Tucked away in South Bohemia, Cesky Krumlov has the ability to make you believe that you’re in a fairy tale
Words & Photography Aninda Sardar
Wait a sec! Didn’t I just walk past that quaint shop selling wooden toys? And I’ve definitely seen that tavern with the stone arch doorway before. Am I missing something? Has age caught up that fast or am I stuck in a time warp? None of these, I realise with relief, when the soft hand of the missus falls on my arm as she tries to attract my attention to the shop selling soaps and bath products and not much else. Spread over just 22.16 square kilometres, Cesky Krumlov is tinier than you can imagine. You can walk around town, the whole of it, every single street, in three-quarters of a day at a leisurely pace. Yet, the charm of its quaintness is such that once you’ve been here, you don’t want to. But for the kids back home, I know we certainly wouldn’t have.
It feels like time stopped in Cesky Krumlov
The very first mention of this town tucked away in South Bohemia, about 170 odd kilometres away from the Czech capital of Prague, is found in 1253 CE. And if you land up there in 2019 CE then you will be forgiven for thinking that you’re in a time warp. The only indication of present day are the hordes of Asian tourists who descend on this quaint medieval town on day trips organised by canny travel agents in Prague, the cars parked at the municipal parking lots just outside town and the attire of the people around. As for the rest, it feels as if someone took a hammer to a clock and stopped time itself.
Back in the body products shop, there are no fancy acts of arty visual merchandising that is common around Europe. Instead you walk through thick wooden doors into the dimly lit interior full of wooden racks and shelves. Products are arranged tidily in wicker baskets for the most part or on simple tables covered with a white table cloth. It’s only when you see the modern cash register, the swipe machines and the sticker on the desk proudly announcing the acceptance of global credit cards that you know you’re still very much in the now.
We had driven into town the evening before and were promptly informed that there is very limited parking inside town. So we dumped our luggage at the 600-year-old Alt Straninger pension house and went off to park at the long term municipal parking lot less than a kilometre away. Remember how small the town is? Back across the stout wooden bridge that spans the small fast flowing stream that surrounds this UNESCO World Heritage village, we decide to stroll around a bit before picking a place for dinner.
An evening in Cesky Krumlov
By half past five the crowd starts thinning out and by seven the shops are shut too. It’s a little disconcerting at first because there is still bright sunshine and you wonder why you would pack up quite so early when there is business to be done. You realise soon enough that with the tourists mostly gone there aren’t enough people on the roads to justify the hours of boredom between the occasional customer. No, why waste time like that? The people of Cesky Krumlov pull out chairs on to the footpath and sometimes on to the streets, pour themselves a glass of pilsner or a mug of lager and chill out. What a life!
Somewhere down the lane realisation dawns that the wifey and I are the only Indians here. It’s oddly thrilling to not be part of the crowd, two brown specks in a sea of white. Arm in arm we walk to a local joint by the stream in the shadow of the towering Krumlov Castle for a scrumptious Bohemian platter that is crafted around roasted rabbit to be washed down with pints of Budvar beer.
The first taste of Cesky Krumlov’s quaintness is to the senses what the sweet smell of rain is after a hot and dusty summer. Incredibly refreshing. You can never have enough of it. The plan is simple, tomorrow we do the touristy thing of visiting the castle and may be shop for the kids a bit before we settle back into the enveloping arms of Cesky Krumlov’s quaint romance as we read books lying on the grass by the stream, warmed by the Czech summer sun.