I seem to have a habit of starting my travels this way… busy. Took the 8:07 train from Amsterdam to Duisberg, a two hour trip, and had about a half hour to wait there. In Amsterdam an Aussie, Claire, had asked me a question about which train to get on, so we grabbed some quick food together in Duisburg before getting on the next train to Berlin together, a four hour ride. She was staying in Berlin, but I had 40 minutes to get the next train to Praha, another five hours away. I decided that I might go directly to Český Krumlov and finish in Prague at the end of the week, because my friend from the Conservatory, Francisco, will be there for a couple days then with some friends, so we could hang out. I arrived in Praha around 21:00 and the next train to Český Krumlov was at 0:23 for two and a half hours to České Budějovice and then another two and a half hour wait til the 5:28 train gets to Krumlov around 6:30. When I arrive it’ll be nearly 24 hours of travelling, and I didn’t sleep the night before to make sure I got to Amsterdam Centraal Station in time to start this whole trip. Oy vey.
I was in and out of sleep the whole train ride. I tried to watch the scenery of northern Germany when possible, but sometimes there just wasn’t anything worthwhile. Dresden, however, caught my eye in between Berlin and Praha. I think I’ll definitely have to make a stop there sometime. Part of the reason I was in and out of sleep is the Czech trains are not the easiest to use. Sometimes there’ll be an announcement as to the next stop, but not always. And it’s often difficult to see the sign at the stop, because there’s usually only one at the stations in smaller towns, and if you’re in the wrong part of the train they’re difficult to see. Not having a list of the stops on the trains doesn’t help. So I could never fall into a deep sleep so I could stay alert enough to keep track of where I was.
Once getting to Český Krumlov, I got my bearings and headed to Hostel 99. It was recommended in a couple guidebooks, and was cheap at 250 Czech crowns (Kč). It turns out my Dutch classes are actually helping with something… I was unsure of where I was, so I asked for directions from a midget in a newstand. Knowing that many Czechs don’t speak English, I just pointed to where I wanted to go on the map. The midget then gave me directions in German… and because of the similarities to Dutch, I actually knew where to go. Woo! Unfortunately, the door was locked and reception not open that early. It was still dark, but I decided to stroll a bit and come back.
I definitely see why people recommend Český Krumlov for the scenery… it’s almost like being at a Renaissance Festival, except that all the structures are real. I went back to the hostel after a bit, and lucked out that someone that was awake getting ready to check out to let me in. There were couches, so I plopped down and crashed til 9 when the reception opened. The hostel is also beautiful, set inside one of the medievel buildings of the town. Once I got my room, I crashed out again for a bit, finally having a proper bed, til about 11:30, then got up and hit the town again. As usual, I started with just walking around, getting my bearings, and seeing what’s around. Like I said, the town maintains a medieval atmosphere. It’s almost surreal at times. The tower from the castle is so tall in comparison to the everything else, and since the town is so small, its presense is always felt. It’s almost as if it was painted into the scene in your vision.
Big things on the agenda are the castle, some horseback riding, and hiking. Rafting is also a popular option, but it’s a bit too cold in October for that. But first, some late lunch at Krčma V Šatlavské. I saw lots of meat cooking on an open fire grill. It called to me. the restaurant completely fit in with the town. The decor inside was exactly as you’d expect from a medieval pub. For 220 Kč I got a large beer and a mixed grill, which consisted of salad, baked potato, fried zucchini, and like four different grilled meats- beef, chicken, turkey, and pork. It was fantastic.
There’s two hikes you can take that start at the castle, the blue and yellow and the red and white markers. They’re the same path for a while, which takes you past the palace gardens, which were nice, but not particularly spectacular. Though I heard from someone else that if I had kept going back, past the rotating theater, there’s a magnificent pond. The trail continues south of Český Krumlov into the woods. I think I may have picked a perfect time to go, because being the end of October, the leaves are changing. The woods and country side of the Česká Republika are beautiful this time of year. The trail rises in elevation a bit and offers some great views of Český Krumlov below through the reds and oranges and yellows of the leaves. When the two trails split, I stayed with the red and white markers, though after a while I wondered if I was actually on the specified path anymore or not. I hadn’t seen any marker guides in a while, and was starting to get a bit far from Český Krumlov, which normally wouldn’t concern me, except that I knew I didn’t have much daylight left, and was completely unprepared for navigating and/or sleeping in the woods in the dark. I hit a juncture where I decided I would just head back the way I came while I still could, but after a minute I reconsulted my LP map and thought I had figured out where I might be. So I took a chance and went with one of the junction routes that I thought would get me home. And whattaya know? I was right. And good thing, too. Not only was it faster to go that way rather than backtracking, but I got some more nice views of hillside villages, and ended up in the residential area. I knew there had to be one somewhere… the main town areas just don’t seem conducive to really “living” there. I’m glad I found it, because it always gives more of a “real” sense to the town outside the main attraction areas. In the case here, it seemed very former Eastern bloc… Big, boxy, drab apartment buildings and the like. Very different from the medieval old town, where I eventually ended back up. It was nearing 18:30, so that meant either food or beer time… and then I found La Bohéme cocktail bar, offering 30% off during happy hour, from 14:00-20:00… It was a sign… so the drinking, between my writing this, has begun.
Tags: cesky krumlov, Czech Republic, Europe, hiking, nature, Prague, Travel