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Cesky Krumlov: Old Man Winter

“Dave, wake up. Wake up.” Bec kissed me on the forehead. “Look, it’s snowing.”

“It’s what now?” I asked dosily

“It’s snowing. Look.”

I sat up in my bed in the 8-bed dorm room and looked to the window. All I could see was a blur of white. Of course I’m blind as hell, so everywhere I look is a blur of some colour. I put on my glasses, got up, and walked over to the window. Then I smiled. A great big goofy grin; the snow was pouring down, huge white flakes swirling in the wind and covering up all the colours we’d seen in the past few days. It was only the second place I’d seen snow fall (the first being Winnipeg in Canada, back in March of this year), and what a place to see it. Bec and I were in Cesky Krumlov, 3 hours south of Prague; a stunning old medieval town that wraps itself around the twisting Vltava river winding itself through the old buildings and past the 13th century castle overlooking the town. We’d been there for three days, having left Loket on Monday November 14th, and had spent those days wandering the old streets, exploring the surrounding hills, and playing UNO for money at the hostel.

With the end of daylight savings a few weeks earlier, and the temperatures now struggling to get beyond single figures, the crowds were beginning to thin out and so the hostel was less than half full. Although after spending a week in Loket as the only 2 people at our hostel there, even having just 15 or so people around was a bit of a change. It was a fairly settled crowd; people who’d been at the hostel for 2 or 3 weeks. Cesky Krumlov is that sort of place. That is, until Wednesday nights at the hostel. What’s so special about Wednesdays, I hear you ask. Keg Night, my friends. Wednesday night at Hostel 99 is Keg Night, when the hostel provides a free keg from the local brewery for all the guests. After a couple of nights getting to know everyone at the hostel, and starting to feel settled in, on Wednesday night the place swelled like a toy dinosaur in water. People seemed to appear out of nowhere, giant plastic cup in hand, waiting in line to fill their beer.

The morning of the snow fall, yeah, that was the morning after Keg Night, and so after standing at the window for a few minutes marvelling at the falling snow, I turned round, and got straight back into bed to sleep for another few hours. When I finally did rise, the snow had stopped falling, and what had been covered with white earlier was now almost totally back to normal; most of the snow having melted away. The disappointment in everyone was clearly evident; I wasn’t the only one who had rarely seen snow.

But over the next 4 days, the snow would fall with almost monotonous regularity, and the entire town was soon a blinding, slippery, freezing village. It was wonderful. We had snowball fights, and built snowmen. We were kids again (I say that as though we have actually grown up, which is probably a bit of a stretch). We walked the streets with Emily, a cute Canadian from Victoria with a painfully funny sense of humour. Through the grounds of the castle we went, past the bear-filled moat that protects it. Yeah, that’s right, I said bear-filled. Two bears plodded around in a small, snow-covered enclosure (it’s hardly a moat, really), looking decidedly bored. We went further up into the castle, and there I learnt of the fun that can be had pounding strangers with snowballs. From an elevated walkway we launched snow missiles at pedestrians passing way below, scaring the bejesus out of them, then waving with a big smile when they looked up with surprise. Not everyone appreciated our accuracy though.

Emily was travelling around with a car, and so along with two other Australians, Sarah from Melbourne, and Mel from Darwin, we took a day trip to a random town on the map not far from Cesky Krumlov. We drove past fields rendered white from the falling ice, and along slippery roads slicing between rows of pine trees that looked like christmas, snow falling all the while. We passed an icy lake, with a summer camp of huts and water slides that looked horribly cold, and drove further into a national park, eventually stopping at a strangely deserted town for some lunch. We drove through the town and parked on the outskirts, hoping to find a hiking trail maybe, but with no luck in that regard, walked a short distance back into town and stopped in an abandoned building to eat our bread rolls. The snow had stopped and the sun was shining, and on the way back to the car we saw a mother and two young boys fishing in a small pond, half of which was frozen.

Back in the car, we made a detour on the way home along a bumpy, single lane track which lead to the edge of the lake we’d passed on the way in. There was still plenty of blue sky about as we walked down to the water’s edge; where the snow and water met to form huge plates of ice. It crunched under our feet, and occasionally relented to show the orange sand hidden beneath the white. We mucked about, taking photos and breaking bits of ice. There were some fisherman up the shore a bit, but they spoke no English. After 10 minutes, the clouds rolled in, and the snow started to fall; huge flakes that would crash into your eyes, leaving you looking like a frozen pirate, so we jumped back in the car, and headed home.

A few days later, the crowds from the Keg Night having disappeared by now, Bec and I again jumped in Emily’s car, and the three of us went for another drive to a random town to see what was about. We ended up in the town of Trebon (French for very bon, I believe), parked the car, and got out for a look around. It was freezing. Ice fell from the sky, and our toes were numb. But we walked through the spacious town square; it seems every old town in Europe has a beautiful town square, something Australian places don’t. We did a lap of the town looking for somewhere to eat, found a pizzeria that was only open on weekends, and so ended up going to a hot dog vendor. A hot dog vendor. It was zero degrees out, snowing, hardly anyone about, and this guy was standing in the square with his little trolley, dishing out hot dogs for 50 cents. There’s gotta be an easier way to earn a living.

Emily had a little tourist card for the town, which listed a few of the sights, one being a castle on the edge of town, somewhere near a lake. With nothing else to do, and still yet to be castled-out, we decided to track it down. After asking for directions at a service station, we headed south, and followed the signs to a snow covered road that was blocked by a gate. We parked the car, and although our toes were still numb, we started walking down the road with not a castle in sight. I began to run ahead, as much to warm up my feet as to find this damn castle, and was about to stop and turn back, overcome by the cold. But then, a break in the trees to my left became a narrow path that lead to a stunning gothic cathedral-type building. I turned back to the girls, arms raised in triumph, and they ran forward, jaws hitting the ground when their eyes found the building. There were no foot prints in the snow, we had the entire place to ourselves, and walked almost tentatively up to the building. It was magical. And I say that without vomiting, something I thought I’d never be able to do. It really was a Disney moment. Unfortunately the door was locked so we couldn’t get inside, and the cold soon forced us back to the car, running to get the blood flowing.

I keep waiting for the novelty of the snow to wear off; frozen fingers and toes aren’t exactly pleasurable. But in this beautifully picturesque setting, you just can’t get sick of it. Well, at least not yet.

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  1. admin Says:

    And a big cheers to Trickey for the title of this entry; Old Man Winter. Good one fella.

  2. Posted from Czech Republic Czech Republic

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