Saturday 20th January 2018
Český Krumlov, Czech Republic
When my alarm sounded at 6am, I was grateful that our plan for an overnight train ride from Austria to Liechtenstein had been switched out for an altogether more peaceful mid-morning journey to Český Krumlov. I met Sarah in the lobby and coffee and umbrellas in hand we trotted off to the train station.
After making a quick stop at the trusty train station Resch & Frisch, we marched pastry in hand off for our first Czech adventure. After what felt like 57 years, we clambered off the train at České Budějovice, and hopped back on a very strange bus/train hybrid to finally reach Český Krumlov.
When I had checked the weather forecast not two days before and seen that there was a 50% chance of snow, it never occurred to me to check how much snow would already be on the ground. It's safe to say that after roughly 38 seconds walking through a foot of snow in white converse and no socks, my ankles couldn't feel a thing. With Sarah trotting along in her heeled boots, we really were a sight. Nevertheless, the second we reached the staircase down to the centre of town, the cold was the last thing on our minds.
Spurred on by the sight of snow-covered pastel buildings in the distance and the promise of some Instagram gold, we bumbled down the cobblestone streets, into the heart of Český Krumlov. After a 3 hour train journey talking about nothing but pizza, it was clear where we'd be making our first stop. Nestled in a side street, Nonna Gina was the perfect place for a quick refuelling before we headed back out to check out the rest of the town.
Having done minimal research before arriving, we hobbled up the hill towards the castle, full to the brim with carbs and hoping to stumble across something (anything) of note. And, as if by magic...
Around 5 hours and 7890 photos later, prizing the phones from each other's hands, we hopped off again towards a sign for the castle tower. I don't exaggerate (that much) when I say I almost lost my life on several occasions. With rickety wooden slats for steps and nothing to hold onto but a frayed bit of rope tied to the wall, the ascent was a challenge to say the least. When I eventually saw the light, I was glad it was that of the outdoors and not of heaven's gate. And as I clambered safely back onto solid ground, the view from the top reassured me that the aforementioned horror had all been worthwhile.
After snapping another 5000+ photos, boomerangs, selfies, snapchats, videos, panoramas, etc etc etc, we marched back down the tower of terror and tried rather unsuccessfully to navigate our way back towards the train station. In near enough the middle of nowhere, without the aid of Google Maps and with 16 minutes until our train was scheduled to leave, it's was a miracle we even found our way back.
By the time we reached the station, the adventure was far from over. Waiting patiently for the train to take us back to České Budějovice, a local man clutching a phone with real-life buttons yelled that the train had been cancelled and a bus would be arriving for us instead. Not 2 minutes later, an unmarked and partly rusty bus zooms around the corner, with local phone with real-life buttons man behind the wheel. If you've ever seen The Proposal, it was exactly like Ramone, the man who is the waiter, the shopkeeper, the stripper, the minister.
Even though our visit to Český Krumlov was a flying one, it's one of my favourite trips of this year. Little else can beat the charm of this quaint little town on a snowy Saturday morning. If you're after a taste of Czech culture without the hustle and bustle of Prague, Český Krumlov is a definite gem.