On the sixth day of our 10-day trip to Prague, Therese, Eileen and I took a day-trip to the magical southern Czech city of Český Krumlov. We considered a number of options for an excursion outside Prague, and settled on this one as being most worth our time. While the furthest drive of the places we considered, it promised to have more bang than sights like Karlstein Castle.
And what solidified our choice was when Therese connected with Prague Personal Guide tours, and Sarka at PPG told us about Pavel, a driver who is also a guide and has extensive experience leading small groups to Cesky Krumlov. As we discovered, Pavel loves visiting Cesky Krumlov, and his enthusiasm for and vast knowledge of the city and the castle there elevated the experience considerably. It was just a pleasure to spend the day with him, and we enjoyed Cesky Krumlov immensely.
Now, I won’t give every last detail of what we did. First of all, it would take more than one post to do that. Secondly, I encourage you to go there, and have your own fairy tale experience.
The castle is the highlight of any visit to Cesky Krumlov. Therese made reservations to tour the castle, and also its Baroque Theater, in addition to all of Pavel’s excellent tour and commentary. One of the cool things we discovered was that a film company was transforming one of the castle courtyards into a film set for the upcoming film “Emperor” starring Adrien Brody as Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (the filming was scheduled to start the day after we were there).
Pavel and I left Therese and Eileen behind momentarily to pick up the tickets from the office, and shortly thereafter, our tour began. The rooms we would view was restricted that day because of the film company, but our guide assured us that we would see some of the best rooms of the castle (plus, the cost of our ticket was discounted). We weren’t supposed to take any pictures, but Therese and I surreptitiously took a couple of pictures, especially in the Masquerade Hall, the last and most glorious room of the tour, when the castle guide wasn’t looking.
Now it was time for lunch. Pavel steered us down a staircase and off the castle grounds to the Svejk Restaurant, part of a chain of restaurant’s named after Czech author Jaroslav Hasek’s popular Brave Soldier Svejk series. As I drank Nakoureny Svihak, an excellent Czech beer brewed in Cesky Krumlov’s Eggenberg Brewery, Pavel told us the story of Svejk – the character survives a series of misadventures set during World War One in comical by appearing fashion by appearing to be an imbecil – but the reader is never sure whether Svejk is the imbecil, or his superiors who he is seemingly outwitting.
For my lunch, I ordered a stuffed pepper. It came with the usual dumplings, but the restaurant also supplied us with bread, so I used that to sop up the nice pepper sauce (knowing that dumplings are usually made with milk).
Our tour of the Baroque Theater was right after lunch. To get there, we had to walk the full length of the castle complex, and we were told the tour would start without us if we were not on time, so Therese and I went on ahead, and Pavel was nice enough to shepherd Eileen along the way. I found the theater quite extraordinary. It was set up with scenery as if for a performance, and we watched a video that showed a performance taking place on the stage (this performance is also available on Youtube).
Then we got to play with the machinery a bit – I got to operate the wind machine (which consisted of spinning a handle as fast as I could) and another person rolled the thunder machine across the floor. After that, our guide took us backstage, where we saw the elaborate ropes and pulley system that enable them to make incredibly quick scenery changes, using the same methods that existed when the theater opened in 1768. Pretty wild, huh?
As we were leaving, the guide was talking about a performance from a festival that she attended in the theater. She said that for the first performance, people didn’t really understand what was so special about it, so she was able to walk up and buy a ticket – and that for a hall that only seats 150 people (but on hard wooden benches, remember). Anyway, by the second performance, the word had gotten around, and there wasn’t a ticket left for the entire rest of the festival. She also said that the 18th century costumes are still in existence, but currently they have not been curated, so they are not yet being made available for viewing by the public. But in the years to come, more materials will be accessible.
Once again, for this tour we weren’t supposed to take photos. But it was so gorgeous, I had to squeeze one off, just to show you how beautiful the stage is.
A day which had started chilly and foggy was finally starting to warm up and brighten, but it was also passing by so quickly. Luckily, we did have a little time for a walk through the historic center of Cesky Krumlov – Pavel had parked his car strategically so that we would find our way back to it at the end of our walk. We left the castle by the eastern gate just beyond the first courtyard, and turning right, made our way through the medieval streets to the town square.
Leaving the town square, we passed some very attractive, colorful houses. There was even a cafe that had well-preserved Renaissance-era murals adorning its dining room walls. Finally we visited the city’s main religious structure, St. Vitus’ Church.
A short way from St. Vitus’ Church was the parking lot where Pavel had left his car. We piled in, and 2-1/2 hours later we were back in Prague. What an exceptional day! Most of our days in Prague, I was careful to plan dinner at a great Prague restaurant. On that day, we didn’t need to make any plans – we were all content to nosh on some light fare in the executive lounge in Hilton Prague Old Town. It had been a very full day. I will leave you with one more photo, of the three of us with Cesky Krumlov’s amazing castle behind us.