A Danube River Shore Option: Charming Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic (SLIDESHOW)

The Vitava River flows past Cesky Krumlov's Old Town. // All photos by Susan J. Young
The Vitava River flows past Cesky Krumlov's Old Town. // All photos by Susan J. Young

On Danube River cruises, travelers whose voyages calls at Linz, Austria, have multiple appealing shore excursion options. Linz is the jumping off point for full-day tours to several iconic destinations – Salzburg, Austria; Gmunden and the Austrian Lake District; and Cesky Krumlov, a wonderfully preserved Medieval town just over the border in the southwestern part of the Czech Republic.

Located on a scenic bend of the Vltava River and surrounded by rolling hills, Cesky Krumlov boasts an fairytale-like Old Town with 300 protected medieval buildings as well as a castle complex, the second largest in the Czech Republic. The castle complex was created by the Lords of Krumlov (the Vitkovci family) around 1253.

Where did the town's name originate? It's derived from the German term "krumme aue" or crooked meadow, which over the years evolved into the word "Krumlov." In the 15th century, the adjective Cesky (meaning Czech) was added to the town’s name to distinguish it from Moravsky Krumlov, a Moravian city.

Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance Architecture

Strolling along cobblestone streets, cruisers will pass old townhomes, inns, shops and cafes, as well as museums and lovely castle grounds. Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance architecture abound.

After restoration of the town began in earnest in 1989, the town was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1992. While historic, Cesky Krumlov also exudes a “real life” persona; more than 14,000 people call the city home.

Travel Agent visited Cesky Krumlov on an AmaWaterways (www.amawaterways.com) river cruise, but many operators including Avalon Waterways (www.avalonwaterways.com), Emerald Cruises (www.emeraldcruises.com), Scenic Cruises (www.sceniccruises.com), Tauck (www.tauck.com), Uniworld (www.uniworld.com) and others also offer excursions.

Clients who opt for the Cesky Krumlov tour will take a 90-minute motorcoach ride. The coach disembarkation area is near the castle gardens. It's important to advise clients that while the sightseeing rewards are great, the reality is that this tour requires a sizable amount of walking.

That includes navigating uphill slopes and traversing uneven surfaces and cobblestones. It’s also good to tell clients that often the departure point is a separate motorcoach park on the opposite end of town, across the river.

Cesky Krumlov castle interior // All photos by Susan J. Young
Cesky Krumlov castle interior // All photos by Susan J. Young

The iconic feature of the town is the castle’s 180-foot tower, which is situated on a rocky promontory. While touring the castle, clients should have their cameras ready as the views of the Old Town and river below are spectacular.

On our AmaWaterways tour, we didn't enter the castle's interior buildings. Instead we strolled through the castle gardens and by the exterior facades of the dozens of buildings that comprise the humongous castle complex.

One quirky castle highlight? Guests peer down into a moat to view “live” bears. This unexpected wildlife viewing experience was one of the highlights for the many Czech residents visiting the castle grounds. We caught a good glimpse of one of the bears. They once inhabited the surrounding mountains.

For those wishing to spend a few more hours of “free time” (usually offered by the river line at the end of the guided tour) in the castle complex, one place to visit is the well-preserved Baroque Theater, dating to the 1400's. For a small fee, travelers also might climb the castle's tower, which boasts late 16th century wall murals and four historic bells.

The "Budweiser" of the Czech Republic // All photos by Susan J. Young

Into the Old Town

After traversing the castle complex, our river guide led the group down from the castle and across a bridge into Old Town, a car-free zone. Pedestrians can, for the most part, enjoy viewing the historic sites without worrying about dodging traffic.

This area has a slew of historic buildings. One of the highlights is the 1400-era St. Vitus' Church with an 1800s belfry.

Cesky Krumlov adeptly combines the old and the new. Visitors might walk past an ultra-modern gallery that's just opposite a building with Baroque or Renaissance architecture.

Among the museums in town is the Regional Museum, which has 34,000 objects including Bohemian antiques and archaeological artifacts. To get a 19th century perspective of how the city looked, check out the detailed town model.

Alternatively, the Museum of Architecture and Craft displays doors, facades, windows and timber ceilings as well as colorful interior décor that showcases the town’s “burgher houses.”

During their free time in Cesky Krumlov, some clients may simply wish to relax at a cafe or brewhouse and pop in for a snack, meal or brew. Our guide suggested we try the "Budweiser." No, this beer isn't the American version and tastes different. It's an old brand brewed in the Czech Republic at the Budweiser Budvar Brewery.

When it was time to leave Cesky Krumlov, travelers on our motorcoach talked about how much they enjoyed their day trip peek into the quaint Medieval town.

Our driver took a different route back to Linz, giving travelers a chance to view gorgeous, low mountain terrain.  Sumava National Park, the Czech Republic's largest such park, is just a few miles from Cesky Krumlov.

For more information on Cesky Krumlov, visit http://www.ckrumlov.info/docs/en/kaktualita.xml.

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