As I mentioned in this post, Blogger Hubby and I chose to take the afternoon excursion into Cesky Krumlov (Czech Republic) rather than Salzburg or the Austrian Lakes District. Once again, we felt the need to get out of the cities into something a little more quaint. There were probably about 20 of us on this excursion and that was fine with me. Our tour guide, and I have forgotten her name, was wonderful. The family stories she shared with us, how she came to visit this area as a young child and her general wealth of information was a welcome change from the other two tour guides we had in Passau and Linz (hint – go for the woman leading the tour, many times the male guides were not that great like in Passau and Linz).
As we were crossing over the Danube in Linz our bus our tour guide told us how Linz was divided after World War II into the Soviet section, which was north of the Danube and the American section which was south of the Danube. Linz became a city divided. All these facts were new to me and that is why I love going on tours like this.
Cesky Krumlov is another UNESCO World Heritage Site. This area is an example from the Middle Ages of a central European small town dating from the Middle Ages. This area remained relatively undisturbed for over 5 centuries though it did begin to fall into some decay after World War II and once the restoration was begun, it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
As we got closer to the city we saw the Vltava River meandering by. Families were outside enjoying the beautiful weather, camping, rafting and canoeing. This was the real scenery we were looking for; everyday life in the Czech Republic. People are people no matter where they live. This could have been a scene in the United States.
The Vltara River is the same river that runs through Prague and it surrounds the city of Cesky Krumlov. The town grew up within a meander of the Vltava river, which provides a natural setting. It has profited from a relatively peaceful history in that it has retained its entire medieval layout and most of its historic buildings relatively intact. Restoration has been slight other than some restoration work after World War II. Once it was completed then it was eligible to become part of UNESCO.
We toured for about an hour with our guide and then she told us what time we had to meet and where.
The cobblestone streets, the castle with its own “little zoo”, the gingerbread shop, all the jewelry stores selling Czech garnets and the original and authentic Budweiser beer that is served in the quaint cafes around the town square make this area a fun to visit. Beginning the last half of the 17th century they were mining for graphite in the Cesky Krumlov area and from what we were told, it is superior graphite. In fact, there is an artist store that sells all sorts of pencils and has been selling them since 1790. Of course, we had to stop and buy a few mechanical pencils to bring home as a small memento.
As we walked over one of the bridges in the town, we looked down in the river to see all the large rafts with 4-8 people in them having a great time. They even have a canoe shoot off to the side where there are rapids. It’s a great recreational area and it is obvious that people come here to take advantage of the river and the small rapids.
My favorite shop was the Old Gingerbread shop. If you are like me, gingerbread denotes cute little gingerbread men and women with a little licorice, beady little eyes and some white frosting on them. These are nothing like that. The designs on them are so intricate that they look like lace. Others were larger rectangular pieces with scenes on them. I really want to purchase one and bring it home but I had visions of gingerbread crumbles when I reached home almost two weeks after I would have purchased them. Instead, I will have the photographs to remind me of them.
The other interesting thing that we saw for the first time here, but not the only time, was the initials C+M+B and then a year (C+M+B 2014) written in chalk over a door frame. Another way of writing it is 20+C+M+B+14). (deciphering it is 2014 C+M+B) What we learned was that this is done to celebrate the Epiphany church season. The initials are for the Three Wise Men – Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. Chalk is distributed at masses and in some areas children receive the blessed chalk and dress up as the Three Magi. They go to homes to bless them and sometimes collect a little money for a charity. Here we were told that it is adults who do it and they go around on horseback leaving their chalkmarks.
We met our group at the appointed time and waked back to our bus. I think most of us slept on the way back as we had been “toured out” with Linz in the morning and Cesky Krumlov.
Next up – Melk and their magnificent Abbey