Our route from Brno to Český Krumlov was fairly easy. We planned to take another bus by Student Agency to our destination. In Czech, it seems that travelling intercity by bus can save one much more money than taking trains. The service is good on board the bus too - with free wifi, sometimes even a screen with movies screening and charging ports, as well as a complimentary cup of coffee or tea.
Paranoia engulfed us when we had to transfer to another bus to reach Český Krumlov at Ceske Budja station. It was a bus terminal to make that transfer. The second leg of the bus from there was late, so we got a little scared, but there were so many people waiting around the berth, so it could not be wrong.
Upon arrival in Český Krumlov, we were surprised by the view overlooking the river, with the castle in the background. The river water was a sapphire blue, the sky too, and the sun hung high up, shining ever so brightly. More days of sunlight to come, we hoped! The streets were cobbled stone, making it extremely hard to walk. The buildings are brightly coloured and are very eye-catching. It was peaceful too, just with some occasional korean tourists (some how there were many koreans!), but the town had a charm to it, seemingly pulling us in further as we took each step deeper into the town centre.
Despite being small, many souvenier shops could be spotted along the streets unlike in Brno, where we did not see any at all. This could indicate that, Český might already be quite known and many tourists do venture here, just that we do not see them as we were there during the low season.
Český Krumlov is pronounced as 'Chess-key Kroom-lof'. Its old town is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and sits within a horse shoe bend where the Vltava River runs through. This river is the same river that runs through Prague. Český Krumlov is known for its old medieval architecture and picturesque townscape, for it has a large castle - something quite rare for a small town - sitting on the other side of the river. Like many other European cities, the river was the main source of trade for the town.
We spent the bulk of our time in the Český Krumlov Castle and the tower, admiring the panoramic view of the town. The castle offers guided tours in both Czech and English but we did not go for it as our timing was off and we did not see the need to spend that money. I was extremely drawn to the imagery on the castle walls and the tower. They look 3D but actually are well preserved Renaissance wall paintings. The paintings were the result of one of the ruler's being financially tight yet wanting to still have an ideal castle residence. Hence, he engaged an artist instead of an architect to paint and ornament the castle walls.
One could pay a small fee to go up to the tower as well to have a bird's eye view of the town. Otherwise, walk all the way through the castle grounds to have a view of the town with the river winding around it. The view is to die for and really seems like a real life fairyland. That light from the sun created an orangey filter which made the place even more dreamy.
Our legs brought us wandering across to the other side of the town which looked less glamorous but pretty humble-looking. It was a lot less fairytale-like and seemed more realistic to where people could have lived and worked. It was surprising that a chinese restaurant could open up in a small small town like this. What are the odds?
Český Krumlov's Christmas Market located in the market square had to be the saddest one of all - with only a couple of stalls and minimal people around, a sight unlike in other European towns. When the sun sets at about 4pm-ish, they were closing and there was no one in the square huddling together, making merry and drinking punch. There was no life after dark! Most shops were closed in the town centre probably because it was Winter and it was the off-peak season. We had a hard time looking for a place to eat. We eventually spent our time at 'U Dwau Maryi', a Bohemian restaurant, for dinner. It was the most interesting meal I had in my life!
The interior was of medieval style. The aim of the restaurant was to bring the taste of the past to the present. I think it was the closest representation of how people in Bohemia used to eat.
I would say that the flavours are not what we usually have in Asian cuisine, not even close to what we have in what we think is Western cuisine. Some kind of herbs they used left an interesting after taste in my mouth. I had a vegetarian order which seemed to have consisted of lentils with spinach that tasted extremely raw, barley with peas in some sort of porridgey paste, a cheese and veggie quiche and a potato pancake and a salad. All of that didn't sound so bad did it? Nor does it look unappetising. It was just a very new kind of taste and combination of food and herbs I guess. It was very nutritious though, look at all that legume and veggies! Definitely worth a try!
As night fell, the little town turned misty and slightly creepy. There was not much to do since everything was closed so we headed back to our Hostel, Merlin Hostel for a good rest before heading up to Prague the next day.
One day in Český Krumlov's old town is enough in Winter to admire it's cobbled stone streets and cute buildings. Water activities resume in Summer and that probably takes up more time so spending a couple more days during the peak season could be appropriate. Though a very short stay and slightly off route from Brno to Prague, it was worth the while to have made a stopover to get a feel of this crooked meadow, what Český Krumlov loosely translates to. It reminded me a lot of Salzburg, but it was like a miniature version and much more compact. This town still leaves me in awe when I look back at the pictures even months after being there!
Where to stay
Merlin Hostel | Kájovská 59, 381 01 Český Krumlov, Czech Republic | firstname.lastname@example.org | 250Kč (SGD 15)/ pax/ night
Where to eat
U Dwau Maryi | Parkán 104, 381 01 Český Krumlov, Czech Republic | email@example.com | Opens daily 1100 - 2300 | Cash Only
Where to visit
Český Krumlov Castle | Zámek 59, 381 01 Český Krumlov, Czech Republic | Opens Tue to Sun 0900 - 1700/ 1800
Student Agency | A much more comfortable and affordable bus service than other bus shuttle service or trains. Our route was from Brno - Cesky Krumlov.
By Foot. It is important to wear good shoes as the cobbled stone streets are uneven and there are very sudden steep up and down slopes.