The Keys to a Fairytale Named Český
Story and photos by Tom Weber
sun's barely on the rise and my weary-eyed "band of merry media"
and I travel scribes and lens crafters invited by Insight Vacations
(Insight) to sample a portion of its Bohemian Rhapsody journey,
including last night's last call at U
Fleků brewery-restaurant, are already mustered down in the
lobby of Prague's
Art Nouveau Palace Hotel with our luggage, looking very much like extras
at a casting call for a George A. Romero zombie movie as we wait for
the green light to board the motor coach.
Where to? About 3.5 hours due south of
Prague in the Bohemian region of the Czech Republic. We're off to Český
Krumlov, where someone's going to hand over the keys to the town castle.
Along the way we're bombarded with facts
and figures about the Czech Republic doled out by Neira, Insight's chatty
tour director-slash-storyteller-slash Trivial Pursuit expert,
who keeps us on the edge of our seats and, surprisingly, awake.
For instance, "There are over 2,000
castles and keeps, one of the highest densities in the world,"
she tells us.
"Did you know that the word ROBOT
comes from the Czech word ROBOTA, meaning WORK?" We shake
our heads NO, and Neira continues, "The contact lens was invented
by Otto Wichterie, the sugar cube by Jakob Krystof Rad, and the propeller
by Josef Ressel."
Quicker than you can say, Nejneobhospodařovávatelnějímu
the longest word in the Czech language that means, "To the
least cultivable ones" we arrive in Český Krumlov,
a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the best preserved medieval
towns in all of Europe.
Set along the banks of the Vltava River,
this fairytale-like vision out of the Middle Ages appears lost in time.
Off the motor coach we go, each light as
a feather Insight handles all checked baggage at every stop along
the way and head straight for the front desk at the atmospheric five-star
It's a renovated 16th century Jesuit university-monastery
that oozes the Rennaisance with period furnishings and decor including
lifelike waxed figures positioned around the lobby and serves as
Insight's signature property here.
A quick lunch on our own dime fresh
trout and a white wine for me and then we're rejoined at the
hip and follow Neira up the cobble, like a gaggle of goslings waddling
behind Mother Goose, to see a man about the keys to the castle
the State Castle and Chateau of Český Krumlov, a UNESCO World
Cultural Heritage Monument since 1992.
More than 300,000 visitors annually cross
over the moat occupied by brown bears and pass through
the arched entryway and into the massive 13th century complex of 40
buildings and palaces, situated around 5 castle courts and a park spread
across 11 hectares of land. It is one of the largest castle complexes
of its kind in Europe, and ranks second in size only to Prague
Castle within the Czech Republic.
We're met on the grounds by a knowledgeable
art-historian guide the keeper of the keys and given a
VIP tour of some of the highlights of the impressive noble residence.
Boasting 300 rooms with more than 30,000
pieces of original furnishings, artwork and other treasures, our guide
unlocks a door, ushers us in, and immediately locks it again. This exercise
is repeated throughout the tour as there's no turning back.
We flow into and out of grand rooms and
lengthy corridors, each just dripping with more wealth than you can
Jaws drop in an OMG moment as we gaze at
a gilded golden carriage, used only once back in 1637 by Ferdinand III
von Habsburg, the newly crowned Holy Roman Emperor, to transport gifts
through the streets of Rome for delivery to Pope Urban VIII in the Vatican.
Our VIP stroll around the castle ends on
a high note as we get a privileged peek inside one of Europe's few remaining
wooden Baroque theaters.
Built in 1775, the ornate theater, once
graced by Mozart's presence, is undergoing a long and expensive renovation
and is very rarely seen by the public, but is readily made available
whenever Insight comes calling. It's just another "signature"
moment on the Bohemian Rhapsody journey.
Free to roam until our Insight-hosted dinner,
I meander around town and click away at the colorful sights and scenes
before making my way back to the Hotel Růe for a cold one
an Eggenberg Pils enjoyed out on the terrace overlooking the gently
Sometime during each and every Insight
journey a Club Bon Voyage dinner party breaks out and returning
Insight guests are given a special nod and toast.
Yours truly happens to be one of four seasoned
road warriors so honored tonight, having traveled previously with Insight
on its Country Roads of Italy itinerary through Tuscany
The champagne, beer and other spirits flow
compliments of Insight as we enjoy an aperitif or two
or three, along with trays of delicious finger food, before we're ushered
into one of the period rooms for our sit-down, guitar-serenaded Bohemian
"The night is still young," Neira,
Insight's effervescent tour director, proclaims as our wine glasses
now stand empty. "Let's go for a stroll and see the town at dark."
Most everyone grabs a wrap for the cool
night air, but I grab my hotel room key instead, take the elevator up
to the second floor and fall fast asleep dreaming about a fairytale
place named Český Krumlov.
For complete information on Insights' premium
and luxury-escorted itineraries loaded with "signature" moments
and impromptu flourishes, including the Bohemian Rhapsody and
100 other journeys throughout Europe, just click HERE,
or call toll free 1-888-680-1241, or contact your travel agent.
See you at the crack of dawn when we waltz
our way out of the Czech Republic and head for Vienna.
Rhapsody: Prague's Watering Hole; Bohemian
Rhapsody: Prague's Old Town Square; Bohemian
Rhapsody: Jewish Quarter; Bohemian
Rhapsody: Crossing the Charles Bridge; Bohemian
Rhapsody: Storming the Prague Castle; Bohemian
Rhapsody: Na Zdraví! (A Brewery and A Wine Cellar); Czeching
Out A Bohemian Rhapsody; The
Czech Republic A Little Jewel, Part 2