Continuing on with my ridiculous romantic notions of Bohemian Czech forests, such feelings were only enhanced when we discovered the beautiful, the enchanting, the magical Cesky Krumlov.
My habit of reading lovely romantic stories set in faraway lands had produced my desire to go galloping through the Bohemian forest...only to almost break my neck. Having recovered from such an alarming escapade intact, I was thwarted again in any hopes of returning to solid ground when we discovered the most wonderful town straight out of my overactive imagination. Cesky Krumlov is set in Bohemia's deep southern forest along a meandering bend in the Vltava river. Towering above this adorable town is a Gothic 13th Century castle with Renaissance and Baroque elements. 'Sigh' This is ALL fairy-tale, I was in heaven!
The castle is actually the second largest castle in the Czech Republic after the Prague Castle, so we split our visit to Cesky Krumlov into two days. We'd discovered that it's always better to tackle travel with our crazy brood into small manageable chunks! This has become so ingrained in us now, we see and discover places very slowly. When I hear about other tourists or travelers racing around 10 different cities in a week I feel so stressed out just at the thought. We had learnt to slow down and savour what the experience would bring and enjoy the little things. Well, mostly, unless the baby was squawking or the kids were fighting, then there was little savouring going on and more yelling and bribing of ice-cream, but we were doing our best to find a flow.
1. Cesky Krumlov: the most adorable tiny medieval city in the whole wide world!!!
This is the place where you expect the Gingerbread man to streak across your path, or Hansel and Gretel to stumble out of the forest. It would be quite natural for a King to pass by in his royal chariot while waving at Puss-in-boots, or perhaps a dragon will fly past the castle turret.
There are puppets and wooden toys, a beautiful baroque theatre with all the trimmings and cobblestone paths leading to restaurants cooking delicious food in stone ovens. Puppet shows, sunshine, quirky shops, a sparkling blue river with canoes slowly making their way towards the ancient Abbey...in September, Cesky Krumlov is pure magic.
We started off on the right foot. I had wonderful ideas of my kids emerging from our travels abroad as fantastic map readers. I also had grandiose dreams of them becoming brilliant at playing the guitar, like little Von Trapp kids, we would play and sing together all around Europe and everyone would be so impressed with us when we returned, and we would go in talent shows together, and we would bond and be musical...and...and...I am so ridiculous. Of course that never happened. There will be more in the future about the guitars that we dragged around the continent.
Anyway, family travel really is a good chance for kids to learn all sorts of practical skills. I still wholeheartedly advocate worldschooling as the way to achieve this, but again, we were always executing my grand ideas so imperfectly. Yes they looked at a map for about two minutes, and then they got distracted arguing or commenting on the state of their hunger (my kids are always starving to death...). Probably map reading skills would be more effectively taught one-on-one, or at least to a group without a noisy baby and where the kids aren't about to keel over and die from hunger. (Not really, I promise I am constantly feeding my kids, they just eat so much!!) But despite all our inherent imperfections, we soldier on trying to make the most out of our crazy wonderful life.
So truthfully I will say this; that we tried to read a map together, and then we set out for the wonderful city of my dreams.
By now it is probably obvious that my dreams can be rather lavish and so far removed from reality that it is ridiculous (i.e. the whole Von Trapp guitar thing...), but in this case I am not exaggerating. Cesky Krumlov was magical and everything that even I could imagine.
Within the streets we discovered the Czech mastery for woodworking. There were treasures to be found at every corner. Beautiful hand-crafted toys, weird and wonderful furniture, and incredible puppets were all on display for us to laugh and marvel at the creativity and workmanship.
After wandering around for a while, having fun and enjoying the beauty of the city, it was time to get down to important matters - food. We had sampled some Czech delicacies on our way into the country, well, not Ross, hahaha, and we were ready to try out some more traditional food. This time it was successful all round, we each loved the delicious salads, meats and gravies. Lucky for Ross that no nightmarish liver appeared this time, lol.
With tummies full we walked back through the town in the late sunshine, it had been a good day. A very good day. I cling to the memory of these experiences when the going gets tough.
2. Cesky Krumlov Castle
Our second adventure into the amazing medieval town of Cesky Krumlov was to explore the beautiful 13th Century Gothic Castle. This was another bright beautiful day...and it was filled with all of the challenges that plagued our family travel. My wonderful little family did not escape any of our difficulties when we set out on an epic world adventure, rather, the travel served as a magnifier. Both the good and the bad were enhanced. The good was so fun, such as discovering adorable medieval towns together, or our wild crazy fun adventures in Germany and Austria. But with that came the struggles. We frequently drove each other nuts, we often struggled just to figure out the basics for life (food, clothing, shelter), and mostly, our baby was a challenge.
My beautiful precious little boy who I love with my whole heart does NOT like to be restrained. I know him a little better now that he is older and in hindsight I can see why it was often just so difficult. We had thought we would be like those other intrepid travelers who blithely sling their baby over their back in one of those cool modern baby carriers, or if you're hardcore, one of those giant pieces of fabric that look like it was hand-woven in southern Nepal, and then they trek up Kilimanjaro as a happy little free-thinking family, connecting-with-the-earth and learning from the world...
But for us...not so much. Little Bohan would often cry and struggle and make life generally miserable whenever we tried to contain him. His is a true free spirit, a non-conformist. That'll be a great quality when he's in University, or marching for world peace, but as for his poor mother trying to carry that kid around the cobblestones of Europe...eeekkk! My body wasn't strong enough to carry him without the sling, and we often couldn't use the pram. Even with the baby carrier he was very heavy and it was a painful strain on my back, but often he would accept no one but me to carry him.
Visiting the Castle was one of those days. Bright, sunny, beautiful, historical...and difficult.
So I fumbled some cute pictures of my kids overlooking that city of my dreams while I quietly longed for the day that I would walk independently and not have to haul another human being around as an attachment to by body.
(This is my 'I'm pretending to be happy but I'm actually rather cranky so I'm hiding that fact behind sunglasses' face)...
And my kids continued their practice of trying to leap into any available water source, whether publicly acceptable or not...
Yes in hindsight I kinda miss my little baby, but honestly at the time, it was a real challenge. A challenge to be grateful for, but that was what we'd signed up for. We had left to explore the world at a time when things were not convenient. Money was tight, we had a little baby, and we really had no idea most of the time what we were doing. We'd bought an old crappy car and we were tripping around the world like crazy loud lost vagabonds, BUT, at least we were creating interest and variety to the story of our life. Yes, I find the baby stage really difficult. But I would have felt like that at home, albeit with more handy conveniences around. I am grateful that I could carry that little cranky baby around the fairytale streets of my dreams. I will remember that forever.
I would like to go back one day and see Cesky Krumlov in it's sparkling winter beauty, with snow on the eaves of the pitched red roofs and a hush over the city. One day I will, and chances are I just may miss that little warm body snuggled up close to my heart.
Things I wish we'd done ( and extremely good reasons to go back!)
1. The theatre - Cesky Krumlov is home to the best preserved Baroque theatre in all of Europe! But make sure to get tickets early as they only let a few people in each day.
2. Canoe on the river - or swim, or float or rent one of the many floatable devices available, it looks like so much fun! If you are feeling more adventurous you can rent a canoe for a three hour drift down the river, passing the town and countryside and ending at a 13th century abbey = dreamy!!!
3. See it in winter - Cesky Krumlov transforms into a veritable wonderland for the imagination during wintertime. I am a wimpy Australian when it comes to cold, but I would gladly brave the elements to see this magical town all covered in snow and soft light.
4. Tour the Castle - We didn't get the chance to tour the Castle thanks to our lovely cranky baby. It's a good idea to to make a reservation for an English tour in person at the castle office.
5. Attend a festival - A festival in Cesky Krumlov would be amazing, such as the 'Celebration of the Rose' held in June. We have attended a medieval festival as a family in Rottenburg Germany and it is definitely a wonderful experience!