Český Krumlov and Kutna Hora: BEARS, BEERS AND BONE CHANDELIERS
In October of 2004 I was living in Holland and keeping an eye on the budget flights that were springing up around Europe at the time. A relaxed schedule at the Universiteit van Amsterdam allowed for 4-day weekends and few deadlines. One day a 39€ fare (each way) from Amsterdam Schipol to Prague opened up on the new Germanwings airlines. For the following weekend, I booked a four-night trip into Prague with no particular plan in mind. Onto the Czech Republic.
I’d been to Prague, the Czech capital, once before in the previous year. So, I had little want for more than a night there. A Hungarian flatmate of mine recommended a small town (pop: 13,000) called Český Krumlov, a 3-hour bus ride south of Prague. I looked at one picture, learned of a museum devoted to artist Egon Schiele and quickly worked out the transportation, reserved three nights at a little hotel and finalized my weekend plans.
My first night in Prague was gorgeous as expected, filled with 75 cent drafts of the best beer in the world, the most romantic architecture anywhere, etc…it’s Prague, afterall. But, whatever. Onto Český Krumlov the next day…
By bus: Prague to Český Krumlov is about 2.5 to 3 hours. Cost is just under $10usd. Tickets may be booked here:
Trains from Prague leave from Hlavni Nadrazi Station. The cost is slightly higher than the bus, at around $12. You must change trains in Ceske Budejovice, so this journey may be a more confusing one, though the scenery is better than the bus.
Český Krumlov’s beauty lies not in it’s particular attractions, but rather in it’s cascading townscape of Renaissance architecture, which was built largely between the 13th and 18th centuries. Little has changed since. Walking, and getting lost, is a real pleasure here.
In addition to wandering, check out:
Egon Schiele Centrum Museum
Egon Schiele was my favorite artist as I was growing up. His gnarled landscapes and figures are on display here, along with more contemporary installations. Egon Schiele did not live long in Český Krumlov, as the townspeople labeled him a pornographer and kicked him out.
Český Krumlov State Castle and Chateau
This enormous complex is the centerpiece of Český Krumlov’s architecture. It is free to explore. This is where the famous Český Krumlov brown bears guard the premises. Don’t worry, they are blocked off and you are safe. You can feed them for a small price. From the tower, there is a spectacular 360 view of Český Krumlov.
Travelers can rent rafts and boats from various hotels. Check out Rafting 99 from Hostel 99. Leaving every day at 12 noon, it’s a pub crawl on the water. Backpacker fun, but fun nonetheless.
For atmosphere, try Laibon (pictured above). It’s a vegetarian restaurant, but don’t let that change your decision. The interior is one of the most beautiful in the world. The tea is wonderful and the food as good as it gets (for a veggie restaurant). Stuff your face, hippie.
After a relaxing 3-night visit to Český Krumlov, it was time to get back to Prague. My evening flight allowed me for time to stop at one of Europe’s most macabre buildings- The Kostnice Ossuary, a church made of bone. Human bones.
Kutná Hora is located about an hour east of Prague and not totally out of the way if coming from Český Krumlov. The town of Kutná Hora is not nearly as beautiful as Cesky Krumlov, but still worth a visit for the bone church.
The church was completed in the early 1500s. The site of the church was a cemetery, and so the builders of the church used the human bones beneath as construction and ornament. The church is said to contain the bones of 40,000 people.
The Czech Republic is an amazing country to visit and the triangle of Prague, Český Krumlov and Kutná Hora makes for a great itinerary if you do not have a lot of time. Na zdraví!