Czech Republic: Jousting in Cesky Krumlov
Czech Republic: Jousting in Cesky Krumlov
By Annika Dash
Watching a prince engage in the ancient art of jousting for the affections of a princess is a heart-stopping experience, especially when that prince has to grab the mane to stop himself tumbling off his horse.
This is the scene we are witnessing, part of the Five Petalled Rose Festival, held in a square in Cesky Krumlov, a medieval town in the southern most part of the Czech Republic. The commentary is in Czech so we are at a bit of a loss as to what is going on.
What we can understand is that the contestants each have to perform certain tasks, like scooping up rings with their swords whilst galloping past and knocking each other off their horses with the jousting sticks.
In the second half the two leaders dismount their horses and take off their armour to face each other. The prince is young, blonde and attractive. The leader of the evil gang is old with red hair, an unruly beard and a gleam in his eye. The sword fight that ensues is very realistic and violent and for an instant I think the evil man really has been stabbed.
During the event the actors make plenty of jokes and the crowd erupts into laughter. A group of us sit at the back of the stands, the only tourists in the arena. We sometimes feel we are the butt ofthese jokes but can’t be sure.
The Czech people do have a good but very strange sense of humour. On arrival in the town we are given a map of the area with information on accommodation, restaurants and attractions.
All the churches are labelled ‘God Stuff’ and the phonetic dictionary at the back teaches you how to say various phrases in Czech. The useful phrases range from ‘My varicose veins are giving me gip’ to ‘Do you dream in black and white?’
A Fairytale Town
We enter the town through the Bjdegovice Gate. The gate is 400 years old and is the only remaining town gate after the other nine were demolished in the 19th century. The gate is large and made of brick and stone. As we pass through the arched passageway we feel as if we are entering a fairytale.
The streets are cobbled and wind down to the river. A small bridge enables you to cross the river and enter the square which forms the center of the town. Most of the buildings in the town are new and brightly painted. However other parts of the town are old and run down with crumbling buildings and scaffolding.
Along the river the wooden houses are rustic. They are yellow, beige and brown. With little or no garden, they back right onto the river where many people are being whisked along by the rapid flow on their hired canoes.
From almost any position in the town we can see the tower of the 13th century castle. The tower has a green domed roof and pink paint frames the archways. Golden clocks adorn the outside and Renaissance paintings decorating the tower give it character.
We climb to the top and the view is beautiful. The town is sprawled out beneath us with the river flowing right through the middle of the old buildings and Mt. Klet looms in the background.
We take a tour of the castle which is led by a young, very flirtatious Czech guy. He takes us to the rooms previously inhabited by the lords of the castle. There is a golden coach which was used to transport a new Emperor from Rome to the Vatican.
The Eggenbergs, who owned the Krumlov estate, participated in the procession. The entire coach is made from gold and is intricately carved. We are also shown a sleigh with a space for hot coals underneath the kings seat to keep him warm. However the servants had to sit on the cold stone slabs with no ventilation.
Our guide also takes us to the bed chamber where he explains the reason the beds are so small is because people in the olden days used to sleep sitting or propped up.
The best room in the castle is the masquerade hall. The walls are lined with murals that were painted in 1748. The Czech humour is reflected well here. Each picture depicts a joke.
Outside a large fountain with steps leads to the pretty landscaped gardens of the chateau. The castle moat holds an enclosure for two bears. The bridge leads over the bear pit which was once part of the defence system of the castle. The breeding of bears at the chateau began in the 16th century and continues today.
On our last night in Cesky we sit outside our hostel drinking from the free keg of beer provided every Wednesday. Hostel 99 is an old house. The rooms built into the attic are surrounded by large wooden beams and oak floors.
There is a view of the river and the castle from the windows. The staff are relaxed and friendly. The terrace is alive with people from all over the world. Everybody loves Cesky for the history, the nature and the hippie atmosphere. It is a cheap alternative to Prague and much less crowded. An Italian and Canadian strum on their guitars while the rest of us sing along underneath the starry night.
For information on transport, accommodation, eating, activities and things to do in Cesky Krumlov visit the tourist information website.
For information on the Five Petalled Rose Festival including dates and prices got to the festival’s website.
For information on Hostel 99 visit their website.
After completing a journalism degree, Annika Dash left Australia to see the world. Since then she has worked in London, studied in Barcelona, travelled extensively throughout Europe and the Middle East and combined her two loves – writing and travelling.
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