Cesky Krumlov 


I could throw up all over Cesky Krumlov and it would still be the prettiest damn town I’ve ever seen. It’s a fairytale village that fits perfectly in the palm of your hand. Cobblestone corridors, a winding river, small white cottages with brick-red roofs and an impressive castle that looms over it all: Cesky Krumlov is freakin’ adorable. Immediately upon arrival at our hostel we knew we wanted to stay longer.

“Well this is the cutest town I’ve ever seen.” 

It was decided right then and there. We’re staying.

Krumlov is a Czech word that means “Meander”. The town was named after the river that “meander’s” it’s way through the city in a big “S” shaped loop. A large, baroque castle is built into the rock face on the North side of the river. From there, the entirety of Cesky Krumlov can be seen below. The flowing river, the green hills in the distance, and the whole town all squeezing into the space between your thumb and forefinger. 

The town is flooded with rooftop terraces and riverside patios waiting to be lounged on. Cafe’s and small pubs scatter the labyrinth of small corridors that envelop the city. They even have a wonderful brewery that makes their own “smokey beer” that is oddly delightful. 

We spent our time in Cesky Krumlov relaxing. Long morning breakfasts, walks around town, checking up on the bear moat (yes, the castle has a moat with live bears instead of water) and figuring out where to eat next. 

But there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to Krumlov. The town is rich with history and folklore. Ghosts run rampant in the town’s music school and spirits can be seen in the centre square. The castle was once ruled by a schizophrenic prince who threw his wife from the window of the castle. She survived the multi-storey fall miraculously after a tree softened her fall. She swore never to return to her husband again. But then the mad prince captured the princess’ father and threatened to kill him unless she returned. Reluctantly, she came back to the castle. The prince stabbed her to death only a few days later. 

And yet, even with all the gruesome history, the castle is still a sight to behold. It’s towering grey walls cling to the cliff side to create an imposing spectacle from the town below. And at night, large spotlights make the castle burst into an amber glow that can be seen from all over Cesky Krumlov. 

We were sad to see the city go as we packed up our bags to catch the morning bus to Salzburg. But there’s so much more to see and the crisp evening weather means it’s time to head South. Until next time Cesky Krumlov! 

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U Fleku

The crowds stomped their feet and banged their hands against the table to the tune of the accordion. An older couple from the room next door flew through the doorway and bounced along in dance to the clapping of enthusiastic drinkers. The man on the accordion smiled and played the song harder and louder than before. He was dressed up in the traditional Czech dress, right down to the checkered hat he wore on his head. He meandered through the long wooden picnic tables that lined the dining hall. Singing and playing to the crowds of people. Everyone was listening, and everyone was happy to stomp along to the beat. This is U Fleku. 
U Fleku is the epitome of a traditional Czech drinking establishment. This Brewery/ restaurant in the heart of New Town Prague is massive. It holds over 1200 people in 8 different halls throughout the building, each with live music for entertainment. 
Jodon and I were ushered into a mid-sized hall as soon as we stepped into the building. We sat at a large wooden bench with a couple young guys sitting at one end. All the tables in the room were shared. The room was simple and painted white, with large, dark, wooden panels lining the walls up to the 7 foot mark. The ceiling was decoratively painted and from it hung large chandeliers with glass beer steins holding each light. 

The bar served only one beer. A dark, sweet tasting malty brew made right there at the brewery. A waiter walked around the room with a large tray of beers and set them in front of each customer that was empty. It is assumed that you would like another unless told otherwise. Within seconds we had a large pint sitting in front of us. No decisions. No searching through the menu. This is what you get. 

A minute later a man carrying shots of honey liquor and Becherovka walked passed our table.

“Please, try one!” He smiled at us.

“No thank you” I said, knowing a double shot of whatever it was would be a terrible idea before dinner.

“But you must,” said the man “it is tradition”

Feeling a little pressured I grabbed a Becherovka and Jodon grabbed a honey liquor and the man carried on. It was a good thing we didn’t refuse longer, because the man did not take no for an answer at any one of his stops. He emptied the tray within minutes and carried on to the back to fill up again. 

The food was hearty and fast. Large portions of dumplings on the side of Beef Goulash and Svickova. Comfort food at its best. And all the while the accordion played on. 

I can’t say we came across a lot of local bars like U Fleku, but it definitely was a lively experience, even on a Tuesday night. It is what I imagined bars in the Czech Republic or rural Germany to be like. Lively, beer-heavy, groups of people sitting together to eat. If only the beers had been half the price, I would have stayed there all night.  

The Bone Church


“We’re going to a church filled with bones!” I announced to Jodon as I came in from my day on the town. He looked at me over his computer screen, less than impressed.

“What?”

“It’s a church, with bones!”

“Ok. If you want” he said in the same nonchalant way he agrees to everything I suggest.

“My tour guide said it just made the top 100 things to see before you die list!” I went on, hoping for more enthusiasm.

“Ok.” He said again. Waiting for Jodon to be more enthusiastic about anything is like pulling teeth. I looked it up anyway.

The Sedlec Ossuary, better known as the “Bone Church” is a 15th century church in the Sedlec neighbourhood of a small town called Kutna Hora. The story goes, that in the late 13th century, the abbot of the nearby monastery, travelled to the holy land and received a small amount of earth. He sprinkled the holy earth around the abbey cemetery and the land became sacred. The cemetery soon became the most desirable place to be buried in Central Europe, and people came from all over to bury their loved ones. By the mid 14th century nearly 30 000 bodies were buried in mass graves within the cemetery grounds. After the Hussite wars and the Black Death, another 10 000 bodies were added to the area. 

Soon after, a small church was built on the cemetery grounds to act as an ossuary for the dead. A half-blind monk was given the labouring task of exhuming the bodies and placing them in the chapel. The monk took the bodies and arranged the bones in elaborate decorations around the chapel. He built garlands of skulls, a detailed replica of the Schwarzenberg coat of arms, and an insane bone chandelier that held at least one of every bone in the human body. Legend has it, when the monk finished with all the bones, he miraculously regained his sight. This is the Sedlec Ossuary.

It was a quick one hour train ride to Kutna Hora from Prague. We met a couple travellers on the train that had equally limited knowledge of the ossuary.

“Do you even know what this is?” One of them asked us on the train.

The consensus was: there were going to be lots of bones.

The church was smaller than we imagined. Just a modest-sized, simple church from the outside. The steps at the front led down to the underground ossuary where the bones were held. The remains of 40000 bodies lay within this small church. Four massive bell-shaped mounds of skulls were found in each of the four corners of the church. The ceilings and walls sported garlands of bones like some sort of twisted Halloween party decoration. The coat of arms hung on the wall and was so detailed it was hard to imagine these bones as belonging to real people at one time. 

The place was strange, to be sure, and maybe a little eerie at points. All in all, however, we found the place to be slightly underwhelming. The chandelier that hung in the centre of the room was missing. It was taken out months ago for restoration purposes. I feel like that was the main focal point that made the church so impressive. Still, it is hard to grasp the reality of it all. Some people argue that there are closer to 70000 bodies found within that tiny church. 70000 people. It’s hard to fathom. Nonetheless, the trip was worth it. The Sedlec ossuary is up there on my list of bizarre attractions in the world, and we met some pretty great people along the way. 

Prague


Jodon is slowly falling apart like an old man. I poke fun at him for this constantly. But the day we flew from Belgium to Prague it really hit. Walking 30000+ steps a day in new shoes finally caught up. He’d pulled a muscle somewhere in his left leg and was completely incapacitated. It’s a miracle we made it to the hostel in one piece. He hobbled along through the trains and busses and planes and sidewalks until we fell into Mojo hostel on the outside of Old Town Prague. And that was where he stayed, unmoving, for three straight days. 

I felt so bad. Prague is Jodon’s favourite city in the whole world, and there he was, seeing it from the inside of a 6-bed hostel dormitory while I went out and explored. I came back occasionally: bringing food, drugs, frozen peas and pumpkin spiced lattes from Starbucks. But it was little consolation. 

The extra strength ibuprofen and the gel I’d picked up at the pharmacy were making no difference. So after 48 hours of moaning and groaning I found a second pharmacy to ask for something stronger. The lady behind the counter spoke no English. Heaven forbid I have to act out ailments in a pharmacy AGAIN. Mortifying memories of Vietnam and Brazil came back to me. My pharmacy charades have had a low success rate over the years: remember when I was given hemorrhoid cream instead of aloe vera? I can only imagine what was going to happen this time. 

After a couple minutes of acting out a pulled muscle, the lady stared at me blankly. I kept saying “Ibuprofen not strong” and she would repeat the same thing back to me. Then she smiled, opened up a drawer in her desk and handed me a small pack of pills.

“Strong” she said with a grin and what may have been a half wink. 

It was as good as I was going to get. The pills were cheap, it was worth a shot. 

I brought them immediately back to Jodon.

“I’m fairly certain these will do the trick” I said to him

“What are they?” 

“Mmmmm, I’m not entirely sure. But they’re strong”

“Ok”

Turns out these little pills were a miracle. Within five minutes Jodon could move his leg a little without pain. In an hour he was hobbling downstairs to the common area. By the next morning he was walking again. He went from seriously considering taking the next flight home, to suggesting we grab a beer at the beer garden on the North side of town. I was SO happy. 

So we did grab a beer. Years ago when Jodon was here with his friend Mike, the two stumbled upon this large park on the North side of Prague. In the park they had picnic tables set up and they served beer and kebabs from a little stand. The park was up a steep hill and had the most spectacular view of the city. 

We sat there through the late afternoon playing cards and watching the lights on the city shift as the day moved along. It had been a rough couple days, but also a great excuse to relax and get some work done. We decided to book another three days in an AirBNB so that Jodon got a chance to spend some quality time in the city.

And even with a bad leg, we managed to explore the Prague castle, drink beers brewed by monks in the monastery and make a weak attempt to eat 1.5 kilos of pork knuckle at Hospoda Lucerna. Overall I’d say that Prague was a success.