Friday, February 15, 2013

Český Krumlov: a little fairy-tale town

This post is a few days late; I never realized how much I rely on my computer until it died! I took it to a repair place earlier this week and they told me my motherboard was dead. But he fixed it in one day and now I have it back!

Last Sunday, my program took us on an overnight trip to a town in southern Bohemia (pretty close to the Austrian border) called Český Krumlov. It dates back to medieval times, and was once the seat of a pretty powerful autonomous region, but now it's pretty much a tourist haven because it's one of a few towns whose medieval history--castle and all--has really been preserved. And yes, it really does feel like you're walking around in a fairy-tale. A lot of these pictures are going to be similar, but the castle (and views) were so pretty that I had to take lots of pictures, and it was hard to pick my favorites. I'll try to label the sections so you can skim through if you want.

My first view of the castle. This is what I looked out upon from my room in the adorable B&B we stayed in. Somehow, Zuzana (my Czech roommate, who I roomed with on the trip) finagled getting us the best room in the house, complete with a Jacuzzi hot tub (which we didn't use).
On our way into the castle complex for a tour. Unfortunately, many things are closed during the winter (including the castle's interior and the super-cool-looking puppet museum!), so we didn't actually get to see what the castle looked like on the inside. Instead, we got to tour the newly constructed "Castle Museum," which has a lot of artifacts but isn't nearly as cool as being inside a real castle. 

Detail on the painting. Apparently, this was in horrible shape as recently as about 20 years ago, and they've done a lot of restoration work to get the town to the tourist attraction it is today. Český Krumlov is actually a really interesting town from a social perspective: it is often looked to as an example of ideal relations between Roma and white ethnic Czechs. The Roma have lived in the town for decades, and when the municipality decided to start restoring its historical value after the fall of Communism, they contracted the work to a local Roma-owned company, which is still responsible for most of the upkeep. But it looks like there's still a ways to go in the Czech-Roma relationship.  

More details. Also, every single tower has a clock on it. 

After our tour ended, we had about an hour-and-a-half before we were supposed to meet up at Eggenberg Brewery for dinner. I took the time to go wandering down a little path I'd seen earlier, and found myself in an entirely separate section of town with many little bridges crossing the river (which is pretty narrow at that point). This is from the first bridge. [After I got back from wandering, I went back to our hotel room and took a hot shower to make up for all the times our hot water broke mid-shower at our apartment. And because I was half-frozen.]
From the second bridge.
And on my way back into the main part of old town. 

We got to climb up the castle tower, and this is the view looking down. If you look on the right-side background, you'll see the chapel on the Mountain of the Cross that I hiked to with some friends on the second day of our stay (pictures later in the post).

For some reason, the view reminds me of the children's book Brave Irene by William Steig (and read by Al Gore?). 

The monastery-on-a-hill is in the background here, too.

So picturesque! If the sky had been blue, it really would have been right out of a fairy-tale.

Walking through the castle museum we came upon this; fine, so some religions do the whole relic thing and the ancient Egyptians mummified their dead...but what you don't know when you just walk by this lady is that she's not actually just a lady, she's a body reconstructed from the bones of numerous dead people! Ichsa!

The. Best. Toilet. Ever.
This is the interior of the Castle Theater, one of the oldest preserved ones of its kind. All of the scenery is hand-painted on canvas and stuck onto wood. There are rolling mechanisms that allow them to do a scenery-change that takes all of six seconds, and we also got a demonstration of how they would have made it sound like there was a thunderstorm--there's a thunder-making machine (basically, you roll a wooden gear on the ground), a machine that makes the sound of wind by capturing air and whooshing it out, and a big barrel filled with beans that gets rolled to sound like rain pelting down. In order for the theater to be called a "theater" and not a "museum," they are required to hold performances a couple times a year, though the moisture from lots of people packed into the auditorium is bad for the scenery preservation. It was also freezing in there, and I thought I was going to get frostbite on my toes. 

Passed this frozen laundry on our hike up to the monastery, one of the few things on our hastily-prepared guide sheet that was actually "open" in the winter. During the afternoon we had some free time to wander, and a group of five headed up to the top of the mountain (by Chicago standards) in the distance.

Halfway to the top! Right about here the "path" became even less of a path, and none of the snow was melted. Needless to say, none of us was wearing the best shoes for the adventure, although no one fell!

Almost there! Look how well the trees frame the monastery.

First view from the top. 

There's the castle!

ME! (Duh) with the castle in the background, from the top of the Mountain of the Cross.

Looking down on the old city of  Český Krumlov from up at the monastery.
Let if be know that this view of the castle and church tower is what I got to look down upon while I almost got frostbite on my rear-end [yes, nature called while I was on top of the hill/mountain].

CET paid for dinner and two drinks per person (.5 L of beer is a standard drink) at the Eggenberg Brewery on Sunday night. They also promised "revelry and merrymaking" with a "live gypsy band." The music was a bit different than what I was expecting, based on the songs on Puntamayo's Gypsy Groove CD, and I'm pretty sure they just played the same song over and over again. Still, we had a lot of fun and everyone got up and started dancing.
The door to a craft store. These are paint tubes in the shapes of fingers. Weird.

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