Day 2: Czech Republic and Rafting in Cesky Krumlov - 3 June
I don’t play golf or ride a bike, and I happen to think people who jog are crazy. Meditation and yoga are my recreations of choice. I still can’t believe that I agreed to paddle a rubber raft down the Vltava river for 3 hours with my family and the friends in our group, all mad golfers and cyclists. I somehow thought that it would be an enriching experience to try a favorite local activity in Cesky Krumlov. However, by the time we placed all our jumpers, sweaters, shoes and bags in sealable plastic drums, zipped up our life jackets, and took hold of our paddles, I began to have serious regrets. As 11 of us docked off from the main town of Cesky Krumlov in 2 rubber rafts, I saw that the water wasn't too deep. I started to feel better and relaxed into a rhythm. This was easy! Then our raft started to veer right and I looked across at my sister-in-law Ivana, telling her she needed to paddle harder.
"Uh, sorry Vic." Peter said. "It's you who needs to get the raft back on course." -- uh oh, wasn't as easy as I thought.
Amateur raft paddling aside, the journey was extraordinary. We paddled through breathtaking Bohemian forests and nearby countryside, even experiencing to my panic, then exhilaration, a bit of whitewater rafting adventure. On two occasions, our boat got stuck in rocks and we nearly ended up in the drink, our raft partly filling with water. Thankfully, we had three tall men in our group who were able to dislodge us each time.
After 2 hours, we came across a riverside pub. It had started to rain and it was getting cold, so none of us needed any persuasion to get down for a break and a bite to eat. The food options were limited to some Kransky sausage with bread, or a typical local cheese (which was quite smelly) with bread. I opted for the former and a cup of tea, while the others had their sausage with slivovitz shots. The food, tea and slivovotz warmed us right down to our toes while the weather momentarily turned nasty, giving us a better excuse to prolong our stay. However, the skies cleared just as some thoughtful soul in our group had bought us all some chocolate to share. Hopping back on to our rafts, we completed the second half of our journey. Having arranged a return plan with our rental company, a shuttle bus was ready to pick us up from where we docked our rafts to take us back to our pension.
While rafting is not something that I would normally choose to do on a holiday, I am so glad that I gave it a shot. It gave me an enormous sense of achievement and the opportunity to experience an activity that involved working with a team. It was truly great fun. And look Ma, no blisters!
Several companies along Cesky Krumlov offer this activity, but the handiest ones are Pujcovna Lodi Malecek Boat Rental ( www.malecek.cz) and Cestovni Agentura Vltava ( www.ckvltava.cz).
Krumlov Castle: As Krumlov Castle would be closed tomorrow (Monday), we had to squeeze in a visit today. Afdter all, one cannot visit Cesky Krumlov without seeing the castle!
With it’s bear pits and groomed garden, the Krumlov Castle complex is easy to spot. The much-photographed tower features beautifully restored 16th century Renaissance paintings that feature astrological motifs and terra cotta symbols of the zodiac. It was in these exquisite surroundings that prominent families, the Rozmberks, Eggenbergs and Schwarzenbergs lived, worked, prayed and entertained, although one can only view the interior of the castle via an organized tour. We were able to book ourselves into a tour from the ticket office on the castle grounds.
The bear pit in the Krumlov Castle, which currently holds a family of brown bears, has been there since the 16th century, when the Rozmberks added bears to their coat of arms. Bears have traditionally been totemic animals for Europeans and the Rozmberks were keen to associate themselves with the noble Italian family, Orsini, which means “bear-like”. Pronouncing the animal’s real name was apparently taboo in many ancient cultures, and Czechs still refer to bears indirectly. In most germanic languages, the word “bear” is derived from “brown” while the Slavic “medved” literally means “honey eater”.
When you arrive at Cesky Krumlov, make your reservations for a tour in your language from the castle office. You’ll be issued a ticket with the time of your tour printed on it. Make sure that you are on time for your tour or you will be locked out.