

We initially just planned to spend a couple of days in Cesky Krumlov before moving into Austria but with both of us under the weather we decided it was as good of a place as any to recoup some energy and get healthy.  It was very affordable and comfortable.  After the weekend passed the tourists died down again and it was an infinitely more pleasant place to relax.  The Hostel Merlin couldn't give us a firm answer on extending our stay because they had a large group of students arriving at the beginning of the week and weren't sure if there would be room.  The thought of staying in a hostel with a unified group of students motivated us into finding another place anyway.  We ended up moving to Pension Daniel, on the north side of town, under the castle.  It was a bit more expensive but still reasonable and one of the most comfortable places we had stayed on our trip.  The sheets smelled of fabric softener, the bed was covered with down comforters, we had our own well equipped and very clean bathroom, our window from the third floor looked out over the main road through town, the room was spacious and had a heater!  In the morning they brought us up a tray of food for breakfast that we ate at our own little table.   When we told them that we needed to leave early on our last morning they packed us up some sandwiches and gave us a hot water heater with instant coffee the night before so we could still have a nice breakfast at 5am.  It was tempting to stay even longer.

During our several days in Cesky Krumlov we retraced our steps many times, generally taking it easy and resting in our room from time to time.  We never actually even took the tour of the castle but just really enjoyed being in the village.  We frequented a couple of restaurants, strolled the castle gardens, and looked at nearly every house in the entire town.  For a vacation town the food was fairly limited and not especially good but the quaint atmosphere was so relaxing.  

Everyone that came to Krumlov seemed to bring their dog to the point where they were under the tables in the restaurants, big or small!  We watched one woman walk in to a cafe with her dachshund (a very popular breed) in a doggie purse under her arm.  The dog's head peaked out from the end and when she unzipped the purse it folded out into a bed.  She proceed to throw a ball across the cafe courtyard to keep it entertained.   We ventured to try a new restaurant one night, a small wine bar, but a distinct smell of dog poop was in the air when we walked in the door.  It didn't fit with the posh decor but a woman was squatting and wiping the floor and laughing with the waiter, her little toy sized dog sitting nearby.  It was pretty clear what had happened so we moved on to another place.  I am a dog lover to a near extreme but that even pushed me over the edge! 

The shopping in Krumlov was a bit better than the typical tourist kitsch we had seen in Prague.  The shops catered to a more discerning clientele for the most part and we finally found a wonderful shop that specialized in replicas of historical glass from many periods, including Art Nouveau.  They were mostly reproductions of Loetz Widow, a turn of the century Bohemian glass maker, and they were beautifully done.  There were also a number of great toy stores with locally made traditional wooden toys.

We deliberated over where to head in Austria and bugged the tourist info office for information on all of our options.  It was either Salzburg or Vienna.  Neither was very far away but from such a small place there were not many good connections by bus or train.  After going back and forth we finally decided on Vienna.  It meant a very early start to catch a bus before sunrise to Cesky Budejovice but after four days in Krumlov we were finished with our medication and were both feeling better so we  committed ourselves to finally making a move. 

POLAND Warsaw Sept 16-17 Krakow Sept 18 Sept 19 Sept 20 Sept 21-22

CZECH REPUBLIC Prague Sept 23 Sept 24-25 Cesky Krumlov Sept 26 Sept 27-30

AUSTRIA Vienna Oct 1 Oct 2

HUNGARY Budapest Oct 3 Oct 4 Oct 5-6