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Magical Cesky Krumlov, in the Czech Republic

The Village of Cesky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The Village of Cesky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

If you take just one tour from Prague I hope it is to Cesky Krumlov!  You won’t be disappointed! Our tour was booked through our hotel in Prague, more on that when I talk about our stay there! In order to see the castle and theater in Krumlov, you must be with a guide. The castle’s theatre is fabulous! I have seen many theaters, but the artwork on the walls of this theater are my favorite of all of them!  Europe once had several hundred baroque theaters, using candles for light and fireworks for special effects.  Most of them burned down. Today only two survive in good shape and are open to tourists; one at Stockholm’s Drottingholm Palace and one here. Sitting on wooden benches in the theater, we study the hundreds of happy villagers, who are painted on the walls. Everywhere you look, in every nook and cranny, there is a small tabloid! Later we visit under the stage to see the wood-and-rope contraptions that allowed the scenes to be moved about in seconds, while the audience was blinded by smoke or fireworks. Sadly, no pictures are allowed inside, but trust me when I say you will love it!

Cesky Krumlov is a magical village situated on the twisty Vltava River which makes a perfect S through town. Above the Old Town is the Castle Town. The one main street winds through town and over a bridge before snaking through the Castle Town, the Castle Complex of courtyards, and up to the Castle Gardens above the town. The castle is complete with moat, drawbridge and bear pits which still house two brown bears.  Tip: If you go with a tour group from Prague, the bus drops you off at the parking lot above town at the castle gardens, and you walk down hill rather than trudging up! Later that day the bus picked us up in town, to take us back to Prague. So easy! We’re starting at the Castle Gardens at the top of town! Let’s go!

The Castle Gardens of Cesky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The Castle Gardens of Cesky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The Castle Gardens of Cesky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The Castle Gardens of Cesky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The Castle Gardens of Cesky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The Castle Gardens of Cesky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The Castle Gardens of Cesky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The Castle Gardens of Cesky Krumlov Looking at the Brewery, the Czech Republic

The Krumlov Castle, Casky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The Krumlov Castle, Casky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The Krumlov Castle, Casky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The Krumlov Castle, Casky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The Krumlov Castle, Casky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The Krumlov Castle, Casky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The castle wall bricks are not really bricks! These look-a-likes are painted on!  Very impressive! They look real! There were a lot of walls to paint!

The Krumlov Castle, Casky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The Krumlov Castle, Casky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The Krumlov Castle of Cesky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The Krumlov Castle of Cesky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The town and castle construction began in the late 13th century at the ford in the Vltava River, which was important to trade routes in Bohemia. In 1302 the town and castle were owned by the House of Rosenberg. Due to heavy gambling debts, the town and castle were sold out of the family in 1602 to Emperor Rudolf II, who placed his mad son, Julius d’Austria, in the castle at Krumlov, because he was causing so much terror at home. For an extremely good read about this mad prince and the Castle Krumlov read, The Bloodletter’s Daughter ( A Novel of Old Bohemia), by Linda Lafferty. Bloodletting at that time seemed to be the answer to all woes, draining the bad spirits from the body to make it better. The poor bloodletter’s daughter soon found herself as the caretaker for the mad prince. Intriguing read!

A View of Cesky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

A View of Cesky Krumlov from the Castle, the Czech Republic

The Bears! Castle Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The Bears in the Bear Pit! Castle Krumlov, the Czech Republic

Zigzagging Under Parts of the Castle Krumlov's Raised Walkways

Zigzagging Down the Hill Under Parts of  Castle Krumlov’s Raised Walkways

Walking Under Parts of the Castle Krumlov's Raised Walkways

Walking Under Parts of the Castle Krumlov’s Raised Walkways

The Overhead Walkways at Castle Krumlov

The Overhead Walkways at Castle Krumlov

The Round Tower, Castle Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The Round Tower, Castle Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The colorful Round Tower marks the location of the first castle, built here to guard the river crossing. With the 16th century paint scheme carefully restored, it looks exotic, featuring astrological decor, terra-cotta symbols of the zodiac, and a fine arcade.

The Round Tower, Castle Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The Round Tower, Castle Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The Round Tower, Castle Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The Round Tower, Castle Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The Round Tower, Castle Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The Round Tower from Above at the Castle, Castle Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The Round Tower, Cesky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The Round Tower, Cesky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

Main Street, Cesky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

Main Street, Cesky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The View of the Round Tower from Main Street, Cesky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

The View of the Round Tower from Main Street, Cesky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

A View of Cesky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

Rafting down the Vltava River, the Czech Republic

River rafts or a hard plastic canoe can be rented for a quick 30-minute spin around the village. Or you can go on a 3-hour float and paddle through the bohemian forests and villages of the nearby countryside. Check out the Pujcovna Lodi Malecek Boat Rental. What fun this is!

A View of Cesky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

Along the Vltava River of Cesky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

Town Square, Cesky Krumlov

Town Square, Cesky Krumlov

Park In Town With Great Views of Cesky Krumlov

Park In Town With Great Views of Cesky Krumlov

Krema v Satlavske Restaurant, Cesky Krumlov

Krema v Satlavske Restaurant, Cesky Krumlov

Eating in Krumlof was a treat at Krema v Satlavske, an old prison with an open fire, and big wooden tables under an open medieval vault, serving grilled meats and beer!  We had a great time and great food!

Krema v Satlavske Restaurant, Cesky Krumlov

Krema v Satlavske Restaurant, Cesky Krumlov

Krema v Satlavske Restaurant, Cesky Krumlov

Krema v Satlavske Restaurant, Cesky Krumlov

I hope you enjoyed our day out in Cesky Krumlov! Krumlov hosts a number of festivals including the Five-Petalled Rose Festival,  (the name derived from the Rosenberg family crest of the five petal red rose) celebrated on the weekend of the summer solstice in June. The International Music Festival, Cesky Krumlov is another festival with international music from varied genres. The festival begins in July and ends in August. What a great way to celebrate summer!

A View of Cesky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

A  Last Look at Cesky Krumlov, the Czech Republic

A Cottage in the Cotswolds: Rosemary and Thyme

Every year, in early spring, when my garden is beginning to bloom, I tend my garden in the early morning hours, before it gets HOT and HUMID, sometimes still in my nightgown…….don’t tell the neighbors please!   In the evening I curl up on the couch to watch my favorite British gardening detectives, Rosemary and Thyme. The gardening mysteries feature Rosemary Boxer and Laura Thyme, professional gardeners thrown together by a sudden death, who are forced to re-access their lives.  Their friendship leads them to gardening ventures set in the beautiful villages and gardens of the English countryside. Being gardeners, they overhear secrets and dig up clues which lead them to solve crimes and capture criminals, and at the same time handle floral problems! The series ran from 2003 to 2007, but I watch the mysteries every year, one episode at a time and never tire of it!

Would there be a real place that mirrored the villages and gardens in the Rosemary and Thyme mystery series?  I wanted to find a place where Miss Marple, from the Agatha Christie books, (the finest mystery writer of all time, in my opinion) would be settling down to tea with her cronies in the afternoon. They would be in the garden…….with the fragrance of fresh bloomed flowers…..sweet cut grass….. bees all a buzz…….

I found that delight in the villages of the Cotswolds. 

Bramley House, Chipping Campden

Bramley House

The Bramley House Cottage

The Bramley House Cottage

For this adventure we are driving northwest from London, to our first stop, Chipping Campden, (population 2,206) in the Cotswold (meaning market) district of Gloucestershire. In the Middle Ages, Chipping Campden was the wool trading center, and High Street is lined with fine honey-colored limestone buildings built with Cotswold stone. The Market Hall was built in 1627 and the grand wool church, St James, in 1500. Local wealthy silk merchant, Sir Baptist Hicks, built the Almshouses and the Woolstaplers Hall in the 17th Century. His home, the Campden House, was destroyed by fire during the English Civil War, to prevent it from falling into the hands of the Parliamentarians, but his descendants still live in the Court House attached to the site. 

From the 17th century on, the village was known for the rural Cotswold Olimpick Games. Later these games became the Robert Dover Cotswolds Olimpick Games because the games were held in late May, on Dover’s Hill.   One of the noted games was the sport of shin-kicking. (Hay was stuffed down pants to ease the blows) This game and others are still played today during the Cotswolds Olimpicks. Following the end of the games there is a torch-lit procession back into town, after the bonfire and fireworks display, and dancers take over the local square. The next day the Scuttlebrook Wake takes place. The locals wear fancy dress costumes and follow the Scuttlebrook Queen and her attendants into the village, with the Morris Men leading a decorated dray. Then there is dancing around the Maypole and the prizes for the games are handed out. The Morris Men (from “Moorish” dancers) were working peasant men, who wore shin pads, (a holdover from the shin-kicking games?) and are considered to be the original rural folk dancers of England. The current Morris Men of the Cotswolds, claim their lineage to the early dancers, only one of four teams in England who can boast this achievement! 

In Chipping Campden we will be staying at the Bramley House B&B, not far from Dover’s Hill. It is a lovely double Cotswold stone cottage with an additional cottage overlooking the lavender garden. Jane cooked English breakfasts, made to order, and served it with cereals, yogurts and fresh pressed juices. She was also very helpful with choosing our sights of the day. We stayed several days, picking a new village everyday to explore! It is a gardener’s paradise! Enjoy!

For information about Bramley House see: http://www.bramleyhouse.co.uk/

 

Festa del Corpus Domini, May 2013

The Festa del Corpus Domini

The Festa del Corpus Domini

Following the Sound of Drums

Following the Sound of Drums

We are walking quickly, in the direction of the drum beats, following everyone else. Families, children, the young and old all seem to be on a mission; follow the sound of the drums. The late afternoon breeze is filled with the scent of honeysuckle. Mass growth of the plant sweeps the doorways, covers the walls.  You can smell it before you see it.  When I come upon the blooms they are dripping with buzzing bees. There are large nosegays of flowers tied outside the shops and houses on walls and doors; their streamers gently swaying as if they too are in the procession.

The Flowers of Orvieto

The Flowers of Orvieto

DSCN0678Hanging from the rooftop windows are giant flags representing guilds or neighborhoods. Old women, arm in arm,  softly chatter as they slowly make their way up the hill. We feel the festive atmosphere as we make our way to a street corner where a police officer stops us.  We move to the front, in a narrow gap, as SB gets our camera ready.  Between the edges of the towering buildings the narrow street is completely filled with spectators.  The drums are coming!

We are witnessing the festival of the feast of Corpus Christi. It is by happenstance that we picked this week and month to be in Orvieto. I knew nothing of Festa del Corpus Domini before we arrived, but I am so glad we were able to be part of the celebration.

In 1263, a German priest, Peter of Prague, stopped in Bolsena while on a pilgrimage to Rome.  He was described as a pious priest, but one not quite believing that Christ was actually present in the consecrated host, as Catholics believe.  While celebrating Mass he had barely spoken the words of Consecration when blood started seeping from the host and trickled over his hands onto the altar and the corporal (the napkin looking thingy)  The priest was shocked and at first attempted to hide the blood, but when it did not stop, he interrupted the Mass and went to the neighboring town of Orvieto, where Pope Urban IV was.  The Pope immediately sent emissaries for an investigation.  Pope Urban ordered the Host and linen cloth be brought to Orvieto bearing the stains of blood. Among the archbishops, cardinals and other church dignitaries in attendance, the Pope met the procession and with great pomp, the relics were placed in the Cathedral of Orvieto. The linen corporal bearing the spots of blood is still reverently enshrined and exhibited in the church.  Once a year this scene is re-enacted when hundreds of people from Orvieto and neighboring towns gather in the streets of Orvieto. People are dressed as peasants, soldiers, crusaders, farmers and land owners. There is representation from the guilds, police, firehouses, nurses, missionaries, nuns, civic groups and women’s groups.  The dignitaries follow the priests and cardinals as the relics are carried through the streets to the beat of drums. After the last person of the parade passes, the crowds fill in behind and make the walk to the cathedral where there is more pomp and circumstance before the huge tapestries and relics are carried back into the cathedral for another year.  The parade goes on for over two hours with the celebrants walking over four miles through the narrow lanes of winding Orvieto. The drums echo through the streets and the music and singing from the Cathedral are played over loud speakers throughout the town. At the end of the parade the Mass is also heard over the loud speakers for those not able to get inside the huge cathedral.  This entire scene is repeated the next day as well.  It must take months of planning. I would love to know how many people work on all those costumes. They are so intricate, authentic looking and detailed. Where do you find that many cross-bows, jousting poles and swords? How many bouquets of flowers are made to decorate the streets? How many baskets of bread and grain are carried to the church? It is truly a festival for everyone and one I will remember forever. SB caught on video over four hours of the festivities.  That is a long time to hold a camera up and stay steady as well.  I want to thank him for that. I produced a clip of eight minutes highlighting the event.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

The Girls

The Girls

The Crowds at the Cathedral

The Crowds at the Cathedral

DSCN0768

The Cathedral in Quiet

The Cathedral in Quiet

As we followed the crowds to the cathedral we took a break and ducked into a smaller church along the route.  The entire center aisle of the church was covered in a beautiful design of flower petals. As the congregation of people walked over the petals to the black wrought-iron gate at the front of the church they picked up the petals to carry with them.  I followed suite and then sat in a pew to watch. Behind the black tall gate were rows of nuns.  As the guests recognized a nun there was hand reaching and hand holding through the gate and cries of joy to see each other.  I had the feeling these nuns belonged to a cloistered group and this was a special day to see their relatives. Very young nuns sat on the steps at the sides of the altar behind the gate and called out to young children to come see them.  It was a beautiful and happy scene.

Flower Petal Church

Flower Petal Church

After the Mass at the cathedral we decided to dine at a lovely restaurant complete with the wooden mosaic designs on the walls.  It was around seven in the evening, very early by European standards to dine, so we were one of the first to get a table at Ristorante Maurizio.  I am so glad we did because soon the entire restaurant was filled to capacity.  The lights were dimmed and the candles lit, throwing a soft light on the flax and white colored table cloths and beautiful meal. It was an end to a perfect day.

The Restaurant

The Ristorante Maurizo

DSCN0779

The Rooster Work

The Rooster Work

Ristorante Maurizio: Via Duomo 76, Orvieto, Italy

Way Up the Hill and to the Left

The Walls of Orvieto

The Walls of Orvieto

DSCN1004It is early morning; sunny, warm, windless with bright blue skies and today we are leaving Cinque Terre.  We snake single file down the hill, and flow through the tunnel hearing  only the sound of “clickety-clack” as  the suitcases bump  over the rough pavement to the train station.  We begin our four train adventure to La Spezia, Pisa, Florence, and then to Orvieto in Umbria. In Florence when we switch trains who do we meet? The Bag Handler approaches SB, takes one look at me and quickly turns away. (See blog “On to Florence”) At one of the many small town stops on our last leg to Orvieto an odd looking man boards.  Short haired, clean shaven wearing floor length grey robe tied with a rope belt, he is covered in pale grey.  Grey ash colored paste covers his hair, face and even his eyelashes, his hands. He walks slowly up and down the train aisle, as if wanting us all to recognize his presence. No one says a word, no words form on his lips. As he is ignored I am thinking, is this man a priest? Is he in some sort of penance? Can I take a picture of him, I think?  No, that would not be right.  What if he was a wayward priest? I want to ask someone who he is, but the travelers keep their noses in their papers or books or look away. At the next stop he departs the train. My eyes follow him into the crowd.

Arrival at Train Station in Orvieto

Arrival at Train Station in Orvieto

By late afternoon we step off the train and look up and up.  Orvieto’s old town walls loom above us, touching nothing but blue sky and fluffy sheep clouds. It is warm and balmy and I begin to peel off my layers of clothes.  I don my sunglasses as we hail a cab to take us to the height of the old village, to B&B Michelangeli, the apartment we have rented in Orvieto. Winding outside the steep fortified walls we climb higher and higher, it is rather like a top spinning and we are in the mist of it. Once inside the wall we criss-cross through small cobbled lanes and arrive at a dead end street.

The Lanes of Orvieto

The Lanes of Orvieto

Via Saracinelli, Michealangeli B&B, Orvieto

Via Saracinelli, Michelangeli B&B, Orvieto

The Door and Walls of Michealangeli B&B

The Door and Walls of Michelangeli B&B

This street is far from dead.  On the old building walls are intricate wooden wall covering designs.  They are beautiful.  Why are they here?  Who does all this woodworking?  Another Pinocchio and Geppetto?

Geppetto's At it Again!

Geppetto’s At it Again!

DSCN0665We ring the bell and a tall impeccably groomed Italian man greets us. He explains Francesca, his wife, is getting the children ready for the biggest festival of the year in Orvieto, and will greet us later. There is excitement in his voice as he tells us we do not want to miss the evening parade.  He leads us next door, opening an eight foot high double wooden door to our apartment, right next to his home. We are so pleasantly surprised when we are given the grand tour of the apartment we will be staying in for five days.  It is huge, but cozy.  It is like a country cottage, only in Italy! It is lovingly cared for.

Michealangeli B&B, Orvieto, italy

Michelangeli B&B, Orvieto, italy

The Dining Room at Michealangeli B&B

The Dining Room at Michelangeli B&B

The Kitchen at Michealangeli B&B

The Kitchen at Michelangeli B&B

The Spiral Stairway to Bedroom 1 at Michealangeli B&B

The Spiral Stairway to Bedroom 1 at Michelangeli B&B

The Main Bedroom of Michealangeli B&B

The Main Bedroom of Michelangeli B&B

Looking Down from the Bedroom Loft at Michealangeli B&B

Looking Down from the Bedroom Loft at Michelangeli B&B

We remark about the beautiful wooden furniture and he explains his family has been the furniture and cabinet makers in Orvieto for centuries and all the furniture in the apartment is hand made by them in a shop right down the street.  That explains the wood carvings outside the buildings, signs of the trade. We feel so fortunate to have picked this location and apartment, it is perfect. We hurriedly unload our belongings and following his instructions scurry out to the parade route.

The Streets of Orvieto

If you would like more information on Michelangeli B&B please contact:

Francesca at http://www.bbmichelangeli.com.

Via Saracinelli 20, Orvieto, Italy, Tel: 0763-393862

Last Night a Roma

Mother Mary Hasselblad of Santa Brigida Convent

Mother Mary Hasselblad of Santa Brigida Convent

How to do you study a nun’s habit without staring?  That is the question.  I am fascinated with the headpiece.  It looks like a halo held in place with a plus sign on top. Or is it an open air battle ready helmet, but made of hard cardboard like the priests collars? The headpiece the nuns wear is fashioned the same as the headpiece that Mother Mary Hasselblad wore. I saw Mother Hasselblad’s picture in the chapel. Their headpiece must determine their association with Santa Brigida.  In the daytime, outside the convent, the nuns walk in pairs carrying an umbrella between them to block the suns rays. In the Rome heat it would be as hot as a furnace under all that get up. I think your head would be sweating from that halo contraption.

The Market Hardware Stand

The Market Hardware Stand

Small Streets for Dining

Small Streets for Dining

Tonight we are walking to Piazza Navona to eat. There are so many people out and about on this Saturday night, but I wonder if it is always busy with tourists? The markets are still flourishing so I look at the hardware stand. I buy little glass jars to put the Italian spices in that I bought at another stall. I also buy a can of coffee to take to the apartment in Montepulciano.   The espresso coffee is four euro for a pound and the date of use is good until 2014.  I’m good to go. We could look for hours here there is so much to see, but we move on after our purchases. We get to the only street corner that so far has a stoplight, although stoplights here are only a suggestion.  Nobody stops. There is a police woman here tonight and I think that is odd.  The polizia wear big thick white gun holsters that cross over the body like you would wear a purse you didn’t want stolen. They don’t holster around the waist. Suddenly we hear sirens.  Lots of sirens.  Two motorcycle police whiz by like they are going to a fire.  The police woman jumps into action preventing anyone from crossing the street. The man in front of me says, “Holy Papa, Holy Papa.”  And sure enough here comes a black Mercedes and in the back seat is a smiling and waving Pope Francis.  Everyone on the street is waving and shouting.  It was quite the moment.  How lucky we were to be at that place at that time! After the Holy Papa passes by the police woman vanishes into the crowd as more motorcycles zip past.

Piazza Navona

Piazza Navona

Piazza Navona

Piazza Navona

In the Piazza Navona tonight there are artists of all kinds. Some painting absentmindedly, with their palettes of beautiful colors, while others watch. There is also a large crowd gathered around a man in a straight jacket and chains. It is like being at the circus. Young good looking men are selling rubber band rockets that shoot high into the sky, then flash bright colors, before falling back to the ground where they run to pick them up and do it all over again. In the background the huge fountain provides a backdrop for the photo takers. We sit at the oldest restaurant on the piazza dating 1836.  The food is so-so, but the people watching is fantastic. We return to the Convent again around midnight and I wonder what is in store for us tonight.

The Angel on the Corner

The Angel on the Corner

We are not disappointed.  We still hear people walking and talking as they return to their  homes, but around 3am there is a blood curdling scream of “aiutarmi, aiutarmi!” Help me!  Help me! I also hear the voices of people trying to quiet the man down.  My first thought is he is on drugs.  He gets quiet only to start up minutes later, “aiutarmi, aiutarmi!”  I then hear the doors of Santa Brigida open and the soft voice of a nun trying to comfort him. Everything gets quiet then and I finally fall asleep. In the morning after breakfast with the priests, the nun calls a cab for us to take to the train station. A very old man, speaking only Italian, pulls up and can hardly lift our suitcases to the trunk. We are off to Montepulciano!

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