Saying goodbye to our wonderful hosts at Auberge des Coteaux de Gascogne, Sylvie and Rachid, early this morning, we were in the car by 7 am, driving to the airport at Toulouse. Only an hour and a half away, the drive was seamless and uneventful on the autoroute.
Hopping on our Air France flight at 11:05, we landed in Prague by 1:10 pm. At Prague airport, we were picked up in a hired van which had already collected Peter’s sister, Ivana, her partner Colin, daughter Lucinda and her partner Hutch. We were traveling together to Cesky Krumlov, where we would meet up with Peter’s other sister, Sonja, her husband Murray and other family friends. The 2 hour drive went quickly as we talked non-stop for the airport to Cesky Krumlov, catching up on news back home in Sydney and our experiences in France.
Our accommodation in Cesky Krumlov: The next surprise when we arrived into Cesky Krumlov was our accommodation. Arranged from Sydney by Peter’s sister, Sonja, so that all of us could be together, it was called Pension Amethyst.
“I picked us a fairly large room, Vick.”, Peter said, quite pleased with himself. “It’s got a sitting room and even a little kitchenette.”
Struggling with our luggage to the first floor, the light filled airiness of our suite welcomed us as soon as we walked through the door. It was such a relief to walk into an abundance of space after being in a car, airport, aircraft and van since 7 o’clock that morning. Okay, okay, so the decor of the Pension Ametyst wasn’t exactly current, but it was large and seemed very comfortable.
The furnishing of our bedroom, however, left us quite speechless. With a stark white shag pile sofa on one side, complete with hot pink satin cushions which coordinated with the bed on the other side, plastic potted plants and flowers, light fixtures on the bedside tables that had octopus-like tentacles that featured tiny pink lightbulbs at the end, and layers of bright pink and blue strips of a polyester see-through fabric as curtains that waved softly in the breeze that came in through the open window, the style can only be described as “70’s porn.” I hoped to God there wasn’t an open flame within cooee or we all would have melted!
“This must be the honeymoon suite.” I told Peter with a deadpan expression. Lucinda, sensitive soul that she is, doubled over in laughter as soon as she came in to take a look. However, once we had unpacked, the decor became incidental and the room turned out to be absolutely fine. And at an average cost per night of 75,00 Euros, we were doing very well. After unpacking, Peter and I stepped outside to stretch our legs and introduce ourselves to Cesky Krumlov.
Cesky Krumlov (CHESS-key KROOM-loff) means roughly “Czech bend-in-the-river”. Calling it “Cesky” for short is not the done thing as most things in the Czech Republic start with the word “Cesky” - we occasionally jokingly refer to Peter and his sisters as “Ceskys” when we want to give them a bit of a ribbing! But back to Cesky Krumlov, it is the second most visited town in the Czech Republic after Prague. My first time here, the town is absolutely stunning, with the skyline dominated by its gorgeous castle spire. With a rich mix of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque buildings, it is such a pleasure to snoop into back lanes and tiny squares, all the while craning your neck to marvel at the stunning structures that line Cesky Krumlov’s streets. And the best part for Peter and I was that the town seemed far less overrun by crowds in comparison to the other historic villages in Southern France that we had just visited.
Cesky Krumlov is extremely easy to navigate. The twisty Vltava River, which makes an “S” through the town, ropes the Old Town into a tight peninsula. Above the Old Town is the Castle Town. Cesky Krumlov’s one main street starts at the isthmus and heads through the peninsula, winding though town and continuing across a bridge before snaking through the castle town and complex. The main square, Namesti Svornosti dominate the Old Town and marks the center of the peninsula. Nothing in this town is more than a 5 minute walk away!
Our amazing dining experience in Cesky Krumlov: I must admit, Peter and I are not big fans of Czech food. It’s big on the meats and potatoes, light on the fresh greens and hell on the digestion. Afraid that we’d be stuck eating something heavy for dinner if we didn’t pick our restaurants carefully, Peter set out to sniff out a great place to eat in Cesky Krumlov.
Scouting around town and making enquiries from the locals, he found this place called “U Dobraka Penzion-Restaurace”. Apparently, the owner, Lojza is also the cook at the restaurant and a master with steaks, cooking them on an open fire to perfection. In fact, the locals know it as the best place in Cesky Krumlov for grilled steak and fish. Deliberately charging too much for his beers, this ensures he keeps the noisy beer drinkers away. We were eager to give it a try.
The premises of “U Dobraka Penzion-Restaurace” are fascinating. Located in a medieval building, it features beautifully conserved ceiling frescoes and an old floor at the entrance made up of old pig bones. The rear tract is an original stone wall which used to be part of a bulwark and the courtyard has a functional well that dates back to medieval times. The pension accommodation, in comparison, is rather simple and modest.
In warmer weather, which we were happy to be visiting Cesky Krumlov in, the meals at the restaurant are cooked in an open fireplace grill located in the building’s courtyard by Lojza. Looking at his blackened fireplace with concern when we first entered, I wondered what sort of a meal we were going to get out of it. I need not have worried, however, as his steaks blew us away. Mouthwatering, tender and flavorful, we relished them along with a plethora of salads that we had ordered from the menu. There were those in our group that ordered the chicken, which was also cooked in the open flame to perfection. While fish was also available on the menu, no one had ordered any from our group. All in all, sitting out in the courtyard and enjoying a beautiful meal with family and friends, we experienced one of those magical moments when we felt blessed. It was good to be alive.
Dining tip: Seating is limited in this restaurant, so book ahead to avoid disappointment, particularly if you want seating in the courtyard.