Monday, September 13, 2010

Cesky Krumlov and the Painted-on Castle

Prague is an amazing city, but I wanted to see a small town in the Czech Republic. To find one, I Googled "best little town outside of Prague" and most of the top responses cited Cesky Krumlov. When I read it is a Unesco World Heritage site, highly recommended by Lonely Planet, and has a castle, that cinched the deal.

An easy 3-hour bus ride south of Prague, I passed through beautiful countryside, farmlands, and other small towns. After finding my hostel, I walked through the old town of Cesky Krumlov. It felt like a movie set, but I knew it was a real place. It looked like the town had been built on a slightly larger place, then somehow crumpled and squished so all the buildings were touching and sat upon pitching heaving cobblestone walkways that careened up and around at crazy angles. I wandered past buildings covered in bright colored plaster with frescos and some baroque details and beautiful doorways. The famous castle added to the movie set illusion as all the stone work was frescoed onto a flat plaster surface. I looked up information about this, why the castle was just painted on, but no one mentions it as anything strange. It felt like I was in the story, "The Emperors new clothes." No one else is acknowledging that the castle is just painted on? Is this common? Maybe I haven't seen enough castles.

The best thing I did in Cesky Krumlov, other than relaxing by the river and taking a nature walk up a small mountain, was to take a tour of the old Baroque theatre which is one of only 2 left in the world. It has 17 sets, costumes, props and the old mechanized stage for doing fast scene changes. It has been nearly completely restored. The theatre was dimly lit with electric lights that mimicked candlelight. The smell of old wood with a bit of musk thickened the air. The stage was set with a forest scene, clouds and cupids hung down from the sky. The use of perspective made the stage look much deeper than it was. The guide showed us sound effect machines used to simulate a storm, and invited volunteers to help make a storm. I got to use the machine that made the sound of rain. When I went up, she said "What is your name? Where are you from?" I said "Rain, from the United States." She said, somewhat under her breath, "The Americans always volunteer." Not sure what that meant. I thought she would have reacted to a woman named "Rain" coming up to play the rainmaker. I enjoyed being able to sneak a closer look at the old stage as I made the sounds. Exceptional place. You can see pictures of the town and sights at

Finally over the culture shock of leaving Asia and landing in old Europe, I feel I am re-Westernizing. I also get to talk to many other travelers and get to practice telling the story of my journey through Asia for different kinds of people. This will help to crystallize and make some sense of what I did, in preparation for doing more writing and talks about it when I get home. Now I am back in Prague for a day before catching a night bus to Geneva. I will visit my cousin Heidi about an hour from Geneva, then September 20 head to Ireland.


  1. I have been enjoying following your adventures, and thank Darcie (from Tenakee) for mentioning your blog. Should your European travels bring to you Milan before you head back to the states, I'd be delighted to meet you in person...

  2. I'm glad you have been following! I won't make it there this trip, but thanks for the offer.