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Phespirit goes to the Czech Republic
Český Krumlov     September 2001

Almost exactly six years since his first foray into the heart of continental Europe Phespirit returned, for one day only, to the country where it all began: the Czech Republic. His destination was the mediæval town of Český Krumlov.

Travelling by coach from Fuschl am See in Austria, the journey twisted through the lake district, skirted around the steaming industrial city of Linz and passed through the mediæval Austrian town of Freistadt before reaching border control. Patience is required at the border crossing - papers must be completed, passports must be checked, and the egos of armed Czech guards must be indulged. This easily could have been a highly protracted and boring experience but mercifully it was all over inside half an hour.

Once passed the guards and beyond the duty free shops of no-man's-land, into the Czech Republic, it is only a short distance to Český Krumlov. The route is made colourful by billboard adverts for brothels masquerading as nightclubs. A lone prostitute stands by the roadside on the late morning shift. These are the flourishing entrepreneurs of post-Communist, free economy, still poor, would-be EU states.

And so to Český Krumlov, a town which has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1992. Its principal attraction is the castle and chateau which looms over the River Vltava, with its gaudily painted watchtower robustly guarding the town. The chateau interior is a goldmine of curiosities, such as:

  1. the coat of arms showing a raven plucking an eye from the severed head of a Turk;
  2. the Golden Carriage designed for transferring gifts to Pope Urban VIII, used only once;
  3. the Mask Hall theatre with walls and mirrors painted with freak-like masquerade figures.

Elsewhere, the old town is a mesh of cobbled streets lined with pastel building façades, just as should be expected of any immaculately preserved mediæval town in eastern Europe. A good day.

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