Saturday, 28 December 2013

Cesky Krumlov

Cesky Krumlov

It’s been almost 4 weeks since I came back from a trip to Cesky Krumlov and Ceske Budejovice. Until now I couldn’t find time to sit down and write.

First of all November or December is not the best time for sightseeing. Obviously the biggest advantage is the lack of crowd, however the huge disadvantage is that most of the tourist attractions are already closed. The peak season for tourism is until October 31st.

Even though Cesky Krumlov is far from Brno, the trip is worth your while. A 3 hour road trip may be diversified. If you choose not to go by highway, you can visit staggering Telc, Trebon or Jindrichuv Hradec.
Similarly to Prague, there’re several parking places dotted around the city. Unfortunately parking is charged 20 kc per hour, there’s no “cheaper” 24-hour ticket. One of the parking places is close to the castle, the other one is at the very end of the castle’s gardens and I noticed one more, which was located really close to the Synagogue.

The city itself is not big, all tourists attractions are within walking distance. If you really insist you can visit Cesky Krumlov within a day, but I suggest staying longer and taking your time. You’ll then get  the chance to get to know the unique atmosphere of one of the most romantic cities in the Czech Republic.

Before we even got to the city centre, on our first day in Cesky Krumlov we head toward the cross hill in order to see the city from a different angle. From a P3 car parking it was about 20 minutes marching uphill. We crossed the river, followed Po Vode street and went upstairs to Krizova street, then we followed blue trail. Also, another option: if you’re in the city centre, there’s a red trail leading to Cross Hill from the Cesky Krumlov Castle. It seemed like we went off the beaten track, as we were the only one climbing up the hill. It was a pity a cloister was closed, but I took a quick glance at the yard through its big window shutter. Although you might find the march quite demanding, the view speak for itself.

On our way back we head straight over to the Tourist Information Centre to get the Cesky Krumlov card, which allowed us to visit Castles’ museum and tower, Regional Museum, Siedel’s Fotoatelier Museum and Egon Shiele Art Centrum for a song. All of which, are open all year round. The ticket, which is valid 6 month, cost 200kc, while normally we would pay more than 500 kc to enter to all those places.

Our first point in the city was the castle. Enormous building, it’s visible almost from every place in the city. I overheard quite an interesting conversation about it. Most people probably know that Cesky Krumlov castle is the second biggest castle in the Czech Republic, but not everybody knows that it’s called Cesky Krumlov castle-chateaux.  It looks like a castle from the exterior, almost like made of rock, but the interiors are held in baroque style, which makes it a chateaux. What’s even more interesting is the fact that bears are kept at the castle’s entrance. In fact, there’s a long tradition connected with that. No sooner than in the second half of 16th century William of Rosenberg started to keep bears in the castle. From that point we headed to the castle tower, where we could see the whole city. If not strong and cold wind I could’ve stayed there forever. Afterward, we moved quickly to the castles’ museum. We’re running out of time as the castle’s museum is open only till 4 p.m. If you’re not an avid reader(There’re A4 sized full of text  informative brochures about each room), the museum can be viewed within 15 minutes. For us it was a quick run from a bedroom to a dining room and so forth. The good news was that taking pictures inside was not forbidden, therefore I could read all the essential info at home, not rushed by time. 

I really wished I could see famous castle theatre, but unluckily at this time of the year it is closed. It was after 4 p.m. when we got out of the castle. It wouldn’t make sense to go to the castle garden as it was already getting dark and besides we were so hungry that we started to look around for a possible source of food.
On the second day we got up quite early in order to see what’ left: Fotoatelier, Egon Schiele museum and Regional Museum in that particular order.

The tour at the Seidel fotoatelier starts every full hour, it’s necessary to come at least 5 minutes before that time. If you’re not a Czech speaker you may get an  audio tour that’s included in the ticket price. The tour takes approximately an hour. First you’ll hear a short story about the origin of the building, it was quite interesting that the first atelier was in the garden, and the only building there was the one, where ticket office is located right now. Only after two years Seidel, who in fact wasn’t the founder, but just started working there was able to rebuild it, he built a completely new studio, which also served as the apartment for the Seidel family. Photography was a very lucrative business back then. We learnt that the studio thrived during the WW2, as soldier staying in Cesky Krumlov wanted to have a picture, which they could send to family.
Seidel was not only a photographer and traveler, he also had his own stationery shop. Some of the original items are still there. There’re loads of photos made by Seidel, mainly photos of Sumava mountain range and Alps. All the equipment we can admire today was originally used by Seidel. Even some original outfits stayed there. It’s amazing, when we compare present-day mini cameras with big and heavy cameras Seidel used. Imagine how heavy his backpack must have been…and he travelled by bike. Nowadays “Fotoatelier” is not a museum only, it still serves as atelier. You can dress up in some of the early 20th century outfits and have a session taken by a professional photographer. Arrange your casting at the ticket office.
Reserve at least 2 hours at the Egon Schiele gallery. It’s huge and spacious, located on several floors.
In a Renaissance building, which used to be the brewery, there’s exhibition of other artist as well.

The history likes to repeat itself, like it was with Van Gogh, Egon’s art was also not appreciated during his life. Even worse, his works were strongly criticized. He began his adventure with art by drawing  idyllic landscapes and townscapes filled with angular shapes. In 1910 Egon settled down in Cesky Krumlov, then he was exiled. He was then coming back once in a while and stayed at Golden Angel Hotel, which still stands on the main square. He used to go to caffe Fink, however it does no longer exist. His stay in prison in 1912 made a huge impact on Egon and his style of painting. It is said that he suffered from depression back then, it is reflected in his dark paintings. While being imprisoned for child pornography, Egon draw 13 paintings. When he was imprisoned in 1916 in Austria he was force  to draw Russian’s officers portraits. He died on October 31st 1918 from Spanish flu leaving 300 paintings and around 3000 drawing/sketches. During his short life, Egon was also designing clothes for Helena Fejkova’s studio.
I wish there were more paintings of Schiele, frankly I felt insatiable. 
Another artist I noticed was Roman Tyc whose sand portraits made an impression on me.
Unfortunately I didn’t feel the same for the artist Miriam Schwack, whose pictures was shocking for me.

Regional museum is mainly known for its ceramic model of the historic centre of Cesky Krumlov in scale 1:2000 made by Mr. Peter Pesek and his wife Mrs. Jana Peskova. It shows the town as it looked like more than 200 hundred years ago, in 1800. The model covers an area of 26 ha, 800 buildings, meander of Vltava river and fortification. I personally think it’s a masterpiece, with all little details on it, every narrow street, every chimney and every window is visible there.  We tried to compare the city as we see it today  with the ceramic model, one conclusion came to mind, 200 years made a significant difference in the town’s structure.
I was also astonished by the baroque costumes that were a part of the Museum’s exhibition. Men’s outfits were decorated by the same amount of gold as women’s heavy dresses. I can’t imagine myself dressed up like that, but I admire women at that times.
Another interesting stop at the museum was the original interior of a Baroque Jesuit Pharmacy.
Besides all mentioned, I didn’t like the fact that there’re huge posters full with text presenting a story of the city’s origin. I didn’t see anyone standing there and reading the full content. There’re too much information to grasp at once.

Before we moved further to Ceske Budejovice we’d devoted our last few hours in Cesky Krumlov to go and see the castle’s garden. Direction to P4 car park will lead you at the gate to the castle’s garden. Here you can admire the breathtaking view on the castle, take a glance at the centre, get lost in the huge park, listen to the gurgling water in the fountain or simply go for a walk at the pond. 

What’s however the most interesting in the garden is a circular theatre. I didn’t notice at the beginning that it can move, but soon after I read the announcement of upcoming events I noticed the marks on the floor. Performances will take place during summer, price ticket ranges from 300 kc to 700 kc, but I think it must be superb. You can’t really foresee what’ll happen in the act, where the actor is, where you’ll look in few moments… I just can’t imagine.  I want to go for something like that during summer.

If you still have some time in Cesky Krumlov I suggest visiting the surrounding. There’s an observation tower Klet, remote about 7 kilometers from the city centre. Green path from the Red Gate at the castle will lead you directly to the highest mountain of Blansky forest. You can also visit the village of Holasovice, consisting of 17 original farmhouses built in a South-Bohemian peasant baroque style which was listed by UNESCO in 1998. I found it enthralling that it was restored and repopulated in 1990, while after the WW2 it had been completely deserted. Every July a Traditional Peasant Festival is held there. Only 8 kilometers north east there’s a former monastery Zlata Koruna or 24 kilometers south from Cesky Krumlov, there’s Rozmberk Castle. So as you can see there’re plenty places to visit round Cesky Krumlov. Plan you holidays wisely so that you won’t miss anything.


There is a wide range of choice, restaurant at every corner, vegetarian, grilled meat- you’ll get everything you wish for. After long quest we stayed at Rozmberska Basta, which is not only a restaurant but it also provides accommodation. They have a summer garden, where you can sit at the river and maybe even catch your own fish. Here’s the restaurants’ official website. By the way food was of a good quality, served quickly by a smiling waiter.  Another place worth considering is “Krcma vsatlavske ulici”  Food indescribably delicious, mellow meat, fresh vegetables, cold beer… I didn’t want to leave, but if I stayed any longer I could have spent all my savings there.


I’m pretty sure you would find a place to stay without prior reservation, but just to be sure do you reservation if you’re planning to visit Cesky Krumlov during summer. To tell the truth, some of them have no websites, so surfing the internet for a proper accommodation might be aimless. Cesky Krumlov is full of hotels, hostels or rooms to rent. Almost every restaurant owner possesses as well some kind of accommodation. Unfortunately it’s not cheap.  You should expect approximately 1000 kc per night. We stayed in Renaissance Hotel Leonardo. Very cosy and comfortable with huge corner bath. We booked the hotel at the, so maybe you can also find such a bargain.

Guided tours

Tourist information centre offers a variety of guided tours such as daily tours, night tours, individual or group tours. It’s also possible to borrow the audio guide, which will lead you through the Renaissance centre.

All I can say is enjoy the beautiful city as Cesky krumlov is.

I will continue to describe  others spots from our 4-day trip such as Maiden stone castle, Ceske Budejovice and Hluboka castle soon.

More photos:

Monday, 28 October 2013

Dolni Kounice, Rosa Coeli

Dolni Kounice, Rosa Coeli

I have an amazing trip suggestion for all those lucky people, who don’t have to work tomorrow. And since women’s monastery “Rose of Heaven” - Rosa Coeli is opened tomorrow (28th of October) for the last time this year, don’t miss your chance and go to Dolni Kounice. It’s about 40 minutes away from Brno, you can either go through Brno Modrice, Orechov, Siluvky and turn left to Dolni Kounice or from Brno Modrice follow the E461  route to Rajhrad and then watch the signs to Dolni Kounice.
Nunnery was established in 1181 by Vilem of Pulin and 2 years later women of Premonstratensian order moved in together with their rector Peter from Lounovic.

Before you enter to the Temple, spare few moments to look at the gate with Jesus Christ bas-relief on it. He holds the book of life in his left hand and gives his blessing with his right hand. Above his head, there’s the alpha and omega symbols, which means that Jesus Christ is the beginning and end of everything. Below his hands we see two heads. One of Saint Norbert-the founder of Premonstratensian order and the second, woman’s head of Gisele.

Behind the main entrance on your right 72 stairs will lead you on the top on the church’s tower. If you’re not scared of darkness climb and relish the view on the main nave long 45 meters and wide 10 meters. Imagine praying nuns sitting or kneeling at the church’s  benches. According to the paper brochure we were given, nuns spent 7 to 8 hours daily praying.

Move forward and you’ll see the place where used to be an altar and pulpit in the presbytery and the sacristy on its right.

Some symbols that reminds us of Christianity such as pelican feeding its offspring with blood or lamb may be found in one of the best preserved halls of the whole monument- in Capitulars hall. In front of it, there’s the paradise garden with an inactive well in the centre. A myths says that a golden duck sat on the well and laid one golden egg every year. The cross corridor surrounding the yard with 21 fields of the groined vault is also a kind of cemetery. Because nuns were not allowed to ever leave the temple, even after death they were buried here. I felt shivers up and down my spine when I read about a nun buried alive in the south wall of the corridor, it was a brutal punishment for her undeserving act-meetings with a man. 

From that point if you look up you’ll see the first floor, which was the only heated place in the whole area. That’s why nuns used to spend their free time there. Today it serves as a small gallery, some pictures and painting decorate the corridor.

Since 1808 women’s monastery was not renovated and turned into ruins. Monstrous and ravishing ruins, which we can fortunately admire today.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Cycle path Becva

Cycle path Becva

It was three weeks ago when we set off for our last biking trip this year. We were lucky, because the weather was really beautiful. Sun was shining, it was warm and pleasant. Temperature exceeded 15 Celsius degrees…just perfect for cycling during the day and resting by the glass of beer at evenings. The only disadvantage of going on any trips/journeys etc. in Autumn is that sun sets quite early comparing to what we were used to during summer. At half past six, it was getting dark. That’s why it’s quite important to plan and organize your trip in advance in the way you won’t have to get back in a complete darkness. Unless you have any lighting, it may be problematic. On the other hand, the biggest advantage is definitely a riot of colour you can admire, rich orange, red and golden leaves intertwine with evergreen leaves of cone-bearing trees.

I had been thinking over the place to visit for quite a long time, before I came up with Becva cycle path. Main reasons for choosing this spot were distance from Brno and so called points of interest on it. It goes through several attention-grabbing cities and places, it also ends in Beskid mountains in Horni Becva, which is a good information for all mountains’ lovers.

Our journey began in Tyn nad Becvou, which is remote only 100 kilometers from Brno. We arrived there Friday afternoon, so that on Saturday we could start fresh and well-rested. It was about 40 kilometers ahead of us. The part we rode on Saturday was flat as a pancake. We rode through Lipnik nad Becvou, where we’ve seen a small colorful Roof Garden, amazing wrought sculptures in the park and Masaryk Square, which is shaped as a letter L. Next stop on our route was the city of Teplice nad Becvou, which is known from SPA, especially cardiac rehabilitation against stroke and heart attacks. The one who goes there, can count on bath in a mineral water, massages, wraps or electrotherapy. We, however, were just amazed by the magnitude of the whole area situated in the valley of the Becva river and surrounded by forest, it seemed like a perfect place to relax. As we were in Teplice, we couldn’t resist getting to the warmest caves in the Czech Republic: Zbrasov aragonite caves. There’re 126 stairs leading down to go on 375 meters length. There’re around 14 Celsius degree all year round inside the cave, caused by the existence of mineral water in that region but also by Carbon dioxide deposit in the lower parts of the cave. The lower, the concentration of gas is stronger. There’re places where it goes up to 100%, while the norm for people is 1%.Zbrasov argonite caves are also known from its formations like stalagmites rising from the floor and stalactites hinging from the roof. There're also 27 geyser like formations, which originates by water dropping from the ceiling.
In 2013 caves celebrate 100th anniversary of its discovery. In the biggest Mramorova corridor, there is an exhibition called “Back to cave” by Michal Trpak presenting businessmen and businesswomen willing to return to older times, when people’s survival was dependant on nature.

Our trip finished in Hranice city, where we spent few minutes gazing on the fountain and Church of Saint John the Baptist, both situated on the Main Square, then we moved to Hranice castle, which is also a seat of municipal office. 

In the evening, attractions continued… we booked the night sightseeing at the Helfstyn castle, which besides “regular” tour guide, included also knight’s performance or fire show. Even though it was freezing cold after sunset, I really enjoyed time spent on castle. The history of the castle, although mixed up, was full of adventures. The tour guide seemed really excited that he could share some interesting facts with us. First off all Helfstyn castle is among the biggest and the most durable castles in the Czech Republic, even Swedish couldn’t get through in 1643 and 1645. Castle was probably built at the end of XII century by Fridrich from Linava, back then it was at least twice smaller than we see it today. Through ages it was passed from one family to another. In XV century Pernstejn family rebuilt the castle to its current look. In XVII century, after Swedish invasion it was decided that castle will be torn down, but fortunately it was saved. After World War II castle was classified as an important landmark and since 1960 it is the Prerov city Museum.

Night sightseeing is organized in September and October, but keep an eye on the Helfstyn calendar published on an official webpage  to search for free entrance or thematic tours, that will take you to the Middle Ages, when the King with its knights and craftsmen lived on castle.

On Sunday we drove to Valaske Mezirici, where we continued to Vsetin on bikes. There's also a 50 kilometer long path directing to Velke Karlovice, but because it's all way uphill I strongly recommend to go the other way round, there's about 200 meters difference in heights. Until the end of September cycle buses or cycle trains can take you to Velke Karlovice and then you can enjoy your ride all way down through Karolinka, Halenkov, Hovezi, in all mentioned you can stop to go into the heritage park. Next on the way is Vsetin, which by the city's brochure is advertised as a "paradise for winter and summer sport activities". It's a starting point for various hiking and biking trails. On the other hand, on winter you can enjoy skiing in Horni Jasenka, located at the edge of the city. While in Vsetin, we dedicated some time to see the view from the Wallachia Region Museum's lookout tower. We could see Beskids mountains, Museum's yard or the nearby church. Before we rode back to Valaske Mezirici, we'd enjoyed the most caloric meal we've ever had. We stayed in a rastaurant "U tri slunecnic"(at three sunflowers) ordered hot chocolate and pancakes with ice creams and maple syrup. We gathered strengths for the come back and rode the same path number 501 to Valaske Mezirici.

On our way to Brno we stopped for a late dinner in Motorest Vapenka's Restaurant, which is located nearby Teplice nad Becvou. This unusual building was reconstructed from ex-lime stone works, hence the circular shape. Lime's burning was practised until 1976. Nowadays, you can eat cheap delicious food or stay overnight in one of 9 rooms.

Below you can find maps with some useful information:

Part 1: Valaske Mezirici- Vsetin

Part 2: Valaske Mezirici- Horni Becva

Part 3: Prerov- Valaske Mezirici

Also, feel free to go to the cycle path official website and find out more about it.