A Scenic adventure: <br>Cesky Krumlov

A Scenic adventure:
Cesky Krumlov

Having left the gorgeous Bavarian city of Passau on Monday afternoon we arrived into Linz, across the Austrian border, around 9pm, just as we were finishing dinner. The city made an immediate impression with its futuristic Ars Electronica Center, sat on the northern bank of the Danube, projecting its strange but hypnotic lights display across the river. It stands in stark contrast to the city’s largely medieval and neo-classical architecture, and certainly divides opinion. Personally, I think it’s not only bold but pretty special.

That night we decided to have a quick explore of the city, the third largest in Austria, boosted in size by its considerable student population. We were told that because of the University, the city is “full of dive bars”. We were not disappointed. With the ship docked so close to the centre of town, we were able to pop out and grab a beer in a typically smoky, low-lit bar before heading back to get some sleep.

wachau valley
The Wachau Valley

It was a nice opportunity to see a port of call we’d otherwise have missed, because, on Tuesday morning, after just about catching the late-riser breakfast, we jumped on a coach for a shore excursion to Cesky Krumlov, a quite perfect small city across the border in the Czech Republic. The journey to Bohemia was a joy: we passed seemingly endless forests of pine trees, broken up by gorgeous, rolling green hills and sleepy settlements.

An hour after passing through a disused, eerie border control station, a relic of the Cold War era, we arrived in Cesky Krumlov. Founded around an arch in the Vltava River, the city is watched over by an imposing baroque castle, and paved with cobblestones. To invoke a cliché, it’s like a fairytale. Subject to a mighty restoration project after years of disrepair behind the Iron Curtain, the city feels unusually both old and new, almost like a model village. It’s not as large or as lived in as Prague, but it certainly rivals it for beauty.

Only the country’s capital attracts more tourists, but we were able to escape the throngs of crowds by crossing the river and soaking up the sun in Metsky Park below the Saint Vitus church. We also had time to check out the quaint house that the painter Egon Schiele once lived in (before his scandalous paintings got him kicked out of town), which is carved impressively into a bank of rock.


That evening, we enjoyed our best meal so far, in Scenic Pearl’s excellent Portbellos, a separate area from the Pearl Lounge found at the front of the ship. I chose a Ligurain-style stuffed veal loin and risotto main, which was part of a seven-course menu that included mozzarella and prosciutto, minestrone soup, and a stunning porcini tortellagi on a truffle-flavoured tomato coulis.

The next morning, we embarked on a short visit to the Benedictine Melk Abbey, an incredible baroque structure high above the Danube. Still a working monastery and school, the building houses just 30 monks today, but delivers lessons in European theology, history and architecture, and also houses a gorgeous library of some 100,000 volumes.

After a leisurely stroll back to the ship, we set off towards Durnstein. Sat on the (admittedly windy) sun deck we watched as the ship weaved through the Wachau Valley, its entrance marked by a precariously poised castle on a jutting piece of rock. With its sprawling woodlands, pretty villages and carefully arranged vineyards, it was not just the highlight of the trip so far, but one of the most incredible parts of Europe I’ve ever seen.

Next, we sail to Vienna…

To read the first part of the Scenic adventure click here.

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