Sunsets in Cesky Krumlov
Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic
Sunset from the Hill
“If that’s east, then this is west.” I say while pointing vaguely at the sky. More brilliant words have never been uttered. So simple and so true; this was facing west. Of course, I did just climb a small mountain in the middle of the night with a thirty pound pack, so needless to say, I was exhausted. But, the girls are here with me so I say something strong, confident and poignant; “If that is east, then this is west.” I declare while pointing my finger in a very meaningful way. I was more concerned with getting a good sunset for the following night and maybe not waking up in the direct sunlight, than I was with our latitudinal alignment.
I came into Cesky Krumlov that night, just after sundown. On the hand drawn map, I calculated a five minute walk from the station, fifteen minutes later I made it to the hostel that supplies inaccurate hand drawn maps; The Krumlov House. It was home for a week one day, but not today, they were booked. The girls got there a day before me. I came in from Prague where we had all met at the Boathouse Hostel, one of the best hostels in all of Europe. And there we were, reunited in the foyer of the Krumlov House. The Kiwi girl at the desk is trying to get me a bed at another hostel. No other hostel has a bed. The Kiwi girl tells me in her nasally voice that there is a tent I could borrow for the night. “No worries mate!” I took the tarp and asked where to go and ‘could you point me in the right direction, a few times.’ “Awright. When ya walk out the doora turn to your raight.” And so on, down some streets, up a hill, follow the dirt road and it’s right there.
Kate, the Kiwi girl, told me about the Krizak Church. An ancient church within the courtyard of a slightly less ancient church. It stands proudly on the top of a hill overlooking Cesky Krumlov. The sunsets from up there are incredible. So while the girls got dressed and primped and such for the evening ahead, I dashed up the trail. Five minutes later, I’m about to collapse, I need oxygen, I’m dying from exposure. I urge on and finally I am there. I am overlooking the city on sacred ground next to a fire pit. Camp is made and a quick-splash-of-water-bath and I am ready. I hear the girls coming up the trail, grinning because I will look tough and rugged for having hiked that alone and with a pack. And this is when I point out the major difference between east and west. They make a plan to come up there tomorrow before dusk. We head down into town to get some wine.
The wine in our miniature Prague is tart white wine with a solid oak finish. Served from casks set into the wall, it is served just below room temperature. The sommelier was a nice cute Czech girl whose English was better than my Czech. Narrow and well polished cobblestone streets lead us in circles, up into castles and cathedrals, down to the river and the park. Drunk and stoned, we ramble on about everything and anything we want to say. Ali was my girl for two weeks after that. We stumbled back to the hostel and I slept there that night.
Early the next morning I’m up and out the door at sunrise. I am not hung over. By the time I reach the top of the hill I am very hung over. I chug down most of the water in my Nalgene and use the rest for brushing my teeth. I smoke a cigarette and take some shots with my camera. The town sparkled in the bright new sunlight reflecting off the dew. A fine mist swept over the river, which snakes almost a full circle around Cesky Krumlov town center. Atop steep cliffs sits a massive baroque castle and its entire court, including a matching baroque cathedral. Every roof-top is red tile the countryside is lush and green. I come back down an hour or so later and wait for the girls to get ready.
Ali and I stayed in Cesky Krumlov a few days longer than then the others. We spent a solid four hours a day in the small park along the banks of the Vltava. Ali spent her time knitting my beanie hat and talking to me about Jesus and God and being thankful. She could go on like this for days. I would listen intently and allow myself to believe for a moment that God loves me and is trying to let me know this.
Street in Town
It was hot out, so we made ourselves comfortable in the shade of a tall maple or oak or some such tree. It could have been the weekend, though every day so far had been full of people relaxing and playing and definitely not working. The river was busy with folks in giant rubber tire tubes floating about at a leisurely pace. Just out of sight from where Ali and I set up our makeshift picnic spot, there was a flood control gate where more daring tubers would launch down a narrow corridor of rapids. It was there that several travelers from the hostel were accosted by a gang of drunken Czech pirates. Being drunken Czech pirates however, they soon began to quarrel amongst themselves and the travelers escaped by leaping from the large inflatable raft to the relative safety of their respective inner-tubes. They live to tell their harrowing story.
Of course, we had to see the castle. That sort of place cannot be left out of any decent story about Cesky Krumlov; what with the grizzly bears in the moat and all. Up the street we go and when we reach the gate, we’ve reached the grizzly bears. In what was once a moat and now a bear habitat are two lazily playful grizzlies. Not a single one of my photographs came out of them so I will just leave it at this: They were treated quite well, had lots to play with and eat, well regarded within the community, quite large and brown in color.
Our last night in Cesky Krumlov, Ali and I went up to the church and watched the sun set. Every traveler from Amsterdam to Prague had something good to say about this “jewel of southern Bohemia,” whether by word of mouth or experience. Ali and I have had the experience.
After walking for several minutes along ancient thoroughfares and passing gothic clock towers, baroque spires, early-Christian churches, and simple stone and stucco townhouses, we were at the train station. The summer classical and folk music festival was at its peak and people were deboarding everywhere. The little red soviet-era commuter train chugged us away to the connecting city.