4 pictures of Cesky Krumlov
As much as I love Bavaria, it's time to move on. From the far south of Germany, one has a couple of options: The Black Forest to the West, with France beyond; Switzerland is nearby to the Southwest; Austria is South and Southeast, with Italy beyond. I chose the E53 to the Northwest, taking me across the border into the Czech Republic. The border is in the middle of nowhere, barely marked by little more than a reset mile marker. If the little villages along the way didn't switch their signs from German to Czech you almost wouldn't know. The drive is a little harrowing, through the forest on a narrow 2-lane highway up and down and around. But you're virtually guaranteed to be the only one on the road for most of the drive, so drop the hammer on your cheap Opel rental and go nuts. The end of your drive today is a tiny little town hugging a horseshoe of the Vltava river. Inside the bend of the river is the old town and the cathedral. Above town, looking down from the hilltop, is the castle. There aren't really any museums here and the cathedral isn't much to see, so stroll the cobblestone streets (there are only about 3 of 'em) down to the market square, perfect in its simplicity, and then across the little footbridge to the gingerbread shop. (Czech gingerbread is hard as rock, but you can suck on a little piece for hours...) Stop into any restaurace for some of the best pivo on the planet and remember that you're just down the road from Plzen, which gave its name to an entire style of beer, and Budweis, only the most recognizable name in the world of beer. But even if your itinerary doesn't leave you hoarse from hours of 'na zdravy!' with your new best friends, you might be lucky enough to have dinner with the two guys that I ran into there. I should have learned their names, but I was completely overwhelmed by two local men who looked like they worked in the Skoda factory by day and played the most beautiful classical guitar duets by night. I'm not normally one to linger over dinner, but I ordered appetizers, mains, more appetizers, double desserts, and more becherovkas than I can remember just to stay and listen.