Český Krumlov was called - by our guidebook - the "prettiest town in central Europe." We were skeptical at first, of course, because that sounds like hyperbole. Now, we're not so sure. It really might be the prettiest town in the region. Interesting, too, Krumlov has a definite charm that wasn't diminished too much by the late spring crowds. This is the view from the top of Český Krumlov Castle's pink and green tower.
The town's center is a warren of small streets and colorful buildings arranged around a hillock that rises from the banks of the Vltava. Much of the old town is dominated by souvenir shops, cafes and hotels, which is typical of places like this. A pretty town cannot be left alone, and it is impossible, sometimes, to distinguish this type of place from the trappings of tourism that accompany attractiveness. Still, it wasn't as twee as some villages can be.
We had a local Eggenberg beer (not to be confused with the Austrian brew "Schloss Eggenberg") in this little tavern, where a few locals sat with beer and a slew of tourists sat with plates of fried stuff. They claim that nothing has changed in the pub for a hundred years, but I find that hardly likely.
In the castle museum there are some interesting rooms, a perfunctory display of armaments and this fascinating skeleton - the holy remains of St. Reparat. They were brought to Český Krumlov in 1769 from Rome, but I have no idea why. The bones were decorated by the sisters of Poor Clares, and the saint is clothed in an amazing brocaded robe. Neither of us have ever seen jeweled human remains before, and the thing was hard to take in. Most interesting, maybe, is that old Reparat now lies in a crowded little room in a secular museum, mixed in with displays of old typing machines and sets of china.
The castle is very large and we didn't explore even half of it. A multi-tiered bridge connected the tower to the main building, soaring above the ground. Another, smaller bridge accessed the main courtyard, and was crowded with people. There's a bear pit - with bears - beneath it, which seemed to be the tour highlight for many younger visitors.
Rafting and canoeing are popular, and we watched as little eddies of boaters floated past. This man was part of a group that seemed to be on a stag trip, and he wasn't very enthusiastic. Also, he had either lost his partner or was the only person who nobody wanted to be in a boat with.
The town, interestingly, was part of the Austrian empire for a period before the first world war. In 1910, the town was eighty percent "ethnically" German, and remained majority German even after it was included in the territories of postwar Czechoslovakia. Český Krumlov was then annexed by Germany in 1938, but all of the German citizens were expelled when America liberated the town in 1945. It's a complicated history, especially because it is so close to the borders with Austria and Germany and because Bohemia has such a convoluted national identity.
We get our groceries in Český Krumlov, at a huge Tesco supermarket, and it was interesting to look around the old town. Like many places, there is a whole section of town - in this case, just over the hill - where the locals live and shop. It isn't as picturesque, but it's not unlovely; the communist era apartment blocks are painted in cheerful colors and the people are a little more relaxed. On Saturday, there was a drag racing event, which we saw, but didn't attend.