Grin and bear it

Trip Start Jul 17, 2011
Trip End Dec 20, 2011

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Flag of Czech Republic  , Bohemia,
Friday, October 14, 2011

I hadn't felt so medieval since year eight when Mr Liddell had us dress up as medieval wenches, our newly blooming chests being unkindly pushed up and out by a choking bustier, and facing the horror of being on the stage at Southland shopping centre. Luckily the experience at Cesky Krumlov avoided humiliation or awkwardness of this sort.

Cesky Krumlov (let's call it CK to save me from carpal tunnel syndrome) is a sweet little medieval town in the south of the Czech Rebublic. In summer it gets swamped by tourists, but on a chilly autumn day we had her to ourselves. For three hours we chugged along the freeway out of Prague in a mini bus that must have been borrowed from the 1950's such was the lack of any modern convenience such as suspension of any sort. It was as if the road to CK was paved with cobble stones, which kept me alert (not alarmed) at least. Of more concern seemed to be that I was on an English tour and my bus companions seemed to variously have primary languages of Russian, Brazillian, Thai, Chinese, Swedish and Japanese. Interesting. On the way we encountered an entire squadron from the Czech army. Now I love a man in a uniform but I always wonder why they are where they are. Should I feel safer, or in danger? Given that we were in the middle of Bohemian countryside, the only threat appeared to be renegade Carp in the local lakes. I could breath a sigh of relief.

But next time you see 'Boho chic' back in fashion, or hear about the great bohemian lifestyle, remember that this originates from Czech Bohemia. I didn't see any aging hippies smoking pot and giving me peace signs, but maybe the Czech army shut them down?

What CK lacks in hippie boho it makes up for in it's well preserved medieval style which has not been erased but added to with subsequent Renaissance and baroque influences. There was plenty of sightseeing around the quaint village, seeing various places where people had been chucked over the castle walls to the moat below, but I was hanging to get a taste of the local food. I found an outstanding little place in a preserved medieval building with low ceilings and skinny staircases, and ordered a meal of pheasant, smoked meat, millet and dumplings. A beer was followed by a bohemian mead. It was fascinating food that truly made me feel a link with the people of this region in another much earlier time.

Visiting the castle itself, the most fascinating thing were that three bears are kept in the moat still to this day, presumably to protect the castle. Given the castle now has full electronic protection, quite what bears add to this arrangement is hard to decipher. In fact you can pay to buy food to throw down to them to keep them fat. It sounds more like a bad American reality tv show where a husband feeds his wife to keep her fat and keep her with him. The castle, although luxurious and opulent, features a reminder of what happens to obese bears in moats, with bear skin rugs looking at you with sad pleading eyes in every room.

Before leaving CK I visited the Egon Schiele Centrum to see the art he produced when he spent time here on holiday from Vienna in the early 1900's. Whilst it was a fantastic exhibition, I was confused by the other exhibition sharing the gallery. It was an exhibition on high heels featuring examples from throughout time. In a town of cobbled streets that was challenging enough to navigate in a pair of Nikes, I wonder how the hell heels bear any relationship to this place. As we set off back to Prague, in our cut price bus, the bumps couldn't help make me think of walking Cesky Krumlov in heels, except that would probably be more comfortable.
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