PRAGUE, Czech Republic Despite all its charms, Prague is a big
city with some big turnoffs for visitors, including pollution,
traffic noise and rampant commercialism.
But a two-and-a-half-hour drive away is an antidote to those
annoyances, a tiny jewel called Cesky Krumlov.
Designated in 1992 as a UNESCO world heritage site, the town is
a virtually intact example of a medieval central European
Looking down on its clay-tiled roofs from the summit of its
fortified Bohemian castle, cars and sneaker-clad tourists seem
wildly out of place you almost expect to see horses carrying
lance-wielding knights clopping down the cobblestone streets.
The castle, one of the biggest in central Europe, dates back to
the 13th century and took centuries (and several noble dynasties)
As a result, the castle incorporates elements of Gothic,
Renaissance and Baroque design, topped by a distinctive round
Even if you don’t have time to take one of the three tours,
which run from April to October, of the castle’s rooms, it’s worth
the uphill climb to see its exterior courtyards, whose intricate
pastel murals were meticulously restored in the early 1900s.
And from the castle’s upper walkways, the unparalleled view of
the town, tucked into a crook of the Vltava River, is
Below, Cesky Krumlov’s narrow streets are largely reserved for
pedestrians and particularly in the summer months, there are many
visitors toting cameras and guidebooks.
Predictably, that means every other building houses a souvenir
shop or café, but from the outside, their facades are a delight of
pastels and trompe l’oeil brickwork.
Except for its hilltop castle, the town did not escape the
floods that ravaged the Czech Republic in the summer of 2002.
But thanks to a concerted restoration effort, most businesses
and attractions were back in business within weeks proving that it
takes more than the flood of the century to wash away 750 years of
Getting there: Cesky Krumlov is small enough to see in a day
trip from Prague, but only if you make the five-hour round trip by
car you can get there by bus or train via the regional capital,
Cesky Budejovice, but it will take about twice as long.
Accommodation: In Cesky Krumlov, the most sumptuous and
interesting place to stay is the five-star Hotel Ruze, a Jesuit
monastery dating back to the 1500s. If you decide to stay in
Prague, the luxury Hotel Hoffmeister and Hotel Pariz are good
Visas: U.S. citizens do not require visas for visits of 90 days
or less for the Czech Republic, but Canadians do. For a complete
overview of entry requirements, see the Czech government Web site,
Web sites: For dozens of photos and a chatty overview of the
town’s history and main attractions, go to
www.virtourist.com/europe/krumlov, which has links to four online
hotel-booking sites. Also worth checking for accommodations in
Cesky Krumlov and Prague is www.hotel sprague.net.