The Museum of Kooky Eyes

After yesterday’s Trdlnik, I am glad for our included activity this morning, a nice bike ride through the forest hills of Cesky Krumlov, with Vltava Sport Service.  Two mini vans carry us out to the hills, climbing higher and higher through the winding forest roads before we stop to unload the bikes.  The first three kilometres of the ride consists of hills – a mean trick for those on our tour who haven’t ridden a bike for some time, rewarded with a view of the valley below, that totally made up for it.

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A lot  more of fifteen kilometre ride is downhill, the chill of the air making my eyes water slightly.  The forests are filled with mushrooms, babbling brooks and, as some of our riders found out, stinging nettles.  But all too soon, we were back in the cobble-stoned streets of town and the ride was over.

We all branch out to go our individual ways and I decide it’s time to do a little shopping.  The local stone here is moldovite, which is a kind of meteorite that is featured in all sorts of jewellery here and seeing as I have no room for souvenirs, jewellery is about the only thing I can browse for.  I end up choosing a nice simple ring, which should suffice as a reminder of this lovely village.

After lunch, there’s one thing more I want to try to get in and that’s the Wax Museum.  I don’t usually visit these places, cause I think they are boring, but the wax models in the window of this place have crazy eyes and it draws me in.  I mean, look at this guy:

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And I don’t think Daniel Radcliffe would recognize himself either (well I certainly didn’t and I’d just watched The December Boys on the bus ride to Cesky Krumlov), though he’s minus the kooky eyes.

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So needless to say, I’ve just gotta go in there.  There’s scenes from Czech medieval life, followed by famous people from different periods of time – kings, queens and entertainers.  Here’s some of my favourites, including a special one for my niece Lola:

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Before long it’s time to go rafting.  Again with Vltava Sport Service, we are driven maybe ten kilometres out of town and given our raft, life jackets and oars.  A series of five ‘gates’ awaits us, through which we find ourselves sliding down rapid slipways.

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The sun rapidly disappears and gives way to a light sprinkling of rain, so we are a little wet when we disembark, which is nothing unusual for rafting anyway.

Walking back to Na Louzi, a final treat for me is to find a lane full of street art.

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This town really has been such a delight, especially once the day trippers have left.  And it’s been so nice to have sunshine (and heat) and to get outside and do some more physical sightseeing instead of just walking everywhere.

There’s a Bear in There (but no TV)

After another cross country bus ride, we arrive to this:

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And then this:

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I’m not sure I’ll be able to bear staying here!

We are staying at the very traditional Na Louzi in and it’s extremely charming.  Each room is different but they are decked out very simply.  No bar fridge, no hairdryers, no bathrobes and no TV – magic, though probably not everyone would agree with me.

Downstairs is a little restaurant where a grumpy waiter attends to the customers, minus a smile, but the food is good and other friendlier staff bustle about to make up for it.  It always seems to be full.

First stop after lunch is to try something Matt keyed us up for back in Prague.  You can buy these across the Czech Republic, but we’ve been forced to wait till now for what Matt calls the cream of the crop of Trdlniks.  Originally coming from Pennsylvania, they are basically soft dough, wrapped a stick and then grilled and topped with sugar.  Here in Cesky Krumlov, you can have almonds as well, or hazelnut flavoured chocolate.  They are massive, but despite that, I can’t bear to not finish it, chocolate covering my fingers and most probably my face, by the end of it.

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Our first afternoon is a walking introduction to the town by a local guide.  The streets are cobble-stoned, which is the norm in these parts, but the town, despite its winding streets and hidden alleys, is incredibly small.  The alleys and streets are lined with shops, galleries and restaurants, and the day trippers come in troves.

Magnificent organs and outstanding accoustics await us at St Vitus Church.  An outstanding view of the town is on show at a small garden along the way.  And there are bears at the castle.  Yes.  Bears.  The history of bear-keeping at the Castle goes back to the 16th century, when the Rosenbergs held court.  The family legend goes that the Rosenbergs were related to a noble Italian family, named Orsini.  Orsa means she-bear in Italian and this animal motif was used by the Rosenbergs to demonstrate their relationship with the Orsini’s, as can be seen on the Rosenberg coat of arms.

Living in the moat at present are Katerina and Vok, and their cubs Daxi and Hubert.

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The castle itself dates back to the 13th century and was built by the Witigonen family, let another branch of the tentacled Rosenberg family.  By the 17th century, when the Rosenbergs finally died out, the castle was given to Hans Ulrich von Eggenberg, and you’ll see beer carrying his name all over this town.

We walk through the castle out to the gardens to the solace of a small lily-pad covered pond, where some of us sit for a while.  Whilst this morning was quite cool and we were not sure we would avoid rain, this afternoon is bathed in brilliant sunshine.

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We walk back to the centre of town through quiet side streets, while somewhere a church bell rings out.

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This town is gorgeous.