Česky Krumlov is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful towns/villages I have ever seen. It is gorgeous at every corner. It was a trip back in time to cobblestone streets, buildings with 18-inch thick walls, castles, towers, chateaus, and moats.
Coming from Ostrava, however, it was an Odyssey to get there. There were to be three legs of the trip that I’d planned quite carefully. But it appears that October is the season for welding railroad tracks (not the first time this month I’ve encountered this) which means train delays, making travelers exit the trains, get on buses, then back on trains, etc. So naturally I arrived in Prague after my next train had already left. But little did I know that train tickets are actually good for all subsequent trains. How nice is that? In the U.S., I’d be arguing with the staff and sleeping on the floor after paying for a full-priced new ticket the next day. The only loss was that I’d splurged on a reserved 1st Class ticket (only about $7 more) and that did not transfer, so I ended up in a coach car crammed with 150 middle schoolers. As luck would have it, middle schoolers are the same everywhere. No, it was not a quiet or calm trip.
At Česky Budejovice (“Budweiser” for those who care about bad beer), I had 15 minutes to catch a bus for which I’d rescheduled. But language barriers meant that the message I received at the info booth was along the lines of “follow the orange.” Aha! That was clear to me because I knew the bus station was near but not at the train station and right away I saw orange signs with a picture of a bus and “Krumlov.” What could go wrong? I followed the signs for many blocks until the last one that said, “sorry for the inconvenience of track closures.” This was not a bus stop and by now my bus had departed. But my mantra has been patience and flexibility which I chanted to myself as I accepted the fact that I’d missed my new connection and it would be another 2 hours before the next bus. Back to the train station info booth and I found someone who spoke a little more English. This time it was “go to that orange booth 50 feet to your left and buy your ticket.” I bought the ticket, which was for a train, not a bus. Turns out I should never have left the station. Good news? I decided to chill (flexibility) and found an Indian restaurant where I had an awesome meal and wandered the town. I found the bank of my Czech bank account (ČSOB) in a most beautiful pastel-blue building. It was like a princess palace.
When I arrived in Krumlov (the Czechs here drop the “Česky” because so many towns begin with that, so what’s the point?), it was dark. I mean dark, no street lights even. And the train station was in the middle nowhere. And my cell signal was bad so my GPS wasn’t working well. And I was exhausted. I swear it kept saying, “only another 9 minutes” every 20 minutes. Eventually it told me to walk through a pitch-black empty parking lot and into what looked like a castle museum. Like, it was asking me to enter the castle grounds. Alone. In the dark. There was no one around. It was downright eerie. This could not be right. But what could I do? I reminded myself that the Czech Republic has one of the lowest crime rates in the world.
I did what I was told and stepped into a magical world. I walked through a tunnel under a towering massive wall with starkly lit archways. I crossed a river and looked over the bridge into the water and saw a creature – fishlike but with a long body partly above the surface. An eel? Then it reached a rock and legs appeared. It was a river otter. Up, up cobblestone paths I wound with my roller-bag suitcase (why-oh-why did I bring this?) and worried I’d never reach my destination. I passed window after window with dolls or ceramic figurines ominously looking out at me. There were no people in sight. What had I done?
Finally I got to my hotel, Hotel Konvice, which is in a 14th century building. They told me that there is only one room that still has the original wood-beam ceiling – as I looked upon the most beautiful dark wood ceiling I’d ever seen. I was exhausted but relieved I’d made it and, not hungry from the huge Indian dinner, simply asked for a nearby bar. I was directed to go to the “Gypsy Pub.” A Thursday night at the tail end of the tourist season, the streets were empty, but I eventually found the pub. It took me three tries to build the nerve to go in by myself and I only did because a man smoking outside told me I had to try their excellent beer and encouraged me to enter.
I sat down at the very back of the pub, ordered, then realized in my exhaustion, I’d left my wallet in my hotel. Patience and flexibility. I could have cried. But realized I had some coins. I remembered that pivo (beer) costs less than tap water in the Czech Republic. So I had enough change for two beers plus tip, actually (but I only drank one).
After awhile of sitting alone, someone slipped me a note. It said “150, ISO 1000.” My camera draws attention, I’ve learned. So many people stop to talk camera-speak with me. Next thing I knew this somewhat-drunk man was sitting next to me holding my camera, trying to show me how to take great pics in this dark space. I knew he was wrong and that a shutter speed of 150 would never work here, but I humored him and we had a great conversation for a bit and took a lot of blurry photos, until he wandered off, knowing he’d helped a bumbling foreigner.
In the morning, Team Power-FULbright Women, Harmony and Michelle arrived! Oh the fun we had.
The day opened to full sun and we seized the day. Autumn here is stunning. I clearly was in love with the colorful castle tower, given the ridiculous number of photos I found of it on my memory card when I got home.
It can be seen from everywhere in the village and from every little alley. We made a point of climbing to the top of the tower while the weather was good. We were well-rewarded.
The base of the tower emerged right out of the rock as if it grew there organically. The view nearly made me cry. Krumlov is built along a river with a sharp S-curve. So in effect, there are three peninsulas, each with their own character and beauty.
It is way less crowded than in summer but I still got stabbed with several selfie-sticks as we walked. Am I the only person anymore who takes photos that do not include myself? God, that dates me. Knowing it would rain the next day, we visited the gardens that are less popular. It did not disappoint. The autumn colors made me nostalgic for Minnesota, but they served me well. We were playful in the freedom of the woods, appreciating the beauty and deep golden sunlight.