Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic: BEAR PITS

On the way to Vienna, I did a one-night stopover in this adorable little town in the Czech Republic called Cesky Krumlov.  Well, my bible/guidebook also highly recommended it, so voila! I did.

You guys. It was seriously the most picturesque, charming little town ever. I swear, I could have written Cinderella first if I'd gone here, way back when.  That fairytale would have basically written itself.  And then I'd be rich.

Photo I took of the most magical sunset over Cesky Krumlov, complete with Instagram filters

What It's All About:
Cesky Krumlov is a small little town a couple hours south of Prague, kind of near the border of the Czech Republic/Germany/Austria. The town only has, like, 15,000 people and it's bordered by the turns of the Vltava River. It's also got a history that I'm going to regurgitate here because I find it so fascinating. Apparently its population was mostly all German during the Hitler era as Germany expanded its territories - but then after WWII, all the Germans were expelled (in a pretty vicious, violent way), and the land borders were re-drawn by the Allied forces into Czechoslovakia. For 50-some years,  the town kind of fell apart as the place had no sense of identity or culture for the Czechs and it was in a pretty bad state - until the 1990s (I was alive!), when tourists discovered it and all this money was infused into it and all the storefronts became vibrant and alive again. And it is truly, truly adorable in every way.

Cliffnotes of the Day:
  • Arrived in the early evening by bus from Prague. My hotel, Pension Marie, is the first time I've had my own room, AND I HAD THE CUTEST ROOM EVER. Honestly, straight out of a fairy tale, complete with multiple flowerpot-lined windows that opened up onto the cobblestone streets, birds chirping everywhere, etc.  I seriously wanted to fling open the wooden shutters in the morning and sing to the people. Not sure the people would have wanted that, however.
Do we see how giant my room is?? At $45/night? Instant rumor: we can all live like kings in Eastern Europe
  • Explored the city. As my guidebook says, "You're not here to see the sights of the city.  The city IS the sight."  It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and I can see why. Every corner I turned, there was a new amazing view that I wanted to pano on my phone. Insert photo dump here. 
Cesky Krumlov Castle, borderd by the Vlata River

On the right, NBD, just an enchanted forest wonderland

Take a left, oh nothing to see here except for a magical street

European royalty formula: find a landscape with a hill, build your castle on top, look down at your kingdom

  • So now that I've learned castles are a dime a dozen bc every city has one, my castle standards have become quite high.  Cesky Krumlov's castle, however, wins in every way because THEY HAVE BEAR PITS. LIKE A BIG PIT. FILLED WITH BEARS.  I actually think there's only like 1-2 bears. But here I was thinking the "bear pits" reference was a figure of speech or just a name, and when I looked down the pit and saw a bear ambling around, I definitely gave an accidental small squeal of joy before pulling myself together. BEARS.
    Seriously, it was like I'd never seen a bear before

  • Took a tour of the inside of Cesky Krumlov's castle, which I loved because they had reconstructed the rooms based on all the different ruling families and eras, down to tiny little macarons in trays on the princesses' side tables. I love things like that. Fun fact, the servants' bedrooms were bigger than my room back in NYC. Whomp whomp.
  • Kayaked the next morning down the Vltava River, which was so gorgeous - details below.

Moment of the Day:
My guidebook's top recommendation for the town was to kayak down the Vltava River, which hugs the city in an S-curve.  Well, fine. Twist my arm. 

The place I booked it at gave me an address to find down by the river, which was just some person's house. There, a man came out, looked at my papers, and dragged a mini-inflatable raft down to the river. He cheerfully put my purse into a waterproof bag, put it in the raft, handed me the paddle, and mimed that I should get in the boat, readying himself to shove it off.  Um what. I was given no instructions, no guidance on where to go, etc. 

All I could manage was a "Ummm....how do I know where to stop?" He stared at me blankly, then nodded quickly and ran into the house, returning with a laminated sheet of paper that showed a photo of a nondescript clearing surrounded by a bunch of trees with text that said "Stop when you get here." Should I have been worried that he had forgotten to tell me where to stop!? I would have floated down that river all the way to Austria, seriously.

Clearly the man didn't speak any English, so I just didn't ask anymore questions and got in the boat, which he pushed off and happily waved bye.

I had visions (and my guidebook gave no other indication) that it was going to be a leisurely canoe ride down the river, slowly floating through the town, etc.  Incorrect. Literally a minute later, I see a tiny TINY sign with an arrow pointing left.  I took the sign to indicate that I should veer left, which thank God I did, because if I had missed the world's smallest arrow sign, I would have gone over a small waterfall.  The left side had a small chute, which as I started going down, I kind of had a mild panic attack because the water was ROUGH and churning and super wild looking, and I had zero idea if I was supposed to be going down the chute or if the chute was a chute of death.  Well, I didn't die, but oh man did I get soaked. It was like "The River Wild." Except Kevin Bacon wasn't even there to try to kidnap and kill me.

There were THREE OF THESE during my ride.  At some points, I did encounter some other boaters, but they all seemed to be in groups and have a guide (and they were all in plastic canoes/kayaks, vs. my baller mini-raft), and they'd quickly disappear. I did see a couple of them totally flip and eat it at one of the particularly rough waterfalls. I've never loved my mini-raft so much before; suck it plastic kayaks.

Other than being given no direction, or warning, or instruction, the river itself was incredibly nice - it took you through some gorgeous city-views, and then you would turn and it would be pure forest again. 

Anyway, after an hour or so, right as I was analyzing my laminated photo of nondescript trees trying to figure out where I was supposed to pull off, I saw the man from earlier wildly waving from the side of the river near a clearing that vaguely resembled the photo. I pulled over, and he drove me and my raft back to town. Check. Successfully avoided floating to Austria.  On a side note, the man had two other guys in the car and though they were speaking Czech, they kept looking at me and the raft and sounding impressed. So I'm telling myself they were impressed with me.  

At the end of the day, it was an amazing, ridiculous adventure. 

My adorable single-person mini-raft! Clearly no idea what's in store

This is not the way the man showed me how to sit, but I live for danger

One of the chutes. This was a small baby one; the scary ones I didn't get a photo of because I was busy trying not to drown

A small waterfall

View of the castle

Uhh.....are you the set of trees I'm looking for?
On another side note, my waterproof iPhone bag seems to work splendidly, which is good news because I may have failed to test it out before I used it.

Meal of the Day:
After my river trip, I went and had a trdelnik and a latte for lunch, because I am an adult.

Hose-shaped, sugar pasty + milk with a dash of coffee

Bye, Cesky Krumlov - big fan of you. Next stop, Vienna!


  1. Omg your mini raft adventure sounded amazing!! So glad you didn't float to Austria or better yet so glad you didn't drown or lose iPhone to water! Love love love reading your blogs!

  2. Oh also, I wanna try one of those hose- shaped pastries filled Nutella! Please send one home ❤️ Miss you lots!

    1. Haha, I wish I knew!! I would have smuggled one home for you, though I'm not sure how delicious it would be a month later....! I miss and love you and love that you're following along; can't wait to see you and catch up in person! <3

  3. Sitting here (at work. whoops!) literally cracking up at your posts. This is definitely one of my favorites so far. So impressed with your willingness to jump in and (literally) get your feet wet and try new things! No fear! You are the coolest! We are all jealously reading your adventures. Can't wait to be featured in some of these posts SO SOON! Eeeee!!! xoxo

    1. Not sure I would have jumped in quite so willingly had I known what it entailed! I can't wait for you to join my adventures either!! Love you! #SAMTRAMandWANGTRAIN