We spent the week of Christmas enjoying the city and sightseeing. We had really nice weather and got a few sunny warmer days in a row. Which allowed for a long walk up to the mini Eiffel tower (Petrin Tower) and around the gardens. Christmas eve was a slow day in the city with most people off work and celebrating Christmas together. The park was full of families and the pace of the day was slow and celebratory. The streets were full of vendors selling the traditional annual Christmas carp. If this interests you here is an article about the tradition. It honestly grossed me out so I’m not going to go into detail but basically 3 in 5 Czechs have an annual Christmas dinner of carp. The vendors set up a temporary market and have big buckets of live carp and then kill them on site for customers to take home. I was out jogging and stopped paying attention for a minute and almost ran into a big bucket of carp. Nough said.
Christmas day was also slow paced and we spent the day walking in old town weaving in and out of streets either dead quite or jammed packed with tourists. The areas that tourists frequent were buzzing on Christmas day and all the other non-tourist streets were empty. We finally found an open restaurant that wasn’t just a tourist trap and yet was actually open. We had a nice Christmas in Prague walking across the Charles bridge, strolling through old town and Facetiming with our families.
Our second weekend in the Czech Republic we packed our day packs and headed for a weekend in Cesky Krumlov. Cesky Krumlov is about a four hour train ride from Prague or a two and half hour drive. It is located in Southern Bohemia and is a UNESCO world heritage site. It touted by Lonely Plant as the arguably only other “must see, world class site to visit in Czech Republic besides Prague” which seems like a pretty big burn to the rest of the country but it was a pretty little city. The UNESCO description of town is “Situated on the banks of the Vltava river, the town was built around a 13th-century castle with Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque elements. It is an outstanding example of a small central European medieval town whose architectural heritage has remained intact thanks to its peaceful evolution over more than five centuries.” –UNESCO
We left the day after Christmas so the city itself was very quite outside of tourists. A lot of shops were closed and the main tourist destination, the castle wasn’t open. We didn’t mind much, a few restaurants were open and the city scenery itself was enough to keep us busy. We spent the evening walking around the castle grounds and watching sunset from above the city. We wondered the streets and checked out our final Christmas market. The buildings in town square have been restored and are very picturesque. The highlight for us was the view of the castle and river below lit up at night as seen by a park in town.
The next morning we walked from our hotel room through town back towards the train station for a hike. The trailhead started just outside of town easily walkable from the main city center. The trail starts in the woods and makes its way up to Klet hill. Their are several trails from neighboring towns and paths that make their way up to the top of the hill. It was a exceptionally warm and clear day so when we reached the top we were surprised at that large number of people. Families from all around were enjoying the day and Christmas holiday at the peak. There is a tower and restaurant at the top serving up sausages and beers to everyone in sight. The view from the top was of the towns below and offered a nice much needed stroll through the woods.
Back in town we had a beer by the river enjoying the sunshine before sun down. The river Vltava runs through the middle of town and in the summer the river is filled with boaters. A popular thing to do in the summer is boat from Cesky Krumlov to neighboring towns and hiking or taking the train back. There are a lot of bars and cafes with large outdoor porches with tables and it is easy to imagine the summers in this little city.
That evening we made our way back to the train station for the four hour trip home. The train ride is fairly easy with one required transfer from Prague. I enjoyed our weekend away from the city and especially our stroll through the woods.