Reading the news online earlier this week, I was intrigued by an article entitled "Coolest Small Towns in Europe" and was not at all surprised to find Cesky Krumlov as Number 1 in their top 10 list. I was treated to a visit to the Czech Republic this summer as a birthday gift from my dear friend Erika who lives in former East Germany. Cesky Krumlov was one of our day trips on our visit, and I can honestly say I have never been so awestruck by a foreign town in my life. We spent the entire day there, and all I could think of was how I wanted to come back again one day and share it with my family.
ERIKA and FAMILY'S HOME in GERMANY
Erika was a baby in World War II living in what was known as "Sudetenland." Before the war, that was a part of Hitler's Germany. At the end of the war it was determined that Sudetenland be given back to Czechoslovakia. Two-year-old baby Erika and her family were given 24 hours to leave their home, put on a train and were relocated by the Allies, given a home to live in located in the new boundaries of Germany set up after the war. To this day, Erika lives in that house, now with her husband, daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter. She and her husband, Juergen, were raised in East Germany.
As their home was within 10 miles of the border to the West, she and Juergen, and later her daughter and son-in-law, were confined by the Communists to live in a specified region restricting even travel within East Germany until the Wall came down as they were considered more of a flight risk than others because of their proximity to the barbwire border. It is fascinating to hear them tell of everyday life living under such horrible conditions. Bananas were a delicacy. Son-in-law Heiko told me how they would go up in their attic where they had a little antenna and radio to listen to news from the Free World. They have all visited me in Ohio several times, and it is such a joy to see how excited they are over every single mundane part of my life. They call my son's historic home and grounds "The Ranch." EVERYTHING is a big deal. It always makes me think twice how we take our life here in the US for granted.
For years Erika has wanted to take me back to show me the area where she was born and promised we could stay in a little chalet in the Bohemian mountains owned by a longtime friend of hers living in Prachtice. So one day last August Erika, Heiko, Simone and I made the six-hour drive to the Czech Republic and the little chalet.
Our little chalet in the mountains was about a 15-minute drive from the nearest city, Prachtice. Although I found the city center of Prachtice extremely charming, by their standards it's just a really old city and not a tourist attraction as Cesky Krumlov, Prague, or the 38 castles spread throughout the countryside. What I was most fascinated with in Prachtice was that a great part of the old city center was done in trompe l'oeil painting. What appeared to be buildings constructed of huge stones were all an illusion. What I found out the next day in Cesky Krumlov was that trompe l'oeil was typical of the entire region.
We entered Cesky Krumlov on foot, having left our car in a parking area, and underneath a centuries old structure which we later walked through on our way to the ancient castle overlooking the city.
Inside the walls was an absolutely huge area of charming twists and turns and centuries-old cobblestone streets dating to the Middle Ages. In a word, it is incredible. We were advised to go on a Friday instead of waiting for the weekend, as the tourists arrive in droves on Saturdays and Sundays. Trompe l'oeil is a big part of contributing to the charm.
There is also enough shopping to keep anyone busy the entire day.
Of course, we had to try the delicious Trdelnik, which was offered at almost every corner.
In the evenings we enjoyed wurst and bread and cheese, and wine and pastries with our hosts. It was a very special time, and I hope to have encouraged at least some readers to visit Cesky Kromlov and enjoy this amazing "Coolest Town in Europe."
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