Cesky Krumlov, the offbeat way
Gawking over the iconic sights in a fairytale town like Cesky Krumlov is a given. Who can escape the attraction of the dreamiest of settings…medieval castle overlooking a time-warped, red-roof huddle of houses, and a gushing river wrapping it like a satiny ribbon. But there’s another Cesky Krumlov, hidden, and off-the-beaten path. Tempting you to wander into nooks where few others are venturing. All you need is your incorrigible curiosity to lead the way. The rewards? Unanticipated discoveries. Here are my favourite five solitude-filled spots to swoon over, in the cutest town of the Czech Republic.
1. Relax by the riverside
Through a hidden alley, where red colored wall pedestals display quirky sculptures and a pile of trash cans doubles up as a pin-up board. Through a stony archway framing Czech houses sporting dark slanting roofs and attic rooms. To the cutest of bookend-like benches and giant pink coral-hued chairs facing dark water, gushing at full speed. A couple strolls by. A couple of friends perch on the smooth rocks lining the borders of the sloping embankments.
On roofs of traditional houses converted into B&Bs or home-style restaurants, diners find quiet spots to enjoy the peace. Find a riverside eatery. Order some vegetarian crepes and seekh (tofu tikka) on rustic benches, with blankets draping your knees. Its chilly out here. Followed by the popular carp filet or whole trout, maybe? Gaze at mellow sunlight kissing the tops of rust roofs and adding a warm glow to russet treetops. Follow the ducks that quack and paddle around. Look at the wooden rafts and canoes glide by. Laze over the leisurely lunch. What’s the rush?
2. Moon over the monasteries
A large complex of medieval monasteries echoing peaceful perfection. Vast grounds with golden-red autumn trees. Crunchy fallen leaves that make you sigh. Outline of a red brick tiled roof against a soft blue sky. A stone paved path through green grassy gardens. A cathedral with a baroque steeple and pretty, delicate, yet ornate chandeliers. Not a soul around to interrupt the quiet. An empty bench to daydream on. And a fascinating tour of the living quarters of the Sisters of St. Clare for a peek into their monastic lifestyle.
And my favourite memory…coins stuck on the cobbled road at the pink-and-white exit gate of the monastery grounds. No, you can’t pick the coins. Make a note of the Pizzeria Nona Gina outside. Scrumptious, authentic pizza…highly recommended. Grab a seat in the open-air or squeeze into a tiny table inside.
3. Seek solace at Siroka Ulice
Spend a couple of hours admiring world-class modern art at the Egon Schiel Art Centre. There is a permanent exhibit about Egon Schiele’s life and a wide range of his works from nudes to Cesky Krumlov landscapes to his own photographs. Get a fascinating glimpse into the town life during the last days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Temporary exhibits include artists in the league of Dali, Chagall, Picasso. Wonder why the place is so underrated. Pick up souvenir from the gift shop…a poster, postcard or a T-shirt? Sip a coffee in the cafe, while the drizzle stops.
Enjoy a slow amble on the broadest street in town under the shade of a dripping umbrella. Find leftovers of medieval architecture, gaze at decorated portals of gabled houses, admire pretty relief work and elaborate stucco. Stumble upon street art by an unknown artist in an empty back alley. Or browse in the many quirky shops for an unusual hand-blown Bohemian glass memento. Buy a locally hand-crafted wood piece for your home. Hours drift by. Wander into by-lanes and find small wooden bridges to cross.
4. Linger along the Latran
The long curving street connecting the wooden Lazebnický Bridge and Budějovická Gate is not really a secret, but is still relatively quiet most of the time. Endless moments pass joyfully gazing at medieval burger houses packed into the cutest of spaces, some flaunting lovely Gothic and Renaissance features. Flower bunches adorning windows add colour to pastel buildings. Tiny tables with patterned tablecloths showcase pretty cafes. Ornate wrought guild signs dangle from shop doorways, making each signboard a showpiece.
Stop at the offbeat Marionette Museum…appreciate finely crafted old Czech marionettes and complete puppet theatres including stage designs and curtains from the latter half of the 19th century to modern gems. The waxworks are so real, you’ll be waiting for them to blink. Buy an original marionette crafted by contemporary puppeteers and wood-carvers from the Museum gallery. Or potter around in the stores on the street outside for an overwhelming choice of more affordable versions. A quaint spectacled puppet in a red chequered dress sounds perfect to remind you of the trip to Cesky Krumlov.
5. Lose yourself in Left bank
As you cross the Dr. Edvard Beneš Bridge, you will find yourself comparing the dark river waters to the dark roof the church above. The setting is lovely like the rest of the town…clumps of yellows, oranges and reds in offsetting pointy-roof houses lined up along the water front. Despite the slight drizzle and cloudy grey skies, its as pretty a picture as ever.
Explore the lovely Renaissance houses of the Plešivec neighbourhood. You can feel the serenity more deeply up here, there’s hardly a soul on the streets for company. Bonus…you will stumble upon a fabulous view of the town. Eyecandy? Or town planner’s artwork? A stop to catch photography enthusiasts’ fancy…the Seidel Photographic Studio Museum. The Nouveau-Romanesque Jewish Synagogue is another hidden delight with its eight-sided tower and rounded colourful windows decorated with the Star of David, built to face in the direction of Jerusalem.
Another day flits by, but you haven’t had your fill of Cesky Krumlov. Tasting Bohemia can be addictive.
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