Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Cesky Krumlov – 28 August 2010

Many years ago Russell & Jill told us of a great spot they had discovered in the Czech Republic, Cesky Krumlov. When we visited Prague the connections were not suitable for a side trip so the brochure languished at the bottom of the drawer until recently when, upon re-reading, the fact that the nearest airport was Linz rang a little bell as Ryanair now fly to Linz.

Putting two and two together and a long weekend, we flew on Friday to Linz and drove across the border to Cesky Krumlov. There was little time to do anything on Friday, apart from enjoy a really excellent dinner at Mastal.

Rain was forecast for the whole weekend as a front moved over the central European area, so we were not surprised to wake up on Saturday to a grey day. This seemed an excellent time to visit the castle complex near our hotel. We were able to do an English castle tour in the morning, although it turned out we were the only ones on the tour, for whom English was our first language (including the guide). The castle is huge and the tour a fascinating insight into the history of the area, including one owner who only had a son and heir after 13 years separation from his wife up until the time when the castle was confiscated by the Nazis.

By the time we finished, we were amazed to find the sun shining. This set the theme for the day, sun and clouds alternating, but not the promised rain. As a result, we enjoyed strolling around this very well restored medieval town. About half the town appears to be accommodation, and the remaining half is restaurants and cafes. While the town is extremely well presented at present we did see a display in a shop window of its condition before the restoration work began in the 1960s; it certainly would not have attracted the streams of tourists as it was back then.

In the afternoon we booked to join an English tour of the castle theatre. This is only one of two original baroque theatres left in the world, and it is really quite amazing. The original stage sets, interiors, costumes, music scores and behind the scenes mechanical contraptions to create sound and lighting effects still survive. They do have about six productions here a year, and that would be wonderful to attend. As it was, we found the tour really interesting, and would recommend it. Using only hand-powered wooden machinery the stage-hands could change the complete scene in 10-15 seconds and to this day they have no idea how the stage-hands under the stage controlling the sets and the stage-hands above the action, controlling the back-drops and curtains, coordinated their actions.

Our final tourist activity was to climb the castle tower to enjoy a great view over the castle and town. From many points in the Castle and Tower as well as vantage points along the river, one can watch the brave souls shoot the weir in rubber rafts or canoes. Most enjoy the thrill but every so often some take a spill. There did seem to be a pattern today, canoes with two guys were much more likely to end up upside down than canoes with a male-female crew. It is probably a gung-ho testosterone thing with the all male crews compared to the more cautious approach for those who are likely to be in serious trouble for dumping their female partner in the river. Whatever the reason it provided great entertainment for the land-loving spectators.

Friday's restaurant was recommended by the hotel receptionist; Saturday's restaurant – Krcma Barbakan - was highly recommended by travellers on Trip Advisor. Unfortunately we disagreed with visitors who said it was the best meal they had had in the Czech Republic. They obviously didn't sample the really excellent food we had last night at Mastal.

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