Last updated: 04:30 PM ET, Fri September 30 2016

A Perfect Day in the Fairy-Tale Village of Cesky Krumlov

Destination & Tourism | John Roberts | September 30, 2016

A Perfect Day in the Fairy-Tale Village of Cesky Krumlov

All photos by John Roberts

The Vltava River is filled with rafters and kayakers, gently winding through South Bohemia.

I spot these paddlers enjoying the waters at a casual pace — some of the watercraft carrying coolers filled with Budvar — as we drive past on the way to a Cesky Krumlov.

The longest river in the Czech Republic (270 miles) has been visible for miles now as we make our way from Linz, Austria, for a trip to Cesky, a UNESCO World Heritage city. The Vltava runs southeast along the Bohemian Forest all the way to the nation's capital, Prague.

It's a constant companion as we venture across the old Iron Curtain lands, but today we'll follow it only as far as Cesky Kumlov, a village that looks as if it sprang from the pages of a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale.

The town is tucked within two tight turns of the meandering Vltava River, and its name originates from the topographical uniqueness – with Cesky Krumlov roughly meaning "crooked meadow."

The most dominant feature of the colorful village and its walled fortifications is the imposing Krumlov Castle. The castle dates to 1240 and now is home to the Cesky Krumlov Baroque Theatre. You can wander through many exterior parts of the castle and its ramparts. Go up there to see the old town below and note how the river traces its distinct path and defines the boundaries of Cesky.

You'll get your best pictures from up there. You also can pay a couple euros to walk the 162 steps to the top of the Castle Tower, a most iconic symbol of the village. You'll get wonderful views from the highest vantage point of the city in the tower that features four bells, the oldest from 1406, and exterior decorations and mural work showing off reds, green and gold.

Don't leave the castle area, though, without stopping by the ursinarium. What's that?

It's a bear enclosure in a dry moat between the first and second courtyards of the castle grounds. Bears have been at the castle for 400 years, as the Rosenberg family, who ruled southern Bohemia, adopted the animals as symbols on its coat of arms. The brown bears have breeded on the grounds and are a beloved part of the Cesky community. Children bring presents and food for the furry residents at an annual Christmas Eve Bear Festival.

Wandering the streets in Cesky Krumlov, you'll notice dozens of jewelry shops selling items made from amber, garnet and moldavite and stores featuring painted handbags, marionettes or even colorful pencils. Also, don't miss out on the signature sweet: the trdelnik.

It sounds like "turtle neck," and the regional treat is a cake-like, rolled-dough pastry that is wrapped around a stick, grilled and covered in a walnut/sugar mix. These big funnels can feed two!

After touring the town, I found a way to savor the best of Cesky Krumlov by taking a seat outside at a tavern right along the river with a scenic view of the rising Castle Tower. I ordered up a Budvar beer, the original Bud, and sat back in the sun watching the kayakers and rafters floating through the middle of town on a sunny afternoon. This is a fairy tale I want to relive over and over again.

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