Small-Group Cultural Tours by Adventures Abroad
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  • Czech Republic – Český Krumlov

    Posted on April 20th, 2009 admin No comments

    You could probably consider the life of the tour leader to be outside of the norm. You dispense with the normalcy of a 9 to 5 job and embrace the jet-set lifestyle of the international traveler. Many destinations become your home away from home and not just another “if it’s Tuesday it must be Belgium”. I can count several places around the world as particularly dear to me. They include, but are not exclusive to, the Lago de Atitlan region in Guatemala, the rugged and remote landscape of Ladakh in Northern India, and the seaside splendour of Essaouira in Morocco. These are locations that stir your belly and tell you that your access to the wider world has granted you something special; places that excite you to make your way back to because they have a certain magic. One such place that I love to share with other travelers is that of Český Krumlov in the Czech Republic.

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    Our Cities of Wonder tour takes us through the beautiful rolling hills of Bohemia after enjoying three nights in the magical city of Prague. We visit the grand castles of Konopiště and Karlštejn, sample the waters of Karlovy Vary (Karlsbad) and explore small Bohemian towns that are off of the standard tour radar. But my favourite of them all is the one that we leave till the final nights of our Czech part of the tour. Our day begins as we depart Karlovy Vary for the Dancing Fountain of Mariánské Lázně (Marienbad), continuing through western Bohemia through lush, undulating fields toward the south, bypassing Plzeň (Pilsner), and on to Klatovy, with its beautiful Baroque square for a lunch stop. Afterwards, we carry on through České Budějovice, home of the famous original Budweiser (known as Budvar), getting ever so closer to that town so close to my heart, Český Krumlov.

    Český Krumlov, you might ask? What is so special about this place? Many of we tour leaders started off our travels as backpackers. For my part, I spent a number of years living and working in Europe. The former countries of the Iron Curtain emerged from Communism with the fall of the Berlin Wall and in the nineties, this was the emerging “must-do” location because it was exciting, mysterious and, what can you say, cheap! The traveler grapevine took me to Český Krumlov back then and the rumours did not disappoint. I found myself staying here for many weeks over the following several years, returning to see old friends made and old haunts to visit. Český Krumlov no longer became a nice place to visit, but it became a home to return to after months, or years, away.

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    But I digress. Did I mention the fact that Český Krumlov is a UNESCO heritage town? Or that it has the largest castle in Czech Republic after Prague Castle? It has the Vltava River snaking through its heart where the adventurous can hop in a raft or inner tube and float down the river. The buildings are immaculately maintained after getting the full renovation treatment in the post-Communist era. Food? The restaurants here offer a range of Bohemian foods and to say that the portions are ample is an understatement. Drink? Czech beer features, with the Eggenberg brewery located right in town, but all sorts of lagers can be found here as can wine and stronger spirits.

    We spend two wonderful nights here in Český Krumlov. Popular feedback from Adventures Abroad clients has made that happen who wanted extra time in this gem of a place. My role here is to share my knowledge and personal connections of this spectacular little town. Once we arrive and check into one of the charming little hotels available to us, I arrange for my friend and guide, Oldřiška, to meet us in the town square for our walking tour. Oldřiška speaks fluent English and is a bundle of energy. She tells tales of beer-brewing monks, points out subtle nuances of architecture you would ordinarily pass-by, and proudly shows off her hometown from a beautiful vista. Now with newfound familiarity with Český Krumlov, you are well set up to explore the area when you have your free time.

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    Now it is my turn to show you around. The sights? With the help of a local guide exclusive to the fortress, we will be visiting Krumlov Castle itself with its beautiful interiors and traditional well-fed bears that reside in the moat outside the walls. If we are lucky with respect to rare opening hours, we might have the chance to see the Baroque Theatre (circa 1766) also located at the Castle. Restaurants? I will definitely take you to The Two Marys, with traditional Bohemian fare served on big platters under a big awning down by the river with a view of Krumlov Castle just above us. It is a stunning location and the food is hearty. The locally known and extremely popular “Barbeque” restaurant serves up more big platters of meats and vegetables in a cozy cellar-like environment. Laibon, another famous riverside restaurant, caters to vegetarians. And for those of an adventurous nature, the after dinner entertainment can include sampling local lager or tasty Moravian wines in one of the many local pubs. The brave might want to try some absinthe, Van Gogh’s favourite tipple, traditionally taken with caramelized sugar mixed into the highly alcoholic beverage. Shopping? You are on your own on this one, to browse shops with knick-knacks, art galleries, and other Bohemian goods. Just a word of advice on anyone interested in amber, however: don’t buy it here. It is cheap, knock-off amber. You’ve been warned!

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    Český Krumlov is more popular than it used to be when I first arrived in the nineties, but that is expected for such a special place. It retains its charming atmosphere a decade and more on. It does not take long to escape from the town centre and take in the gardens of the Castle grounds or go for a leisurely walk along the Vltava’s edge, taking a little break from your very own holiday. I hope that those who have been here will agree with me and with those who have not will have the opportunity to seek out the splendours of the region. I invite you to come along.

    Czech Republic