NYU’s Český Krumlov trip was the only NYU trip I have taken this semester, as well as my only time visiting a city in the Czech Republic besides Prague. The trip’s description appealed to me: fairy-tale castles and cute shops are more my speed than, for example, trudging around in snowshoes. Another incentive was that three meals were already paid for — and why say no to free food?
Having my priorities straight, I signed up for Český Krumlov immediately. Unfortunately, I didn't foresee that I would have to get up at 8:00 a.m. on a Saturday to meet the group, which made me shed a tear for my lost sleep — but at that point, I was committed. The bus ride there wasn’t bad at all. It lasted about three hours, and there was enough room on the bus for everyone to sit by themselves if they wanted. I’m the kind of menace to society that will put her purse on the seat next to her to intentionally deter other people from sitting there, so NYU’s spacious bus was a huge plus for me.
After arriving, we dropped off our stuff at the hotel and went on a guided tour of the city that started in the town square. Our guide explained the architecture of the square, which dates from the Middle Ages and displays the emblems of various wealthy families, such as the Eggenbergs and Schwarzenbergs. After checking out the square, we walked around and admired the rest of the city. It really does seem straight out of a fairy tale, with beautiful Gothic and Renaissance architecture and a quaint, picturesque feel. We caught several great views of the famous Český Krumlov castle, and then walked to the historic Rose Hotel, which used to be a Jesuit monastery back in the 1500s. Our next stop was the St. Vitus Church, where we were able to go inside and admire the ornate interior.
After that, we had about two hours of free time to get lunch and wander around as we pleased. A group of friends and I had galettes in a cafe and then sat by the Vltava River. Soon, it was time for a tour of the castle. The inside was insanely luxurious, which makes sense, since the castle was inhabited for centuries by a succession of Český Krumlov’s wealthiest families. One feature which I found interesting (and a bit disturbing) is that a number of bear rugs decorated the castle’s floors — and when I say bear rugs, I mean bear pelts with the heads and paws still attached. Apparently, these are bears that once inhabited the castle’s bear moat — which is exactly what it sounds like — and were turned into rugs when they died. There was supposed to be a bear still living in the moat, but I couldn’t see it.
The castle turned out to be a whole lot bigger than I thought it was. It included the Hall of Masks — a large Rococo masquerade hall decorated with Commedia dell’arte-style figures — and a beautiful theater. We actually went under the theater’s stage to see a giant system of levers that were used to control the stage, backdrops, props, etc. Plays are still staged in the castle theater to this day.
We had some time to rest before we headed to dinner, which was delicious, and paid for by NYU. Then a group of people and I explored the city a bit more in the dark. We walked around, went back to the river, which looks extra beautiful with the moonlight reflecting off of it, and then made our way back to our hotel for the night.
The next morning, we had a complimentary breakfast at the hotel, then boarded a bus to Hluboká nad Vltavou, where we toured the Hluboká Castle. The inside seemed just as stunning as the castle in Český Krumlov, if not more, but it was less memorable for me — possibly because I was getting tired of tours at this point. Interestingly, the castle had been reconstructed several times throughout the centuries, running the gamut of architectural styles from Gothic, to Baroque, to Renaissance, to Romantic.
At 12:30, we had an amazing lunch, which was also paid for by NYU. The highlight was the pancakes with strawberries I had with dessert. The group took a collective vote and decided to head back to Prague after lunch — so, we hopped on the bus that was waiting for us. The first hour or two of the bus ride went pretty smoothly, and a bunch of people fell asleep (including me, possibly). Then I felt a violent jolt, and the bus rumbled to a stop. The back left tires had flown completely off, and were rolling down the highway in front of us. Uh-oh. One by one, everyone had to file off the bus, and we ended up waiting on the side of the road for a public transportation bus to come pick us up. Luckily, we didn’t really mind the delay — some people even had a roadside picnic — and the RAs Clare and Karel handled the situation like pros.
All in all, the Český Krumlov trip was an awesome experience — I saw a wonderful city, learned some history, and stuffed myself with free food. Yes, I know I keep mentioning the free food. The weekend was a little more tour-heavy than I expected (which actually makes sense), but we did also have a good amount of free time. Getting back to Prague was an adventure, to say the least — and I always love to have a good story! By the end of the trip, I, along with many other students, had fallen in love with Český Krumlov.