This weekend we (yrs truly + companions) went to Česky Krumlov for a spot of rafting down the Vltava and some castle-tower climbing. ČK is a small town of almost unbearable chocolate-box cuteness. It has cobbled streets, highly-manicured baroque gardens, little alleywayettes, olde-worlde houses in sugared almond shades and sgraffiti (posh European graffiti, aka renaissance wall etchings) a-go-go. There's even a pink-and-gold gilded wedding cake confection of a Renaissance redecorated tower.
The town proudly claims to be no.2 on the UNESCO world heritage list after Venice. As far as I can tell UNESCO avoids listing anything in order of importance, but ČK is definitely one of the eight hundred and thirty-odd sites. And no, the contents of this list have not now been added to my personal list of future travel destinations. Honest, guv.
The tourist office, while touting the delights of the "Museum Tortury" and "Club Horor" (sic), prefers to gloss over the time when that sociopathic-painter-and-decorator-with-a-dodgy-moustache-who-shall-not-be-named posed for cheering crowds in the main square. This was just after the annexation of the Sudetenland which spearheaded his European-scale living-room remodelling project. Subsequently, during another period of Czech history of which none doth speak, Germanophones were booted out. Then the whole place was left to moulder under layers of murky grey communist aspic and socialist dust until the Velvet Revolution blew away the cobwebs and opened the medieval gates to tourists (but so far, no major fast-food chains).
And hot damn is it ever cute. It's so cute that while wandering around you expect teams of dancers in adorable but itchy technicolourful regional costumes to spill out from rose-bowered doors, then start dancing in formation through the streets while singing a local song of welcome in quaint but unclassifiable central European accents.
"Fa la la laaaaa vee vel-come youuuuu!" chirrup the ladies waving sheaves of golden wheat trailed with ribbons. "Tra lala laaaaa, and your little dog toooooo!" chorus the men, as they skip lightly around the fountain in the main square in knee-length britches. "Ahh-haa-haa-haaaaa, like a special steeeeyeeewww!" trills the children's choir in cherub outfits from the eaves, while showering the dancers with local produce. "Varming ourr hearts in vin-ter, and cool in der zommer toooooo!" they all harmonise together, and release doves from some unimaginable hiding place behind their be-tasselled gaiters.
Well, it could happen. In the meantime, we were treated to the delights of the annual "Folk, Tramp and Country" festival in the self-same square mentioned above. The performers featured a lot of Czech folksongs which everyone knew but us. However, just to lend things that ever-so-slightly surreal edge, quite a few of the performers also treated us to rousing songs from the western pop canon, translated into Czech and reinterpreted in a Folk-Tramp-Country idiom.
While "In My Tennessee Mountain Home" was easy enough to identify, "Hello (is it me you're looking for?)" was trickier to pin down. I think I'm still taking in the notion of Lionel Ritchie tunes with a banjo accompaniment. Anyhow, I'm not entirely sure what the lushly-moustachioed, bald-headed pipe-smoking rider of this vehicle (nice fringe) thought of events, but he did occasionally smile, as did the two goths present. Several kiddies appeared to be having a whale of a time too. And of course, the music was loud enough to block out the faint whirring noise of not a few grave-spinners from the darker corners of history.
(Blogger refuses to cooperate on the photo-uploading front this evening. Hopefully will work tomorrow)