Tuesday 22 May 2012

Cesky varmints

Still in the Czech Republic, we left Prague's seething masses and came south to Cesky Krumlow (which sounds much less silly when given the proper pronunciation, as of course we do, given that Karin our guide is Slovakian - though also disappointed that our memories are so short when it comes to remembering simple greetings and thank yous in the various languages we've encountered). I almost cut this tour short of coming here, and I'm so glad I didn't: it's probably the prettiest place we've been to, and that's against stiff competition.

It's ancient, on a river, undamaged by war or communists and full of winding cobbled streets - well, the same can be said for Prague; but where CK (not Louis) scores is in more or less banning cars from the centre. There are some, but used for access only, and it makes a huge difference to the feel of the place - and the sound of it: I could hear blackbirds singing today, and the river tumbling over the weir. And once it gets to about 5pm and all the day trippers (including - spit - river cruisers from Linz) have gone, it's just lovely, so peaceful and relaxed.

The castle where the photo was taken from grows organically, it seems, out of the rock above the town, and has some most unusual sights inside, including a ballroom painted with costumed grotesques that was like nothing I've ever seen before. It was in the hands of just three families for most of its history, and one of them with connections to the Italian Ursinis has bears on its crest and naturally instituted bears in the moat below. The poor things, a blonde, a brunette and a black one, skulked invisibly under the bridge for most of the day, but ventured out when it went quiet to pick at what the birds had left of their fruit. Not very nice to see them in such an uneco enclosure - but at least it has chiaruscuro decoration. I suppose.

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