My First Glimpse of Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic
The day that my Viking Danube River cruise arrived in the Czech Republic, I was able to visit my 45th country. My friends and I spent five hours exploring beautiful small-town of Cesky Krumlov, a UNESCO World Culture and Natural Heritage site since 1992. I love saying it out loud “Ches-kee Crumb-lov” because it rolls right off of the tongue. This is the jewel of Bohemia and the second largest city in the country, only behind Prague.
A Living Fairy-Tale City
A Viking River Cruise appointed tour guide led a group of us cruise passengers through the cobblestone streets of Cesky Krumlov, a medieval town. We had about a 90-minute supervised tour of the city with plenty of time to explore on our own. First up was a visit to the Krumlov castle, the most popular thing to see. It was gorgeous and of course, extremely old. The castle, comprised of 40 buildings with five courtyards, was closed to the public so unfortunately, we were only able to take exterior photos. Krumlov runs alongside the Vltava River and the huge grounds are very photogenic.
We continued on with the tour walking down winding hills to reach the downtown shops and cafes. The buildings, combinations of Gothic, Baroque, and Renaissance styles, reminded me of fairytales and it felt like we were walking through a storybook as we ambled up and down the cobblestone streets. One walkway amidst the castle was painted so cleverly with bricks, doors, and windows, that it was hard to tell if it was a mural or real building.
The streets of town wound around both sides of the Vltava River. Lush mountains were the backdrop on one side of the river and tiny bridges connected the sides. The scenery, with its orange roofs, stark buildings, and domes, reminded me a bit of Tallinn, Estonia. Mint green, pale yellow, and white buildings dominated the street fronts.
Food, Souvenirs, and Sightseeing
My friends and I popped in some shops for souvenir shopping. Talented artisans produced much of the products for the stores and they were lovely to look at, but the shopkeepers were not very friendly. One of the cutest souvenirs I saw were hand-decorated gingerbread men with ornate frosting and designs. I had to buy one for my husband, a big gingerbread fan.
For lunch, we ventured into a kitschy Bohemian restaurant, Don Julius, with a romantic fireplace and interesting decor. It was located inside of the Hotel Zlatý andel, which translates to Golden Angel Hotel. Though the ambiance felt homey and warm, the decor was risque and eye-popping. Hotel Zlatý andel is part of the Historic Hotels of Europe group.
Our Duck Pate was spot on; tasty and the perfect consistency. While this was being devoured, the restaurant’s music played “Hard Luck Woman”, my all-time favorite song by the rock band Kiss. This was a perfect day for me! We wanted to try traditional Czech food, so I ordered the Beef Goulash with bread dumplings and onions. Oh my goodness, it was fabulous! The dumplings were almost gingerbread like in flavor and consistency (very dense and yummy). The gravy covering the dish was incredible and had to be eaten to the last drop. Cranberries and fresh cream topped the dish as a garnish and really brought the deep flavors all together. My friend had the Schnitzel style meal and loved it as well.
Quaint Cafes for People Watching
In the heart of Cesky Krumlov lies a beautiful, yet haunting fountain. It was placed here in 1577 and the newest stone was replaced in 1843. It is definitely the focal point of the square. Around it, pastel and cheerful buildings line the streets with interesting items in the windows to entice those walking by. The architecture is exquisite and arched doorways a popular sight. Talented musicians played in the streets and gathered audiences to clap along with them and cheer. Though we were here for a few hours, it seemed like only minutes. We were totally immersed in the Czech culture and it felt like part of a dream!
After strolling through the crowds and taking hundreds of pictures, my friends and I retreated to the town square to people watch and wait for the group tour to conclude. We found a quaint cafe, Krumlovská Fontána Cafe Restaurant, where we enjoyed hot chocolate (the temperatures were drastic and this Florida gal was freezing) and a cream filling iced donut. The outdoor patio was equipped with throws for keeping warm.
A Country I Would Recommend To All Travelers
My first glimpse of Cesky Krumlov was a memorable one and it was certainly a beautiful place to spend the day. River cruising takes you to amazing destinations that you might not ordinarily know about. While Prague, in the Czech Republic, has been on my bucket list for years, Cesky Krumlov was a perfect introduction to this wonderful country. I hope you will get to visit someday as well.
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