Five peaceful spots in Cesky Krumlov that you need to see

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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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Another day flits by, but you haven’t had your fill of Cesky Krumlov. Tasting Bohemia can be addictive. 

 

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Have you been to the fascinating fairytale town of Cesky Krumlov?

Cesky Krumlov, the iconic way…

Imagine green-yellow hues of the pastoral countryside of southern Czech Republic. Leading to an enchanting cobbled town cozily hidden within gently sloping hills. And a towering castle straight out of a Bohemian fairytale. Cynic or romantic…Český Krumlov can lure anyone into an endearing 16th-century time warp.

There are no bus-filled bays or bustling queues in sight. Maybe no one gets off with you at the bus station. A secluded road and an equally secluded petrol station in sight. A prick of doubt…are you even at the right place? Which way to the town? And how far? No cabs, cars or public transport to be seen. No signboards anywhere. Quick check with the petrol station. Apparently, its a 5 minute walk across the road. Oversized luggage roll, on your way. Wait, stop, hold it! That view, that view!  Lost your heart even before you step into town. Tough competition…huh, Prague?

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No grand gate. Just an unassuming entryway along a cluster of red-roofs buildings straight into a charming medieval paradise trapped in time. Homely Pension B&Bs all around. And you realize that the narrow lane you’re trudging on is the main drag. Perspective set right immediately. A few seconds and you’re at the Hotel Ruze. Love, love, love it. Designed like a monastery, complete vaulted ceilings, tall, iron-grill windows, a Knights Dining Hall and servers in vintage velvet gowns. A gorgeous view from the room over Vltava and a park. Ah, those vibrant autumn colors!

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You expected crowds…just not that much. There’s a festival in town and people are streaming onto the streets. Go with the mood, melt in, join the revelry. Map-less and agenda-less. Follow the throngs to dip into every iconic flavour of this unique UNESCO World Heritage Site. Delights every step of the way.

Located opposite Hotel Ruze, is the most first photogenic spot to start with…Seminární Zahrada. Did they plan that for wide terrace consciously, just for an eye-popping effect? Such a perfect place to catch up on some reading or finish a project report. Lean on the balustrade and soak in the gorgeousness of the wondrous vista. You could pitch a tent here to spend your life in, with that as a backdrop. Whoever planned this town was a genius.

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The main artery of town leads directly to the lively town square, Namesti Svornosti, enclosed by delightful, pastel gabled houses, crookedly huddled together since antiquity. Uncanny resemblance to Prague’s old town square…on a small scale. Aromatic food grills, artisans showcasing local crafts, sweets, wines and Bohemian folk performances. The carnival spirit is infectious…pick up some gingerbread cookies to munch along.

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Lazebnický Bridge, the ancient wooden bridge over the rushing river Vitava is no Charles Bridge, but feels more inviting and intimate. Photo-ready and how. The odd street performer or two, souvenir dangling salesmen, portrait painters, the scene is familiar. And there’s the legendary castle (second largest in Czech Republic), clinging to a rocky hill above, owners richer than the Holy Roman Emperor himself. The Rožmberk family ran this town from that spot for three centuries…and they certainly knew how to scout for a location. Who wouldn’t fall in love with this mini Prague?

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Mandatory Tridenlik queue-up a a tiny shop ahead for a hand-rolled cinnamon version. Hot and fresh, soft yet crunchy. Tread up a short flight of steps towards the castle entrance. Much less walking and much less steps than in the Prague castle complex. A complex of forty buildings situated around five courtyards and seven-hectare grounds. 13th-century castle with Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque elements. Can’t stop ogling at the finely painted pastel facades of the palace walls. Explore the interiors if you have the time, but don’t miss a sneak peak of the International Gallery of Ceramic works in the Vaclav Cellars located in the 4th castle courtyard. The freestyle artworks of selected Czech artistic ceramicists within vaulted ceilings and rock walls are quirky and inspiring.

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Towards the most recognizable landmark of the town…the six-storied cylindrical Castle Tower. Dressed with lovely murals and motifs in pale salmon and mint colours. Negotiating a traffic jam up the 160 steps to the windy, circular arcaded gallery. And being rewarded with 360-degree killer views of the entire town. Who cares about crowds when you get this?

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Back to ground level, follow the throngs to the Chain Bridge vantage points. There’s a reason why its so popular…that incredible horseshoe bend of the Vltava river. With two bends so acute that they almost touch, creating an island. The challenge? Jostling the crowds and waiting patiently for free spots to gawk from. Houses spilling down the hill to the river to the New Town, where elaborate merchant houses surround the town square. Tiny people dotting the curving streets. And the commanding tower and spire of St Vitus church standing proudly as a centrepiece of the russet-green landscape. Quintessential Bohemian takeaway? A picture of Cesky Krumlov town, framed in a stone arch…stuff dreams are made of. Stay a bit longer and breathe in the remnants of the past.

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High above the town, past the castle complex, away from the selfie sticks and noisy tourist groups, sprawls a massive sanctuary of calm. Does remind you of the Prague castle garden, though. Humungous trees, endless walking paths strewn with russet fallen leaves, carpet-design flower beds, manicured mazes, grand sculptures, lavish fountains. And minuscule figures of you… hopelessly giving in to the fantasy of royal pretence. Find a bench and just watch the clouds float on that generous expanse of blue. The Rožmberks were not the only ones to be privy to this luxury.

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One long day and its a wonderful wrap on the castle and its grounds. Mission iconic Cesky accomplished. But satiation status incomplete. There’s a whole town sprawled down there, literally begging to be discovered. So, who’s up for another kind of hunt? This time for quieter, hidden spots…away from the madding crowd. Just you and your restless roving spirit. (To be continued)

 

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High energy folklore spirit at Wenceslas festival

Witness pure Bohemian spirit at Cesky Krumlov…

No better place to kick start your Czech Republic trip than with the most delicious slice of the Bohemian region, Cesky Krumlov. And no better timing than autumn, when this fairyland is wrapped in cozy folds of russets, auburn, ambers and cornelians. But fall brings colours to more than just the foliage. You have barely taken the first few steps onto the cobbled roads, and you can sense the festivities in the air. St.Wenceslas Festival is painting the town red!

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Intrigued by the most beautiful buildings in Prague?

Interpret the language of Art Nouveau…

Some of us love cities with a past. For their narrow, wobbly cobbled roads and oil-lamp pedestals. For their charming places of worship, old wooden bridges, royal retreats and dark dungeons. For their imperfect half-timbered houses, impeccable tasteful mansions, vibrant tiled courtyards and rough red-brick tiled roofs. Because there’s more to brick, mortar and stone than mere eye candy. If you let them, buildings will whisper sweet-nothings in your ear. The wavelength needs a little more adjusting in a buzzing city like Prague, but you can still tune in to the fascinating narratives. As you trace the evolution of the ‘Mother of Cities’ from 9th-century Romanesque to 14th-century Gothic to 19th-century Art Nouveau and Cubist eras, you may find one of these styles particularly intriguing, as I did.

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A breathtaking hike in the Bohemian Switzerland to amaze you

Spectacular bounties of nature in Czech Republic…

There are travellers who thrive on hiking and trekking. Me…I’m not in that league. Yet, a trip to Bohemian Switzerland National Park was topping the ‘this-we-have-to-do’ list, while we drew up our Czech Republic itinerary. Just what was I thinking? I don’t know. A comfy coach that conveniently drops us off to ridiculously high vantage points for insta-worthy photo-opps, maybe. I’m aerially-challenged. And vertigo-prone. And exercise-averse. And plain lazy. (Nose wrinkle). But obsessively fascinated by that Youtube clipping on my laptop.

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Stop! That clock is singing!

Two time-keepers that make the world stand still…

It was Prague. Capital of the Czech Republic. Mother of cities. A symphony of elegance. Our mission to explore the enchanting historic centre, had landed us into the Old Town Square, where hundreds were milling. It was a surprise till then, but our arrival had been precisely timed for a certain spectacle. But what? Seconds before our guide pointed it out, we had spotted it. It was impossible to miss…everyone on the street who was pointing anywhere, was pointing at it. A great medieval astronomical clock (The Orloj) on the south wall of Old Town Hall Tower.

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