Top castles around Prague
Close and far, Karlstejn and Cesky are not to be missed
When we were visiting the Karlstejn Castle outside Prague, I had roughly ten minutes of wait-time while Roger waited in the ticket line with the girls. Me being me, I’m scoping the scene before me, immediately zoning in on a tall man with a slobbering bull mastiff by his side. I wander over, dropping down to my knees, asking if I can pet his beautiful male mastiff. His eyebrows raised, and then it occurred to me I was awfully arrogant thinking the man could speak English.
“Of course, you may,” he replied in perfect English albeit with a Czech accent.
We get to talking because I’m an author, I ask questions, and learn the dogs name is Saffron, as in the herb. The reason he was outside the castle instead of in, was because it has a no dogs allowed policy, which he didn’t know. I learn he’s a contractor who specializes in private homes, and was a wealth of information what to see and visit.
The wonderful man who told us about Czesky and let me pet his beautiful mastiff Saffron!
“Have you been to Cesky Krumlov?” he asked me. Before I could answer, he told me I definitely need to go. “It’s the best thing you’ll see in the Republic.”
That was quite a statement, especially since we’d been in
and around Prague, but he was so fervent I told Rog about it, and after we finished
with our day at Karlstejn Castle, we cleared the deck for the next day and
This is a castle on the smaller side compared to Czesky Krumlov and the Prague Castle, but it has features we enjoyed. The 30-minute walk up on the white stones, and the tour takes less than an hour. The services are quite limited in terms of food and gifts, but the views are lovely. Because of its convenience to Prague, and it’s Gothic structure, it’s considered one of the top tourists’ destinations. You might think it would be really busy, but it wasn’t. We walked right up, and twenty minutes later we were in.
The walk up to Karlstejn almost resembles this rocky terrain–kidding–not kidding. It’s the opposite of Cesky
A few of my favorite snapshot memories are the small gardens below the walkways connecting the two buildings that were used for the ladies of the castle. The tour was also fantastic. We were incredibly grateful the majority of our small group of 12 spoke English (we were with a group of Australians) or we would have had to hear the tour in German and their rules is majority rules.
The original walkways connecting the buildings and the outer gardens below
What struck us most about this building were the size of the rooms, which are all compact, but we understood why when we got to the staterooms. The original, wooden beds where the King slept was sooo small!! And the height of the doorways was also very small. Back then, the people overall, were quite a bit shorter than we are today. The paintings were amazing, and we were most struck by the room where all the portraits of the royals hung around the room. The chapel stands out, and above all, near the end of the tour, we saw the replicas of all the tiaras and jewels. The real ones had long since been replaced with fakes, but they were still pretty neat to see (boy, those real jewels are HUGE).
Cesky Krumlov and the town of Cesky
According the history, the town of Krumlov was created around the castle by the Lords of Krumlov. Over 300 medieval buildings surround the town, along with the Vltava River. The grounds are large, the river wandering around the base of the castle goes through the town and beyond. We parked probably ten minutes from the castle, and walked through the town to get to the castle. Unlike the short tour of Karlstejn, this castle and town requires a day trip.
An original lower entrance for Cesky, and the Vltava River where you can boat, canoe or swim alongside
Forty buildings reside in the castle complex, with galleries, towers, churches, most open to the public. We thought one of the greatest parts was walking up the long entry way used by the previous Lords of the castle. Imagine being in a horse-drawn carriage and entering a long, stone laid driveway that’s 100% covered, the ground treatment perfectly laid and matched in the color of muted yellow. As I mentioned to Rog, it was the medieval version of the Batcave entrance except above ground.
The drive for those in the carriage might have been a few minutes, but to walk, it was about twenty. You go up, and up, and up, and I regret not taking pictures, but I was working hard!
Sorry about the iPhone pics but this was the best I could do! Left: the restaurant we ended up eating at (where they were nice–keep reading), right: walking from town to the Castle.
Then the levels and options within the castle are many, as
are the perches, each providing unobstructed views down to the town. The original
Lords knew how to position the castle, but we didn’t see a single view which
Almost lost a daughter
One of the things we love about Europe is the general lack of rules, restrictions and sometimes, guardrails. If you see a dangerous animal and want to put your hand it, no second line of protection stops you. It’s more like the universal DNA test of nature; if you are dumb enough to stick your hand in, then you deserve to lose it.
Colorful and quaint is the town
So, it was with Cesky Krumlov. No long-fanged carnivores, but multiple ledges without protective rails. My precocious six-year-old jumped up on one ledge and nearly toppled over the edge, which would have been a 700-foot drop to their death. I’d been partially turned to Rog when she leapt up, turned just in time to grab her foot while my other daughter caught her waist. We were able to stop her forward momentum, my oldest daughter at nine and myself just held her tight, and then I pretty much lost it. Never before or since have I ever gotten that close to death, and all I can say is this: watch your kids because it’s Europe, and I’m pretty sure I was the one who’d have been arrested for not being mindful.
A pic of the town of Cesky through a peek-hole, and the embrace after our youngest almost fell off the ledge….still shaking.
The trip is going to take you roughly 4-5 hours, because we kept to the speed limit and it was 4.5. We arrived around eleven, just as it started to sprinkle, but it stopped as we were inside, and we thought the grey clouds totally romantic. The tour we took was in English and completely worth it.
We then went down in to town for dinner, taking our time to walk up and down the streets. From the small, original bridges covering the brooks and streams to the bistros, cafes and restaurants, we were enchanted.
We had only one unfortunate experience during our time in Cesky, and this actually was relatively common in our journeys: it’s what I call kid-discrimination. The fact is that not all destinations, restaurants or eateries welcome kids, even those who are quiet and well-mannered. We entered to two restaurants—not bars, mind you, but actual eateries, and at the first, the hostess said: “We don’t serve children.” As we saw teens probably 13 and above, we were perplexed, but left. We walked a few doors down and although the male host scowled when he saw our girls, he sat us anyway, but get this, not on the main floor, next to the water, where four tables sat open (picture the windows open, the stream going by—enchanting), but he put us upstairs, in the far corner where the windows were closed and no air conditioning. Again, we were perplexed but went with it, right up until others were being served and we weren’t-water or menus. Finally, after about ten minutes, we just got up and left.
On the way out, Roger had a word with the host, and he straight up told Roger that restaurants are for adults and we should have known better. Well, then!
Culture is culture, and we weren’t delusional enough to think that we could change opinions and attitudes, so we adjusted our approach. Very politely, we approached the next restaurant, also by the Vltava River and still in town, asking the host if they minded children. He smiled and said “Of course! Come in!” We proceeded to have the most glorious, authentic dinner of pork, potatoes, noodles, soups and my favorite, hot chocolate that was more like thick, hazelnut mousse.
This is how happy I am when the chocolate hazelnut mousse is as thick as pudding. Yum!
Cesky was, and still is, hands down, our favorite town outside a castle, and we have another full day booked for our upcoming trip this summer.
Couldn’t help myself–I’d taken another selfie with Saffron just to show how big he was and how much he slobbered. LOVE that dawg
Feature photo: taken from one of the decks at the Karlstejn Castle