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Cesky Krumlov
Bohemian Rhapsody:
The Keys to a Fairytale Named Český Krumlov
(Dispatch #10)

Story and photos by Tom Weber

lobby and reception of the Art Nouveau Palace Hotel

he 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.

fountain at Cesky Krumlov with town castle in the background

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.

Insight's tour director Neira

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."

Cesky Krumlov showing the Vltava River flowing through town

Quicker than you can say, Nejneobhospodařovávatelnějšímu – 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.

at th Hotel Ruze

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 Hotel Růže.

lifelike waxed figures and bar at the Hotel Ruze

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.

fresh trout and a white wine at the Hotel Ruze

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.

State Castle and Chateau of Cesky Krumlov

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.

keys to Cesky Krumlov castle

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.

interior views of Cesky Krumlov

We flow into and out of grand rooms and lengthy corridors, each just dripping with more wealth than you can imagine.

gilded golden carriage used only once in 1637 by Ferdinand III von Habsburg

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.

wooden Baroque theater at Cesky Krumlov

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.

views around Cesky Krumlov town

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 Růže for a cold one – an Eggenberg Pils enjoyed out on the terrace overlooking the gently flowing Vlatava.

Insight Vacatiosn reservation signcard

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 and Umbria.

Salut!

fare at an Insight Vacations dinner party

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 dinner.

"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."

firewords over Cesky Krumlov town

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.

Insight Vacation's Bohemian Rhapsody brochure

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.

concert by the Vienna Residence Orchestra at the Auersperg Palace

See you at the crack of dawn when we waltz our way out of the Czech Republic and head for Vienna.

Related Articles:
Bohemian 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




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Let Tom know what you think about his traveling adventure.

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Feedback for Destination Bosnia: Inside Sarajevo's Tunnel of Hope

Spent time in Sarajevo in the fall of 1973…beer was excellent!

--- David

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Hi Tom,

I must say, you're photographs are always amazing. They are top notch. You bring so much class to Traveling Boy. It's photographs like yours that make me want to go out and do my own traveling. Please don't get tired of sending us your amazing adventures. It's such a delight for the soul.

--- Raoul, Whittier, CA

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Hi Tom:

I'm also an American living in Italy. I've read with interest your blog and articles. I'd like to speak with you regarding residency and citizenship for Americans in Italy as you do seem to have a great deal of knowledge on all of these subjects. Would it be possible to give you a call on the phone? If so, please let me know how to reach you. If not, I can ask my questions via email.

Thank you!

--- David

* * * *

Hey Tom – Wow! Love those photos – they are so super that they make me A) Want to start eating NOW. B) Go there myself. C) See all that pristine beauty that looks so restful and peaceful. Great story, superb pix!!! Bravo!!

--- John, Los Angeles, CA

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Feedback for Destination Southwestern France: Saint-Émilion

Good job, Tom, and timely info. St. Émilion is in the list of places Jim Hayes and I will visit in September 2014. If we get the chance, we will exploit your experience to enhance the trip!

--- Bobby Harper, Dameron, MD

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Feedback for Vicenza Walks – Monte Berico

I lived in Vicenza for 4 years in the U.S. ARMY from 1963 to 1967. A wonderful place to explore. Palladio’s works are amazing. Have been back twice since and find new places to visit. My favorite is MONTE BERICO where I have some wonderful photos of my family.

--- Dr. Albert Pizzi, Hanover, MA

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I liked the new TB particularly the Vicenza article that took me back as a youth when we lived in Naples and travelled up there for a baseball tourney (U.S. Military Bases dependent schools played each other.)

Took me back to the plaza.

--- Bill

Feedback for A Canterbury Trail (Sutri)

Very interesting note. I have wedroned which route the early pre-Christian and Christian pilgrims travelled to Rome from England. Is it still possible to travel the Francigena trail?

--- Pawel

You can find out more info on walking tours of Via Francigena at this site: http://www.compagniadeicammini.it/en/. Thanks for stopping by and commenting..

Tom

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Good article, enjoyed reading it. Saved your recommended sights for future use.

--- Dardenne Prairie, MO

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You're going to be great at this Tom. Congrats.

--- Donna Vissa -Montreal




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