Thursday, 31 January 2008

Most romantic city - it's official!

The front cover of the travel supplement in last Sunday's Observer was dedicated to Cesky Krumlov. Inside the magazine was a section called "Cities for Seduction" and yes top of the list was Cesky Krumlov.

The article begins:
"One of the most romantic things in the world is feeling that you are discovering somewhere - that together you've stumbled on a secret. Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic felt like that to us: it's a picture-book place, with colour-washed houses and detailed architecture dating back to the 14th century. The town is dominated by a walled castle so large it's like a town in its own right. There are beautiful gardens to walk in and a cafe at the entrance which serves fantastic coffee; you could sit there all day and watch the comings and goings from the castle. The town itself is quite chic - lots of cosy bars and coffee houses - but it maintains a historical feel, thanks to all the cobbled alleyways and courtyards. You need time to wander and allow yourself to get lost. The best way to discover Cesky is to set off without a map and simply keep walking."

For more check:

The author of the piece was Sarah Beeny - the presenter of the Channel 4's Property Ladder and

history in the facades

Just adding to Phil's blog below - a local friend of mine who is a professional restorer has made a thorough search of all the facades in the historic area of Cesky Krumlov, and hearing him talk about it is absolutely fascinating. I particularly loved him explain about the decisions that have to be made each time a house is to be 'redecorated' - you see, there are layers and layers of 'faces' that each house accumulated over the centuries, following the fashions of the day. So Jiri Bloch (the friend in question) might carefully unpeel from several small sample squares all the layers - each time working out what the whole facade would have looked like. Right under them all he might find an absolutely magnificent mediaeval fresco. Well, sometimes the decision goes to knock all the upper layers off and reveal the fresco, sometimes it is felt that it's best to keep the fresco hidden (i.e. protected) and only restore, say, the classicist face of the house. The next most important thing seems to be to preserve the authenticity of the chosen layer and not to add anything - that's why so often you can see on the facades here just half-pictures, or patches of underlayer revealed from some newer layers. Of course Jiri doesn't make these decisions himself - his research is done for the Preservation body of the council and also for UNESCO I believe. But what's great is that over the last 15 years or so he collected together all the documentation, some of which is now on display in his own small but immensely rich-in-information Museum of building crafts. Well worth a visit - this is not advertising by the way, but a heartfelt recommendation.

Art on the streets

Many of Cesky Krumlov’s house facades are so highly decorated that they form a wonderful free outdoor art gallery. Wandering the streets and looking at the pictures and designs on the houses is one of the greatest pleasures of the place. And, unlike in a big city like Prague, you can take in all the highlights without walking for miles. In the Renaissance period a lot of the houses were covered with a striking black-and-white decoration called sgraffito – a technique in which you scratch away one colour to reveal a different contrasting colour underneath. There are still quite a lot of sgraffito-decorated house fronts left in the town. Some are covered in designs imitating big stone blocks (like Italian buildings of the time), others have delightful cartoon-like pictures that take you back in time four hundred years. There are colourful painted building-fronts too – portraits, religious subjects, and other scenes adorn a number of the houses. Look up as you walk around, and you'll see how the streets glow with life.

Friday, 25 January 2008

Video of Cesky Krumlov

Talking of architecture, I found this video on UTube - it's not of greatest quality but it does give some idea of the town's feel. When I get better at mastering the technical issues of my own camera, I'll try to post some originals here, but meanwhile....

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Architecture heaven

The sight of what looks like a round church in the post called "In response" reminds me to say that the countryside in southern Bohemia is architecture heaven. I think most Brits who like old buildings would be seriously impressed with what you find in the region. What you see down here is different from the kind of grandeur you get in Prague. Small and not-so-small churches (soaring medieval or ornate baroque), tiny wayside shrines, castles on crags, and some of the! In fact the photograph with the church has one in the background – a courtyard farm with a curvy baroque front all done out in plasterwork. There are whole villages of these, and I'll post some pictures when I get my digital photographs sorted out.

Ice or not ice? (lake house)

In response to Potok's question below, the skiers are not dragged over ice but over a snowy field. Great stuff, especially when done quite fast! There is a small and very friendly stable nearby with whom we have been able to develop a really lovely relationship so we can do fun stuff like that - would be interesting to know whether Health and safety people would like to see this, though, so I'd better not tell you who they are (anyway that would be advertising and we have vowed not to).
But here is positively the last ice and snow pic, just to show you how one can indeed walk on water. The lake in question is Olsina, actually a very old man made pond (15C) that used to belong to the Rozmberk aristocratic family (between them and various big monasteries they owned practically the whole of South Bohemia) and was - still is - used to farm carp. Each two years the pond gets drained so the carp-farmers can get at the fish more easily as the water recedes. It's fascinating to watch because it looks like the water is boiling with all the fish fighting for the diminishing amount of space in the rapidly draining water. Nowadays the fish is sold at Christmas time as carp is the traditional Christmas dish in Czecho.
My goodness, I seem to've veered very far from my original blog theme. Oh well.

That looks like fun

Lovely photos, Salamander - you really capture the Winter sunshine here and the joy of it after all those drab English winters. And as for the horse-drawn skiing, is that on snow or ice? And where do you do it?

Anyway while we are about it here is a snowy photo of mine.

Winter horse-rides in South Bohemia

Just thought I'd add a couple more - frustratingly, I'm not so good at getting the pics all nicely lined up. Oh well.

In response...

Thanks to our first fan of Czech Winter, here are some more photos. Hope you all like them.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008


Maybe I can whet peoples' appetites by showing this photo of Czech Winter. If anyone wants to see more, please write and I'll put up loads! You see, Winter here can be blue-sky sunny and crisp, a bit like people might know from Alpine skiing holidays. Tempted yet?

Yes, but..

Okay it's wonderful, we all agree that, so why don't the British come for proper holidays here? We are now getting them here on shortbreaks - mostly daytrips from Prague. But what a waste!

We lucky few know that this area is quite wonderful - not just this jewel of a town Cesky Krumlov, but the majesty of the Sumava Mountains, the serenity of Lake Lipno. We know that the Brits would love it - brilliant walking country, cycling trails for all abilities, canoeing, historic towns and sites galore.

So my question to my fellow bloggers is what do we have to do to get our fellow countrymen here?

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Undiscovered jewel?

The Crown jewel of Bohemia’ – that’s how people in the know describe Cesky Krumlov, a tiny mediaeval town close to the Austrian border. We love being here, and this non-commercial blog is just to record our thoughts and feelings about the town, and the area, and to give you an idea about life here should you ever come to visit.


The town sits in the foothills of Sumava, a region of National Parks and protected Areas of Natural Beauty. It nestles in the crook of the river Vltava, and its narrow, cobbled, higgledy-piggledy streets are overlooked by a huge castle that towers on the rocks above. My English friends fondly describe the castle’s older parts as ‘Gormenghast’, while the Czechs are more prone to sing praises to its richly painted Renaissance buildings and the mystical tower bearing Alchemical symbols that tie it to the times when South Bohemia was a place of John Dee’s retreat.

In fact, the adjectives ‘magical’, or ‘fairytale’ are the ones most frequently heard from the lips of visitors who gaze at Krumlov for the first time, while its Czech residents nod their heads sagely, and say quite seriously that indeed there is deep magic under these rocks – healing springs issuing from silver and graphite veins below, and ley-line crossroads that later materialised in the many Celtic roads and settlements, marked to this day by standing rocks and little chapels dotted around the town, or hidden in the forests nearby.

But the romantic description doesn’t end here: every house has a story to tell, their painted facades often hide clues to their former occupants, and walking around the town is like a journey through a historic puzzle that is still waiting to be deciphered.

And for those who like to immerse themselves in this old-world atmosphere, the town offers wonderful restaurants serving mediaeval style meals, crafts markets, gypsy bands, even festivals where the residents dress up to parade around the town, and perform Summer solstice or Christmas traditional plays, or passion plays for Easter.

Thursday, 17 January 2008


This is the first post on our blog. We are a group of British ex-pats who have come to live in Cesky Krumlov, South Bohemia.

Because it is simply fabulous. We intend to share with you our experiences and our enthusiasm about the place, the people and the beautiful countryside.