Vienna Westbanhof – Lunch on the Vltava river – Chesky Krumlov Castle – the Old City – Drive to Ceske Budejovice – Walking tour – Czech wine tasting
Around 8AM we left Hotel Mate Dependance gladly and made our way to the Westbahnhof train station to pick up our rental car. Much to my dismay I did not receive a funky looking euro car but a Ford Focus station wagon, mainly because it was the only one that could leave the country that also had GPS. After our last rental car and the guess work involved in driving on Crete the GPS was the way to go and we pulled out of the lot after I had the attendant switch everything to American English. Also a bit to my dismay after we had already left the station we noticed the GPS was not functioning correctly. It took a good solid 40 min before we got it working appropriately and then went back to the hotel to pick up our bags and off to Czech Republic we went.
Getting out of Vienna was a bit hectic but once we got on the main freeway it was smooth sailing through the small hamlets and country villages of northern Austria and eventually into south bohemia. A startling change occurred, on the side of the country road there were prostitutes waiting to get picked up by anyone crossing the border into the legal grey area that is the Czech republic. Prostitution is neither explicitly legal or illegal in Czech Republic and that is obvious the same way it is obvious at a border crossing between Nevada and California. We did not pick up a prostitute if you were wondering.
Once we reached our first destination, Cesky (CHESS-key) Krumlov we wanted to get out and walk around the old city, see the castle and have some lunch. The GPS attempted to take us directly through the old gate of the city and I’m pretty sure I drove into a plaza that was not meant for cars. However no Czech police were standing by waiting for me when I was able to make a U-turn and actually park in an appropriate area and walk into the old city.
Cesky Krumlov is an amazing place. The town is incredibly well preserved, has some incredible views, a castle that is situated on a cliff that overlooks the medieval town and has the Vltava River running between the cliff the town. The castle was “small” by Hapsburg standards but has a fantastic watch tower, a real moat with live bears in it and some stunning views of the surrounding valley. The small old town itself is very charming and picturesque with its own cathedral, city square and lots of shops and restaurants right along the river. We sat and had our first Czech meal which was a plate of roasted game, dumplings and pickled beets and cabbage. We also tried a traditional Czech desert called a trdlenik which is a cinnamon roll that is baked around a rolling pin the crust is very thin. We spent several hours walking the castle and the old town before hopping in the car and driving to Ceske Budejovice.
Ceske Budejovice (Chess-keh Booj-yo-VITS-say) is the home of the Original Budweiser beer and is a very small urban center just north of Cesky Krumlov. Budejovice was not as picture perfect as Krumlov but it had a very elegant and cosmopolitan charm to it for being such a small city. Our hotel was right off the main square adjacent to the Domincan cloister and the original moat that surrounded the city. There are lots of wine stores and tasting rooms in Budejovice which we were very surprised by. We ended up trying some Czech whites and one red that was phenomenal and went out for a surprisingly authentic italian dinner. After the long day of driving and dinner, we were ready for bed because the following day we were going to see the Budvar brewery and bottling plant…