Day 300 – something of a milestone and, as people keep helpfully telling us, we are down to our last couple of months. As yet we are still heading South so it really doesn’t feel anything like being on our way home yet, we expected to be out of the Czech Rep by now and into Austria. The good weather together with our both very much liking it here resulted in our agreeing to stop for a few extra days for a ‘mini-break’ near Lake Lipno.
Before that we had our last hit on the culture scene, Cesky Krumlov. Yet another Unesco site, where as Budejovice had some listed buildings Krumlov old town is listed in its entirety. Thinking it would be a few more old buildings we were both a little awestruck when we arrived, like something out of a fairy story with castles, turrets, steeples and cobbled streets galore.
Wow just about covers it!
The town and castle were both built back in the late 13th century. Most of the architecture that still exists dates from the 14th – 17th centuries with a wealth of the usual Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance styles. The main part of the town is set within a keyhole bend in the River Vltava with the castle on the other side. It really is one of those places where you don’t know where to look first, our eyes were out on stalks trying to take it all in.
The Eastern Bloc era wasn’t kind to the town and it fell into disrepair, you wouldn’t know it now. Since the 1989 Czech Velvet Revolution the town has had a radical makeover and been restored beautifully in most place, only the castle gardens are now an ongoing piece of work.
It is a major tourist destination, not a few tourists – there were thousands of them flooding off buses every few minutes. We arrived just after 9am and there were a fair few people around, by lunchtime it was bursting at the seams. Seeing how busy it was proved our theory that Prague would have been way to chaotic in August, as the morning wore on it was becoming difficult to see anything other than people!
It is a city that claims notability for many things, gingerbread being one, there is a history of gingerbread being produced in the town that dates back a few hundred years. In the ‘ye olde’ type gingerbread shop we loved that the gingerbread was labelled as edible but also guaranteed to keep for 100 years – if it only keep for 99 years make sure you take it back then?
Krumlov is also known for puppetry, mainly due to a historical connection where puppet shows and theatres were common place forms of entertainment in the 18th century. There is a museum dedicated to puppets and theatres and there are numerous shops selling everything from old fashioned marionettes down to finger puppets.
The most controversial aspect must be the bear moat at the castle. Records show bears have been kept in the moat since 1707 and on and off ever since. It does seem cruel but there are arguments that it is no worse than a zoo and that there is a successful breeding programme.
The moat bears are a much-loved part of the community, they even have birthday and Christmas parties, where the local children bring gifts and exotic foods for them. We spied the bears for a few seconds, then they sat under the drawbridge where no one could see them – says how they feel about it then :). Whilst its very probably very un-PC to admit it – I was thrilled to see the bears.
Once it got too hot we got going, off to Horni Plana, on the edge of the Sumava National Park. Situated in the Bohemian Forest the village is on the edge of Lipno Dam. We found a small campsite on the lake, complete with its own sandy beach, and booked on for a few days. Iain has had a hankering for a scooter, we have seen more and more adults on them in recent weeks, so as the the hire shop had some he was off out for a trial – verdict : great for the flat and downhills, too much like hardwork on the uphills. There was a brand new tarmac cycle path though, which we took advantage of to cycle down to the next town, you still can’t beat a bike.
Scooter man Man-made beaches at Lipno
We have been what can only be termed as fairly idle for the last three days. We have sat in the sun, then built shelters to keep out the sun (using string and sheets, all very Blue Peter). I had a first and went out on a pedallo – never been on one before, a quick whizz around the lake but think I got on Iain’s nerves keep moaning about I didn’t have life saving equipment on-board! Iain yet again found a kind site owner happy to loan him a canoe without charge. By this afternoon the water on the lake here was pea green, looked a bit like cabbage soup. Despite it being 35 degrees the green bloom put off all but one or two hardly souls from taking to the water.
Tomorrow we will move on, Austria awaits.