Mature Life Features

Cecil Scaglione, Editor

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Vltava River hugs Bohemian village of Cesky Krumlov

By James Gaffney

Mature Life Features

CESKY KRUMLOV, Czech Republic – The Australian flag waving from the window of the Moldau Hilton youth hostel seemed a little out of place in this medieval Bohemian village. The owner, a chain-smoking 50-something woman with a raucous, Phyllis Diller-like laugh, put everyone on the inside track.

“It’s the 52 pubs here,” said Jana Perina. “That’s why this place is so popular with Aussies.”

One of her Australian guests was a young artist who gave the accommodation its unofficial moniker when he painted the mural above the entrance. The mural depicts a trio of cherubs holding aloft a banner emblazoned with the words, “Moldau Hilton.” The name pays tribute to the hostel’s location on the banks of the meandering Vltava, known as Moldau in German, the river immortalized by the 19th-century Czech composer Bedrick Smetana.

Nowadays, when people in this country advise foreign travelers to get away from overcrowded Prague to experience the real Czech Republic, they’re probably referring to Cesky Krumlov. New life was breathed into this town of 15,000 nestled 100 miles south of Prague and 30 miles from the Austrian border when it was designated a World Heritage Site. Before the fall of communism in 1989, the community had deteriorated into a drab slum, according to locals.

The town now insinuates a hundred fairy tales with its renovated Renaissance and baroque gables, tapered roofs, old stone stairways, balconies and oriel windows. This is especially true during late afternoons when shadows half-darken mysterious lanes filled with centuries-old facades adorned with sgrafitto, artistic designs etched into the outer layer of plaster revealing the different-colored underlying layer.

Dating to 1253, Cesky Krumlov is a medieval time-capsule of winding streets squeezed into a tight S-bend of the Vltava. The historical center, a jumble of colorful stone houses, is an island- like pedestrian area linked to land and the main castle — the second largest in the Republic – by three bridges, creating a sequence of mini-waterfronts dotted with wooden walking paths, outdoor cares, touristy boutiques, and small, affordable pensions. It’s easy to explore the entire town on foot in a day.

By dusk, the day trippers and tour buses have disappeared and chatter from inside the town’s dimly lighted riverside taverns echoes in the cobblestone alleys. Couples fill cozy sidewalk café tables bathed in the soft glow of candlelight.

There is no question this is a place that takes visitors back in time. A hilltop path that leads around the tree-shaded perimeter of its medieval castle presents a bird’s-eye perspective of the town’s red-riled roofs rolling down to the calm Vltava. Nothing in this panorama reveals its Internet cafes, ethnic restaurants, or souvenir shops with traditional Czech marionettes hanging in the doorway.

Mature Life Features, Copyright 2003

Written by Cecil Scaglione

September 3, 2011 at 4:26 pm

Posted in Europe, Travel

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