We caught glimpses of a magical city of spires and terracotta tiles, almost moated by the River Vltava as she nestled into a horseshoe-shaped bend in the river.
We were driving around the ring road looking for parking and worrying, because we had no Czech currency to pay for it!
But Český Krumlov granted us a stay of execution. The car park was pay on exit!
We had decided to get up and at ‘em and arrive in Český Krumlov about 9am, before it got too crowded – and hot.
Český Krumlov (‘Czech Krumlov’ – to distinguish it from Moravský Krumlov in South Moravia) is a medieval gem. It was given UNESCO World Heritage status alongside Prague. Český Krumlov’s castle is second only in size to that in Prague (and they reckon THAT is only by one square metre!) The stunning little town has become known as ‘Prague in Miniature’ – and in my book, that makes it infinitely preferable!
We walked to the medieval centre through a cool park. Our path was next to the Vltava, the longest river in the Czech Republic, with views across to the church of St Vitus.
We saw a small ginnel or lane going upwards and decided it would be ‘interesting’. Gaining height usually yields its rewards and our stroll led us to the castle gardens. Our recompense for the climb was beautiful landscaping and spectacular views over the town.
We crossed the incredible, three-storey, covered Cloak Bridge, which spans the western side of the moat to join the gardens with the castle.
As we dropped back down into town we were against the stream of Japanese tourists, filming every step of their progress uphill with selfie sticks. They all seemed to adore the dogs. We were stopped every few yards for photos. We had arms flung around us, “Cute dogs!” exclaimed and canine cuddles all round; all captured for posterity on mobile phones while barely breaking stride!
To the Japanese, EVERYTHING seems to be an experience – not to be enjoyed at the time but to be seen through a viewfinder and immortalised on film. With all those hours of footage, I wonder if any of it is ever enjoyed later…
We moseyed through the pretty streets and cooled off the dogs in the river with the magnificent backdrop of the castle. The castle is HUGE, dominating the whole of one side of the town. Sadly, dogs are not allowed inside the castle; it is one of the few that we would have actually paid an entrance fee to explore (and if you go there, you MUST go inside!)
We stopped for a coffee in a shady courtyard of the Egon Schiele Gallery café. We chatted to a Czech / Romanian couple from Brno and Bucharest.
As usual, the conversation had concerned Brexit. “Eastern Europeans are worried that they will have to leave Britain.” they told us. “Britain would never do that!” we assured them. “But Britain can’t tell Brussels that! It is a point of negotiation..!”
Strangely, we saw them again later paddling down a river in a kayak! The river trips are really popular and would be well worth doing. It seems to be the deal to wear fancy dress, or at least a silly hat. We saw one chap in a kilt complete with Tam o’ Shanter, there were rafts towing plastic ducks and inflatable flamingos – one even had a large polar bear in tow!
We had met a really sweet Czech couple on the campsite. They loved the dogs and had taught us some Czech words. The only one we could remember was ‘Ahoy!’ for ‘Hello’, which came in very useful for the many rafts and kayaks passing us on the river! They told us that Czech beer was the best in the world and that we must try some.
We evacuated town around 13.30. The crowds were not too bad but it was really hot. We got back to the caravan and found that, although they had moved on, the Czech couple had left a selection of Czech beers on our step for us to try. How very sweet of them! I am sometimes just so moved by the generosity and kindness of strangers.
En route back to the campsite, I had gone to spend the last of our Czech Koruna in Lidl. It was bound to happen. I entered grasping our last Kč note, not bothering to take my handbag. Numbers have never been my forté and unfortunately, I had got my exchange rates horribly wrong. My flawed mathematics convinced me that the 200Kč note that I brandished was worth about £20. It was worth about £8.
Needless to say, with only a single till open, a huge queue, non-essential shopping worth about £20 having been scanned and passed through pending payment and an uncomprehending Czech cashier, I had to make a sudden bolt from the checkout to the van to grab Mark’s wallet and some Euros to pay for my shop. In the currency liquidation stakes, my efforts were absolutely no help at all!
Ever the one to find a practical solution, Mark worked out the price of the delicious chocolate marzipans that we had been scoffing for the last few days. Ashamed to show my face again in Lidl, I dispatched him to exhaust the last of our currency on chocolate. Which I have to say, was a bit of a result!
During our last night, we had an ENORMOUS storm. We actually opened the blinds to watch the lightning – it lit up the whole sky so brightly that we couldn’t even look at it. Then there was the wind. It was the first time that we had both been truly scared. Although it was for only ten minutes or so, if I were to guess the wind speed, I would place it at around 80mph. The caravan shook as though there was some significant action on the Richter scale. The only saving grace was that, although we were under some trees, they had no large boughs and the wind direction was away from us, so nothing landed on us and we didn’t get blown to Austria!
Surprisingly, the following morning, as well as Caravan Kismet, all tents were intact. As we opened the blinds, we thought that it would not only be Ruby who would pine for the sights and sounds of Camping Paradijs; surrounded by woodland and fields of wild flowers, the river rushing past just outside our window, the nighttime crackle and scent of campfires, with sparks and flames dancing up to the stars and the gentle, muted soundscape of guitars and singing from happy, relaxed people.
A little like Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Český Krumlov is a definite GOB – Get Onyer Bucketlist!
Next time, join us when we find that there really is NOT a welcome in the hillsides for us in Austria!
For a very comprehensive guide to the castle at Český Krumlov and its history, click here. There is plenty to do in and around Český Krumlov; for details of festivals, shows in the revolving theatre or castle theatre, discount card and general tourist information, click here.
We stayed Camping Paradijs, a short drive from Český Krumlov and right on the banks of the river Vltava.