Cesky Krumlov

After check-in at the Hotel Peregrin (about 5 or 6 of our group are staying at pensions nearby) we were all set free for an orienting wander around town to kick off our stay at Cesky Krumlov. 

Jack and I found a hotel restaurant (the Hotel Dvořák) that served Pilsner Urquell and we joined a couple of tour friends for a beer and a snack before heading back to the hotels to prep for our guided tour.

A crazy person in shorts was offering raft tours of the river surrounding Cesky Krumlov, the Vltava River a.k.a. Moldau.
A bridge busker near as we supped our beer was playing a Steel Drum designed to be in his lap. The bridge is called the Barber’s Bridge because the barber who not only cut hair but also used leeches to bleed the sick, pliers to remove teeth, and other healthful assists, had his shop near this bridge for hundreds of years.

We re-assembled near 5PM for a guided tour led by Sharka, a local CK person who gave a great lesson about the history, economy, and geography of the area. We were with her for about 2 hours and learned many tidbits, many of which I probably won’t remember. But you can reference the post I made on Sept. 2, 2017 about the city, based on research I’d done prior to our departure: https://chichlee.wordpress.com/2017/09/02/upcoming-international-trip/

Some of the highlights were that in CK, there are probably only about 14,000 residents, but only about 500 of those live in the tourist section. There is some dispute regarding whether CK’s palace castle is larger than Prague’s, but the statistic remains that CK has the second largest in the Czech Republic. It is owned now by the state government and is being meticulously restored, with great effort and care being made to get it back to its original condition, based on when the actual structure was built. This is true of private investment in the town structures also, the entire Old Town and castle/palace area being a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Sharka has lived her whole life here, including when the soviets had control of it, when she called it “A Locked City.” When she was young, she lived with her grandparents, and had no idea that her grandfather could speak German and that she had German relatives, since revealing those secrets when she was a child was taboo. She remembers the Velvet Revolution (a non-violent transition of power in what was then Czechoslovakia, occurring from November 17 to December 29, 1989) and for the first time in her young life, Czechs were allowed to travel, get more than the two state-sanctioned TV stations, and more than the state-controlled radio broadcasts. Recently, she has traveled to the United States and other places around Europe like any other person in her 30s living in Europe. She has two children, both of which are in the totally free public school system, and both of which particpate in an after-school program at the restored/renovated Music School in the Old Town area, where Sharka pays only 150US$ a year for them to have 2 hours of daily after school instruction in the musical instrument (including voice) of their choice. Her son is the 5th best pianist in his age group in the country.

We walked through the streets of the Old Town with Sharka pointing out many items and views and buildings and history of interest to us. We ended at the Castle as the crowd numbers and light were going down, and saw the bear in the castle’s “moat.” Roughly, the history of the bear is that one of the royal owners of the town/castle (Schwartzenbergs I think) who received possession of Cesky Krumlov and the Palace/Castle through a connection cemented by marriage in 1661 to the Eggenberg (the family to carry on the surviving local brewery, still serving delicious beer today). But the Schwartzenbergs didn’t take possession of the duchy and castle until the male Eggenberg line died out, in 1717.

So back to the bear: The Schwartzenbergs believed themselves to be related to the Orsini (?) family of Italy (but this has been found to be untrue) so they allied themselves with that family by including a bear in their Germanic coat of arms, and in response the Orsini family sent them live bears through the years. The male of the last pair living died last year, leaving the female, who looks lonely and who is quite elderly, in her habitat near the castle. Her name is Maria Theresa, and she (along with many individuals of her clan) have lived long, pampered lives in their Czech Republic home. Sharka said that she is and shall be the last of her line.

Speaking of the Schwartzenbergs, they have a rather interesting coat of arms, which includes an acknowledgement of their involvements with the wars against the Ottoman Empire with the ravens pecking the eyes of a severed Turkish head. They held Cesky Krumlov and the castle until 1918, when two World Wars interfered with “ownership” and “stewardship” of the area, culminating in the Schwartzenbergs ceding the holdings to the state in 1947 (which, after WWII was soviet Russia). In 1989, along with the falling of the Berlin Wall and the break of up of the Soviet Union, the Czech people regained control of their lands and properties and have been working to build a tourism industry ever since. 

The slow process of restoration for preservation has entirely been undertaken during the last 28-ish years. It is truly amazing what they have accomplished in that span. It was quite lucky, however, that during the wars, CK was not considered much of a target — while the Nazis occupied CK, it was not bombed and no war installations were placed there, so the damage from the wars was more that of neglect rather than destruction. The neglect continued, of course, through the Soviet period, so the undertaking has been nevertheless daunting.

Sharka told us that back in the 1990s you could buy a house in CK for about $1000 American, and the costs of renovation were nominal. Now they’re going for millions.

Layers of top-plaster and other materials covered original frescoes and sgraffito ornamentation on the insides and outsides of the buildings, and historians are tenaciously bringing those back to their original wherever possible. 

At the castle is the sole remaining Baroque theater in the world, and it survives (where many others were burned due to candle lighting and effects including fireworks) nearly intact: they are researching and restoring 700 pieces of costuming, many original musical scores,  and hundreds of set panels, not to mention the theater itself, including the stage, orchestra, and noble seating areas. The original drape/curtain sequestering the royalty from the commoners is still extant. 
Most remarkable, however, is that the machine works for moving the set pieces in and out, up and down (even through the floor) survive — some of the pieces and gears and rollers, historians are still unsure of their uses or purpose. We had an amazing tour of the theater, but were enjoined from taking any photos, so I cannot show you the amazing things we saw there.  

The theater is used a few times annually only, and most significantly at a conference of restorers and historians who gather to actually see a production completely done in the Baroque style  followed by feasts and masquerades, etc., and when the production is complete, they can ask questions and suppose solutions and study the materials unique in the world and continue to try to figure out how they work and what is required to restore them to their proper service.

This is truly a unique place deserving of the World Heritage designation. The downside being that it is also truly overrun with visitors to the extent that it is difficult to get by all the selfie sticks and crowds of photo-takers mobbing the viewsheds, narrow alleyways, and shops/cafe/restaurants. While I must admit I’m thrilled to be here, I’m awful glad I’m not staying even one day longer. I hope for Sharka’s children’s sakes the complete embrace of tourism to the apparent exclusion of everything else, is worth it down the line.

Sharka escorted us to our dinner location, an authentic Bavarian restaurant where we basically had the place to ourselves. Excellent food, and we tried the Eggenberg beer, although they were out of the dark lager version. 

I had roast duck on sauerkraut, with regular and potato dumplings and a salad.

After the theater tour, we walked up to the Baroque gardens, still in bloom. Lovely, quiet spot because few of the mobs of tourists want to make the effort to walk uphill as far as necessary to get there.

The fountain in the main square, lit at night as we walked home from dinner.

The “coat of arms” of Cesky Krumlov.

Upcoming International Trip

I’m sort of jumping the gun here, because we’re not gone yet. 

Still, I worry that our international access to the internet might be spotty at best, and since I’m doing my own research for background in prep for departure, I figured I’d check into one of our stops along the way. 

I share this now because, as we tell friends about our trip, we note that we’re going to a World Heritage Site called Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic. Everyone asks what and where that is, but I haven’t been able to answer, because I have failed to do my normal background work to date. 

So here it is, from the Ckrumlov.info city info site, and Wikipedia.

Cesky Krumlov

Český Krumlov is a small city in the South Bohemian Region of the Czech Republic where Český Krumlov Castle is located. Old Český Krumlov is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and was given this status along with the historic Prague castle district.

The city name begins with Český (Czech) to differentiate it from Moravský Krumlov in South Moravia.

Construction of the town and castle began around 1240 by the Vítkovci at a ford in the Vltava River, an important trade route in Bohemia. According to local legend, the name derives from the German “Krumme Aue” which can be translated as “crooked meadow.”
In 1302 the town and castle were acquired by the House of Rosenberg. The majority of inhabitants were German at that time. By 1336, Czechs formed a small minority. In late 15th century, when gold was found next to the town, German miners came to settle, which shifted the ethnic balance even more.
Emperors Rudolf II (1602) and Ferdinand II (later) bought Krumlov, and he gave it to the House of Eggenberg which established the town as the set of the Duchy of Krumlov. From 1719 until 1945 the castle belonged to the House of Schwarzenberg. 
Most of the architecture of the old town and castle dates from the 14th through 17th centuries; the town’s structures are mostly in Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque styles. The core of the old town is within a horseshoe bend of the river, with the old Latrán neighborhood and castle on the other side of the Vltava.
There were 8,662 inhabitants in Krummau an der Moldau (as called by the Germans) in 1910, including 7,367 Germans and 1,295 Czechs.
After the First World War, the city was part of the Bohemian Forest Region, which was initially declared to be part of German-Austria. By the end of 1918 the Czechoslovak army had occupied the region, which became part of Czechoslovakia. In 1938 it was annexed by Nazi Germany, as part of the Reichsgau Oberdonau unit of Sudetenland under the Munich agreement. After World War II the town’s longstanding German-speaking population was expelled and it was returned to Czechoslovakia.
During the Communist era of Czechoslovakia, historic Krumlov fell into disrepair, but since the Velvet Revolution of 1989 much of the town’s former beauty has been restored, and it is now a major holiday destination, with high numbers of tourists from Europe and Asian. In August 2002, the town suffered from damage in a great flood of the Vltava River.
Český Krumlov Castle is unusually large for a town of its size; within the Czech Republic it is second in extent only to the Hradčany castle complex of Prague. Inside its grounds are a large rococo garden, an extensive bridge over a deep gap in the rock upon which the castle is built, and the castle itself, which in turn consists of many defined parts dating from different periods. After the garden had been inadequately maintained in the second half of the 20th century, the site was included in the 1996 World Monuments Watch by the World Monuments Fund. With financial support from American Express the garden’s central fountain was documented and reconstructed, and remains functional today.

Tourist Map of the town and surrounds.

The Church of St. Vitus (Kostel Sv. Víta) is a Gothic church inside the Castle, dating architecturally to the 15th century, with frescoes from the same period.
Český Krumlov Castle preserves its Baroque theatre, built in 1680–82 under Prince Johann Christian I von Eggenberg and renovated with up-to-date stage equipment under Josef Adam zu Schwarzenberg (1765–66). It is one of few such court theaters to retain its original stage machinery, scenery and props.
Due to its age, the theater is only used three times a year (only twice open to the public), when a Baroque opera is performed in simulated candlelight. Visitors can take a guided tour beneath the stage to catch a glimpse of the wood-and-rope apparatus that allowed stage settings to be moved in and out at the same time as the audience was diverted with fireworks and smoke. 
The castle’s last private owner was Adolph Schwarzenberg. It was here that he received President Edvard Beneš and gave him a large contribution for the defense of Czechoslovakia against the growing threat of Nazi Germany. His property was seized by the Gestapo in 1940 and then confiscated by the Czechoslovak government in 1945.
Krumlov has a museum dedicated to the painter Egon Schiele, who lived in the town.

Panorama of the town from the gardens of the castle.

About 10 kilometers (6 miles) from Krumlov is one of Bohemia’s oldest monasteries, Zlatá Koruna (“The Golden Crown”). About 30 km (19 mi) from Krumlov is the Hluboka Castle, established in the twelfth century and later remodelled in imitation of Windsor Castle.
Krumlov is close to the Šumava National Park, the Czech Republic’s largest national park. The Šumava mountains lie along the border with Austria and Germany and offer a range of natural habitats – peat bogs, Alpine meadows, old-growth forest, lakes, and rivers. The area is popular with walkers, cyclists, and Vltava canoeists. Cesky Krumlov is a short distance from the man-made Lake Lipno, on which many people take boat trips to various small towns and to the dam, with its Hydro power plant.

Český Krumlov is home to the Pivovar Eggenberg brewery. It has been used for locations in movies such as The Illusionist (2006) and Hostel (2005), as well as the 1973 German movie Traumstadt (Dream City).

So. That’s what we have to look forward to on Days 3 and 4 of our cycling tour. I hope Eggenberg brewery beer will figure in our sampling of the area’s treasures. Oddly and fun in addition, we’re staying at a hotel called the Peregrin on a quiet street off the main square. AND we’re signed up for a guided tour of the central town, on our first evening there. Definitely looking forward to it.