Visting Český Krumlov With a Dog
On a rainy morning in Prague, we rented a car to drive 2 to 3 hours south to the beautiful town of Český Krumlov. I was extra happy that day because after a week of flying solo with the bipeds, we were going to meet up with our dear friends Michaela and Jeremy, and their two Chi, Chloe and Oliver. They were in town for their wedding, to take place in a few days. (More on that later!)
Because Michaela is from the Czech Republic and knows her way around, the plan was for us to follow them. Well, needless to say, as we got onto the busy out of Prague, we lost sight of our friends. THREE letters, Dear Reader: GPS.
We went back to the car rental, got a GPS, and plugged “Český Krumlov” into the finder. We sent a message while we could, using the car rental’s WiFi, to let our friends know we would meet them in town, near the tourism office at the town hall. (When we travel, we avoid the outrageous Canadian cost for roaming and the nuisance of a second SIM card and local mobile account, so our cellphone access is limited to free WiFi hot spots.)
Český Krumlov reveals itself as you drive into the valley that is home to the town. It’s a beautiful sight from above with the Vltava, the longest river in the Czech Republic, looping through the city’s Inner Town, almost making the Inner Town into an island. A pretty castle tower rising above it all is fairytale-like in shape and hue. My only regret was that the rain had still not eased up. That was going to be a bit of a bummer.
Parking is not a simple thing, we discovered, so give yourself a little time to figure that out. We found parking at a great rate in a privately owned spot in someone’s garage!
Once parked, we were off to find the tourism bureau in the main square and meet up with our friends!
While we waited, we took it all in. The Náměstí Svornosti building caught our eye. It’s the town hall, and occupies an entire corner of the square. It is actually two Gothic houses that were combined.
The Plague Column in the middle of the square, topped with a statue of the Virgin Mary and eight saints, is a somber reminder of the Great Plague that swept much of Europe in 1682. Český Krumlov was spared the sweep of death; in thanks, the town erected the column.
My nose told me there was also an old brewery nearby … but just then, we spotted our friends entering the square! I got distracted and forgot the brewery!
We shared lots of hugs and sniffing. (That is, the humans hugged. We canines sniffed — just in case you wondered). Our collective tummies were grumbling so the first order of business was to eat! We found a sweet restaurant nearby that even allowed we canines to dine inside. (They didn’t even blink at three dogs!) The décor was so charming. The food? Delicious traditional Czech fare.
As we headed out of the restaurant, we decided to make our way to the castle. The rain had stopped, but the sky was still grey. At least it wasn’t as cold anymore. We crossed the pretty little bridge that separates the old town from an area known as Latran.
Latran was once a village of its own with a population of mostly merchants and craftsman. These folks supplied the castle so it made sense that they would live along the castle wall. Mom came across a milliner still making hats the way they have been making them in the Czech Republic for hundreds of years. True to her nature, Mom tried one on and she looked so adorable in it that Dad bought it for her as a gift right there on the spot!
We enjoyed walking these streets with their beautiful small homes, Gothic and Baroque buildings, and the convent of the poor and its church.
We finally we made it to the Budějovická Gate. The Renaissance gate is the only one left of the original nine town gates.
Krumlov Castle, second only in size to the castle in Prague, is a town of its own with its 300 rooms. The castle is known for the “dolni hrad” (lower castle) and its tall, cylindrical tower painted in colourful designs. That was built around 1580.
Sadly, pets are not allowed in the castle — not on the grounds or inside. But, as we have been known to do, we went into stealth mode and entered anyway! My friends Chloe and Oliver, inside their own carrier, went so far as to even tour the inside! The bipeds and I saw the sun come out, so we opted to visit the grounds before heading back to the Inner Town.
We arranged to meet up again with our friends in an hour’s time to climb the castle tower together. During our hour, we first walked across the Plášťový most, an arcaded bridge, and went toward the famous theatre. The view of the city from up there is stellar; I recommend it.
I was beginning to get annoyed at being in stealth mode – and the bipeds annoyed too — so we left the castle walls and headed back down.
The Inner Town
This was my favourite part! Paws down! After crossing the bridge, we took an immediate right and headed toward a little garden on the edge of the river. From there, we were rewarded with the most amazing view of the arcaded bridge. AND the sun came out!
We followed the rocky banks of the river and found some cute streets …
… and the market. The entire Inner Town is pedestrian! So with glee, the bipeds left me off-leash for the most part to follow them in the zig zag streets.
I discovered a fun children’s book character … a MOLE named Krtek! One that travels all over the world too!
Soon our hour was up, so we returned to the gorgeous tower to meet our friends. But before going back into the castle, it was back into the carrier bag for me.
At the ticket office, with our friends behind us, we discovered the tower was closing! We got the LAST tickets to go up! They literally closed the doors behind us to stop others from coming in. THAT was close! So, armed with our tickets and with only a few people about thanks to our last minute timing, we climbed …
… And what a view we earned! As we walked around the tower, the town below seemed like something out of a big budget movie. To know it was real, that people lived and worked there, made it all the more special. It’s why we love returning to the old world, I think: that sense of history and permanence, and all of it “built to last and for beauty” … it’s addictive.
We finished up and headed back down, and made our way back to the car. This time, we managed to follow our friends out of town and on toward our next adventure.
In review: Paws down, the most beautiful small town we saw in the Czech Republic. Restaurants, little stores, and so on are pet-friendly. The castle, however, is not, so if you are not comfortable with “stealth mode,” a hand-off will be required. This is easy enough to do with an abundance of perfect little restaurants and coffee shops to choose from. Or just walk the old streets with a pastry or gelato. Oh, and do not forget your camera. This little town will drive you shutterbug crazy!
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