The first time I heard of this picture-postcard town, it was in a small blurb in the Indian magazine Outlook Traveller. Back then (5-6 years ago), international travel was very rare for us and this name was just filed away in some corner of my head. But over the years, the name kept cropping up, in articles or travelogues. And after knowing more about the place, I just had to include it in our Czech trip.
Český Krumlov (pronounced ‘chessky crumlaw’) is situated in the southern part of Czech Republic, in what was erstwhile the republic of Bohemia (origin of the word ‘bohemian’). Český Krumlov is a charmingly well-preserved medieval town, built around an equally well preserved 13th century castle – and has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The river Vltava flows through it, and the Old Town is within a horseshoe bend of the river. The town is small enough to walk across in 15 min or so (most of the Old Town is pedestrian only). Or you could take a canoe down the river if you felt like it.
(the same river Vltava flows through Prague as well)
While Europe has quite a few well preserved castles and medieval cities, none of them have the fairy tale – some even call it a dollhouse – look as Český Krumlov. The best way to see the town is from the castle. From the castle tower – as well as castle walls – there are breathtaking views of the city to be had.
Apart from the castle, there isn’t much to do in the town – hence most people visit Český Krumlov as a daytrip from Prague. Road is the more convenient option, with direct buses from Prague to Český Krumlov. There is also a transport operator CK Shuttle, which provides shuttle taxis in cars or vans. They are a very convenient (and slightly more expensive option). However in summers, the buses cant cope with the additional demand, and so we too found ourselves without bus or taxi tickets to Český Krumlov.
But the journey on Czech railways (České dráhy) turned out to be a superb experience. The stations and the coaches were very clean and the Czech countryside picture perfect. And best of all, the train was barely 25% full (something we Indians almost never see). There aren’t any direct trains from Prague to Český Krumlov – we had to change trains at České Budějovice. However the schedule is very convenient with just a 20 min layover. Tickets can be booked online at www.cd.cz website and the tickets cost us 200 kr each.
The trip to Český Krumlov took 4.5 hours though, as trains ran on a leisurely pace. And the train station is a fair bit outside of the town. Recommended you try to hitch a ride with some tour group to the town (for a price) – or wait for one of the irregular buses.
All trips to Český Krumlov begin at the castle. It takes a fair bit of walking to explore the castle and its gardens – the slope is rather steep in places. The castle grounds are free but the only way of seeing the castle interiors is to take one of the hour long tours which cost about 300 kr. And they are worth it – though we only had time for one. Unfortunately, photography isn’t allowed inside the castle. Same with the castle tower – there is an entry fees, but the views of the town from the top are spellbinding.
The rest of time can be spent strolling around the picturesque town, eating at one of the many cafes, or having yummy gelatos. We had lunch at a cute outdoor place, on the Vltava riverside, watching locals – kids and dogs in tow – on the riverbank.
We managed to get shared tickets in a CK Shuttle minivan on our way back, and we reached Prague city in 3 hours (vs. 4.5 hours in the morning). Český Krumlov turned out to be the most picturesque/photogenic towns we have ever seen and is a must-visit for anyone who is visiting Prague.