Savoring the Jewel of Southern Bohemia – Cesky Krumlov

Few visitors to the Czech Republic ever venture much beyond Prague, although the Czech lands certainly have more attractions in store for those who do in fact leave the capital. On previous occasions we touched on other UNESCO World Heritage sites in Bohemia and Moravia, such as the famous Trinity Column in Olomouc or the “Garden of Europe” around the Palaces of Lednice and Valtice. The single most important destination for visitors outside of Prague, however, is a small town couched in the Vltava Valley in Southern Bohemia by the name of Cesky Krumlov. With a population of merely 15000 people, this gem of a Bohemian city boasts the second largest castle complex in the Czech Republic after Prague and ranks among the most scenic and athmospheric destinations in all of Central Europe.

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The name Krumlov or Krummau in German makes direct reference to the city´s magnificent geographical location on a meandering bend of the Vltava River.The town´s setting is indeed spectacular and apart from amateur and professional photographers also attracts outdoor sports enthusiasts engaging in Wild River rafting. Throughout the warm summer months, this small town sees more individuals in skimpy bathing suits than many a beach resort. The pristine and fast-flowing waters of the Upper Vltava mark the perfect setting for water sports and nature lovers alike, and due to the relative safety of river rafting in these shallow waters also attracts many families with children during their summer vacation. Add to the mix a small town with magnificent buildings dating from the Middle Ages onward along with numerous high-quality restaurants and cafés, then Cesky Krumlov may genuinely be said to be a perfect vacation spot.

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The addition “Cesky” to the city´s name goes back to the foundation of Czechoslovakia as an independent country in the 20th century. As soon as the country was formed from the shambles of World War I, the mainly German-speaking area around the SUMAVA forest in Southern Bohemia declared itself a separate entity called “Böhmerwaldgau” ready to join Austria. Much ethnic strife ensued and was resolved only through astute diplomatic manouvers, of which the addition of “Cesky” to city names was one aspect. The largest Southern Bohemian town Budejovice, home of the famous Budweiser beer, was equally renamed Cesky Budejovice in the process. The area around the Sumava forest, Lipno lake and the Upper Vltava looks back, however, to significant German-speaking traditions and was home to well-known writers such as Adalbert Stifter. Krumlov itself was home to Secessionist bad boy Egon Schiele for a while, but his unorthodox lifestyle was a bit too much for this conservative town and Schiele subsequently left as a persona non grata. Nowadays the town of Cesky Krumlov thrives on its aristocratic past as being ruled by 3 influential Bohemian noble families, i.e., the Rosenbergs, Eggenbergs and lastly the Schwarzenbergs. The rule of these families made Krumlov castle complex the impressive array of historic buildings that it is today.

For almost 3 centuries the town and castle belonged to the House or Rozmberk or Rosenberg (1302-1601), important members of which gave the city the Renaissance appearance it is so famous for still today. Particularly William of Rosenberg in the 16th century expanded the wealth and influence of Cesky Krumlov and was responsible for many Renaissance buildings in the Castle complex itself, the adjacent LATRAN district and Old Town including many examples of the famous Sgraffito technique. Financially strapped, however, Peter Wok von Rosenberg was forced to sell the town and castle to Rudolf von Habsburg and for a short 2 decades it was administered under Habsburg rule before being given to the Styrian family EGGENBERG in 1622 as a result of the 30-year War. During their rule, the town and castle was given numerous Baroque buildings including the famous Castle Theater. The last family to rule, the influential House of Schwarzenberg, came to power after the Eggenberg´s line of descent died out. Ruling with unabated aristocratic tradition until the end World War II, the Schwarzenbergs along with their castle guards and other aspects of court rituals resisted the winds of change in Europe even after WWI and during the Nazi era and only had to abandon power when Communist rule started in 1948 and most aristocrats with German background were forced to leave as part of the infamous BENES doctrines. 

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The result is a quaint, picturesque and touristically well-developed destination that has to date, however, so successfully resisted over-commercialization. It marks for a perfect getaway from Prague for enjoying the great outdoors, the magnificent history of the town and wonderful typical Bohemian food. Among the many authentic eateries in town, U Dwau Maryi, right by the banks of the Vltava River, ranks among our favorite. Totally destroyed by the “Millenium Floods” of 2002 and lovingly restored since then, it has among the best selection of typical Bohemian dishes such as cabbage soup, smoked meats with dumplings, millet casserolle and baked potatoes. Any visit to Cesky Krumlov is then bound to turn into one gigantic Bohemian feast.

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