The bus ride to Cesky Krumlov was interesting, in a very good way. The company that ran the service was called the Student Agency and the guys at the front desk of Sir Toby’s in Prague highly recommended them. Once we got underway, the girl who checked everyone off as they got onto the bus, and then got on herself, turned on the tv monitors and walked down the aisle distributing headsets like an airline flight. Then she walked back through, offering coffee and tea. As she concluded the in-flight service, she popped in a DVD of a very, very strange Czech movie.
The bus stopped at the Spicak stop, just outside the old town walls of Cesky Krumlov. I remembered something in the Krumlov House hostel’s brochure about getting off at the second CK bus stop, and how directions were only given from that one. I also vaguely remember crumpling up the brochure and throwing it away. But thankfully, when I reached into my pocket I found it, crumpled, but the map was more than readable.
After turning around in circles and crossing the same street a couple times, I found my bearings and walked through the gates and into the border walls of the town.
As I walked down the coblestone streets and alleys it was easy to imagine the town in middle ages. Apart from the transition to souvenir shops and restaurants, with a few touches of paint here and there, the storefronts and buildings looked like they had survived for hundreds of years.
The walk through the town to the hostel aloud me to scope out the area, and an uncommon route up a long flight of stairs finally found me on the right street, standing in front of “the Dragon Door”, an intricately carved door of two entwined dragons.
I stepped inside the low door and was greeted by an Aussie and an American. The Aussie girl, Emma (incidentally, not sure if I’ve brought this up before, but all Aussie and Kiwi girls are either named Emma or Jess), told me that the room wasn’t ready, but I could drop my luggage off and roam around town until I could check-in.
I headed in the direction of the castle, and entered the grounds. A lookout point near a theatre and it’s bar, Antre, gave some great shots of the castle and Novo Mestro (New Town) area, across the river that snakes through the town.
The entrance to the castle started with a few cafes to the right, leading up to a moat bridge.
At the information and tourist map board just before the moat I scoped out the grounds and looked at the route to the gardens. And suddenly, along with the little icons for the toilets, dining facilities and museums, was a small “animal crossing” picture of a bear. That’s right, a bear. When I got to the moat, I found out it was really a bear moat, and piles of fruit and veggies were scattered around the enclosure. No bears though, it must’ve been too early for them.
I walked through the main courtyards and onto a bridge that extends across a natural gap in the rock that the castle was built on.
From there I walked up the slight hill to the King’s Gardens, which were saturated with beautiful tones of greens, oranges, yellows and browns.
I walked out of the back of the gardens and circled around the back of the town borders.
I crossed the river twice (it really snakes through the town), and headed up a short set of stone stairs which placed me right next to the hostel, completing my large loop around the town.
I finally checked in, unpacked and took a short nap. Emma gave me a tour of the place and explained the rules. Krumlov house was a true hippie’s paradise: it was “shoe free”, meaning no footwear past the entrance, they recycled like madmen and even asked everyone to compost all organic material. Above all, it was very friendly, homely hostel, but most importantly, it also had free wifi.
Earlier, I had talked to both Emma and a very unhelpful worker at the information center about short walks I could do in the area. One that came highly recommended was a short hike up to an old monastery south of CK. I figured it would be a good lookout point at sunset. I walked down to one of three supermarkets in town (and saying supermarket … two of them would be more like convenience stores) and bought some supplies, including a couple beers.
I left shortly before sunset, with my camera, a book and beers and started the hike up the hill. The map was reasonably accurate, but didn’t provide any fair warning on how steep the trail would be. I found myself frequently out of breath and taking breaks to squeegee the sweat off my head with my hands.
I finally reached the top, took some pictures, drank my beer and read, waiting for the sunset.
A hot air balloon even passed by …
And finally, the sun set and I got my usual castle pictures:
I realized only late that I waited a bit too long before heading back down the hill, and was quite worried that I would get lost on the way back. Fortunately, the moon was bright and the last bit of light in the sky was enough to guide me home.
When I got back to the hostel, it didn’t seem like any of the other guests wanted to go out, which was unfortunate, but instead we sat in the common room and watched a movie. I struck up a conversation with two Australian girls (the hostel was dominated by the Aussies during the few days I was there), who were headed to Budapest next, so I gave them advice on what to see and where to stay.